Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finally in India!

Namaste! After a 24 hour journey I finally made it to Trivandum... and after 96 hours of being here I am finally getting to my blog... It is amazing here, so different from anything I have ever experienced. From the moment I stepped out of the airport, the reality of India is like a firework display, a continous burst of amazing, colorful light that inspires awe and curiousity. The people of Kerala are the flame that ignites each firework. They are everywhere... on the traffic-congested street, in the 10 x 10 foot tailor shop, even in their homes, they are mere feet away as I type... everywhere. And they stare at the American girls who are such oddities to them, in their world that is such a circus to us. But with their stares come smiles (if you smile first) and with their smiles usually come questions... or at least strings of Malayalam that my mere two language lessons do not allow me to comprehend... in addition to my lessons in Malayalam, tomorrow I begin my performing arts classes... there are number of performing artforms that the participants can choose from ... I circled my options and finally landed on yoga and bharatanatiam, which is a rhythmic dance form, with lots of feet slapping and clean cut motions...Besides lessons, I do have somewhat of a social life here in this foreign place, consisting thus far of only the members of the household: Amandeep, Kristi and Jean, who are also students, Chandrika, the program monitor, who is also a student but much more advanced, by which I mean she's going for her PhD... I know if she were to read this, she would take it otherwise lol... and Thankamma, who is our cook, native to Kerala and considers herself our mother figure... Kristi however has amended this to our grandmother figure because of the way she watches our intake of food with an eagle eye..."More, more, more" to which we respond, "Madi, madi, madi" ("Enough, enough, enough")... Speaking of which, the food is amazing... I have always been partial to Indian food and the authenticity is exciting, to say the least... unfortunately, the heat and jet-lag has taken somewhat of a physical toll and my stomach has suffered some casualities... limited to queasiness, but is nonetheless frustrating... today was a refreshing change of pace, for I am also partial to desserts, which is apparently not a priority of India cuisine, and with tea, Thankamma served kolam, which is a banana fritter... That was the most I had eaten at one sitting thus far... Tea time is an interesting practice, and Jean and I always have to ask for black tea... in leu of the chai, which is loaded with milk and sugar, or the coffee which is also heaped with sugar to an almost toffee-like taste... the authenticity of my experience does not end at the food, however... another factor that screams India is the heat, and the humidity, and the fact that I have not been completely dry for four days, and I have not been able to wear my hair down in a week! The constant sticky state of my skin is frustrating beyond comparison... Even getting dressed is harder than normal... Each of us is expected to dress modestly- covered from head to toe... and in order to carry this out properly, we went and purchased a few authentic Indian outfits, consisting of pants, tunic and shawl... Customarily these are constructed out of 100% cotton and they do not stretch... and with the humidity... you can imagine... simply, Aman has had to help me pull my tunic over my head... but once on they are a relief to wear, opposed to the rest of my wardrobe... very light and good for the heat, and beautiful... not to mention we attract much less attention from the native population... but regardless, the people are like their climate: warm and we get along well enough to the point that jokes can be traded and understood... like when I told the seamstress to make the neck of my tunic wide because I have a big head, to which I received a smile and a bobble of the head.... It's fascinating: everyone here bobbles their head... in response to anything... I've decided that it means they are listening ... Americans nod as they listen, Indians bobble.... but for now, you can stop nodding as you "listen" (or read) my babbling, and hopefully I will remember/ have the motivation to write again soon... Love to all, Sam