Friday, February 1, 2013

Home for the Holidays

This past October, while everyone was beginning to figure out their winter break plans, I was utterly befuddled. Coming into the semester I had every intention of staying in India for my full 10months, however, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself for the month we had off over Christmas.
I had no problem traveling by myself, but after I looked at all my possibilities I discovered that the only place I really wanted to go was the Himalayas. 
Well, even if you hardly know me you probably know that I am not a creature suited for cold climates, so the Indian Himalayas in December was probably not the place for me. I also wanted to travel somewhere I hadn’t been before, which basically takes out all of Rajasthan. Then I considered volunteering somewhere for the entire month, that way I could really become a part of a community and develop a routine, and so forth. However, all of the places that I investigated required me to pay to volunteer for them, and a lot of the places asked for American dollars, so that quickly became out of my budget.
Unlike my Norwegians, all of my friends are poor and have families that care about them and want them to be home for Christmas, so I didn’t even have anyone to tour around India with. I considered tagging along with the Norwegians and their Norwegian friends that were coming, but I decided I would ultimately be too American for them, so I nixed that idea too.
About midway through October my mom emailed me in a continuing plea for me to come home for Christmas. For the first time, this actually began to seem like an option. Once I told her that I was considering it she responded by saying she would pay for my ticket and we could take my dad by complete surprise! Being the daddy’s girl I am I generally said “fuck it” and booked a round trip home (using, which sounds super sketchy but they have some good prices).
As fall semester came to a close I got more and more excited about coming home. Now that I’d let it come a possibility, and it was actually happening, I was extremely excited to get home! I missed my animals and my friends and America dammnit! I had a mental list of all the food I was going to eat and had an actual list of all the food/products that the people who weren’t going home for Christmas needed.
Not only was I going to surprise my dad, but I had also decided to surprise one of my best friends, Keli. I probably told a total of 5 people about my return home. My mother reacted differently. She told my entire family, all her friends, and my grandmother’s surgeon, who, coincidentally, is my dad’s best friend. I have no idea how word didn’t get back to my dad, but my secret was somehow still safe.
According to my mom, my dad was handling my “not coming home for Christmas” very poorly. He too had tried to bribe me to come home, offering trips to Disney World and even a new car, but I continued to decline and “assured” him that I was going to travel up north with my Norwegians. My dad didn’t take this well. Apparently he would regularly stomp around the house and declare that “there would be no Christmas this year!” because I wouldn’t be home. My poor little brother began to get his feelings hurt since he, apparently, wasn’t reason enough to celebrate Christmas. Moments like this make me wonder how he sometimes feels knowing that I’m the favorite child, but can you blame my parents? I’m obviously the better choice.
Also, if anyone has ever wondered why I stomp and whine until I get my way, at least we now all know who I get it from.
Finally, I was in Varanasi, readying myself to say goodbye to my wonderful friends from last semester before I went back to Hyderabad to catch a flight back to good ole’ Nashvegas. However, as I think I alluded to in my last post, I failed to make my train back to Hyderabad. The same train, leaving the next day, was totally full and since it was a 29hr train ride I basically didn’t have enough time to get back to Hyderabad in order to catch my flight out of the country.
Long story short, I had to call my mom and have her get me a ridiculously expensive ticket from Varanasi to Hyderabad, but there was really no other option. So after she has transferred me the money and I bought the ticket, I sent her an email confirming the ticket purchase and thanking her again, ending the email with “see you Friday!” It would be my downfall.
Once I got back to Tagore, in Hyderabad, my mom had responded to my email saying that my dad had seen the last email I sent her and saw that I wrote “see you Friday!” My mom fessed up to our plan, but alas, our long, carefully schemed surprise was ruined.
There's rarely enough room for me on my bed.
I actually think that it was probably better this way. If I appeared back at home on Friday unannounced and totally took my dad by surprise, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it if he had begun to cry. I would’ve just slowly backed out of the room, then the house, and would’ve sought refuge in a very public place until it was safe to return home, once all of the feelings had been suppressed back to their usual depth beneath the soul. I mean, that’s how all families deal with shit, right?
But I was back home and it was great. Within 10minutes of being home I was on the end of the couch with Lucky on my lap, Obie next to me, and Huck on the other end. I went to bed that night (with Chrysanthemum next to my head, Obie at my feet and Lucky on my legs) and continued to sleep for the next 18hours. The only thing I had left to do was go to Maryville the following Tuesday to surprise Keli.
My plan was to just show up at her dorm and invite her out to dinner, like nothing was unusual about my appearance, however I had agreed to meet with my advisor at 3 that afternoon. My mission, which was to walk into Thaw, get to Dr. Henson’s office, and then leave Thaw without ANYONE seeing me, would require a lot of stealth and espionage, but I was prepared.
I drove my mom’s Prius to Maryville, since my car is hideously recognizable, parked on the side of Thaw, and went in through the side door. I cautiously walked down the hall, passed three people, none of whom I recognized. However, despite my lack of recognition, one of the three people I passed apparently recognized me and waved. I waved back, smiled, and wondered where/if we had ever met. 
I had my meeting, met up with my man, had a very enjoyable afternoon, then, once evening approached, went to collect Keli for dinner (I had been in contact with her roommates, so I knew she was free). I walked up to her apartment, knocked on her door, and when she answered she screamed “I knew it!!” then shut the door on my face.
She eventually reopened it, we hugged, we laughed, we cried, and we collected Hayden and went to Tomato Head. Apparently the ONE girl that recognized me sent out a single text alerting Hayden’s girlfriend to my sudden reappearance on campus. She told Hayden, who told Keli, who then drove around the parking lots on campus to see if she could recognize my car. I mean, I literally saw THREE students for the hour I was in Thaw and with a single text my months of planning had been compromised. Damn you small liberal arts schools, damn you.
Other than seeing friends, I did nothing for the entirety of my break, which was exactly what I wanted. I did do a lot of eating though. I mean, I think the month I was home was the first time since I went through puberty/developed a body image that I ate anything and everything without a single thought or care. There was no inner dialogue of “Harper, you’ve had enough sweets today. Why don’t you eat some carrots?” or “Harper, you’re not actually hungry, you just want to eat that. Put it down.”
I ate cake AND carrots. I didn’t put it down. I ate continuously for the whole month I was home and didn’t give three fucks about it. I gained all the weight back that I lost in India and then some, but did I care? Nope. And it was great.
While I was home I saw The Hobbit twice, which was wonderful (says the LotR nerd). I caught up with my three best friends since pre/elementary-school. We had an unofficial MLK c/o ’09 reunion on December 27th, which turned out to be tons of fun. Approximately 50(?) people showed up and it was great to see how everyone had changed (or didn’t) for the better (or worse).
The next day I got to hang out (babysit) with Jack(6) and Knox(3). I’ve babysat Jack since he was 2, so I have a lot invested in this little guy’s well being. Knox was born while I was backpacking in Asia, so I don’t know him as well, but he’s basically just a big ball of little-boy and continually cracks me up. I’ve always known Jack would love Legos once he was old enough, so now that he’s in kindergarten I got him a set for Christmas.
Well, apparently this was the first “real” set he’d gotten (according to Jack) and he absolutely loved it. I figured I’d have to help him read through the little instruction booklet to put the dump truck and explosive set together, but he took to it like a freakin’ fish takes to water and I think I had to help him like once when he accidentally skipped a page. He never ceases to amaze me. Next thing I know he’ll be reading me books instead, and that will be my cue to start having my own babies or buying my first batch of cats. I got Knox some Duplos, which he liked, but he was far more interested in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which was understandable.
For New Year’s Eve, Bowen and myself went up to Keli’s boyfriend’s cabin for a few days. We shot off fireworks, guns, and played rook. There was one day where I woke up at 11, got coffee and ate entire bag of puppy chow, then went back to bed until 3. Fun was had by all.
I was scheduled to go back to Hyderabad on January 7th, and even though I had a great time being home, I was ready to get started on my spring semester. Even though I still don’t quite know how to put it into words, I really missed India while I was gone. 
At home, people would ask me to tell them about all of my “adventures,” but I just had no idea what to say. I ended up talking a lot about the cows, which I did miss a lot, but it’s really hard to describe India to people who have never experienced it. God, I hate saying that because I know how pretentious I must sound, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Traveling opens a person up to new and different worlds and perspectives, but India isn’t just a different world, it’s a whole different universe! I’ve come to the conclusion that no one, regardless of caste/socio-economic class or heritage, lives in India; you have to survive India. 
I mean, it is hard to live here, especially being a young, white, ginger woman. While its a general consensus that America is a patriarchal society, just saying that in India is laughable, just because it’s so damn obvious. Three facts about India: 1) It runs on Indian Standard Time 2) It’s the world’s largest (most populous) democracy 3) It’s a patriarchal society. 
My guy friends here have no problem going off and traveling on their own, using couchsurfing and having great experiences, but you just cannot do that being a woman. India can be so backwards; they’ve had a woman prime minister, something the US still hasn’t managed, but whenever a group of us go out the rickshaw drivers and waiters always direct all of their questions toward the men in our group. 
This is definitely a tangent that arguably doesn’t have anything to do about my holiday back home, but the thing I hate most about India is that I’m not just a “person,” I am a women and I am white, and here that makes a difference in every aspect of life.
I can’t put into words what I like about India, because I do really like it here. Maybe I don’t know. But that’s clearly a goal for this semester, to find out what about this huge subcontinent makes me keep coming back.

Me, Sabina, Mo @ reunion

Mony, Me, Maddie, Mo @ reunion

Going to the park is very serious business

I miss them every second of every day.
Yes, I will die alone with 30 cats.

1 comment:

  1. That picture of you, Huck, and Obie is maybe my favorite picture of all time.