One Year Later…

It’s been one year – either way you count it (arriving in India, at Woodstock). It’s been a long, crazy, weird year, but I’m actually living with my husband, so I’d go through hell and high water to ensure that keeps happening.

So.. one year later, things I’ve learned:

  • Rhesus are really pains in the ass (I’ll be blunt). Aggressive, annoying bloody buggers. I was naive before. I’ve learned, after one of them almost bit me. The langurs are still gorgeous… the rhesus need to be hit with slingshots.
  • I’m definitively not homesick. Homesick for the occasional thing, or things I want, but not for the places. “Home” kept moving, and may be gone if-when I go back to the US… so home is with Adam, and I’m good with that.
  • Tea every day is a fantastic habit. Five meals a day is questionable (breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner), but the daily tea is lovely.
  • Adam and I can manage our arguments well. We’ve had our share, but we can actually discuss them and figure out what bothers us and how we can manage the disagreements and compromise. There have only been a couple really rough ones, but I think we’ve come out the better for it.
  • Students at this private boarding school would be in for a nasty surprise at either my old high school (an American public school) or Adam’s school (a private day school in Toronto, Canada). They’re definitely getting a good education here, but they’re also coddled and, I think, getting some unreasonable expectations about life, scheduling, and commitments.
  • Some of the kids are fantastic… and others I wish corporal punishment were still in effect for. Especially trying to play teachers off each other. Or play adults off each other. While they’re standing in the room, next to each other. Or blatantly lying to teachers…
  • The people at Woodstock are fantastic and incredible, and the Indian staffers especially are some of the most warm and welcoming people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Not that the non-Indian staff aren’t welcoming, but the Indian staff really stand out to me. I think it’s the cultural acceptance and community thing, which Westerners try for, but are more individual-focused.
  • Road safety is an oxymoron. In the hierarchy of the road, cows are at the top; pedestrians at the bottom.
  • It’s not when will you step in poo, but how often. Just come to terms with it early on.

And as an addendum/comparison/comment:

Things I Wish We’d Brought:

  • another good cutting knife (like a santoku or chef’s knife)
  • one of the small hand-held knife sharpeners, rather than the rod-style ones
  • a silicon cupcake tray (and loads of cupcake foils); cupcakes are a rarity here and seem to do well for charity sales.
  • icing kit (for pastry/cupcakes, the plastic bags with tips)
  • a pair of good running sneakers for each of us (which we might just buy in town or in Delhi)

Things I Wish We’d Left Behind:

  • the winter Uggs
  • the electric blanket that blew
  • Adam’s extra collection of jeans 😉
  • the PS3

Things I Wish We’d Known:

  • You can get most everything you need here, for foodstuffs (including Marmite, Vegemite, and Nutella)
  • It’s colder inside than outside in the winter, and so having jersey/T-shirt/flannel sheets for the winter is a huge benefit. You can’t easily get them here, but we can survive without them… but the temp differences between inside & outside would have been great to know. It’s due to the houses having no insulation. 😉
  • In addition to picking up a book about learning Hindi, one on learning Urdu would have been great. Most Hindi textbooks don’t point out the differentiations, and up here there’s a significant amount of Urdu influence.
  • Clothing is cheap; electronics are expensive (on par with US/Canada).
  • You can’t get anything but acrylic yarn here. That “sari yarn”? Export-only. Real wool? Export only. Cotton? Unthinkable and exotic.
  • Things can be hyper-specialized; you can get your dry goods at one shop, produce at a second, meat at a third, general products at a fourth. Not every “grocery” shop will have them all. Be prepared for grocery shopping to take a half-dozen shops or more.

Challenges I’ve Observed:

  • People having expectations that WS/India is unable to meet, or complaining about something when they don’t realise that what they have is above standard. Housing is significantly different here, and it’s not fair or appropriate to complain you don’t have, say, wall-to-wall carpeting. Or a dishwasher. Or central heating.  Oh woe, your pretty stone floor is hard to clean and slick when wet? I’d take that over my concrete covered with coir, thanks.
  • People not being willing to compromise on cultural matters (“why am I being yelled at for doing X? This is an international school”). While WS is international, that’s based off of respect for other cultures and people making compromises about their values… so you don’t point your feet at people, you don’t put your feet in their shoes up on furniture people sit on, etc. The ethnocentrism pops up periodically, people thinking that “international” means “I can do what I want”, not “it may be taboo somewhere else”, and thereby ignore the taboos.
  • Christianity is sometimes awkward here at WS; you get the very evangelical Christians that sometimes make comments that I feel are inappropriate (reference “babies for Jesus” in the start of this year) or culturally insensitive, and justify that insensitivity by their religious views. You’ll get the absolutely wonderful counterpoint people that practice what Jesus taught, rather than layered with sixteen interpretations. Because this is ostensibly a Christian school, there is a sense sometimes of being able to get away with expressions of intolerance using their religion as an example.
  • White people are a minority. Learn and deal with it. It has a mixed status – you’ll immediately be called out as a target for scams and higher prices, but there’s also a fear of offending or drawing the negative attention of a white person. You’ll be pointed at, and it’s easy enough to describe someone. I once described Adam as “the tall man with white skin”, and he was picked out of a crowd.

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