Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happy One Yeariversary to me!

i landed in b'lore on this day last year. isn't that craaazy?! crazy. i'll cut to the chase and tell you right now i'm not moving back just yet. and no, i'm not quite sure when just yet either :) i still have some things to do and places to go before i can rest easy moving home! however, since i've done such a tremendous job of blogging and keeping in touch with you folks back home (note the sarcasm), i thought i'd fill you in on some cole's notes of how the year went. let's turn to the list format for its efficiency, shall we?

my first full year in India has included:

* travels. a lot of travels. in Karnataka, i visited Kolar, Chikaballapur, Tumkur, Ramnagar, Mandya, Mysore, Hassan, Kodagu/Koorg, Dakshin Kannad, Udupi, Uttar Kannad, Dharwad, Belgaum, Bagalkote, Bijapur and Gulbarga. suffice it to say that, combined with my travels last year from Delhi, Karnataka has been roamed far and wide. beyond Karnataka, i visited Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai repeatedly. i did a trekking adventure that took me through Manali, Leh and Ladakh by car and foot, and Nubra Valley on 2-humped camels. i had a FABULOUS birthday weekend in Goa. i saw most of the North during the Delhi stint... i only have a few checkmarks left before i complete the entire list of places i wanted to see before i leave india! HOORAY :)

* moves. a lot of moves. i lived with my grandparents for two months, and learned plenty of stories about my family i had yet to hear... and also fully acknowledged that i have been living under my own rules for the last decade. what a combination :) i lived in an extremely Muslim neighbourhood for four months, and as a foreign Hindu felt more comfortable than i do in many other parts of town. go figure. and then came to nest in what we affectionately call "the frat house". which as much as we mock it, is a comfort to come home to, after both a rough day and an exciting cheery one, and really, truly, feels like home.

* accidents. a lot of accidents. i had a car accident. i had an auto accident. i limped for a month from toe damage through my treks in the Himalayas. i have been limping for two months (and counting!) from my auto flipping. i'm fairly convinced the 8 yr old boys in my building who call me "Auntie" think the 18 yr-old (their guess, not mine) Auntie from upstairs permanently walks with a limp and concocts wild stories to keep them entertained from time to time.

* adventures. sometimes it feels like everything about India is an adventure! i had goondas come after me (don't worry, crisis averted). i had men try and break into my hotel one night in a village (again fear not, all is well and safe :)). i am still learning when it is better to get the White Girl Special (i know i'm not white. but some people around here seem to see things otherwise) and when it is better to get the NRI Special (it can work in our favour. it can also stir up resentment for what feels like no reason). most days at this point, i barely notice. on particularly short-tempered days, i wonder what would REALLY happen if, just for kicks, i pushed those laughing men swerving towards me with their motorbike. you know, just for kicks.

* languages. a ridiculous amount of languages! i somehow picked up Kannada through work, but still struggle to make complete sentences beyond small talk. i strengthened the Hindi i picked up in Delhi. my Konkani goes from proficient to strong depending on just how much time i spend with my grandparents :) and it turns out if you understand those 3 languages, Marathi is a breeze! it always sounded mostly like Konkani to me, but now it sounds like a complete mix of the 3. i suspect things will either plateau or keep strengthening from here, but if i come home with what i have already learned, i will be a happy bunny :)

* lifechanging experiences. though this is true for many parts of my life here, i mostly mean through work. i played with a LOT of children affected or infected with HIV. it's such a cliche thing to share, and so i tend not to. but every time feels like a lifechanging moment. no, seriously. i befriended sexworkers, who taught me some basic phrases in Kannada amidst telling me their current rates. i spent plenty of time with MSM-Ts (males who have sex with males, and transgenders), or hijras as some of them are called... and whom i spent most of my adolescence fearing based on the baseless rumours i heard about them, and whom i now view as some of the most persecuted people in the nation. i visited my first brothel. insert shudder here. i interacted with countless PLHIVs (people living with HIV), who told story after story that could be both heartbreaking AND inspiring with how big a difference attitude and perspective makes. i know i know, super World Vision commercial right? this is why i don't tell these stories! just know that they have impacted me. i have written many of the special days down in a journal to look back on in years to come. and they both offer perspective in just how darn lucky we all are despite our "hardships" and also eternal challenge in how to change even some of their lives for the better. and for only $1 a day, you TOO could make a difference... /end commercial.

*events! we had a Hallowe'en party. we threw a Santa pub crawl through one of the busiest parts of the city. and we're about to throw a St. Patty's day affair - holllller! one of the goals of life in Bangalore was definitely to treat it as more permanent than the last few cities have been, and the social scene, nightlife (or creation thereof ;)) and events have definitely helped this one out. much to my mama's dismay, these are all things i would be doing if i were in North America :) they also feel a little like a hug during the more homesick times. did i mention that i haven't been home during this year?...

* local festivities. it's been important to me to keep up with some parts of the North American puzzle (including the OLYMPICS!!), but we've gotten down and dirty with some of the local fun too. Diwali comes to mind almost immediately (check out our weekend in Chennai through Kavi's words). Playing Holi was equally ridiculous (i'll share the snaps soon!). if you can manage to put safety precautions out of your mind, Indian festivities are a real hoot. stop wincing, i mean it :)

* FOOD. food food food food food. i should probably give up the phrase "best meal i've had in india yet" on account of overuse. i should probably also warn y'all that i'm about to roll myself home this summer a different shape and weight than i have EVER been! oopsy. doesn't all that delicious grub make it almost seem worth it though? :)

* visitors! i cannot believe how lucky i was with the clientele up in here the first year. we had visits from my sister (twice!), my mama (twice!), my aunt and uncle, my dad, johnny, kartik, michi (!!!), nev and pri, mizzo and sara, sachin, biggest, sunch, raj... and those are just the ones _i_ met up with! the rest of you all-stars better make a showing in 2010, or i. will. cut. you. you know who you are :)

* family time. sooo much family time! not as much as i'd like, still. but far far FAR more than i've gotten in the last decade. one of my closest friends here is a cousin who i hadn't met until 2008! it blows my mind to think we barely knew each other's names such a short time ago. i am definitely closer with parts of my extended family than others... and the close parts have only gotten closer. they have gone through a lot of the ups and downs with me, which both feels unfair and is also comforting. i'm still acutely aware -- daily, in fact -- that my immediate family is VERY. FAR. AWAY. but the extended family, who we've grown up seeing in 2-3 year intervals, have become a part of my life much more casually now, and i'm sure it would not have happened without this last year.

* kindred spirits. have y'all seen the movie Anne of Green Gables? you really should. it's a Canadian classic. Anne refers to "kindred spirits", the kind of people that transcend generic labels like "friend" or "bosom buddy" (her words, not mine!) with just how fantastic they are. i have definitely met people who will be a part of my life beyond India, and who make my life here infinitely cheerier and more REAL. it is extremely easy in this environment to make casual, situational friendships. it is significantly harder to create the kind that exist not because of this environment, but despite it. i did not anticipate adding folks to my list of "unconditional love" folk, and lo and behold! who knew :)

there you have it!! my life in listform. okay okay, it's missing a few parts. but you get the idea, right?! you could always come visit to see the rest. orrrrr i could do a better job of blogging. ORRRR i could leave my computer and go out and celebrate my yeariversary!

done and done.