Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Toilet Paper in My Hostel Is Hot Pink

And that's when there IS toilet paper. Suddenly, that whole "you only use your left hand for one thing and it's not eating" idea is making a lot more sense.

Even though I'm rather addicted to narrative structure, I'm finding India somewhat ill-suited to blithe encapsulation. Today, I must surrender and convey my experience entirely in blurb format.

Completely uncharacteristically, I get up before 7:00 every day to go to Yoga. And everyday, I make eye contact with the teacher (whom we only know as Sir) and silently giggle with him over the fact that I am nowhere near to touching my toes. The first time we meditated, I nearly hyperventilated in trying not to laugh out loud when he busted out this phrase: "Picture your god, why you admire or emulate him or her. Remember what is beautiful about your god. Remember what is inspiring. If you are an atheist . . . remember something else."

Last night, I went out to a fancy restaurant, where all of the tables are on islands in real water. I didn't notice that until after I had stepped into the damn fountain with both feet and exclaimed at the top of my lungs: "Jesus Christ!" I am so good at increasing international understanding and goodwill--score one, Ambassadorial Scholar.

The coffee here is so weak that even I can drink it.

I volunteer at an orphanage, where I teach random English words like "ant" and "watermelon" and lift children over my head onto jungle gyms for three hours a day. Today, a small girl fell asleep on my lap while I sang songs with the other ones. I pretty much died from an overdose of cuteness. They all call me Didi (repeatedly and loudly), which means sister.

After the bombings in my city, the bus I ride to the orphanage was stopped and all of the Muslim women were made to lift their veils to make sure they weren't men.

A man named Surya Raju came up to me in the library to ask me to translate some French and teach him about Foucault. As we talked, I found out that he was a radical post-modernist who had been expelled from his last university for fighting with the administration about women's rights and the Untouchables. He invited me to the school where he teaches, where the students made me sing for them and sign their arms. I could only remember "The Ants go Marching One by One." (hurrah hurrah). I was then informed I would be teaching a lesson on American Politics. And, inexplicably, Russian history.

Oh dear.

I met a girl named Madhu on the city bus. She invited me over to her one-room house for dinner, where her mother was very distressed about the fact that I am still not very good at eating rice with my hands and tried to make me use a spoon. After eating more rice in one sitting than everyone I know ever has, her mother exclaimed (in translation from Telugu, obviously): "You eat so little!" (Keep in mind that the waistlines of her entire family combined are about the size of my thigh). After dinner and a movie in Telugu with no subtitles (the acting here is so dramatic I could still tell what was going on), I was treated to a 20-minute Telugu yelling match between the two brothers. Madhu insisted I spend the night, made me wear a nightgown that was about 2 feet too short for me, and gave me a spot to sleep…on a blanket on the floor with her entire family. It was the best sleep I've had in India...except that I got a bajillion mosquito bites and a Charlie horse that made me want to weep blood.

On the road home one day, I saw a stoplight that simultaneously displayed a red light and a green arrow pointing forward.

Sometimes, India is really confusing.