Spring break is OVER! Tomorrow it’s back to life as usual, with classes, tests, assignments… Granted, I had a pretty quiet week this past week, but it was a welcome respite from school all the same. Whoever invented spring break was genius, pure genius.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while — like Wes said, it’s been a crazy semester! I came back from India safe and sound (see a few of my pictures here) and had an amazing time; I’d go back in a heartbeat if I could. It was so incredibly strange to be a foreigner; I never got used to being stared at everywhere I went, being followed by salesmen and orphans and cows everywhere I went, or finding ruins, palaces, and historical sites everywhere I went. The food was amazing, the air was smoky, the sights were beautiful (especially the Taj Mahal!), and the people were very curious about us… Whenever we stopped at a tourist site, we took pictures of the attraction, and the Indians took pictures of us. Tall, light-skinned people — amazing!
One of my favorite memories of our trip was our impromptu stop at a roadside kite shop outside of Jaipur. Jaipur is called the kite capital of the world; every year in late January, they host a kite-flying competition, and we encountered several Indians from the U.S. that had traveled to Jaipur simply to watch it. Looking out of my hotel window every afternoon, I could see colorful paper kites popping up and down throughout the city, like popcorn or confetti dotting the horizon; and almost every tree in the city had at least one kite stuck in its leaves somewhere. The people at the kite shop were very gracious, friendly, and honest, a welcome change from the pushy hawkers of the metropolis. We played with the kids before they climbed on their school bus (all bundled up in scarves and hats, because it was a frigid 55 degrees Fahrenheit — oh my), flew kites with the shop owners, laughed with the women… I got a taste of real India, or what I felt “real” India should be like; not the Westernized, trinket-selling tourist traps of the cities, but the hard-working, poor-yet-happy, everyday Indian citizens at home.
One thing that really surprised me, on the other hand, was the Indians’ pre-conceived notions about me. I grew up in conservative, almost-rural West Texas, where men still say “ma’am” when addressing me, and opening doors for ladies is second-nature. In India, however, women are viewed very poorly; oftentimes, their only value is their use as a “commodity” that can give men children, elevated social status, or free household labor. Even worse is the Indians’ concept of Western women. I suppose they expect all of us to be like the women they see on Hollywood big screens — loose morals, promiscuous, and manipulative — and many times we were treated accordingly. We learned to expect this attitude and adjust our behaviors; although different and sometimes awkward, it wasn’t a big deal. What broke my heart, though, were the cute little boys walking home from school that laughed as they made obscene gestures at us — it was sad to think that they learn such attitudes at such a young age, and that they will probably retain these preconceived concepts of us for as long as they live. I am now thankful for every respectful word said to me, every door opened with a smile, and every expression of an expectation of my respectability back here at home; like they say, there’s nothing like going away to make you appreciate what you have at home.
That’s enough for now. I hope you all had a great spring break, and I’ll be back again soon!