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Archive for March, 2011

Last Saturday was Holi! It’s the Hindu festival of colors that celebrates spring/summer. It also has some ties to Hindu mythology – apparently there are references to the god Krishna playing with all his girlfriends, or gopis, throwing colors at them. Elizabeth and I went to a friend’s house – Bhaswati – on Friday night since it’s not always safe to travel on the morning of Holi with all the people out in the street, especially as a foreign woman. On Holi, many normal social restrictions are broken – you can come up to anyone on the street to shower them with the colors, touching their face, spraying passers-by with colored water, and many people take drugs on Holi. We didn’t want our host parents to worry about us, so we went on Friday night. Saturday morning was the celebration. Another friend, Raka, came over and we all went up to the terrace. First, Bhaswati did a small puja (ritual) by putting some of the red powdered color (gulal) on various idols and pictures of ancestors, as well as on her grandmother’s feet. We all went up to the terrace to play then – throwing gulal at each other or another powder that when mixed with water turned into a clothes and skin staining paint! We moved down to the street to get some passers-by, and some neighbors joined us. It was so much fun – and I wish we had this holiday at home!

 

before

after

On Sunday morning, my roommates and I went with our friends Haroon, Atif, and Adil to Atif’s farmhouse just outside the city. It’s not really a farm – but more like a countryside small cottage with a fenced in area. There’s a lovely vegetable garden, and a variety of tropical plants. It was nice to get out of the city and I had a lot of fun playing soccer and relaxing in the hammocks :)

The rest of this week hasn’t been too eventful. Classes are…still pretty lame and frustrating. It’s so hard that our educational systems are so different – here the students just take down the notes dictated to them and it’s so hard to deal with that when we come from a system where we are allowed to speak our minds and learn as much from our peers as we do our professors. At home, the professor is a facilitator of discussion – the students make the class into what they want it to be – whereas here, the teacher is the ultimate head of authority and knowledge. I am reallly looking forward to getting back to my CSB/SJU classes. We’re actually having a meeting with the administration tomorrow to go over some of our concerns. Though we knew it is the first program and very little was going to be sorted out before we arrived, we thought there would SOME more continuity than this. It’s just frustrating that it seems there is a serious lack of communication between the administration and the teachers and between our school and St. Xavier’s. For example, one of us went in to talk to one of the admins about something in her class, and he made a comment like, “oh, are you taking this course for credit?” The admins apparently don’t even know that we are here as real students who are taking courses for credit and will get grades that will be going back to our college at home as real grades.  And it’s also hard that student expectations are not very clear – at home we get a syllabus that lays out your assignments, what you’re supposed to do, when it’s due, and what you can do to succeed in the class. Here, it seems like the teachers make up assignments on the spot in a kind of offhand comment, and we really don’t know if that’s serious or what they want us to actually do for the assignment or when it’s due. It’s just very frustrating. And at this point, it’s too late for there to be many changes for our group (since we only have another month of classes, in which I’m sure about half of them will be canceled) so we just hope this can be better sorted out for the next group.

Yesterday, some of us went to the Park Hotel – a very fancy hotel here – since Kathryn’s family is visiting and are staying there. We went over to enjoy the pool and I was surprised to realize how much my standards/expectations have changed. This was a very nice hotel by American standards even, and I felt like I was not India. The bed was so soft and wonderful – such a contrast to my rather lumpy bed here at home. It was weird to be in a place so incredibly clean – not a spot of dirt anywhere. I never wear shorts and a tank top outside of my bedroom, and I felt practically naked going down to the pool in just shorts and a tank top. Small glimpses like this of the reverse culture shock I will experience when I go home makes me think I will have a hard time adjusting back to life in the US.

I can’t believe it’s the end of March…I will be home May 9th, so I have about 6.5 more weeks left. I have less than 50 days til I’ll be home! WOW. I’m not entirely happy or entirely sad about this – I will be glad to be home finally, to get some stability and normal back to my life. I’m not sure yet if India is a place I will visit again or if I’ll be “done” with it. I’m pretty sure I would like to visit again, but not for a long time. I would need a good break from India for a while,  and to be honest I’m not entirely sure if I’ll make it back here since it’s so far away. I will definitely go back to France though – I love France for so many reasons, and I really do love India too (for completely different reasons) but it’s definitely more of a love/hate relationship here.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! :)

Check out my newest piece for the Lost Girls – 10 Snacks and Sweets in Kolkata :)

I can’t believe it’s already the second half of March – where is the time going? The past week has been great. On Saturday morning Ashley, Elizabeth and I went to Loreto to go along on their weekly trip to the villages. Every Saturday, the older Loreto students (around class 7 and 8) go to nearby villages to teach. We had about a two-hour bus ride to the villages, and the whole ride I talked to a group of 4 girls in class 8 who were in charge of leading me around. They were very cute and very interested in me and how I’m liking India. The school in the village was more than I was expecting – a huge building with several classrooms for many different ages. The facilities were quite nice – I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I can tell how much my standards have changed from home…this was a great school but it didn’t have electricity or desks for the students. The girls I was with took charge of a class 3 classroom of about 25 students. These students didn’t know any English – not more than numbers 1-10, so I wasn’t able to help very much since I’m at about the same level in Bangla. The girls were pretty good teachers, but some of them were more interested in talking to each other than teaching the class. I watched most of the time since I couldn’t do any teaching, but I often felt more like a distraction than a help since the students would focus on me instead of the lesson. It was still great to see. It was definitely worthwhile for me to go, but I don’t think I will go again since I felt almost more of a hindrance than a help.

Bengali on the chalkboard - all I can identify are the numbers at the left. 6 (choy), 7 (shat), 8 (aat) and 9 (noi).

Sunday was a relaxing day at home doing homework, and I watched the movie Food, Inc. I loved it – and it was very similar to the book I just finished, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The author, Michael Pollan, was in the movie and so was one of the farmers he visited while writing his book. I’m learning so much about our food system in America – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can’t wait to learn more! Next on my reading list will be Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

Durgi

We didn’t have class this week since it’s mid-semester exam week for all the St. Xavier’s students. We only had one exam to study for – our elective course at St. Xavier’s, so for me that is Sociology. Since we didn’t have class on Monday, I had the whole day free but I made some productive use of it by going to St. Xavier’s to study in the air-conditioned library without distractions. I went to Loreto afterward, and I’m slowly but steadily enjoying my time there more particularly because I’m starting to build relationships with the girls. One of the girls, Durgi, is becoming more attached to me each time I come. She gives me a huge hug every time she sees me and makes sure to ask when I’ll be coming back before I leave. She even made me a really cute drawing and poem about how we are friends and she loves me – how cute :) I took out my camera to take some pictures of her and another girl, Parveen, but they became very rowdy once the camera came out. It was very hard to get them to calm down afterward – they were climbing all over me and yelling and stole my shoe as I was trying to leave. It started to wear on my patience, but I’m constantly reminding myself of how much these girls are really desperate for the attention. I came home for a nice relaxing yoga session before our big night of switching rooms! Elizabeth and I share a bedroom here and so do Ashley and Brynn – but one room is much bigger than the other and also has desks for studying so we wanted to switch rooms so everyone had a fair chance to live in the bigger space. I’m enjoying the smaller room so far, though I’m still adjusting to sleeping in a new bed.

Suman and Parveen

Tuesday was a great day – we went to the Cricket World Cup! Madhu tried to get us tickets to a game with India playing, but that didn’t pan out so we got tickets to a South Africa vs. Ireland game. South Africa is one of the top cricket teams in the world so I was really excited to see such a world-class team play, as well as go to my first world-level competition! I met up with everyone at New Market to walk to the stadium, Eden Gardens (which is one of the biggest stadiums in the world!). There was really strict security – no cameras are allowed, nor are plastic water bottles (apparently the fans would throw the bottles onto the field?). We were there a little while before the game started, and we had plenty of time to find our seats which were fabulously placed in the lower tier so we were really close to the field. It was incredibly hot at the beginning sitting in the full sun when Kolkata already regularly reaches 95°F. They don’t really sell water in the stadium either…they give you 3 little plastic pouches of water with your ticket though, and it’s the worst packaging possible. You just have to rip the corner of the bag, which spills water everywhere and the little plastic cups you could use to drink the water didn’t hold the whole bagful. Stupid. It was great to relax with everyone though – I felt like I should be at a Twins game at home! I felt like I could be in America, and really wanted the typical American sporting event snacks that go along with it – popcorn, pretzels, nachos, etc. but instead there was Indian snacks like papri chat and egg rolls. Watching the game was great – I didn’t know much about cricket going into it but luckily Vinayak sat near me and he explained whatever questions we had. I have a solid understanding of the basics now, so I could at least follow the game. People will often say that cricket is like baseball, but if someone tells you that just don’t listen. Cricket is not like baseball except that someone throws a small ball, someone hits it with a bat, you run, and someone tries to catch the ball. It was a lot of fun, but we didn’t stay for the whole game. It started at 230pm and was scheduled to go til 1030pm, but we left around 730 – turns out Ireland didn’t do so well at bat, and South Africa won by 131 runs. The form of cricket used for the world cup is one where you play 50 “overs” – an over is 6 balls – and there are only 2 innings. One side will bat for the first inning and one will field, and they switch for the second inning once either the 50 overs are finished or all 11 players of the batting side are out. The traditional form of cricket lasts for 5 days! I’m looking forward to learning more about the game and to watch Vinayak in a match!

Wednesday was the day of our exam. We left quite early so we arrived with about an hour to spare before our exam began. We had heard from Kia, who took her exam on Monday, that it’s confusing trying to figure out where you have to go so we wanted to get there in plenty of time. We went to the office to ask which room we would be given the exam, and turns out the administration didn’t even know we would be taking the exam! Apparently the departments didn’t notify them we would even be taking the exam, so we were not included in their very elaborate seating chart which separates each class into different classrooms and specific assigned spots to take the test. They put us all in the same room. Luckily the exam was not difficult – I had prepared enough so the questions were very straightforward. The kind of exam that is given here is an essay exam where you have to write down basically everything you had memorized from the notes the professor dictated in class. It’s very much a kind of regurgitation of information – and I’m glad I only had the one exam to study for, unlike the rest of the St. Xavier’s students. I’m glad it went well, but now we’ll have to see how they will be grading us. We’re not sure how the grade conversion will work, or how the professors will grade our papers since they know we are not Sociology majors and that we have had no background in Soc. or India before coming here. After the exam, we met a few of the visiting CSB/SJU professors – there’s a group of about 7 professors who are visiting from our campuses to help assess how the program is going and also to introduce more faculty to the India program so there may be potential future program directors from this group. Elizabeth, Ashley and I went to Loreto afterward which was okay. We showed up at a time when there were very few students, but I spent the time with Jhuma and Durgi. Jhuma thoroughly enjoyed combing and braiding my hair, and I helped Durgi with a little homework. That night, we met up with our visiting professors at a great Chinese restaurant called Bar-B-Q. It was a wonderful dinner and it was SO nice to talk to them. I miss campus a lot so it was nice to talk to someone from there, and it was even better to talk to someone outside our group who really understands how different home is from here. They much better appreciate the joys and frustrations we have here, and they were very keen to listen to us describe our experience and to hear all our feedback, both positive and negative. I’m optimistic that this group will seriously consider our negative criticisms and will take action to help make this program better and more established in the coming years.

Another post, another reflection…this time it’s about beggars. When I decided to come to India, I knew I would see poverty like I could never imagine. I knew I would see beggars and I knew I would see slums. I knew, but at the same time I didn’t know that seeing this would affect me the way it has. At home, there is most often a clear division between a well-off neighborhood and less wealthy neighborhoods – you may be driving along in a rich area and as you drive the city slowly changes into less privileged areas. There is a very clear distinction and physical separation of these areas. Here in India, it is not like that at all. There is no clear division between wealthy areas and impoverished areas – you may be walking along next to a giant beautiful fancy hotel and within the next 20 steps, you find yourself walking through a slum. For such a long time, Calcutta was the West’s image of human despair and suffering and today there are still many examples of suffering. It’s hard to see such abject poverty – there is a slum area right outside my house and I walk by so many people every day who literally have nothing. There are so many homeless people on every street, and beggars at every corner. It’s hard to see this poverty – it’s emotionally draining and results in an ethical/moral dilemma. The hardest part of seeing this poverty is to see the vast majority of indifference to it. People walk along without even noticing the beggars or the homeless and ignore them when they are approached. I understand now how or why there is such an apparent indifference – if you became emotionally invested in every person that approached you on the street, you simply would not be able to function. It’s certainly easier to just walk by them. But is that even the right thing to do? How can we walk along so involved in our own lives that we ignore the humanity and suffering around us? I’m surprised at how quickly and easily I’ve become desensitized to the poverty, and a bit ashamed. I can honestly walk down a street and not give a second glance to the dirty woman and malnourished child huddled in the corner on a piece of cardboard.  It’s also hard to know that they seek me out specifically because I am a foreigner. When I’m approached by beggars, I never give money. I have no idea where that money is going, if they will actually use it themselves or if it will be given away to someone else or spent on unnecessary things. I give food when I can, and unfortunately just say no and sorry to everyone else. There was one incident that really stuck with me the other day – on Tuesday, when I was in New Market. New Market is a very popular shopping area where you can find almost anything in a great selection and bargain your price down to something reasonable. I like going to New Market, but I hate how hassled I am there. Vendors and beggars follow me around constantly, and they are very persistent. While Elizabeth and I were standing trying to figure out where to meet up with the group, an older woman with a baby in the crook of her arm approached me. She was following us/me, saying “didi, auntie (terms of respect here)…help…please, no money, milk for my baby…”, touching my arm, etc. She was very difficult to ignore – and it’s really hard to say no to someone when they are asking for some real thing they need and not money. I was stuck so uncomfortably in this ethical and moral dilemma – do I give her money? Do I buy her the milk? Do I just ignore her? And I hate that I feel like I have to be suspicious of their motives – is she seeking me out just because I’m a foreigner? Is that even her baby? If she was really desperate, wouldn’t she be asking everyone else? It feels awful having to judge someone’s motives when they are clearly in desperate need. I hate knowing that I’m targeted and that they are relying on manipulating my emotions – and should they? Do they have that right? I’m always so self-conscious when I take out my money to pay for something, because then they (whoever they is) can see how much money I actually have. Whenever my wallet comes out, that’s directly where their attention is focused. I can’t be giving out money all the time. I may have a lot of money by their standards but I’m still a poor college student with a lot of student loans and not a lot of money will be coming in this summer when I have to pay for things in U.S. dollars again. But still – I know I can always get more money through some way or another, even if that money will be in the future when I have a salaried job which I am so privileged to be able to rely on and plan on having. So when I ignore the beggars, I just feel like such a cold-hearted person. In the end, we did buy her the milk for the baby, and she did seem appreciative or grateful. I did notice that her attitude changed immediately after we said yes though – it was like she had assumed the position of power and became very confident, she was triumphant. I just hope she actually uses it. I wish there were easier answers for this dilemma – there seems to be no answer as to what is the “right” thing to do.

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Last weekend was our weekend group trip to the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans is a conservation area famous for its mangrove forests and its tigers! The tiger is an endangered species, and this Sundarbans tiger is amazing that it has adapted so much to its environment – it can swim miles to reach food and can drink salt water! We left on Saturday morning really early (6:30am) and had a 2.5 hour bus ride before we hopped on a ferry that would take us into the Sundarbans and the island where our camp was. It was definitely warmer there, but not unbearable. It was pretty peaceful there, just chugging along out on the boat, looking at the mangrove forests. The tide changes like crazy in the Sundarbans – it rises and lowers several meters multiple times a day. Trees will either be drowning in water up to their upper branches, or all the roots will be exposed. We spent the whole afternoon on the boat on Saturday, and got off at a watch tower to see tigers, but didn’t see any. We were out there til sunset, then came back for dinner and an early bedtime. The next day we were on the boat at 5am for a better chance to see wildlife, so we watched the sunrise on the boat. It was lovely, but we didn’t see much wildlife – some deer, a few monkeys, and far away birds. We were on the boat until about 1pm – 8 hours on the boat! But it was really nice – it reminded me of weekends on the lake in the summer. We all just dozed, listened to music, and talked while relaxing on the boat. After lunch back at camp, I just stayed indoors and relaxed by reading my book (I’ve now finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma – I loved it and highly recommend it!). Elizabeth and I took a bike ride into the village, which was really nice! Sunday we had a village tour – met some really adorable kids who loved having their picture taken and we also had a sip of some fresh coconut water. They climbed up the tree, got a bunch of coconuts down, hacked away the top and stuck a straw in! It has an interesting flavor – like water with grass in it. It was nice to try once, but I don’t think I’ll ask for it again. So overall, it was a pretty good weekend even though we didn’t do a lot. I got a lot of reading and relaxing in, enjoyed cruising around on the boat even though we didn’t see any tigers or much wildlife at all for that matter.

Since we returned on Monday, it’s been a pretty short week but that somehow managed to feel like much longer than a few days. Classes are incredibly boring and unfulfilling, as usual. We have a big mid-semester exam next week, which I am not looking forward to because you essentially just have to memorize your notebook and write down your notes exactly for the answer. I’m just not a fan of the system here and I can’t wait to get back to classes that I actually enjoy!

We went to an AWESOME craft fair yesterday in Salt Lake. The fair has been going on for a while now, but we’ve finally just made it there. It was incredible – everything is handmade and unique, with the artist sitting right there. It’s great you know the money is going directly to them and often artists were working right alongside their finished products! I bought some great gifts – tons of paintings and artwork. I LOVED it. We went to Danny and Michael’s afterward for a bit and some people played poker while others (myself included) watched a movie – My Name is Khan. We only watched the first half, since it’s a 3 hour movie, but it’s really good – about an Indian man who has Aspergers Syndrome and is Muslim and he moves to America. Then 9/11 happens and it’s all about the treatment of Muslims after 9/11 and a love story – can’t wait to see how it ends! This weekend I’m planning on going to the rural villages with Loreto to do some tutoring, which should be a good experience :) and this weekend is also the end of Vinayak’s exams (FINALLY!) so our family will finally be more free to hang out with us. Sujoy and Vinayak are supposed to give us cricket orientation this weekend, since the Cricket World Cup is going on right now and we are all going to a cricket match on Tuesday next week! We’ll see South Africa vs. Ireland – too bad we couldn’t get tickets to see India play, but it will still be fun :)

Cute village kids

Tonight some of us went to go see the movie Black Swan – it is a great movie. It’s brilliant and so well done, but it is a very freaky movie. I’m still very tense from watching it – there’s not much release from the intensity and no concrete explanations. It’s about a dancer in a ballet company that’s doing a production of Swan Lake. She’s a perfectionist and the director isn’t sure if she will be able to fulfill both roles of the pure frail White Swan and the sexy dangerous Black Swan. The movie is a psychological thriller – you see her character unraveling under the pressure as the movie progresses and there are many times where you are unsure what is reality and what is not. It’s a fascinating movie that I want to dissect and analyze – I have such a greater understanding and appreciation for films after taking a cinema class in France! One very interesting thing though was that the theater here censored parts of the movie. There were many sexual elements to this movie and some graphic scenes. A few crude sexual words were bleeped out, and an entire lesbian sex scene was cut (which we only knew because Kathryn had already seen the movie in the USA). That is India – sex is implied on screen, but rarely ever displayed and certainly not in the graphic sense it is in the USA. It wasn’t until recently that mainstream Indian movies would show kissing – between a heterosexual couple, of course. Interesting side note – it wasn’t until 2010, just last year, that gay sex was decriminalized in India!! WOW. It’s so interesting to note the gender imbalance, gender inequality, and general attitude toward sexuality here. There is so much gender inequality in every sphere here – and there is so much sexual repression every day public life, and yet it seems like that would not be the case since there are so many sexual references in the Hindu religion and in popular media. Oh the contradictions of India – Bollywood actresses can be dancing suggestively in skimpy clothing but the woman on the street dare not show any more leg than her ankle. It’s so interesting to learn about, and I’m only skimming the surface with what I know!

more cute village kids

One of the things I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately is how much I’ve been learning since arriving here 2 months ago. One of the things I think has been a very frustrating yet also a great learning experience is the fact that I am a minority here. This is the first time in my life I’m experiencing being a minority, since I’ve grown up in largely homogeneous communities. I’m a minority in just about every way here – white, female, foreign, Catholic – but also other things that make me a minority here like educated, wealthy (relative to here), English-speaking. There are many frustrations that come along with this – like being targeted for certain things or being treated in certain ways and having to be suspicious of people’s intentions in how they treat you. I certainly have a greater appreciation and empathy for the minorities in the USA – I can now better understand their struggles even though my understanding is still very limited. However, the crucial difference is that I’m a privileged minority. All the labels I just listed above entitle me to many privileges and special treatments. Since coming here, I’ve really realized how incredibly fortunate I am – and that I really am a part of a minuscule percentage of the world that has those privileges of being educated, wealthy, English-speaking, and so so so much more – even that I just don’t have to worry about fulfilling basic human needs like food, water, shelter, and more. There is such a sharp divide here between the “haves” and the “have nots” and most of this country of 1.1 billion people is made up of “have nots.” And this is just in one country – and thinking about all the other countries around the world made up of “have nots” makes me realize how truly fortunate I am and how I really should be grateful for what I have. It’s not that I feel guilty that I’m privileged and others are not – I certainly didn’t do anything to deserve these privileges more than someone else, just as someone didn’t do anything to not deserve the privileges that I enjoy. It was just the chance circumstance of me being born this way. This doesn’t mean that allows me to be dismissive or ignorant of the inequalities that result from this privilege imbalance, but there are specific constructed boundaries that may prevent me from doing certain things to try and remedy this imbalance. For example, sometimes I feel like I’m not getting a really “authentic” experience of India because we are so sheltered from a number of things and that because I’m a foreign white woman I’m not allowed to do certain things. I’m not allowed to go certain places because of risk to my safety, I can’t communicate with the average non-English-speaking Indian, I’m constantly in the company of educated elite Indians who have a lot of money – which is a very small percentage of the Indian population – and I often attract attention or special treatment because I’m a foreigner and they think my standards are higher than what they have to offer. I won’t be able to walk away from this trip without realizing how privileged I actually am, but the question from here on out is what do I do now with this awareness and how far can I push those limitations?

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I can’t believe it’s already March, and it’s even harder to believe that my time here in India is half over. Even weirder, that I’ve been in India for a little over 2 months. I have mixed feelings about this trip being half over…but first, an update on what’s been going on the past week.

I had a fabulous weekend! We didn’t have class on Friday, so we took advantage of the day off to explore more of Kolkata. For the first time since I arrived in India, plans were made and they actually happened!! It’s a miracle. We started off the day with going to Tagore’s house here in Kolkata – we all met at the metro (around the same time, and everyone was there! That’s a huge accomplishment in itself) and then walked to his house. His house is now a museum, with lots of art galleries and photos of Tagore. There were a lot of artifacts and quotes, and it was just okay. I still don’t understand why people are so obsessed with Tagore here, but then again, I haven’t read any of his work yet. For now, it sounds like most descriptions of him or his work are very melodramatic. We were all pretty hungry afterward, and headed back to Park Street for a delicious lunch – chelo kebabs at Peter Kat :) We had a little time after lunch before we had to be home for yoga, so we went to the Mother House – Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. It was incredible! Mother Teresa’s tomb is there, and I can’t believe I visited the tomb of someone who is in the process of becoming a saint! There was a really nice exhibit as well, which had lots of information about her life and many of her things like her sandals, letters she wrote, her Nobel peace prize, her wheelchair, and more. She had an amazing life, and I don’t know how you can know you’re life’s calling when you’re 18 and follow it to the fullest. I really respect people who devote their life to God to live in an order or monastery, because I could not live that lifestyle! We also saw her bedroom – a tiny austere room, and they said she never used a fan even though her room was directly above the kitchen (not to mention the Kolkata heat)! Turns out we were there during the time they give weekly Mass, so of course we had to stay for that. Can’t believe I had Mass with Mother Teresa’s tomb right in front of me!

Mother Teresa's tomb

We made it home in time for a great yoga class. I really love yoga. It’s great to take the time to relax and meditate, and I feel like we never make time for that at home with our always-on-the-go lifestyle. It’s no wonder yoga was invented here – they need it to cope with the craziness that is India! After yoga, we had dinner out at a nearby restaurant, Mirch Masala, and had some drinks at a nearby bar. It was a great time and so nice to be out!

We had another big day on Saturday – starting off with visiting the Botanical Gardens. It took a long time to get there (about 1-1.5 hours), but it was great to see the famous Great Banyan Tree. This tree is incredible – it’s basically a forest, yet it’s all one tree. It’s 250 years old and has been in the Guinness Book of World Records! It takes up over a kilometer of space. We had a really long bus ride and metro ride to go to Danny and Michael’s house afterward, and by the time we had lunch and reached their house, it was already 5pm. So much time is lost in transit here!! We watched a great Bollywood movie, called 3 Idiots. It’s was a really long movie, full of slapstick humor and song and dance. You have to suspend the laws of reality and probability and embrace the cheesiness – but I liked it :) We spent Sunday relaxing and recovering after such a busy weekend. It sounds like we didn’t do that much since we only did 2 things each day, but it just takes so much time and effort to get anywhere – it’s exhausting! This week has been pretty good so far – just class and getting some work done. I met a new friend in class, and Loreto is slowly getting better. The past few times I’ve visited, I’ve spent time just sitting and talking to the girls since it wasn’t tutoring time and I’ve enjoyed that a lot more. When I went today, more of them remembered me and were happy to see me, which is a great feeling :) These girls need so much attention, which is really obvious when they turn my face back to them if I look away for even a second. And this time, the girls asked my help for some homework so I felt helpful for once!

So…I’m halfway through my time here in India. I’m not sure how I feel about it, because my feelings change each day. I feel like I’m barely adjusted to living here. Sometimes I think I’m doing really well and I feel well-adjusted to living here, and then something will happen that will throw me off again. It’s very confusing – I go back and forth all the time between enjoying it here and wishing I was home. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I like India, and sometimes I have to remind myself why I even came here in the first place. There’s so much of India that I don’t understand. I feel like I still have a lot to learn, and I know I’m only just barely scratching the surface, even though I’m here for 4 months. Now that I’ve realized I have a little less than 70 days left here, I’m torn between being excited to be home soon and being panicked that I have such a short amount of time left and that I should be seizing every day every moment. I think about home a lot here…it’s partially a coping strategy for India and partially a negative distraction from what I’m doing here. I know the time will pass quickly and sometime in the future I will miss my time here. That’s exactly how France was, which brings in a whole other element to this. It was only 3 months ago that I was still in France. I’m not even sure what I’ve learned and taken away from France yet since I’ve barely had any time to process it. It feels like that was a dream – the reality that France is over still hasn’t really sunk in. I was organizing France pictures the other day, and I can’t believe that it’s already over and it’s all just memories now. I keep trying to compare this experience my experiences in France, which often doesn’t work very well since this is a completely different situation. I miss France already. My life is a constant transition, which is equally exciting and exhausting. India is often so draining, so I find myself often thinking about home and wishing I was back there with the stability and predictability and people I love. I think I’m just feeling study abroad-ed out, or  a little travel weary. I knew it was going to be crazy and I wanted this kind of challenge and I knew what I was getting into, but at the same time I had no idea what I was getting into and that I might be biting off more than I can chew. For a long time, I thought being homesick and thinking about all the good things I have waiting for me at home was a bad thing. But now, I need to not be not be so hard on myself – give myself a break after being away from home for what will be almost 9 months straight. For now, let the roller coaster continue.

Let it be.

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