On Adjusting

Phase 1: Aaah I’m here!— World appears in technicolor, overwhelming sense of enthusiasm unobstructed by reality.

  • Takes pictures of everyday scenes and objects: traffic, cows and goats, coconut trees, rickshaws, streets. Picture 21st century Dorothy exiting Kansas for Munchkinland, iPhone in hand.
  • Adrenaline-induced lack of jetlag because WHY sleep when there’s SO much to see?!
  • Forgets all warning and eats anything and everything, irrespective of one’s ability to identify or pronounce it, with an abandon typically reserved for children left unattended with bags of Halloween candy after trick-or-treating.

Phase 2: What the hell am I doing here? – Symptoms include delayed jetlag, food poisoning, getting caught in monsoon, and the profound realization that a full-time job is, in fact, full time.

  • Everything eaten during Phase 1 exits body quickly and violently. Enter: weeklong diet of apples scrubbed hyper-clean with Aquafina mineral water, peanut butter, and Greek yogurt, eaten with a level of caution comparable that of a helicopter parent bubble-wrapping his child before her first day of middle school.
  • Goes outside during monsoon without an umbrella. Receives free shower.
  • Exits first day of work by promptly embracing the asphalt like a long-lost lover, walking away complete with ripped pants and a bloody knee. Looks back to see if coworkers noticed for fear of appearing unprofessional. (Coworkers did not see, but yes, those children are laughing at you.)
  • Wears new kurta to work inside out. Coworkers giggle and communicate through the language barrier, that yes, in fact, you are an idiot.
Lessons learned the hard way... the dry spot in the middle of my shirt is where I had my arms crossed to keep my phone and wallet dry... I was soaked!!

Lessons learned the hard way… the dry spot in the middle of my shirt is where I had my arm pressed to keep my phone and wallet dry… I was soaked!!

Phase 3: I’m here, I can laugh at myself, and I can do this.

  • Diet re-expands to adventure… with a side of apples, peanut butter, and Greek yogurt. (Old habits die hard… I am who I am!)
  • Purchases umbrella and trusts NO ONE when it comes to the rain. The fact that it looks sunny right now means nothing.
  • Realizes that, after the work-day is over, this experience is kind of a 2-month long date with self. Treats self to dinner and a sold-out, opening night Bollywood movie, yoga, runs around Joggers Park, and a long walk along Marine Drive.
Bollywood doesn't joke around with their movie theatres... complete with a restaurant, cafe, and a lounge with velvet chairs.

Bollywood doesn’t joke around with their movie theatres… complete with a restaurant, cafe, and a lounge with velvet chairs.

Sunday morning yoga and meditation in Bandra

My incredible view for Sunday morning yoga and meditation in Bandra

Enjoying BEAUTIFUL Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive

Enjoying BEAUTIFUL Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive

During my first two and a half weeks here, just about every aspect of my life has gone through these phases in one way or another. I’m climbing a huge learning curve. Quite frankly, I literally know nothing here. But, I kind of love that. I love that everything is new and different, but also that I don’t feel like a blank canvas. I feel very much like myself, but with a different, surreal level of awareness.

It’s impossible to take a good, hard look at yourself while surrounded by the little constants of home that go unnoticed every day. Here, all of that is blurred. I’m more aware of my little quirks and the habits from home that I can’t let go of, as well as the nonessentials that I don’t miss at all. I’m more aware of how I react to things I’ve never considered or experienced before—and the values behind those reactions. I’m surrounded by people full of so much love, kindness, and dedication, and I feel so welcomed into both my NGO and to Mumbai, in general. I’m growing and learning and adjusting, and I’m loving it.

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About Caroline Richburg

Caroline is a sophomore studying Biomolecular Science and Anthropology. She hopes to attend medical school and continue to explore the overlap between anthropology and medicine, specifically how this relationship influences and shapes women’s health and healthcare systems. Caroline will be spending her fellowship in Mumbai with the Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH), an organization focused on individualized care for severely malnourished and at-risk infants, community education, and support for local mothers. Caroline’s final project will explore what is meant by the term “actionable knowledge,” as used by FMCH healthcare professionals, organizational staff, and local mothers, as well as the uniformity and effectiveness of knowledge dissemination to two local community clinics. Her project will focus on the experiences and perspectives of a diverse audience to the uniform FMCH model.

One thought on “On Adjusting

  1. Caroline, it sounds like you’re doing such a wonderful job of really getting to know the city. I love reading of your adventures! You are truly taking advantage of all that Mumbai has to offer. It can definitely be difficult to adjust to a new culture, job and diet all at the same time, but it sounds like you’re doing a fabulous job! I can’t wait to hear more 🙂

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