i am sorry that i have been slow to update you! it has taken me a while to adjust to life here. i arrived at night and went directly to sleep...it was very surreal to wake up and realize that i had lost 2 or 3 days somewhere along the line from traveling! i barely know where to begin....
*stop #1 - Kolkata
(*this is how Calcutta is spelled this days...over time India has been slowly restoring places to their original names after gaining their Independence... I will point this out to you as i travel)
*i arrived without any problems...my luggage did not. fortunately my mom always reminds me to pack enough items for 2 or 3 days in my carry-on. my host family shared some clothing with me, as well. i was able to collect the luggage a few days later and was compensated for it (all is well). on the way home from the airport (on one of the craziest car rides of my life...only to be followed by even crazier car rides/street crossings each day) i noticed a sign that read..."Welcome to Kolkata: the City of Joy!" this is the image that stayed in my mind on the first night as i fell asleep.
*it is a true challenge to be traveling here. most people speak english but i still feel at a great disadvantage that i don't know more hindi...i am learning quickly though, because i find that when i am in these situations i "wise up" quite quickly out of necessity. it is a helpful push to get my mind in the right spot. on the first few mornings i would wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. and i could not sleep and while i lay there i was suddenly remembering all of the italian that i learned from studying abroad a few years ago. i could remember tons of vocabulary that i had forgotten. it was very strange but it is almost as if the translation part of my brain is switched to "on" again. i am able to translate but i have not other reference to use except italian! it isn't very helpful with hindi but i think it is a good thing that my brain is at least trying to catch up.
*i am staying with the aunt and uncle of a friend of mine and they are very kind. they have a beautiful home and i am very lucky to be their guest. i am grateful to have a place to be able to rest and receive guidance while i learn about the way of life here.
*it is hot...truly hot... and the humidity is like none i have ever experienced. it is a sauna and you can feel it in your chest when you breathe.
*not too many pictures from the first few days...went to some textile shops, the Indian Museum (which had rooms full of unusual taxidermy animals, shells, minerals, etc., ....think anthropology, natural history, and mutter museums all rolled into one. yes, there was an 8 legged goat! also it opened in the 1960's and all of the cases and displays looked as though they have never been changed...i really wish i had some photos!), also went to a temple, and a meditation class. many places (especially temples) do not allow cameras or even bags - you have to check them (which makes me very nervous). in addition, i am frequently the only foreigner in sight which already draws attention.... so i am apprehensive about pulling the camera out of my bag and making myself more obvious, especially if i am walking around alone. i enjoy being able to explore unusual places but i think that i will have an easier time with photos, etc. when i am around more tourist based cities.
* the hardest part is needing to be so careful about what i eat. there are so many things that i want to try. i want to eat fruit so badly. but i have to be very careful. it seems to make my host family very worried that i am not eating more and i am also worried that i will offend people when declining to eat something. i am starting to learn where the line is but it is difficult to be so far from everything you know and not be able to just relax and eat something (especially a delicious vegetarian something). ugh. making a judgement call is risky but i am doing well with the clear cut rules.... no drinking the water, no brushing your teeth with the water, no getting water in your mouth while washing your face, no eating off of a plate that has water sitting on it after being washed, make sure water bottles have a breakable seal (it is common that they are re-used and weakly re-sealed).... you get the idea....
*i did get some photos this weekend....will post them soon!