I’m woefully delayed on this post, but I figure better late than never. Made it back to the United States a few days ago, and Wow. What a trip. If you read my post earlier on how the voyage over went, I can tell you that this one went a lot smoother. No terrible illnesses. No deadly silent drivers taking me through some of the seediest places in India on my way to who-knows-where. Just a straight-up trip back. Watched some movies (Star Wars, Deadpool, Kung Fu Panda 3), avoided eating, and then got the great joy of hugging my wife and kids in the airport.
Some closing thoughts:
1) We truly take for granted the luxuries we have in the United States, and we’ve somehow lost some qualities of compassion along the way. Example: I went out to eat with some of the co-workers… I had way too much food. It was delicious, but I was stuffed. I planned to pitch it. One of my co-workers grabbed it and had it boxed. He said he’d give it to somebody, and I thought he meant take it back to the office. Instead, he handed it to an elderly lady (either homeless or at least jobless) on the steps outside the restaurant. It really makes me think back to the “What We Throw Away” post I put up on the Perfect-The-Days blog. Over here, we’d pitch it to the trash. This is just one example, but there were so many more. Children digging through the endless piles of garbage along the streets. Even the idea of government assistance for those who cannot provide for themselves. The man who drove me around had a monthly salary of less than what it cost me to stay in my hotel for two days… And he was the primary income for his family. And yet, when I tried to tip him, he was embarrassed and a few days in started turning it down (truly insisting, even saying “Please, no more tip.”). I continued to offer each day, and he eventually accepted… But the difference is staggering.
So many luxuries that we don’t think about… I won’t say if it’s right or wrong, but I do think it’s important for us to think about them.
2) I did in fact find something to eat. I’ll have a whole post up later about food. But I surprisingly didn’t lose the kind of weight I thought I would. I guess enough rice and chicken to keep me “healthy.” More than just the food, the attitude towards eating. In the US, eating is often a chore we fit around other things. The idea of drive-thru’s came about because we are always hurrying from one place to the next, and it was convenient to grab and go. In Hyderabad, there were only two places with Drive-thru’s at all, and both were American restaurants.
The difference comes from how they perceive a meal. Some is immediately noticeable in the way the dinner menu works: You have soups. You have starters (which seemed pretty granted that you’d be getting). You have a main course. And you often don’t order each until you’ve finished the prior. This is because conversation is the most important part of every meal. You eat as a way to connect with your colleagues. Even breakfasts and lunches were communal gatherings where a dozen people from the office (and often mixings of different group members) gather and go off for a while together to eat.
Another difference here would be the hours people eat. In the US, breakfast is typically around 7-8, lunch somewhere inside 11-1, and dinner (supper) is almost always over by 7 except in weird “working late” situations. In India, the breakfast might start around 9/9:30, lunch didn’t usually start until 1, and supper isn’t until 8 or 9. Restaurants won’t even open until 7 in most cases. Bizarre!
3) Traffic. I mentioned this when I first arrived, but I wanted to add to it. A friend of mine in India told me that there’s one big difference between US drivers and Indian drivers. In the US, we drive watching to make sure we don’t hit anybody else. In India, you drive watching to make sure nothing else hits you. The difference sounds funny, but is a huge distinction. For example, in three weeks, I didn’t see a single accident. In the US, I often see 3-5 accidents a week, and I drive a lot less here than we did there. This is because in India, people are constantly aware of things going on around them. You never know, somebody could come burrowing up from the Earth, and as a driver, you want to watch for it (and check to see if this new tunnel gets you around the giant congestion just ahead). In the US, you can put the car on autopilot… Check your phone. Read your email. Text you girlfriend… Get into a wreck.
Additionally, the roads in India did not have the same kind of planning around them. Religious structures are protected, so roads often zigzag around structures declared to be a temple (for any number of the many faiths present in India). Drainage is a huge problem. Lakes formed on common roads because the water had nowhere to go. This certainly made drives interesting.
4) I had never truly felt homesick until this trip. I’m a home-body by nature. I don’t like going out. If you read my first India post, I’ve never had much interest in seeing the world. My home is my castle, etc, etc. I write this just to say that I’m almost always ready to go home as soon as I get out. But even with this being the truth, I had no idea what homesickness truly felt like. Everything I had felt before was just an annoyance. After around the two week mark, I learned this truth. True homesickness is when you can’t stand everything around you… from the smell of the laundry, to the view out your window, to the taste of the air. I was fed up with the politeness and courtesy. All of the meals had begun to taste exactly the same (which is really just not true!). I didn’t want to leave my hotel, and I hated staying in it. It was really bad.
Overall it was a great trip. Eye-opening and an exceptional opportunity that I wouldn’t trade.
And yes… It was hot.