So, funny story. University loans suck all of the life and joy out of you and turn you into a “responsible adult” whether you are ready to become one or not. I may have grossly underestimated the amount of money I would start repaying once this November rolled around, which means that I am not financially prepared for the rest of the time I was supposed to spend here in India (another four months).
I know what you are all thinking- This would happen to you. And you are totally right, this would happen to me!
So what is the solution? I am going back to the US next week to start applying for jobs while I still have enough money to cover a first month’s rent and security deposit. This is my decision, no one else’s. It is time for me to be a big girl, face the facts, and know that if I really want something (such as making a career out of theatre) it is not going to come easily; I am going to have to make some tough decisions.
But, that all being said, I am ok with going back, and I need to stress that for me to be able to say this is HUGE. The last time I returned home (summer 2011) I was so upset about having to go back that I could barely handle it. I glared at the Americans around me waiting to board our plane. As I finished writing the last page of my travel journal, I wrote, “I am about to board the plane. Minnesota lies on the other side. Most anti-climactic ending ever.” I kid you not, that is actually what I had written. (I probably was not in the most stable frame of mind.)
This time, though, I feel different. Being in India has made me want to go back to the US, which for me is pretty incredible. If any country can make me feel this way I need to grab it and run because it has been a long time since I have felt like this. Actually, it may be the first time in my entire life that I am yearning to return to the “familiar”. I am eager to once again be a part of a society that both understands me and I can understand. At times while I’ve been here, I have imagined myself running off the plane upon return to the US, arms wide open, yelling, “MY PEOPLE!”
I am not saying all this to make you think that I have not appreciated my time in India. Because I have appreciated it. So, so much. I feel so lucky every time I not only get to live in, but also experience a culture that is not my own. Here at Asia Plateau I have met amazing people with some of the most incredible life stories I have ever heard. I have learned much from them, and I have also learned that though I myself still have a lot to learn, I also have a lot to offer.
What really influenced my decision was thinking back to the first day that each one of us interns arrived here at AP. We each said that we wanted to use this time to find out what is the next step in our life. While thinking over my options this past week, I realized that I would not be able to take a next step once my time here was done if I did not have at least some financial stability. So, after a week of mulling my options over and over and practically beating them to death (and one person saying, “You’ve already made your decision. You need to swallow your pride and do it.”) I have decided to leave early. And again yes, I am ok with this.
Now that I have said all of this (if you are still reading, THANK YOU for pushing yourself through all that boring, mushy-ness), I have so much left that I have yet to tell you! Like I always do while traveling, I have been jotting down things that I need to blog about. Most of these little quips are ridiculous and unimportant and so I hold onto them for a long time before I finally work them into a post. For example, titles:
Here in India, people never use the name of someone who is much older than them. If someone is old enough to be your parent, it would be very rude of you to call them by name. These titles change depending on whether one is speaking Hindi, English or one of the regional dialects, but here at the centre we refer to those much older than us as ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’. This was incredibly confusing for me when I first arrived. Even when you are referring to a person without them being physically present, you still throw in a ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’ after their name. For example: Leena aunty, Suresh uncle, Manisha aunty, Ravi uncle, etc. The other interns did not have a problem catching on to this because they all have similar rules in their cultures, but it still feels very awkward for me. Leena finally told me it was ok to only call her by her name because ‘aunty’ sounded so forced and uncomfortable coming from me. Although these titles make me feel like I am 12, they were quite useful during my first few weeks when I could not remember or pronounce any Indian names.
Another thing I have neglected to share with you: the Indian nod! Instead of nodding their head up and down to signify ‘yes’, Indians bob it from side to side. Almost like they are trying to shake water out of their ears. It looks ridiculous (to me) and I promised myself that I would not pick up this habit.
(Side note- I have a tendency to accidentally pick up regional signs and phrases whenever I travel somewhere new. After studying in Spain, I made a “psh” sound whenever I was upset or unimpressed, something my mom and her sisters still do because they think it is hilarious. After both times I spent in Italy, I would mutter “mamma mia” whenever I was annoyed. Even after leaving Sweden last summer, I felt compelled to smile and laugh ALL THE TIME… the original Minnesota nice.)
I was 100% against the Indian nod until I realized a most wonderful thing about it. To me, the nod does not mean anything, it just looks hilarious, but to everyone else it means ‘yes’. Once I realized this, I turned the Indian nod into my own personal secret passive-aggressive answer. Someone asks me to do something that I do not want to do but I have to do? Indian nod. Someone says something that I find stupid? Indian nod. Someone asks me if I like eating dal everyday? Indian nod.
Now here is where the problem comes in: I got so used to using the Indian nod that I started using it in place of the normal nod. Now whenever anyone asks me anything (or even when they don’t ask me something!) I bob my head from side to side and look like a lunatic. I can already imagine my mom and her sisters making me fun of me for this one…