Perhaps I have some Indian in me?
Today marks 5 weeks in India and it feels like I have adjusted well. I prefer the normal spice level over the blend version that foreigners get, I don't hear the honking train anymore, and I can even quote some TV ads. I also don't get a mini heart attack anymore when I fall onto the toilet seat which is a little lower than expected. Speaking of toilets, my stomach has had no issues at all and I'm super happy about that. But given my weird history for toilets, I have to tell you at least one story.
They don't have toilet paper here.
What they use instead is a small water sprayer called a bidet. A conversation between a German and Indian friend went something like this:
"When you use this spray, doesn't it stay wet?"
"Just a little.
So when you use toilet paper, doesn't it stay brown?"
"Just a little."
Us Europeans find all this weird. But I would dare to say we are on the wrong side of this debate.
"...medical professionals generally agree that bidets are hygienic, are gentler on your body than toilet paper and do a more thorough job of cleaning."
The best part of this: using them could save a LOT of trees!
Getting used to weird things is always a part of meeting other cultures, but ever since my culture shock in Kansas (first time abroad) it has been easier. It has felt strangely normal to come to India. Of course many things are different, but I think my character fits this country at least a little; after all, I'm the one who is late at home. I believe adjusting well is all about the mindset you take before you even arrive at the airport. When I came to Kansas, I had a lot of expectations based on earlier visits, but actually living there was a completely different story. After some months of telling everyone how much better things are in Europe, I learned to respect and understand these differences, which allowed to me to learn from their culture rather than criticise it. The weeks before coming to India I was preparing for this. Sometimes it's difficult, because it's not only about the practical things like toilet paper, but also about cultural issues that conflict with your deepest values. Yet, I do believe even then there is something to be learned.
India has confirmed that I love exploring, and that uncertainty and chaos doesn't bother me too much (which is one of my weaknesses; ask mom). While India offers enough adventure, my guest family makes sure I don't venture into anything too stupid. In that sense it is different than backpacking, but I'm very grateful that I get to live here. This year I learned the beauty of having plenty of lazy Sundays instead of rushing through, because it helps to feel the vibe of your environment. I realise that it is an extreme luxury to have enough time to experience a country this way.
Generally, the three big things to talk about are traffic, food, and the people. So in the coming weeks I will dedicate a post to each of those three fascinating topics.
That leaves me with talking about the weather for now:
it's fantastic because it's always cloudy, rarely too hot, and never too cold.
where I visited some old friends from high school, it was so humid that my camera stopped working.
Goa, a state on the west coast of India. Lena (on the right) lives there now with her more or less local boyfriend. The rest of us came to visit 🙂
where I visited a friend who studied with me, it was a bit on the hot side and it rained cats and dogs.
I met Nihar in Rotterdam. We had a great time visiting some of the tourist attractions and celebrating Diwali, the festival of light and the 'Indian Christmas'. One of the pictures shows two kids lighting fireworks, a big part of Diwali.
where I had to give a communication training, it was sunny and hot.
So everything is perfect then? Not entirely... Mosquitos like me way too much and Indian beds seem to have a tendency to be 190cm long, exactly my height. But that means it is about
A more serious issue is that I've had to compromise on my goal not to buy plastic bottles. Unfortunately the safest water here comes in polyethylene :'(
I've also learned that I would rather not become famous. At the spots that attract Indian tourists but are too small for many internationals, I become a little bit of an attraction myself. So far I have been on about 30 selfies with people. They are always very nice about it, and it's really not too bad, but it does give you a small taste of what it would be like to walk around as a star. Good that I gave up my dream of becoming an NBA star a long time ago.
The skin colour thing is something that has definitely occupied my mind. More about that in the post about people.
Photography is a thing that has also occupied my mind, and I have to confess that I've spent a little too much time on Instagram lately. But if you want to see more pictures, that's where to go: www.instagram.com/fraenkly