So, riding the marketing high of this book, and after hearing VERY mixed reviews, I decided to pick it up and read it. I… was not impressed, and I don’t plan on seeing the film.
I will give the book credit where it is due – this is exactly what it is marketed as, a woman’s journey with specific focuses, in Italy, India and Bali.
This will be a difficult sort of journey for any woman to replicate – given her $200,000 advance to write the book – in the sort of economy and world we live in. It’s hard to find US $200,000 to globe-trot with, where you can indulge yourself all day by doing whatever it is you’re interested in and waving off the idea of working or having a working-holiday at the best, dealing with coming back to a career and life in your home country, etc. Gilbert at least had the right idea of when to do this, as her life was coming apart — but otherwise?
I suppose it was nothing more than a larger version of this blog (an assumption that other people care about your life, in microcosm or macrocosm) and, to me, Gilbert seemed terribly self-centred, overwhelming things with drama and finding the absolute best opportunities for story rather than trying to truly experience the countries. I read the book through because I felt it was appropriate in order to be able to understand her tripartite journey and the book as a whole, but I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly to consumers to read, or even for anyone interested in getting a glimpse of life in India or of Indian community. I recommend Holy Cow! by Sarah MacDonald much more for aspects of religious life and thought than I can recommend Eat, Pray, Love.
At this rate, this should become “Adventures in India: if we ever make it there.”
There appears to be some diplomatic tit-for-tat going on right now between Canada and India, meaning that Adam’s getting a run-around for what paperwork he needs, where he needs to go, what he needs to do, etc. We’re in a holding pattern until another Ministry of the Indian government writes a letter with some info, and that may or may not be all that’s needed to then get the visa processed.. and hopefully he’ll get it, as someone told a family member that they’re not approving a lot of Canadians’ employment visas.
What’s happened so far is this:
- get all the paperwork we need in order, including a letter from the Ministry of Human Resources that says they have no objection to Adam’s filing for a visa, pending approval of MoForeign Affairs and MoHome Affairs.
- Adam goes to the consulate, who then tell him to go to the visa processing office. They then say “You can’t apply – you need two letters from Ministry of Home & Foreign affairs, as per this one from the Ministry of HR.”
- We then have weddings to go to (namely, ours) and things to participate in (like driving across borders), so we confirm with the US visa processing place that Adam can file from the US, though he’s a Canadian citizen, etc.
- Weddings happen, driving happens, we go to NYC to the visa processing place… and they say “Well, for an employment visa, he has to have been a resident in the US for at least two years for the New York office to process it.” Driving around isnt an option for us (to DC or further), so we confirm with Adam’s parents that they can file for his visa on his behalf – and so we overnight everything to Canada.
- The visa office says “no, we won’t take this stuff — he has to have an interview at the consulate.”
… So, at this point, we’ve received one additional document for Adam – the letter from Home Affairs – saying “He doesn’t need anything more, just process the blasted thing”. Hopefully we’ll get that squared away soon, sending him back to Canada, and we’ll get to India before the end of September. It may take 15-20 days for his work visa to be processed, which equates to 3-4 weeks. Then mine (which hopefully will be a 1-day turn around), and then we can finally leave.
So… we wait.
Yesterday was the wine shower, which was good fun (and nice to finally MEET people I had only heard about!) and I mentioned Adam and I doing this blog (well, me more than him, but… anyway), so I suppose I’d definitely best make sure there’s content before people start getting ahold of the URL to read the previous entries…
Today we got up and Adam got the last thing he needs to file for the employment visa. He’s going to the Consulate General first, then if he has to, the visa-processing place… or we might end up driving to Ottawa to file at the High Consulate there. It’s get it done within the week in Canada, or have to do it from the US and not leave til 10 August. As stressy as it might be… I’d rather we fly out the 31st just to be DONE.
Now – I’m back to writing thank-you cards!
Yes, seriously. I finished a book in ~3 days.
Today, whilst at work with Adam, I finished Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald. It had been recommended a few different ways, by websites and people, so I decided to pick it up. Initially I was skeptical — it seemed like it was going to be a case of “Wow! Look at me, I cover religion while my husband is off doing things”. I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of it, and almost put it down within the first 50 pages. Still – I decided to wade through it, and I am glad I did. Sarah’s growth about the realities of India as well as the different religions are portrayed honestly, realistically, and respectfully — and while I have to raise my eyebrows at some of the situations, and wonder exactly how much of it is conflated together for a better piece of writing — it was a good, solid read.
The basic premise is that Sarah’s fiancé Jonathan gets a job in India, and she tags along. He’s working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and she’s unemployed (a situation I’ll be able to empathize with), and so she ends up exploring and examining religion in India while he’s off covering different things for the ABC. Her religious journey isn’t a deliberate search for something, but a curiosity and occasional push from one of the domestic servants she has (a reality for anyone who is middle-class or higher) or a friend. Her portrayals are believable, though I can only raise an eyebrow at some situations, but I have no doubt I’ll truly be able to gauge things when I get to India rather than be the skeptic who hasn’t been there… yet.
I definitely strongly recommend reading this, if you’re curious about religion or Indian culture, and particularly if you plan on moving to India.
Today while waiting for my passport card to be processed, I finished reading Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich. This is a great book — but it is not for everyone. If you’re looking for fluffy summer reading and think that a title like “Dreaming in Hindi” is a beach-book about travel, love, and fluffy bunnies, you’ll be disappointed. Rich takes a unique twist on the travelogue/memoir by combining it with an exploration of adult second language learning, looking at learning a second language — and the people you learn that second language with.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, empathizing in my own way with certain circumstances, and taking her unabashed honesty about conflicts (within herself, between her colleagues and classmates, and within various parts of the Indian population), biases, and experiences, both positive and negative. This book gave me ideas – places to go, things to consider doing, and gave me some insight into ways to look at the experience, and what to _do_ with it.
We’re in a bit of a panic now… still waiting on some paperwork from India for Adam before he can apply for his visa, and he needs his done before I can apply for mine. We’re at < 20 days now before scheduled departure date, and I genuinely can’t afford to go to Canada and possibly lose valuable days I _could_ be getting the visa processed–and I also can’t just hop on a train into NYC from Canada like I could from CT. This is where my desire to have my ducks all in a row is foiled, and I start going absolutely bonkers.
In other news, my Hindi is sloooooooooooooowly coming along. I can construct such gems as या कया लाल कमल है? (“is that a/the red lotus?” … I think.) It keeps my mind off of the stress of waiting for the immigration updates, which I desperately need right now.
Tip: Plan your trip further in advance than 6 weeks so you can avoid this type of situation. 😉
Whether you’re curious about India, trying to get a feel for the place before moving, or interested simply in expanding your horizons, it can be difficult to weed through the data and find the useful things. Here’s my list of what I’ve found useful:
- Wanderlust and Lipstick: For Women Traveling to India (Beth Whitman, Amy Scott and Elizabeth Haidle): A quick but useful read for packing, culture notes and experiences from the view of the single female traveler.
- Dreaming in Hindi (Katherine Russell Rich): A woman’s trip to India to learn the language, and a review of her year not just from a cultural-lessons view, but also a linguistic view of learning a second language as an adult.
- Culture Smart! India (Nicki Grihault)
- Culture Shock! India (Gitanjali Kolanad)
- IndiaMike Great resource for all things India from people in-country as well as frequent travellers who may be out-country at the time. Packing lists, “Only In India” experiences, travel suggestions, meetups and more.
- The Hindu An English-language newspaper based out of Chennai, with 12 other printing cent(re)(er)s.
- Times of India
- Hindustani Times
- WIKIPEDIA! – Wherever you’re going, you can find a close/local town and get some information.
Language Learning Resources
English is one of India’s official languages, and the more inclined you are to interact with people who communicate with tourists, the less likely you’ll genuinely need to learn Hindi or one of the other languages. Hindi is most used in the Northern segment of the country, so it’s a good idea to pick up some if you’ll be in the area of Delhi or north. Southwards and Eastern is a greater variety of language options (Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam….).
- University of Texas at Austin’s free first-year Hindi textbooks
- A Primer of Modern Standard Hindi (Michael C Shapiro) *great for linguistic details – it doesn’t give you sentences like “Where is the train station”, but talks about noun formation, subjunctive case, etc. If you’re serious about learning Hindi, track this down and buy it.
- Elementary Hindi (Richard Delancy) *I am in love with this as a textbook – introduces Devanagari in phases and gives you words which utilize the structures you’ve just learned. Hardcover edition only at this time, but it includes an audio (a critical! aspect) CD and a separately-purchasable workbook. I 100% recommend this for anyone considering active study of Hindi.
I’ve started reading some of the online editions of local newspapers for our move to India. There are some English-language newspapers published online (The Hindu, Times of India, Hindustan Times, and the Garhwal Post) and I’ve been getting their RSS feeds sent to my Google RSS reader. A handful of words, obviously Hindi words simply transliterated, keep coming up – even in the English language edition of the paper. I wasn’t sure I could quite get them in context, so I did a little dictionary searching…
बांध (bandh): strike
खाप पंचायत (khap panchaya)t: geographical local village “elder council”
गोत्र (gotra): clan
The current major issues in India seem to be a bunch of strikes, often ‘sponsored’ by a particular political party, and discussions about “(dis)honour kilings” and whether or not gotra is relevant to the decision to commit one, and whether the khap panchaya are supporting them or not. Here’s an article from the Times of India where you can read about the gotra/khap issue, and here’s one from The Hindu about the bandhs. There are a lot of other things going on, but the great majority of articles I see seem to involve these two subjects.
Of course, there are breaks for what Bollywood (or cricket) star is seeing whom, but they don’t have many transliterated Hindi words.
I keep hearing from people “It’s going to be cold!”
The weather in Dehradun (2210 ft/650m above sea level): http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/42111.html
Now… Mussoorie is about 2000m/6600ft above sea level, so I take into account snow – but Dehradun is looking at 50s-60s (Fahrenheit) through the winter. That’s… balmy. Mussoorie had REALLY best get cold – 32F and lower – for it to be “cold”. I’m apprehensive about packing cold-weather gear because of this…variance in the perception of cold. I’ve lived in St Paul, MN – which had -40F/C with windchill, and a fair chunk of negatives in the winter in general. I’ll certainly pack my scarves and toques, but I’m apprehensive about the sheepskin lined boots. We’ll see if they’re necessary; I didn’t use them at all in Toronto this past winter, even going up to the cottage in Miners’ Bay.
Adam, meanwhile, will likely go “Jacket? I need to wear a jacket?”. Men and their existence as heating units… Sigh.
‘“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”’ – J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings
Moving is one of the top 5 stressors in your life, along with events like marriages. How about rolling 2 marriages and a three-year international move together, within the span of a month? Yeah… that’s what we’re looking at!
Having planned for the summer weddings (one for his kin in Canada, one for mine in the US) so we’d be ready to go wherever his work took us – since we could work on getting me paperwork, if we needed to, or a full-time job a bit easier – we weren’t exactly expecting to get the opportunity that hurtled towards us. But he got the job – and so Adam and I are off to Woodstock School in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India – for three years.
I’ve lived overseas before, but only in developed countries. Adam has never lived overseas before, but has been to less-developed countries (a trip to Africa), and we’ve both holidayed in places like Honduras. Three years in Northern India is going to be a learning experience for us both, regardless of the amount of cultural knowledge and anthropology we know. Nothing really does the job except being there – and as much as one might /think/ they’ll do fine, he and I know better.
I have started doing some reading, as has he, and browsing various internet fora and talking to people. His mother has been gracious enough to share information she knows, and get in touch with people she knows to share information with us; the school has also shared information and has put us in touch with a local “buddy” to help us with more mundane questions.
Adam has most of the packing responsibilities falling on his shoulders as I’m in the US – so I’m trying to do what I can by shoving my head into Hindi so I can at least read and count. Finding language resources for Hindi has been more difficult than I expected – especially parallel language texts and audio sources. People have asked me what I plan on doing in India, and my default has been “I want to play with Garhwali!” (a regional language). I’m starting to think that creating parallel language materials may not be such a bad idea, or considering working with improving fan-generated subtitles (I’m watching “Raavan” right now, and… the subs could use some work). I know whatever I do will involve language, but exactly WHAT … no clue.
T-Minus 28 days.