Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The begining of understanding...

I apologize in a advance for the lack of capital letters in this post, but the keyboard on this fantastic computer has two perfectly non-functional shift keys...gotta love india...lol. anyway, everything, besides this keyboard, is going really well.

i've only been with my home stay family for one day now; however, i already feel a really strong attachment to them. rajeev, vikram and manesh are so smart, and eagerly greet me each day with some new piece of wisdom they've picked up from school. manesh gave me a lesson on ratios, manesh gave me a lesson on circumference, an rajeev who is the oldest is full of fantastic questions regarding western culture and generally what it is like in america. however as much as i've just met my home stay family, i can already tell i'm going to miss them immensely when i leave.

we read the introduction to "orientalism" by edward said, and i would recommend that small bit, if not the entire book, to anyone wishing to be filled with insight on many issues regarding the american discourse surrounding the middle east and asia more generally...it was really great.

also, my home stay family does speak some english; however, starting next week i've asked them to only speak in hindi. although it's going to be difficult to communicate, it will be best for my language accusation.

so, i was walking down the street today and found myself totally at peace regardless of the busy city happening all around me. i was able to simply exist in the moment i was experiencing, and in doing so the distraction of anything outside of that moment melted away. i was able to truly experience the now, and although this seems somewhat koom-by-ya (sorry...i don't know how to spell that), it is all very true.

i've been learning patience here in india. this virtue, of which i desperately need to learn more of, is somewhat forced upon me in every situation. it is by no means a problem, and it is not bothering me at all. in actuality, however much learning patience is a slow and sometimes tiresome process, i embrace it with the understanding that sometimes the best things in life are not easily gotten, and require an uncomfortable learning process.

this theme of patience is manifest in my home stay experience, my five hour jaunt at getting a cell phone, the endless difficulty of finding my way around jaipur, and even in using this computer...but i'm slowly learning patience, and the the seeming difficulties of living in jaipur are quickly fading.

to go into a bit of detail...yesterday, seven other students from the program and i went to get cell phones. the process seemed simple enough before we actually tried to go through it, however, this was not actually the case. after being required to provide our passports, various address information, photos and various other seeming arbitrary bits of info, such as our fathers full name, and citizenship status, we were able to buy the phones.

i want to make absolutely clear however, that i'm writing of all these experiences without any malice, anger, or negative evaluation of india or the culture here. i've simply accepted the pace of life over here without comparison. everything here is different and by no means necessarily negative, bad, or of lesser virtue than life in america...things are simply different. things simply are. i don't place judgment on the differences, i merely absorb them. let me not forget to acknowledge that natually i judge without even meaning to, but i constantly make an effort to avoid doing so.

in short i'm beginning to really integrate into jaipur. life here is different...not different therefore better or worse...simply different. to compare the two would be to compare apples and oranges. both have positives and negatives, but i am by no means in any position to judge what i'm seeing here. who would i be to think i could do so?

so, for now that's all. i've been really excited to read all of the comments that people have been posting, and although i haven't responded to any of them, be sure that i'm happily and extremely gratefully reading them all.

i hope all is well back home.

much love to everyone,

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Homestay time!

Well I moved in with my home stay family, and my new “parents” Mr. and Mrs. Singh have been more than accommodating. Mr. Singh is probably 6 feet tall, 180 lbs. and is partially bald. I would guess that he’s in his mid 60’s. Mrs. Singh is about my height, and dresses in traditional Indian clothing. She has an extremely maternal aura, and I can tell that she, as well as Mr. Singh, is genuinely glad to have me staying with them.
I have a very large room on the first floor of their home, and attached to the room is my own bathroom. Their house is pretty big, and the location is ideal. I’m located about 20 minutes walk from the program center, and Mr. Singh said that if I choose to use an auto-rickshaw to get to and from it shouldn’t cost more than 30 R’s. Ultimately, I’m not totally thrilled about my family, but I think part of it is because I don’t know them yet. As expected, it’s going to take a while to get totally comfortable with each other, but all in all I’m happy about being a guest in their home and they are extremely hospitable and are treating me as though I’m am one of their own children.
The house keeper, whose name I cannot remember now, also lives with us, and her three children Rajeev, Vikram, and Manesh are really great. They are 16, 13, and 10 respectively, and Rajeev as well as Vikram have been priceless tour guides regarding the local amenities. The cyber-cafĂ© I’m using right now is about 5 minutes walking from the house, and charges only 15 R’s per hour of internet use. At the end of our street is a corner store that has any item one would need from shampoo, to spices, to stationary and more. I also like my location because it’s not in a touristy area of the city. I haven’t seen any other Caucasian people, and overall it’s nice to be somewhat off the beaten path.
Tomorrow is Monday, and classes will officially begin. We’ve had two lectures so far, but they have still been more along the lines of getting us oriented to the area and not entirely academic in nature. I’m looking forward to narrowing my research topic, and at this point I think I want to do something regarding the elementary education system here in India. Generally speaking, the Indian government has done a great job at improving their university and higher education system, but the elementary system is not ideal. I think I’m going to try and get involved with a local NGO that focuses on this issue. Other than that, I’m still somewhat undirected in my research focus, but with time I think my focus will get more narrow and thus manageable.
Well, I’m heading back to the house, but as soon as there’s more to write about, I’ll do just that.