Sunday, September 14, 2008

Silverware, Hot Water, and Toilet Paper

Tea time (around 4:00 pm) is by far my favorite part of the day. I'm actually anticipating it as I type. Achen and Kochamma had some engagements to attend, so us volunteers have used the time ever-so-productively... to nap. My nap was perfectly refreshing by the way. However later I'll be packing which won't be nearly as much fun as napping.

Before I get into my upcoming plans, let's backtrack a little. First topic: Culture Shock. Wow! Not what I was expecting. At orientation we were given a lovely little chart that mapped out the general path of highs and lows volunteers experience over the year. It did
not apply to me apparently. Instead of beginning in the "Honeymoon" phase, I'm pretty sure I just went into the "Unnecessarily Anxious" phase. Now, before you all go panicking, I'm much more centered again and already beginning to fall in love with this new place.

Now, in defense of my anxiety, India is quite different from home in many respects. For instance, not including my fellow volunteers, I've 
seen four white people over the last week and a half in a country of over 1 billion. From the moment we stepped into the Bahrain airport, we have been the extreme minority. I'm sharing this in no way to define India by ethnic categories, but to illustrate the difference I've felt as a white male from a region of minimal diversity and limited cross-cultural experiences, which is why I applied to the program in the first place; to expand my world-view and attempt to experience life as the "other." It was unnerving at first, but has shown me a lot about what it must feel like for minorities in the States. I can already begin to see that this year is really going to teach me a lot about myself and where I come from.

I'm excited to go to
my site, which I leave for tomorrow via a van ride of unknown length. But seeing as it is two hours from Aluva to Kottayam by train, I'm thinking it may take longer to travel by car. Anyway, I'll finally have my own space and such, which will help with the stress of all the "new" I'm experiencing. As my parents can tell you, my morning routine is usually to grab a cup of coffee before running off and spending a couple of hours by myself. I haven't been able to do that because of the other volunteers who are so fun that I can't tear my self away from them. And I'm not even being sarcastic ladies and gentlemen; I'm really going to miss them when we're all at our sites. Luckily, Becca's site is only four kilometers from mine so we may be able to visit each other occasionally. The point is, I'm looking forward to feeling a little more settled in. I feel like I'm finally approaching what I've been looking forward to all these months and I can't wait to share with all of you how it goes.

Over this weekend, two English professors, Jacko and Anne, were nice enough to come and stay in Aluva with the intent of talking to us about each of our sites and giving tips on how to teach conversational English. They are simply two of the most amazing people I've ever met and have been sources of invaluable knowledge. And their son, Steve, is quite the hoot! I'm at a loss for words to explain the joy this little guy has brought us. Between this family and Achen and Kochamma, I already feel like I'm building a meaningful support network here.

Steve and I after juice.

So, I will leave you with a few things I've already learned to live without:

  • Silverware: The use of my right hand as the means of getting food into my mouth is becoming less and less challenging and more and more fun. Don't worry, I'll be requiring everyone at home to do it for at least one meal. You've been warned.
  • Hot water: Ok, I'm having a little more trouble with this one. I've always been convinced that to get clean I have to look like a tomato when I get out of the shower. However, in a climate with 200% humidity (simply my own estimate) cold water is actually the more refreshing choice.
  • Toilet paper: Oh, yes, I've already "switched over" as us volunteers refer to it. I think we all have at this point. I'd like to refrain from providing the entire world with details on the subject, but I will tell you it really isn't so bad.

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha. I know what life is like without the TP. I don't know that I ever actually "switched over," and we Filipina YAVs always had TP in our house during orientation, but I think it was one of the strangest things to which we had to become accustomed to go to a public restroom and not see toilet paper in the stalls in the bathrooms. Seeing no toilet paper in private homes or what were basically outhouses/showers I got used to, not a public bathroom. For some reason I especially remember it at the mall after seeing an American movie; I think it made the contrast all the more clear (even though they almost never show people in the loo in movies).

    Anyways, I do love reading about your adventures. I think thus far reading about India has been my favorite; it's certainly been the most frequent. I've gotten a much clearer picture of how everything is going in orientation and what you love about it. Yes, you're on my reader and I love getting posts in my inbox!

    As far as culture shock goes, I think you're being a lot healthier about it than I ever was. I think I tried to pretend that it was something that only happened if you let it, not a natural thing. I think your honesty with yourself is the healthiest thing you can do and it's very refreshing to hear about your experiences.

    I look forward to reading about your site placement and adventures. You should put that sarcasm away, this IS very enlightening.

    Geez that's wordy...