We’ve reached the point of our journey that’s actually interesting for most of you; the end goal; the creme de la creme; the beginning of the end; the one, the only, Mother India. And the crowd goes wild- humor me. The point is, I’m here. I have been for over a week now and counting. You may chastise me for not posting sooner now. Throughout the last six months I’ve been asked quite frequently with different degrees of skepticism why I would voluntarily launch myself half way across the world into a conservative, dangerous, boiling hot developing country where I would most likely die or worse knowing my luck. Seriously I picked this; although I am reminding myself that as I scratch at blistering patches of pain while writing… This is not the point in time where I am going to explain why exactly I chose this place of all places. I’m here, permanently dehydrated, and my feet smell like cow shit. Moving on…
To say I was prepared to live in India would be a blatant bold face lie. Nothing, no amount of experience, no amount of packing lists, no amount of advice could have prepared me for this. A new friend described India as its own little universe inside of a country. You can find anything you are looking for within its borders; a desert, mountains, oceans, metropolitan cities, rural communities. It is a world of its own. I am only beginning to grasp for myself how true this is. I wish I could explain it, that I had the words eloquent enough to truly exemplify the emotions, the presence, the impact this country is continuously impressing upon me. I truly believe that whatever I say it isn’t enough, it won’t mean anything until you actually experience it. So I’m not going to say anything at all. I am not enough.
I do have enough experience, understanding, and insight to talk about myself though; I will never be accused of not being narcissistic enough. If I am just shoot me because I’m obviously quite ill. Speaking of illness… Who bet less than a week? That’s right. I didn’t even make it that long before becoming sick here. My body is physically rejecting this country. Now before you scoff and imagine all sorts of gastrointestinal horrors that one expects of India I’m going to stop you right there. No. Just no. I don’t even want to think about that happening just yet. The rumors about India are in fact true. We do have what we have nicknamed a “squaty-potty.” All of my years of peeing in the woods have finally paid off. This is my olympic moment. Light the torches, bring out the laurel wreathes, and forget the tp at home because you won’t find it here. On the bright side, we don’t have a bucket shower here so I’m going to call it balanced out. I’ll take my porcelain throne built into the ground than a bucket in my shower any day. Our shower has one setting, cold. I personally love it because it provides some much-needed relief from the unrelenting heat. I’ve reached the point where I shower several times a day just to cool off. And why might I do that you may ask yourself. Why, because I have heat hives. Tada! Magically back on topic. I’ve learned here in India that my skin cannot physically handle the temperature here and I’ve broken out in hives across my entire body. My. Entire. Body. Is. Covered. In. Hives. Got your attention now right? That’s the type of sick we’re focusing on. I look like I have the migrating chicken pox that only shows up when anything forcefully interacts with my skin like say scratching… or fighting to put on pants when my entire body is sticky with humidity and sweat because it is an actual work out in the morning which leaves me sweatier and stickier than when I started. Yeah… good times. Aside from the fact that my body no longer wants to remain where my mind has decided to plant its flag, I’m having a good time. The power goes out often which is making blogging/distracting myself from the impossible heat quite difficult. As the ratio of moisture to skin increases throughout the day I can’t help but wonder if this is how a lobster feels before its boiled alive…
The heat here in on a whole different plane of existence. I have transcended beyond my understanding of the word heat. I thought I understood what being hot meant and that I could conceptualize being truly hot and uncomfortable but I was wrong. I don’t think humans are meant to live with the temperature and humidity I have experienced; the Mars Rover is more equipped for this than I am. I honestly believe there are circles of hell that are colder than India; it’s so ridiculously hot here. It was so hot last night I spent the twilight hours laying on top of my sheets in the dark listening to all of the fans spinning full blast. It was the kind of hot where the mere idea of sharing the same hot wet air with someone makes one feel uncomfortable; that I almost wish there was someone here to share in my misery if only so that I could push them off the bed for radiating too much body heat in the mere vicinity. It’s that friggin’ hot.
Somewhat on the topic of lobster, I’ve grown to like Indian food; that of the vegetarian variety of course. You won’t find a lobster (is there any Indian dish with lobster in it?) on my plate! I will admit I was pretty much an Indian food virgin before I left. Well not anymore. Your girl can veg it up with the best of them. I don’t always love what I eat but I do love the way we eat it. Hello finger food! That sounds crass but seriously, we eat with our right hands here in Varanasi and I love it. I’m pretty damn good at it too. I know it sounds kind of easy but have you ever tried to eat rice with your fingers? How about tearing naan with one hand? Tonight I successfully ate a bowl of stew using only bread, no spoon. Can you do that? Yeah, sit back down. I’m just glad our program is completely vegetarian because I have no idea how I could handle eating meat like this. Gnawing directly on the bones at the table doesn’t seem socially acceptable… I have yet to miss meat but my cravings for hard full flavored cheese are coming in full force. I’ve been dreaming about cheese pizza the last few nights. Its going to be a rough couple of months. In addition different table manners, we also eat at very different hours here. Breakfast is served at our program center at 9:00. We then have a midmorning optional tea break at 11:30 during the gaps between classes. Lunch is served at 1 and then a second optional tea around 4. We don’t eat again until dinner at 9:00. Let me repeat, dinner at 9:00! I think there’s some Indian secret to eating late but I’ve yet to figure it out… my stomach is normally pitching a fit by 7:00 so I don’t know how they do it. The sad thing is that our 9 o’clock dinner isn’t even with all of my host family… Because we’re weak Americans ,the other girls and I eat early with the kids and our host grandmother while the adults eat later around 10:30/11:00pm… We’re normally in bed by then to be honest.
Before you scoff that the great Laney Brink, the one and only night owl of the West, is in bed by 11pm let me defend myself; 6am yoga classes… A girl’s gotta do something to stay functional. The rest of my classes are at more manageable times. I’m taking Hindi, Gender, Religions, and a history course about my city in addition to my yoga class that is nothing like Western yoga (which was to be expected). I like Hindi the best so far. Its hard; ridiculously, unwaveringly hard. I feel like I’m holding egg shells in my mouth every time I try to speak; there are so many minute differences. It’s so hard to hear because of that but it’s not too difficult to read. Its beautiful in its design; the letters are mathematical in their arraignment, slowly building upon each other like blocks. I love the puzzle that comes from deciphering the words and letter combinations to create sounds and vice versa. Just don’t make me write what you’re saying…
There is so much I could say about life, about the city, about the animals- don’t get me started on the sacred cows-, about my host family, about my school, or even about myself. However these points are best left for another day, another blog post, and another moment in this incredible journey.
Life is life here in Varanasi.
Its new, its different, its strange and now its mine.