City Fever

“This is the longest I’ve been away from my mother!” is what I tell people who ask me what I miss about home.

But what I forget is that this is just the longest I’ve ever been away from Hawaii.  I didn’t go away to college and whenever I take trips to see my aunt and cousins in Washington state, it’s never been for more than two weeks.

Delhi amazes me with its size — it’s somehow massive yet also so tiny compared to the rest of the country.  If you stand in Delhi, you’re swallowed up by it; if you look at a map, it’s swallowed up by Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, which aren’t even very large states to begin with.  I can spend four months in Delhi and not see everything.  You can spend a month on Oahu and see pretty much everything.  I don’t consider myself an “island girl” in the “iSlAnD GuRRl 808” sense, but that I cannot be away from it for too long.  I miss my drives to work and school and I miss how close everything is.  Getting from my host home in East Delhi to my university in Old Delhi takes about 45 minutes by metro; it takes me about 45 minutes from my work place in town to home on a day with normal traffic.  Pidgin has never sounded good to me.  Born and raised in  Hawaii, it’s something I heard a lot.  Most of my family utilizes Pidgin English to some degree; despite that, it’s still like nails on a chalkboard to me…except in Delhi.

What spurred this odd longing for pau hana traffic and Pidgin English were videos on Facebook made to poke fun at the moke culture.  Pidgin has never sounded so good to me!  I’m sure growing up in any of the states gives you a special culture and humor, but I truly feel that Hawaii is a bit different.  The types of communities that came over from all across Asia and the ways in which they intermixed and created new cultures is something very special, and something I always take for granted until I’m away from home for a while.  Even something as silly as not knowing that passion fruit and lilikoi were the same thing until I was in my 20s makes Hawaii feel more special to me.  Sure, I talk stink about the rail, the building of luxury condominiums, and $7 boxes of cereal, but sometimes I do think those things are worth what else Hawaii has to offer.  I don’t like the beach and I hate that Hawaii only has two seasons — summer and pseudo-winter — but I love its special foods like lau lau, pipikaula, and poke and that everyone is your aunty or uncle (this is true in India too, which makes me feel a little closer to home).

Aside from cuddling up in bed with my fiance and dogs when I go home, I want to eat Oahu’s best summer rolls at my favorite pho place (plug: Pho My Lien near Pearlridge) and go to Kalihi for one reason or another (the neighborhood in which I work).  I’m enjoying my time in Delhi, but peeking out the airplane window and seeing Oahu and knowing I’m almost home feels amazing as well.

An August in Delhi

I’ve been in Delhi now for a few days shy of a month.  I’ve been racially yelled at by men on a moped (“ching chong” means the same thing everywhere, even when you’re Japanese), I’ve been bumped/pushed on the metro numerous times, I’ve fallen victim to the sudden monsoon rains more than once, I’ve been ripped off by autowalas, I’ve confused people with my broken Hindi (surprisingly, after two years and hours of classroom time, I was at a loss trying to buy a watermelon), and I’ve been stared at walking back from the gym in a pretty modest tanktop.  But nothing was more difficult than my first month here in terms of dealing with being away from my mother, fiance, and dogs.  After about a week here, I called to have my return flight changed from December 17th to December 3rd.  The person on the other end put me on hold for twenty minutes, effectively using ALL of my minutes (especially since it was international), so my fiance called in my place and sat on hold for two hours to change my flight.  In retrospect, this was done very soon and without really giving Delhi a chance.  But for someone who’s never been away from home or their family for more than two weeks, waking up half a world away with the knowledge that you’re stuck there for almost five months is terrifying.  Nothing is wrong with Delhi, I was just extremely homesick.  Now that I’ve adjusted, I’m disappointed in myself for shaving two weeks off of my stay, but I’ll do my best to make the most of my remaining time here.  I was coming home on the metro today and as we crossed over the Yamuna, I began to think about how lucky I am to be here.  Once I really just thought — excuse me — “fuck it, you’re here,” things got a lot easier.  And by “fuck it, you’re here” I also mean adjusting my Western mind and forcing myself to use squat toilets (my host home has Western toilets, as has every home I’ve been in here).  Life is a lot easier when you aren’t perpetually anxious about using the restroom, especially when, for two days out of the week, you’re in school for seven hours and all of the restrooms in your building only have squat toilets.

So, what have I been up to?  Over Independence weekend, my roommate and I went to Dehradun and Mussoorie.  Our friend/guide from the travel company is from Dehradun (as is our host family) so he was able to show us around a bit.  His family owns a sweet shop there as well.  Mussoorie was beautiful and I was sad to return to Delhi and the Delhi heat.  Other than that, school has kept me rather busy.  I joined a gym near my house last week and have been going regularly.  The staff is really friendly and the trainers are great.  I’ve made friends in school and I went to Majnu ka Tila after class today with one of them and we had an early dinner at Ama (mala tofu, chili garlic paneer, chili fried noodles, bok choy, and tingmo) and walked around a bit.  I bought two really pretty bracelets for myself and one for a friend at home.  My roommate just left for Manali so I’ve got the room to myself until Sunday.  On Saturday I’m going to go to Flyp in Connaught Place for an Ayushmann Khurrana concert…and forcing a friend to go with me.  Ayushmann did a short tour in the US right before I left for Delhi, but didn’t come to Hawaii (of course) so I’m very excited that I’ll get to see him here!

My roommate and I are pretty different.  She’s very adventurous and I’m a homebody.  Even our host family has commented on this, and I think I make them feel a little more comfortable since they always know where I am, haha.  The other night, my roommate came home at about 10:00pm (our curfew is generally 9:00pm) and our host father gave her a short lecture about why it’s dangerous for us — anyone generally — to be out in Delhi past 9:00pm unless we’re being dropped off at the front door by a friend or ride service.  But she’s very energetic and always wants to explore, and I’m fine sitting at the dinner table doing homework, watching Netflix up in our room, etc.  I know I need to force myself to go out more, but the house is just very cozy.  I also enjoy the company of my host family.  But I do hope to go to Manali in a bit with my friend (the one who is from Aurangabad), in addition to a Mumbai/Aurangabad trip in October.  I’d also like to visit Jaipur.  Once my friend returns from Aurangabad and settles into his home in Gurgaon, I’ll be spending weekends here and there as well.  I’d also like to visit the Northeast as well…dekhenge.

After a month in Delhi, I’ve grown to enjoy the metro despite being pushed by people who are walking no faster than I am, cycle rickshaw rides, and phalwalas (so convenient).  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the endless horn-honking or 110% humidity, though.

Delhi x 8

I’ve been in Delhi for eight days now.  I already want to get out of the city.  Delhi is so crowded and busy and I’m totally not the city type.  Don’t get me wrong – Delhi is fun and it’s quite charming in its own way, but I’d like a break soon.  The girl who is with me on this study abroad program booked two tickets for us to Dehradun next weekend (it’s a three-day weekend in observation of Independence Day).  We’ll leave and take an overnight train to Dehradun and arrive at 5:00a on the morning of the 13th.  Our host dad runs a tourist business so he has a lot of connections, and luckily, he has one in Masuri where we will be staying.  After an hour-long bus ride, the nephew of the person in charge of the travel company our university is using will meet us up in Masuri.  He’s our age and has been seeing us every so many days to show us around.  He’s from Dehradun, too, which will be great once we return to Dehradun on Monday for our train back to Delhi.  He took me to Agrasen Ki Baoli today.  In short, Delhi is great but quite crazy and I’m ready for a break.

I only have one contact of my own in Delhi, and that is my Hindi TA.  He is from Maharashtra but works in Delhi, so I’ve been able to see him twice since arriving.  He got back to Delhi just a few days before I arrived.  He brought a nice guitar (valued $1,500+) to Hawaii from home but couldn’t bring it back since he did a cross-country trip from Washington to Florida then did a Europtrip from Spain to Germany before getting back to Delhi.  He cherished the guitar but was willing to part with it; I offered to bring it back because I didn’t want him to sell it as he had planned (I’m quite sentimental).  Anyway, he’s from Aurangabad and offered to host me in his hometown for three to four days to show me around.  A ticket from Delhi to Aurangabad is roughly Rs. 10,000 – 11,000 right now, which I can’t afford on my budget at the moment (I mean, I could, but I shouldn’t).  The plan right now is for me to fly to Mumbai during Dussehra (I’ll have a week off from school) and from there go to Aurangabad via train and return to Mumbai to fly back to Delhi.  He has a friend in Mumbai who has offered to put me up for a few days.  He’s been really helpful since I’ve been here.  I didn’t think he cared for me too much but I think that was me just being paranoid.  My birthday is right before Dussehra so he’ll be joining me in celebration.  Initially I told him that I wanted to go to Hauz Khas Village for my birthday and we settled on Summer House, but after a few minutes he suggested 4S in Defence Colony since the crowd is “better.”  By “better,” he means less hipster.  It works out anyway since I wanted Chinese food before leaving Hawaii but couldn’t get it since the dim sum restaurant near my house closed.  The beer and food there are cheaper, too.  And Chinese food is always great.

My classes formally start on Monday.  I went to campus on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of last week for an array of reasons.  I finally met my MA History batch of students on Friday and I like them.  I’m hoping I’ll make friends – I’m very quiet and I usually don’t make friends easily.  Before leaving for Delhi, many people who had been to India (including professors and classmates) told me that most people wouldn’t view me as a foreigner, but someone from Northeastern India.  I’m finding this to be very true as all of the acquaintances I’ve made at school have been from Nagaland and Manipur (and thought I was also from there).

Initially, I had booked my ticket for July 27th – December 17th.  The study abroad program ends on December 3rd.  At the time, my plan was to travel extensively by myself, mainly through South India.  I had two slight mental breakdowns earlier this week and this morning, I called to change my flight.  The woman with the company put me on hold for twenty minutes which effectively exhausted all of my talk time on my prepaid phone.  My boyfriend was nice enough to call and stay on the phone for two hours (TWO.  HOURS.) to change my flight and even put the charge on his card after I told him to use mine (a painful total of $1,052).  I know I didn’t give India enough time, but I don’t see myself being that adventurous now that I’m here.  First of all, I can’t “rough it” enough to go camping on a beach on the North Shore in a tent back in Hawaii, and I really can’t “rough it” enough to use these squat toilets or toilets with no toilet paper or toilets that look like they haven’t been cleaned since they were installed.  My mom’s craziness about germs has been passed on to me (although, not to the same extent).  India is great but I can’t deal with the public restrooms right now.  Also, I’m just too  distrusting of people.  All of the bad stories my coworkers, friends, and family put in my head before coming here really affected me and I don’t want to travel alone for two weeks.  I know most people here mean absolutely no harm, but I’m too paranoid to even put myself in a situation where I could be put in a dangerous situation even though it’s all in my head.  I’ve been ripped off a couple times by rickshaw walas (or today, a man selling purses in Palika Bazar) but they haven’t been malicious, and even though I paid more than what I should have, I contributed in some way to their living.

But back to the point, it isn’t India that’s making me leave.  I just really miss home, and I have a lot of things to go back to.  I love seeing my mom and brother every day, I love falling asleep and waking up next to my boyfriend and dogs, I love seeing my coworkers.  I have so many things at home waiting for me.  The girl who is with me is different.  She’s from San Diego and has been in Hawaii for school for the last four years, she’s single, most of her roommates moved back to the mainland, and she moved out of her apartment right before she left.  She’s a lot less attached than I am.  We’re both having fun, but she’s definitely having more fun and she’s more adventurous.  I know that changing my flight doesn’t help my effort to become more independent and outgoing, but I know where I belong, I think.  I’m an introvert, I’m quiet, I’m a homebody, and I only need my family…so, a typical person from Hawaii (haha).  My cousin is also having her first child – a boy – while I’m away (right before Halloween) so I really want to see him as soon as possible, too.  I’m having fun, but I know that I’m incomplete without my family, I guess.  My boyfriend has told me that although he misses me, he thinks I should get my mind out of Hawaii so I can fully enjoy Delhi.  We both think I’ll become less preoccupied with Hawaii once school picks up and I’m thrown back into my studies.

The last big development is that my boyfriend is no longer my boyfriend, but my fiancé.  Our anniversary was on July 20th and that was literally the last day I expected him to propose to me because I thought it was very cheesy.  We walked around Waikiki (and went Pokemon hunting…) and had dinner at an izakaya-style Japanese joint.  We went to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center looking for dessert and after a misunderstanding about dessert which left me grouchy, regretting buying a mediocre yuzu tea and staring wistfully at the Island Vintage Coffee shave ice stand I didn’t know existed at the base of the escalator from which I descended after buying said mediocre yuzu tea, he pulled a really beautiful .75carat three-stone princess cut ring out of his pocket.  I stared at him for probably a minute straight before saying anything.  He did get on one knee but I told him to get up as to not attract too much attention to us.  It turns out that he actually does listen to me when I talk sometimes!  I had only mentioned on one or two occasions that I like three-stone princes cut rings.  We’ve been together for five years.  For the better half of this year, I was really absent and our relationship suffered greatly because of it.  He was always trying to spend time with me and I just wouldn’t concede for one reason or another.  One night, I sat down and basically told him that I thought we should stop seeing each other for a number of reasons, and all he could say was that he didn’t want me to give up on him and that he loved me so much and just wanted me to give him more time.  After someone who’s treated you so well for five years looks at you, extremely hurt, and basically says “even though you may not love me anymore, I’m still head-over-heels in love with you and will wait until you feel the same again” (not his words, but the gist), you really reevaluate things.  I really have someone great, and he was so kind to me even after all of the times I had ignored him, snapped at him, and disregarded his feelings and desires because my mind was somewhere else.

Our wedding is in the works for next summer, either July or August.  Half of my family is in Washington and most of his immediate family (save his dad) is there as well, so we’ve asked my cousin to host our wedding at her home in Issaquah and she said she’d love to.  Her house is right up against the mountain and she has a very large deck that can accommodate a little over twenty people.  We don’t plan on having more than just our immediate families and his best man and my maid of honor (who is actually my friend Nick, who’s been my friend since we were eleven).  Her home is really beautiful.  I suggested having the wedding there as a joke but everyone in my family loved the idea, and Washington is a special place for us, so having our wedding in Washington and on my cousin’s backyard deck will make everything even more special.  We also plan to cook all the food ourselves since there won’t be more than fifteen of us at the most.  I also don’t want to spend too much money on the wedding for obvious reasons, and I only want family there because I don’t want to mingle.  I want my wedding day (ours, excuse me) to be about homecooked food and the company of family.

Abhi: Dilli mein

I’ve been in Delhi since the morning of July 29th — that is, not even a week.  For the first two and a half days we were put up in a hotel near Connaught Place.  On our first day in Delhi, Friday, we went around Delhi and saw Humayun’s Tomb.  Friday also included a cycle rickshaw ride through Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk.  On Saturday we trekked out to Agra for the Taj and Agra Fort.  The Taj, in all honesty, was a bit underwhelming for me (especially since it was under renovation).  I thought the drive through Uttar Pradesh was a bit more enjoyable.  That same night, after dropping out professor off at his flat, my study abroad partner and I went into Connaught Place where I had my first encounter with someone who set off all of my red flags.  Immediately after our guide, Priyav, departed to go back to his own home, a guy came out of nowhere and started asking us where we were from, how long we’d be in Delhi, where we were going, etc.  I answered the first question — regretfully — but ignored him after (quite rude, but I don’t think paranoia hurts when you’ve been in a country for less than twenty-four hours and are out in the evening).  My partner, however, kept talking to him because she’s friendly and too trusting and divulged to him where we were from, where we’d be studying, how long we’d be in Delhi, etc.  He began leading us away from the inner circle and where he was trying to take us was becoming less and less populated.  I told her we needed to go back for some bogus reason and he looked at me like I was being a total b*tch.  But like I said, I don’t think paranoia hurts when you’re in a completely new place.

On Sunday we settled into our home stay and the family is really great.  But being around a family made me really think about my own mother and brother, and no matter how nice the family is, they are not my family and it made me really sad.  I cried, as expected, and I cried again when I was finally able to get onto Skype with my boyfriend.  I know this will take adjusting, but I’ve never been away from my mom for more than two weeks, so that’s what I’m the most upset about currently.

We were briefed on the metro today and did our first run to the university and back.  We stopped off at Chandi Chowk for about two hours.  I finally haggled (for a kurti and rickshaw ride) and the fact that I’ve been using my Hindi more seems to also be positively affecting the prices I end up paying.

My TA has also recently arrived back in Delhi and has invited me to visit and stay with him in Aurangabad for a weekend in a few weeks.  He’s from Aurangabad but is based out of Delhi for work.  He was my Hindi TA for the last academic year and he was a great teacher.  He was really committed to really teaching me the language and I really appreciate that.  Plus, he has four dogs, and I really miss my two at home.