14 March, 2007
I am exactly 9 days from the 6 month mark of my time here in India. Crazy, isn’t it. And I’m continuing to learn and grow and fit (and not fit) into this community. It’s getting hotter – my fan is on at night, now, and even with it, the air blankets my body. It’s still a comfortable blanket of warm air, but then again it’s only March.
My trip to Thailand was a wonderful one. I have concluded that Thailand is a wonderful and easy place to be a tourist – people smile, grin in fact, in a way that people here in India do not. Politesse is the norm for foreigners, and getting around is easy. It’s also clean. So clean. That was the big thing I noticed when I was there. Getting off the airplane and stepping into the world of the high-class shops in the airport was like stepping into another world. The streets of Bangkok are spotless, and I even saw people washing a driveway with soapy water and mops. Craziness. Such a far cry from here where the roads are lined with discarded plastic bags, bits of once colorful but now uniformly grayed bits of paper, food waste, all well watered by urinating men.
Not so Thailand. I would have eaten off the floor in the entrances to the subways – so sparklingly clean were the cream tiles. And of course there’s the shopping – markets full of beautiful clothing (Thai style is wonderful – cute shorts, fun t-shirts, flowy skirts and feminine blouses), pottery (all sorts of dishes), woodwork, crafts, cheap jewelry, nice jewelry, bags, incense, candles, postcards. And then of course the food. I wish I could show you the photos – all sorts of meat: pork, chicken and beef, sea food of all shapes and sizes, fish, and even insects. I forewent my vegetarianism and ate fish, seafood (there are tiny purple octopi that are used in soups and noodle dishes that are simply delectable), and insects. Yes. Tanya and I had to try some of the insects, although we couldn’t bring ourselves to try the two-inch long ones that looked like cockroaches.
And so much more. Seeing Tanya was wonderful. I’m not sure I can really describe it. She’s a kindred spirit, and although I am growing to love many people here, there are none who are so kindred, with whom I can share my whole self. And it was wonderful to be with someone who knows me so well. We talked and talked and also spent time together just being in the same place walking, listening to music, sharing space. It was wonderful.
I said that Thailand is a wonderful place to be a tourist, but I’m not so sure it’s as wonderful a place to be a foreigner living. Women are supposed to be small, cute, sweet and quiet. Not things that I’m really into being. Show and appearance are very important. More important than simply being genuine and being oneself. This at least was my impression of the middle class with whom Tanya was living and working. I guess this is to some extent true of some of the middle class people in India. But then I’m working with people who aren’t in the middle class so much. I guess it’s perhaps this need as someone in the middle class or striving to be in the middle class to differentiate oneself from those who are not so developed, not so westernized and consumer oriented, from those who cannot afford to be. I’m speculating. And making gross generalizations.
It’s good to be back in India. A land full of smells (just as many unpleasant as pleasant), a land full of color and dirt and the nitty grittiness of life. But it’s a challenge, too. I’m readjusting to being here. Readjusting to my role and my schedule. Readjusting to people. So not everything is easy. This morning I wrote a long whingeing letter to my parents lamenting about the frustrations and challenges. But I’ll spare all of you.
I hope you’re well. I continue to love getting emails and letters, though my time is being filled with work and I have less energy to simply observe and be. I guess this is also part of the adjustment.
Peace to all of you,