Wednesday, January 30, 2013


These are some of the glorious sunsets that I saw during my semester in India. 1, 2, 3. From the roof of Raheja, my apartment building 4. At the Taj Mahal (over the building you walk through to get to the Taj itself) 5, 6. On the Kerala Backwaters 7. View of the mountains around Coimbatore from the roof of Raheja

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Weight of Water.

If there is one thing I learned in India, it's that water is a heavy blessing. As is the case in most developing countries, India's tap water is questionable at best. Even many of the local people didn't drink it. For instance, during most of my home stays, families had big jugs of water that they bought and used for drinking. In our apartment we were lucky enough to have an Aquaguard water filter that we could use to fill up our bottles instead of having to buy water all the time. The downfall to that was the filter only worked between 7:30 and 8:00 and only when the power was on. Our apartment ran on generator, but big things (the fridge, the washer, the water filter) wouldn't run on just the generator. So at best, we had an hour a day to fill our bottles and the large jugs on our kitchen counter, but if the power was out during that time or if we weren't in the apartment, we didn't get to fill up. Sometimes we went several days without getting the opportunity to refill the jugs on the counter and they would go completely empty.
The Ganges River, containing some of the most famously disgusting water ever. And yet, it's ritually pure.

Furthermore, water is just plain heavy. Because we couldn't drink water from many places, my friends and I were never without our water bottles. Some people had reusable ones, I just bought a giant plastic one and reused it (even though it's supposed to be disposable) for longer than I care to admit. Either way, the burden of carrying around our water supply was no small thing. I can tell you right now: Water. Is. Heavy.

I carried around my tote bag with me most days because I tried to be really prepared at all times. Some days I carried several folders, notebooks, and even my laptop around for several hours of walking about the city. It could get pretty wearisome. Other days, I had almost nothing to carry with me. But my bag was never light because of my ever-present water bottle. On the rare occasion that I didn't have my water bottle, I was always surprised by how unburdened I felt, but I was usually also thirsty.

Around our kitchen, we posted many different facts about water, water shortage, and water consumption all over the world (none of which I can recall off the top of my head now...). Often we just walked past them, but when we actually stopped to read them or look at them, it always put into perspective how lucky we were to even get filtered, clean water for as much as an hour a day right in our own apartment. And that's saying nothing of the luxury of American water consumption.

These are all just water struggles that I dealt with personally in my life in India; the average Indian has even more water related problems than I did. One of the biggest issues for many Indians in terms of health and hygiene is contamination of water that floods into their lives during monsoon season. In Elgi slum people's homes are flooded every year by a body of water they lived on the banks of, but which they still continue to use as a garbage dump along with a hospital down the street. Even in bigger cities like Mumbai, water drainage isn't properly addressed and the streets flood every year causing rashes and other diseases.

Water can be both a blessing and a curse, but either way it is heavy. In America, where one can go almost anywhere and count on access to clean and acceptable drinking water, usually for free, it is a blessing we usually take for granted. The fact that Americans consume so much bottled drinking water is outrageous and almost laughable considering the abundance of potable tap water we have available. One of my goals for life post-India is to not drink any bottled water (this also addresses the issue of how much unnecessary plastic waste we produce as a culture; something else that I became alarmed of while in India). This was something that I tried to do even before I left, but after seeing the water problems that people face there, the point has been made even more clearly that water America's water consumption is embarrassingly extravagant. Feel free to do your part by drinking tap water, taking short showers, and being generally mindful of all the water you use and waste in your daily life. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Obviously I'm back in America now. The pace of life is a little different here, and time has somehow slipped away from me. I still have so many things to say about my time in India and hope to (slash plan to...hopefully) keep writing a few posts until I feel that I have adequately documented my semester in blog form.

For now, though, life moves forward. I've moved back to Massachusetts and have three days of classes under my belt already this semester. My new roommate and I finally rearranged our furniture so that it has better flow and my half of the room isn't in the standard move-in setup. It's the small things, you know?

Being in America is strange for a few different reasons; life is more fast paced here, I occasionally think it's really strange to be brushing my teeth straight from the sink, I spend as little time outside as possible because the air is frigid, and it's dark out before dinner. I found that I've already adjusted to the hatred of parking off "the hill" at Gordon College and hate parking in Woodland, the parking lot down the street-- yesterday I found myself thinking "Who am I?!? In Coimbatore I walked all the way to the grocery store and back, not just back from my car!" and decided that for the rest of the semester I won't be parking on the hill at all. Parking in Woodland will be good for me.

Another adjustment that I dealt with was the weird feeling while I was home of having all the time in the world to do anything. But that is a feeling one gets while home on Christmas break regardless of whether the traveler crossed an ocean or not. It's just weird to have no classes, no work, no obligations to speak of. Time to sit and think and sleep and eat and do nothing or everything (but mostly nothing).

And now I'm at school and three days of classes have gone by and I already have all this homework to do and I need to be in friend-making mode again because my friends from last year transferred or moved off-campus or dynamics have changed too much and now I don't really have any "people." It's another adjustment back to a schedule. A whole other slew of people who want to hear my say that India was great and the food was super spicy and the people were friendly and no I didn't poop in a hole and yes there was poverty but I lived in a nice apartment. It's a little exhausting, but I guess I should have expected that.

I wish I could refer people to this blog, to the entries that I thought about and invested time into while I was gone and will hopefully have time to continue investing in now since I'm not nearly done saying things. But time is fleeting and I have four classes and I sleep about ten hours a night these days and as it turns out when you come back from a semester abroad the only person who continues reading your blog is your mother. When she happens to notice that you posted something new. Alas, I don't think the acceptable response to the question, "So how was India?" will ever be, "I talk all about it on my blog- why don't you check that out?!"

Despite the apparent lack of reason, I do hope/plan to keep updating this blog with India material (of which I still have so much to share!) and just in general. So for those of you still reading this (Mama), I'll try to keep posting fairly regularly and keep it interesting. Although life at Gordon College is a little more mundane and less, well, exotic than life in India. Sometimes I still do some pretty cool things here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beautiful Things.

There are many beautiful things in India. This is simply a small selection of the beautiful things I saw during these three months.