Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In just a few hours, I will start the incredibly long journey home. I'm not sure if I mean that literally, in that it will take a lot of time, or metaphorically, in that it will take a major psychological adjustment to slip back into life in the U.S. Both, I guess.

The program ended on something of a low note for me. The last week of classes and testing were depressing, demoralizing, devastating, all those de- words in English apply to the situation. What was already a bad situation was made worse on Friday when one of the teachers said something to me that just confirmed that my summer was a failure. I had to go up to the roof of the Institute and sit and cry for awhile before I could sit down with my classmates for the final lunch. Only yesterday did I realize that the whole thing was probably a misunderstanding--the teacher answered the question I asked, not the question beneath the question. Well, that makes sense to me, anyway, and I'm sorry I didn't see that last Friday.

Andyji, too, took the testing pretty hard, so we two went to Agra on Sunday to try and jolt ourselves out of our depressed states. Andyji bounces back much more quickly than I do, of course, so he was really okay before the train even left the Jaipur station, but I took awhile longer. It didn't help that two different people in Agra told me my Hindi was bad. Anyway, the Tajmahal is everything you might hope it would be. I'm not sure I even complained about the $17 admission fee once I'd parted with it. I'd even pay $20 if they'd consider lighting the Tajmahal at night. We had an awesome, unobstructed view from the rooftop of our hotel, but once darkness fell, that was kind of it. Still, sitting on the rooftop drinking Mirinda at sunset was a fantastic experience. Some neighbors were flying kites (we were so schooled, Andyji), and when it got dark, bats much bigger than breadboxes began flying overhead. The call to prayers came at sunset, and even I had to take a moment to gather my emotions.

I was kind of hoping my shoes would get stolen when we were wandering about the Tajmahal complex barefoot, because that would have been a good story: "My shoes got stolen at the Tajmahal! I had to walk back to the hotel with no shoes!" but that didn't happen. I did, however, get thoroughly and firmly groped during the security search. There's no way you need to squeeze my breasts that hard to find out if I'm carrying explosives. I'm just saying.

Andyji stayed on in Agra, planning to take a public bus to Mathura and then Delhi. I took the train back to Jaipur alone. At first I was a little nervous about it, and indeed, 15 seconds into the train station, a man made an inappropriate gesture toward me. I very nearly clocked him, but at the last second turned my fist into one of those "wtf?" twisty-hand gestures that are hard to stop once you start them, and sneered "Kya hua? Aap kaun hain?" He just stared, which made me wish even more that I'd just slugged him. Anyway, I spent some time in the ladies' waiting room, then caught my train 2 hours late. It was a little confusing because the # and name of the train changed, but luckily I am capable of asking for the Jaipur jaanewalla train. This old guy in the seat next to me basically watched out for me, and he understood everything I tried to say, which was reassuring.

Once back in Jaipur, I got the best rickshaw price I've ever gotten, I couldn't even in good conscience try to bargain it down. When I said so, the tout said, "Yes, madam, I know you are a local, that is why I said pachchis (25) and not pachas (50)." And when I got in the rickshaw and told the driver where I wanted to go, he turned around and said (in English), "Oh, you are a local." And later in the day, a rickshaw driver actually gave me a free ride for a couple of blocks. I expected him to try and get R20 out of me, but he said no, he just wanted to make sure I left Jaipur with a good experience. Coming back here from Agra felt like coming home, and that was nice.

I'm so ready to go to my real home, though. I wish I could fold a few people up and take them with me in my pocket, but otherwise, I need to go back to where I understand the rules better and am in charge of my own life. I'll be back, but not until I've had time to regather my self-esteem and energy.

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