I thought everything would feel strange and different in the US when I returned after three months in India. Yet it all felt the same. My initial impression on entering the airport in Chicago: “I didn’t miss the TSA and it smells like saturated fat.” Nothing about the US feels strange being back, rather it just occurs to me how things are different here. Restaurant menus are filled with beef. I can now wear shorts. The traffic is well ordered and every home in my suburban neighborhood sits surrounded by a large green yard. I realize that I’ll need time to process my experience and my time in India. I don’t know that I understood everything while I was there but now I have a chance to mull over it. I know the trip changed me for the better but it will take me time to figure out how exactly.
Everyone asks me about my trip and I don’t really know what to say about it. I reply that it was good and leave it at that. When people ask me what the coolest part was I usually say my time in Dharamshala, where I ate cake at the Dalai Lama’s birthday party, hike to waterfalls and converse with Tibetan refugees. I can say my proudest moment in India was when I was able to trick a waiter into thinking I knew Hindi with the help of my friend. On a long layover in Delhi before my flight, a friend I made in Bangalore and I met up to pal around the city. After a few hours, we grew hungry and headed for dinner. My friend ordered for us in Hindi and the waiter replied by asking if I could handle spicy food, although my friend said yes, the waiter still mentioned that they didn’t recommend it for westerners. Of course, he did ask me. Later in the meal when we needed more butter naan I turned around and said “bhaiyaa” to get his attention. (Which means brother, people of similar age to you are referred to as brother or sister while those who are older than you are auntie or uncle.) Startled, the waiter came over and asked how the food was. “Theek hai” I relied. He looked at my friend and asked if I spoke Hindi. “I told you he has been here a long time,” they replied. I was pleased by how the waiter’s respect for me had risen immensely.
I learned a great deal about urban planning in my three months conducting research in India. I’ve avoided discussing it here for fear of boring everyone. For my efforts, I produced a 39 double spaced page paper, although 3 of those pages are citations. If you are interested in reading it, let me know. I found that even when I was still there, everyone asked me when I would be coming back. I didn’t have an answer. I said that I had to finish college and then I might be able to, but I said that I would return. My grandparents asked me the same when I returned. Whenever I do return, I know I have some friends there and I look forward to seeing them again.
(When I started this blog, I said I was biased and you might have figured out what that bias is. All I really have to say now is see if for yourself, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.)