Never mutter about someone even if you don’t think they understand you.
So yes, my French accent sucks, and I’m still learning things about when stuff’s open. So i’m reading this sign and an old guy comes up and tells me when the shop will reopen, which was super-helpful, until I thanked him and he proceeded to baby-talk me and then turned to his wife and started muttering about foreigners right in front of me.
I was understandably outraged, because YES, I can read the sign, and YES, I can understand what you’re saying, and YES I CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE MUTTERING TO YOUR WIFE ABOUT ME.
And then I realized this is what hundreds of thousands of immigrants go through every day, and I had a giant “oh shit” moment, because in the US we don’t even bother to learn your mother tongue and then expect you to be perfect at ours. So I am sorry, and I will try to be a better human in the future.
The Final Days: Looking Back on a Semester in India
Today is my last day in Mother India. I have a 6:30 am flight tomorrow morning and after that who knows when I’ll be able to return. I’m pretty much completely packed, and I’m spending my last 24 hours doing my favorite Indian things. I had a delicious Masala Dosa from my favorite local hotel (restaurant)the South Inn, and am spending time with the people I love. I’m supposed to grab some beers at a local brewery, drink a bunch of Indian soda, and see a Bollywood movie with TERRIBLE REVIEWS. While I digest the 3 bowls of coconut chutney I had for breakfast, I figured I’d share some of the most important lessons India has taught me.
How to be alone: I moved to India by myself, and although I’ve made friends I’ve had to face myself quite a bit. I’ve learned to be a lot more independent and figure things out on my own. Going out to eat on your own isn’t nearly as weird as you think it will be.
How to not be alone: I’ve had to reach out to so many people in order to meet people here. I’ve had to use the internet, and meet up with strangers. I’ve asked for a lot of phone numbers. But despite some awkwardness, I’ve made some awesome friends.
How to take risks: The best experiences often come from some questionable choices. Sometimes you have to plan trips with someone you just met, or hop in an auto to go someplace you don’t really know where it is. India can seem scary, but sitting around in fear does no good. I’ve hopped on buses by myself headed to unknown cities and while it was somewhat scary, these experiences has been the most rewarding.
How to deal with the unexpected: “Anything can happen in India.” Plans never go as you expect, and sometimes you have to deal with crazy situations (Auto drivers trying to sell me drugs, my train being stormed by teenage boys, being completely lost, getting groped). I’ve learned to take things as they come. India has taught me that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. Stand strong, use your head, and you’ll be fine (and sometimes punch a groper in the stomach).
How to communicate without words: Only 12% of Indians speak English. Although this number is higher in cities like Bangalore, I’ve come in contact with a lot of language barriers. Hand motions, head wobbles, and smiles help with these. After 4 months I’ve learned to understand a lot more Kannada and Hindi than I thought I would be able to.
How to ask for help: When in a foreign country you get confused. Most of the time if you ask someone for help or directions they will gladly help you. Going up to an Indian military man holding a gun is intimidating, but without his help I would have never found my train in Varanasi.
How to get over serious nastiness: My apartment in India is majorly infested with bugs and lizards. There are trash, rats, and stray dogs on the street. Walking over trash filled sewers is gross but you learn to get over it. No one likes a complainer. I’ve also used some of the grossest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in my life during bus stops (flooded floors, feces everywhere etc), but you just have to squat and do your business. Don’t let filth hinder you.
How to deal with Indian men: I could write a ton about this, but understand that there are serious cultural barriers between Indian and western culture. I have Indian guy friends who are great, but I have also had a lot of awkward situations: guys that won’t stop calling me, creepy guys obsessed with “easy white women,” and even a guy telling me he loved me A WEEK AFTER WE MET (my reaction was just to scream “AH DON’T SAY THAT”. Just be careful and think about how your actions are coming off.
How to barter: I never get a chance to do this in the United States. At first I was intimidated by the idea of getting ripped off, so I would always go to fixed price places. Then I learned bartering is a sport. Walking away, laughing at prices, and getting a good deal is great fun.
How to hand wash clothes: Bucket washing clothes isn’t particularly fun. I’ve certainly ruined a few shirts, but it builds character.
How to take cold bucket showers: See above example. Not fun, builds character.
How to eat with my hands: I can eat anything with my hands now. It’s a lot easier to eat rice with your fingers than one would think. Plus then you don’t have to wash a spoon.
How to fall in love with a home away from home: India is a beautiful country with amazing people. I love the chaos and the diversity. And then there is the delicious food… Even though India has a lot of problems, and lacks many of the comforts of the States, I’ve really fallen in love with the place. I would love to live here again and I will certainly return.
English Lessons #106: The Ticket Guy At Manchester Piccadilly Train Station Is Extremely Trusting...
In a previous post, I discussed my brush with the law at the train station in Manchester. I stopped at the part when my debit card was declined. Let’s continue.
I try not to panic because all I have is euros (fresh off my flight from Rome) and no pounds. How was I going to pay the train fair? I call my bank and they tell me that my account is fine. It is the train station’s portable device that is messed up. I tell the ticket collector and ask where I could find an ATM.
Worker:Yeah, it’s right out the door over there.
I stand there awkwardly, wondering if someone was going to escort me to make sure I did not run off without paying. I awkwardly (did I mention how awkward this whole encounter was?) hand him my student ID card. I assumed he needed collateral to make sure that I came back.
It was then that I realized I was thinking very American. In America, collateral is essential.
He looks at my ID with a bit of a frown. It seemed as if he was not sure why I was handing it to him.
Me:Did you want this?
Me:Well, hold on to this.
I run to the ATM, withdraw cash, and come back to the guy. I give him 3.80 and he gives me a ticket. You know what he says next?
Worker:Thanks for coming back. Don’t forget your ID.
Of course I was not going to forget my ID. It is kind of important. ‘Thanks for coming back?’ You mean I could have LEFT? I could have just walked out of the station without paying. They did not have my name or anything. The only reason he had my ID was because I assumed he wanted to hold on to it.
I am either too honest or that Brit was too trusting.
#175: How to celebrate U.S. independence in the country it gained independence from (Britain)
Step 1: Gather fellow Americans (and non-American friends so that they can see how we celebrate.)
Step 2: Go to the local park (Leazes Park in Newcastle upon tyne)
Step 3: Set up a mini-grill and cook hotdogs, hamburgers, and BBQ chicken.
Don’t forget dessert!
Step 4: Hang an American flag
Step 5: When a random guy walks by your gathering and asks for a beer (he says that he is 20), inform him that the American drinking age is 21 and that you do not condone underage drinking. No beer for him.
Newcastle, U.K. - Day 18: Also known as the "I finally felt the thing known as homesickness" post
In the past two and a half weeks I have been too busy to really think about missing home at all. I had been counting down the days until I left the US since May (evident in previous posts). Homesick? Yeah, right.
But then I had been asked what I missed about home and it got me a bit (thanks alot guys! haha kidding!). Not right away but it lingered in the back of my mind.
And then I went to ASDA, yesterday. (The one in Gosforth for you UK readers.) It is owned by Wal-Mart for those who didn’t know.
I was convinced that Newcastle did not believe in huge grocery stores (which is fine, as long as I can stock up my kitchen, we will have no issues) so I was shocked to see it! After two weeks of small supermarkets (I was getting used to them too!) I was so happy to see something that I knew. I knew how to work a large grocery store. Navigating my ways through aisle upon aisle and checking off my grocery list in one place.
I know that trying to find things you would normally find at home isn’t what going abroad is about. But I’ll be honest, I was just happy to find something familiar, something that I didn’t have to ask questions about and feel dumb for not knowing the answer. I was tired of always having to ask questions and I thought that this was finally something I could do on my own.
But then I started exploring and realized that it wasn’t familiar at all. I kept passing by all of these food products that I had never seen before or I had seen before but were in a packaging that I did not recognized. I was pretty much in a daze.
And then there was that sickening feeling in my stomach and I thought I was going to burst into tears in the middle of the huge ASDA aka English Wal-Mart.
Hello, Simone. My name is homesickness.
I wasn’t homesick in the sense of that I missed my family and friends (though I do
Cashier: “Nooo, we don’t.” *gives a bit of a strange look*
Me: “oh….well can I change it?”
Cashier: “To what?”
Me: “umm, Fanta please.”
The Fanta Orange in the UK is NOT orange! It is yellow! And kinda tastes a bit like orange juice!
Also, people clean up after you -though I don’t see why this is necessary since there is a bin RIGHT THERE. We watched a couple of people just leave their tray with their trash and this guy cam around and cleared the table! McDonald’s is like some sit down restaurant - except you get the food yourself (obviously)!
Lessons Learned #32: Bank of America Has An ATM Alliance With Barclays Bank U.K.
You can pull money (pounds) out of an ATM from your account back at home. Sounds useful when you are fresh off the plane and need some cash and don’t want to travel with a wad of pounds on your person.
–> Previous posts can be found by clicking the ‘lessons learned’ tag below.
I do not know why I love steak pie so much but it's so delicious. Extremely delicious. My first week in the U.K., a friend took me to the pub next to the university bookstore and introduced me to it. Now, my friends and I go out at least once a month to have some. No regrets.
If you are curious about my previous encounters with British foods, click on the links below.