Monday, November 9, 2009

basic differences

So, some essential differences between Alaska and India

  • Food. not just the style, but the quantity. Did you think Asians didn't eat much? You were wrong. And no matter how full you think you are, and how much you don't want to will.
  • Not only will you eat, but you will do it with your hands. it's surprisingly easy.
  • You WILL get up early. by like, 8.
  • No one really follows the traffic rules. Wait, what traffic rules?
  • showing up early, or even on time..isn't really necessary. being a good 15 minutes late (at the VERY least) is probably good timing.
  • Also, don't get stuck on one idea of a plan. because, it will change, and very possibly canceled.
  • Tea/coffee, ALL the time.
  • Napping is very common. I normally take one or sometimes two naps in a day. :)
  • It's good to go everywhere with a friend. Even to someone else's house. because often, they will start to talk in their own language (hindi, marathi, whatever) and then you'll be left with NOTHING to do.
  • Anything above the knee, or showing shoulder or collarbone is..questionable.
  • Sex, dating, physical contact between genders, generally not done. at all. ever. except on TV, and then often it gets WAY worse than we would ever expect on our tv's even.
  • Indian to hold hands. with eachother. a lot.
  • People will interrupt you, all the time, and it's not really rude. Also, it's acceptable to answer your cellphone at essentially ANY time.
  • Also, people will tell you if you're fat, or need to lose weight, or look really bad today, or anything. It's not really rude either, they're just being excessively honest.
  • Cereal. With hot milk.
  • Coconut oil and eucalyptus oil help EVERYTHING.
  • ketchup. on everything. and it's called sauce
  • You'll start obsessing over costs. as in "that cup of chai was FORTY rupees!". yeah, that's 80 cents. and a total ripoff
  • the sign for "come here" is the american sign for "goodbye"
Yup. So that's sort of how it goes down in India. a little bit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What India Teaches Me

In the two short months I have been in India, I have learned so much, and yet I still feel so young, so unknowing, like I am just a child whose eyes have barely opened. I go to the college every day, and I study economics, psychology, history, Hindi, and other varied classes, but I don't feel like I absorb very much there. I try and learn other things, outside of college - I have a yoga class at 7:30 in the morning, and I practice rangoli, or sand art, and my neighbor often teaches me mehendi, or henna tattoos. And I learn other things, that I have just picked up in everyday life - I can eat neatly with my hands, I can wear a sari with some semblance of grace, know a few simple words in Hindi and Marathi, I am beginning to understand Hinduism, I can manage adequately in everyday life without too many social blunders. But these are not the important things I am learning here. India is a great teacher, and if you can be a willing student, your education will never end.
I learn to be patient, to sit quietly and wait, for hours sometimes. I learn to be quiet, because often, people do not have enough English to have a conversation with me. I learn to watch, because it is the only way I can understand, and I learn to listen, because if I do not pay attention, I will miss the important things. I learn stillness, in my mind and my body, so that I might learn meditation. I am learning peace, and understanding, and a deeper happiness than I thought I would obtain here in India. I am learning joy in the small things - I can confidently cross the road, I can argue with a rickshaw driver, I can write my name in Hindi, I can, I can, I can. I am learning positive thinking, and detachment from what frustrates me. I am learning simplicity. I have come nowhere close to perfecting these things, and I am sure I never will, but already I feel that I am changing. Here in India, I am a different person than I ever was at home. And right now, I am not sure that this me would last in the US, where frustration, depression, and impatience run wild, but I hope that by the time I have to return, this new me is more solidly a part of me, so that I can continue to grow in this new direction.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Physics in India

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, and I know everyone is going crazy to hear about my exchange, but it's been difficult to take the time to write out a blog post. While I have been doing so many blog-worthy activities, this one is just sort of generally about India. I'm pretty sure that there are different laws of physics in India. Things work here that somehow just wouldn't work back home.

I can wear my fancy white traditional salwar out, all day in the filthy and crowded streets of India, and somehow not get it dirty at all

I have discovered that my stomache holds about three times as much food as I ever thought it could. Even when you have eaten so much that it feels like more will make you throw up, you can somehow find room.

I go to bed around midnight quite often, and get up at 6:30 for yoga at 7:30, and then go through the whole day without a nap and manage to be in a pleasant mood.

I have found so much patience. I sometimes sit for hours while people sit around me and chat in Marathi, and it's all ok. Or if someone says they will pick me up in half an hour, I can comfortably wait an hour and a half without getting frustrated.

Somehow, I manage through the seemingly unbearable, sweltering heat. Not only do I manage, I go out and walk around town and stay active all through the day, even though it's at 90 degrees quite often.

I can eat basically anything using only my right hand. no utensils, no left hand, just me and my fingers. And I can do it neatly.

It all just seems so ridiculously crazy sometimes. I have done things I never even thought I would see, much less be part of. I have learned so much, but not in school. This is a wise culture, with lots of wisdom to share. I have learned patience and acceptance, and I am learning how to be open with my thoughts and feelings, because in India there are no secrets. I feel that with every day I find myself more, and I never even knew I was lost. I can feel the change in myself, and it's odd to think of going home, because I know I will be so different and have experienced so much, and I'm afraid Homer will still be basically the same. But at this time, it's hard to even imagine going back. I sometimes get a nostalgia for things at home, but at the same time I know it doesn't apply to me anymore, and it's not really that important. Alaska is a universe away, and it just seems to fade in my memory. Sometimes it feels like all there ever was, and all there ever will be, is India. Which is almost an OK thought.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Yesterday marked my first 10 days in India. It was also the last day of Ganpatti, which is a Hindu festival celebrating their God, Ganesh. Ganesh is one of the most famous Hindu gods, having an elephant head and a human body. This festival, Ganpatti is a ten day long festival celebrating the arrival of Ganesh, who stays for ten days, while this huge festival is thrown. It is (as I understand it) mostly a celebration done in Maharashtra, which is the state I am in, and the main celebrations are in Pune, which is where I stay. During these ten days, there is much drumming and chanting in the streets, and everyone is in a very festive mood. Every day a special woship is done in front of a Ganpatti idol, which just about every family has. This worship is called Pooja, and involves burning incense, ringing bells, chanting, an offering of sweets, fruit and flowers to the God, and at the end we all get a special red powder (I don't know what it is, or what it's called) applied in a dot on our foreheads.

On the final day, everyone takes the idols that have been sitting in their homes for the past ten days, and carry them in a little procession to the nearest large body of water, and the idol is dipped three times into the water, and is then let go to sink to the bottom and float away. However, not all the idols are small family sized idols - there are many many many idols the size of cars, set on elaborate thrones, that whole communities go and worship at, and these all must go into the river (the biggest water in Pune) as well. This is not done simply - huge processions are made, which last all day, as the Ganpatti is put onto a float of sorts, with flowers and fruits and jewels and gold, and then are preceeded by huge bands of drummers, instrumentalists, musicians, dancers, flag carriers, and merry-making people as they march all over the city. The processions start in the morning of the 10th day, and end around noon the next day.

Me and three other exchange student friends all went out to the processionals during the afternoon, accompanied by Gwen's (exchange student from Germany) 2 host cousins and several of their friends. We found a huge procession, with a gigantic idol that is maybe as tall as my house at home (only one story), with 100 drummers, a band, flag dancers, and the usual crowd of merry makers. We joined them in dancing, and had such fun. Indian dancing is very different than Western Dancing. You go and just move your body every which way, normally with one hand in the air. It really doesn't matter how you look or what you do, it's just wild. We were the only light-skinned people to be seen, however, and everyone wanted to dance with us, to hold our hands, to be near us. Everyone was so welcoming, when we left it felt as if we had just made a whole bunch of new friends. In fact, we stuck out so much that a reporter from the Times of India came and asked for some photos of us dancing, and gave us a short interview. The Times of India is a huge national newspaper, I think sort of the Indian equivalent of the New York Times. Also, we went out late at night, and we were filmed and put onto live TV as we danced and had fun.

Speaking of going out later, that's how I spent my night. Out in the streets, in the middle of the procession. To get there, we had to go through some pretty intense crowds, but it was all mostly fine, if a little frightening at times. The worst part came going through a very narrow street, with so many people crushing in on us. Everyone was leering in close, and grabbing at us, trying to hold our hands, grab our arms, just get the chance to touch us, and there were so many cameras pointed our way it was unnerving. We were with Gwen's host cousins and two of their friends at this point, and so we had Hrishi (oldest cousin) at the front, breaking the way through the crowd, with Gwen, Miryam, Hannah and me all following, with our hands on eachothers shoulders so we couldn't lose eachother, and Abishek (I think that was name, almost definitely not the spelling, but he was the younger cousin) bringing up the rear to prevent anyone else from latching on to me. And then their two friends walked sideways next to us, as a breaker from the crowd, to keep anyone from coming at us. All four guys held hands, creating a solid barrier from the crowd, but I still kept my head pointed straight at Hannah's back, to avoid making eye contact with anyone, which can be seen as encouragement.

I saw so many things, that normally you just see on TV and think "Wow, that's crazy", without ever imagining being there or that it could happen to you. I saw people riding camels through the street, oxen painted pink pulling elephant idols the size of a car, accompanied to the beat of a hundred drummers, with people cheering and chanting "Ganpatti bappa!" which translates (I believe) into "Lord Ganesha". The correct response to this is "Mooriya!" which is "hail". And then the whole crowd breaks into chants of Mooriya, and the drums speed up and the flag dancers go faster and everything is swept along in a wild, out of control fervor. Everything has a purpose, but no one knows why or what, it was just what was right, you went where the crowd took you, at the same time you were the crowd taking everyone else. It was the most out of control, amazing, beautiful, awe-inspiring, wild, unreal thing I have ever seen. And that's India for you.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First days in India

I have finally arrived here! I've been in India about a week, and it has been wonderful. Sometimes I miss home, and Alaskan/American things, but most of the time I am too busy to think about it. When I do, I realize I miss the cold. Not the weather, exactly...but I miss really nice iced coffee, or cold sheets, or a nice cool breeze. Everything here is warm, I haven't had any cold food even since I arrived.

I've been attending college since Wednesday, it's so terrible. Many of the teachers are on strike, and so they just don't come to class. However, we never know if the teacher is going to come that day or not, so we just sit in class for an hour wondering. And some of my classes are all taught in Hindi, and so again I just sit there wishing I could understand. Other times, it is so incredibly easy, it's hard to believe. And sometimes, they are just so boring and terrible. The first day, I went to English, Economics, German, and history. Economics was taught in Hindi, German had nothing to do with me (I'm officially signed up for Hindi, but I didn't realize it was advanced Hindi, and my other options are German and French. I want to take french, but the teacher is on strike, so I have been in German), English was really really pointless for me, and then in History we studied the history of coinage in India. I was so mad I had to go at all, but since then it has been a bit better.

My host family is wonderful. We barely speak the same language, but we manage to have a wonderful time in spite of that. We often have to mime a little, and call a translator (most of the young people here are fluent in English) and we go around in circles so much, but it is fine. The most frustrating part of it is when other people want to make plans with me, and I am going somewhere. I almost never know where or why I am going, or when I will be back, or what I'm doing afterwards, and they say "well just ask!" and I try and I can't at all. I call my parents here "ai" and "baba" which is marati for Mom and Dad. They are really really nice people, and I love them so much.

The weirdest part of being here is how much of a minority I am. I stand out so much, it was so frightening when I first arrived. I had never felt so different before, and the feeling was escalated by the fact that everyone stares, openly and all the time, especially the men. Some people are just curious, and watch you to see what you do, but some people look so angry that you are there. Mostly I am used to it now, but sometimes people will not stop staring, and I have taken to looking at them as well, just staring them down until they either get nervous or tired. When that fails, I start glaring and shooting them the angriest looks I can, and that almost always makes them stop. There have been exeptions though, which is unfortunate.

I have done and seen so many incredible things already, it's hard to take in. Everything is completely different, yet none of it has seemed really different or shocking or hard. It just seems new, and all seems to come naturally so far. I've been learning a few words of Marati, ridden in a rickshaw, walked to the temple to do yoga, done pooja to worship lord ganesha, learned to ride a scooter (motorcycle) without holding on, I eat with my hands sitting cross-legged on the floor, and am learning to deal with the poor and the beggars. India is amazing, perfect, and wonderul. I feel like I have dropped off the planet of America and the western world, and India is all there is for me now. It's a strange feeling, but I can barely imagine going home, and my english has definitely gotten worse.

Any questions, leave a comment, facebook or email me: Also I have skype, ruby.quarton! Hugs and kisses from India!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm a liar. But finally, I am leaving!

Soo basically I lied in my last post. I thought I would be leaving the 16th of July, but now I leave (officially!) the 20th of August.
Here is my itinerary, in case you were curious:
Leave: Anchorage - 12:50 AM, Aug 20
Arrive: Portland - 5:35 AM Aug 20

Leave: Portland - 12:00 Noon, Aug 20
Arrive: Amsterdam - 7:35 AM, Aug 21

Leave: Amsterdam - 10:20 AM, Aug 21
Arrive: Mumbai - 11:15 PM, Aug 21

And then I figure I have to get to Pune, which is close ish (relatively), but I don't know how I get there...train maybe?

I've been having an awesome time this past month or so, spending every moment with friends, I've been out so much, soaking up sun, memories, friendships. I thought I was ready to go, even when it seemed close before, but now I feel totally unprepared to go. It's suddenly too close, to much, and yet not close enough. I don't think it can be close enough until I can smell and touch India, dance in the monsoon rains, absorb it all. I want to suck it all in, until it is a part of me and I am a part of it, forever and ever and ever.

People tell me that you either love or hate India, and if you love it, it just absorbs your soul and you never are the same, or you discover that the madness and mayhem are too much for you. Perhaps I am hoping for too much, I have set my sights too high, but I already feel in love with India.

My host brother, Sagar, is going to Kodiak this year for exchange (Kodiak is a large island in Alaska, about a 13 hour ferry ride south of Homer), and will be arriving in Alaska on Friday. My mom and I are going to go meet him in Anchorage this weekend, let him get a little bit of a taste for Alaska, and America, as well as meet me, so that we don't totally miss meeting eachother. I'm pretty stoked to meet him, he seems pretty cool.

I don't know how much time I will have for blogging in this next week, but if there are any significant updates I will let everyone know. Perhaps I shall blog about Sagar after our meeting. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So I guess this is goodbye

So I have been waiting and waiting and waiting to receive my host guarantee form, so that I can begin to apply for my Visa, so I can receive my Visa, so I can know when I'll be leaving. Today, my guarantee form came in, and so did my Visa applications. Now, many people have told me that Visa applications are a mess, and take forever. Well, I pretty much just had to sign some papers, and send them back in, so that was pretty awesome. Also, I've heard that it takes forever for your Visa papers to be processed and sent back to you. Not true, for India at least. I can expect them to be back in 2-3 weeks, and then I'm outta here. My forms I received said my suggested arrival date in India was July 16.

I'm suddenly looking around and wondering more than ever before "When will I do this next?" "Is this the last time fore a year?" "I'm going to miss that next year". Some of my friends I already know I have seen for the last time for a year, and now I wonder about others. I want to say goodbye to everyone, and want to spend every free moment making last minute memories. But I know I also have to clean my room (if it's not clean by the time I leave, my parents will clean it for me. Horror of horrors), and find presents for host families (still don't have any, and still no ideas as to what to get them. Ideas?), and prepare in so many last minute ways it's unbelievable.
I'm still trying to collect people's addresses, if you want me to write you letters while I'm gone (I'm discouraged from emailing/calling/facebooking/whatever too much while I'm gone), then please email me at . Also, I have to email home quarterly reports while I'm there, and if you want to receive them, just email me (email above) and tell me you want to receive them. Otherwise, people can facebook me, email me, or write me letters! (Hint: letters are my favorite :D) I'll be sure to post pictures when I can!

Thank you for your support and kindness, I know this is an opportunity of a lifetime!

Random note - I found out how to type in Hindi on my keyboard - लोल थिस इस प्रेत्टी मच थे बेस्ट थिंग एवर।

- रूबी

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Departure is approaching!

So this is my new and improved blog, with the URL spelled right. My apologies for changing it, but bad spelling is my ultimate pet peeve.

For those of you who weren't reading my previous blog (with the misspelled URL), I am Ruby Quarton from Homer, Alaska, and will be going on foreign exchange to Pune, India, with the Rotary Club.

So, on to the exciting business! Departure is rapidly approaching, hopefully. I could be leaving anywhere from 2-4 weeks, if everything goes perfectly, but I still haven't received my visa application papers, which is upsetting but not unexpected. My host family seems absolutely perfect, I don't think I could have gotten a better one. My host dad, Kishor, is a photographer and has volunteered to give me photography lessons, as well as take me on tours of a bunch of really big companies he makes documentaries for, such as PARI (robotics) Dynamic Dairies (dairy, obviously..I hope) Tropicana, and Bajaj Autos (biking). I will still be attending Symbiosis Institute, which has about 1500 students, and is an amazing international school.