Laying on a small bed in a tile floored room room in Kochin, Kerala, the fan spins on high. It’s hot…and this is the cool time of year. I’ve been in India for just under a month, and at the moment I am totally uncomfortable. Right when I am feeling totally overwhelmed, If It’s the Beaches by the Avett Brothers comes on on my iPod and the song hits me right through the heart.
I feel neither nostalgic for home nor sick of being here. However, it’s exhausting being a total foreign space alien from planet USA. You give it your all on every namaskaram (greeting and goodbye) with a smile and talk to hundreds of people. You smell fennel seed, chilli and cardamom, shit and diesel fuel, and they all penetrate deep into your senses. Legless beggars look you in the eyes, and you come to grips with the fact that you can’t help all of them. Hawkers hustle you to buy there street goods. But India’s charming, enrapturing, kind and welcoming.
Friendly greetings are the norm, waves constant. The culture is one of graciousness–as a school teacher told me “I am sure we will meet again, in this life or the next,” after he had invited me into his home for a meal. I am still a young student of this ancient place, learning and exploring (and eating) my way across one of the world’s most fascinating countries.