Starting small and working big (I think…) begins with the weather.
|The mall during a monsoon, the Sunday of Eid.
It’s monsoon season! It rains a lot and sometimes the sun disappears for days behind a bright grey cloud, leaving us in a light that is reminiscent of a bright Scottish afternoon, but only when we’re inside in the A/C and can forget what it actually feels like out there. Right now for instance, looking out my living room windows, I see evidence of an early-morning rain, and overcast skies. If the A/C was on I could pretend it was actually crisp outside too. Spending most of my days in a climate-controlled environment means that sometimes I am honestly smacked in the face with the truth of the weather when I step into the real world. It’s humid and hot and wet and dusty at the same time. It’s always dusty, even in the middle of the rain. I don’t know how.
The rain comes quickly and heavily. That reads like a line from an elementary writing exercise, but there’s no other way to explain it. You think you’re safe one moment, the next you look like you’ve been in the shower, and you were only outside for 5 minutes.
It reveals me to myself though: I like living in places with fast-changing weather, and once the monsoon ends, I’ll struggle with the endless days of sunshine and no rain.
|Pali Market full of rickshaws at night.|
Up the scale to Transport: rickshaws. We take them everywhere here. They are motorcycles with little cabins on them. You can seat 3 people at a time (though late at night, they can get lenient about squishing extra folk in). The engines sputter and groan as the drivers pick up speed, and the open sides leave you very open to the elements. Stuck in traffic, you’re inhaling the elements. Breathing in the petrol fumes and dust. Smelling the garbage and the (actually true) street-side pig-styes in the village near my apartment. Pigs smell the same anywhere in the world. If it rains, you will get wet, and mud might get splashed on you. You are very much at the mercy of your driver – if you don’t know your way around – neither does he. They drive barefoot and cross-legged, and zip through traffic at the fastest speed (they are the most efficient form of transport, after actual motorcycles) disregarding all forms of traffic laws, except to stop at certain “policed” traffic lights. They’re not allowed in the City because they’re unsightly and remind the wealthier denizens of the poverty of the suburbs. It’s only Rs15.00 to start with, and can cost me roughly Rs120 to get to Bandra.
|Pani Puri street stall in Bandra|
On to FOOD. Of course, I could write forever about food. This morning I realized that a major difference in my food experience here is that I don’t really have a choice but to participate in it. In Scotland, people would haggle or cajole each other into trying haggis or black pudding (both of which are tasty!), while asking, “What IS this?”. Here? I have no idea what most of the food I have eaten lately is. I ordered paneer tikka masala the other day and was proud to get something that looked familiar. I’ve eaten some very tasty things and some spices that I’m just not game for yet. I’ve also realized that spices creep their way into everything here. I understand how it is a source of pride for westerners to find western food that doesn’t taste indian-ized. It’s not the hot spices that creep everywhere, just the curries and… honestly I don’t even know what that one particular one that just sits in the back of my throat is. So I really have no say in how I get to experience Maharashtra food – it’s happening whether I like it or not, and I’m excited to get to the point where I can know what to choose. (Pani Puri is already on the “good” list!)
The School? Aw man. I can’t really explain yet. It’s great. It’s intimidating because everyone has high expectations (even/especially the students). I have so much freedom it’s insane – I can use the commons if I want them to spread out and work independently. I have whiteboards for them to write on everywhere, including a whiteboard table in each class. They’re all on laptops. They seem like little super-babies until I give them work to do and then they’re regular 6th – 7th graders with the same questions every other student has, and the same bad habits. They’re smart and unafraid to ask questions (maybe a little bad at choosing when to ask the question but…) and they keep me smiling. I am excited to figure out how to push them and make them do good work, and to have them push me right back.
Right… I don’t want to write too much. I’m still processing. It’s only the end of the first week of school and I’ve only been here for 3 weeks! I’m still learning names and navigating the social scenes. I have only taken a rick alone once. I want to go downtown to a museum today to explore South Bombay a bit on my own/not with a tour group. I want to plan my weekend getaways. I want to develop worksheets for my ELL students and think about how to integrate fairy tales into my 7th grade curriculum (surprise surprise).
AH INDIA. What a smelly, tasty, hot, wet, traffic-jumbled ride you will be.