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Living in Varanasi!

Hindi is going very well – I can already manuever my way around the city by auto-rickshaw, ask for prices (everyone always overcharges us – auto drivers charge us 200 rupee when it should be 30, but we know better!), tell people what I want to see, and I know a lot of nouns, like sky, fan, boy, etc., so I′m building up to quite the vocabulary, and we′re just learning verb tenses now. I forgot how difficult it is to learn a new language!

Today, we walked over to our friend Naval′s house. He and his other friends all have PhD.′s in classical Indian instruments, so they performed for us – it was outstanding. They played the flute, the tabla, and the violin, and they weaved their instruments beautifully together. We took an auto back to NIRMAN, and it was hilarious trying to fit six people in it. The driver put green tube lights on in the cab so it felt like we were in a nightclub – we were laughing so hard!

We also celebrated Eid (the Muslim holiday that breaks Ramadan fast) the other day at one of the boy student′s homes, which consisted of his mother, grandmother, two aunts, brothers, cousins, uncle, and the like. We climbed up a flight of stairs and reached a room with a giant bed and a few fans blowing cold air. All eight of us hopped on the bed and sat down, and the student (Intezar) and a few of his family members soon followed. We tried making conversation with Intezar’s family, but unfortunately, the language barrier was too great and all we could get across were names, but warm smiles were exchanged, and it was incredibly apparent that we were in a welcomed space. Intezar was extremely talkative, asking us questions about ourselves and showing us his new clothes that he acquired from Eid. His siblings and cousins were all younger than him, one of them being an 8-month year old girl who was simply adorable and wore the teeniest bangles I had ever seen. As we were conversing, Intezar’s aunt put down a plastic mat in front of us in preparation for a feast. We didn’t have any idea what the food of Eid would consist of, but we all came on an empty stomach. We had gone to another student’s home the other night after sunset and were lavished with food of all kinds – sweets (mitha), fried delicious things, fruit (fal), lots of potatoes (aloo), etc., so we were expecting quite a feast. His aunt put down two plates of apple slices and a plethora of bowls and spoons, in addition to small pots of a warm, mushy, bran-like substance that tasted sweet and like cinnamon. It was recommended that we also pour a splash of milk in the oat-concoction as well, which made the consistency much creamier. Intezar said that it was a very traditional dish and took hours on end to prepare, and so we all nodded our heads to his grandmother in gratitude, for she was the one who had prepared the dish. We began to converse with Intezar about his studies and how he wishes to go to school in the United States, and we recommended that he seriously look into attending Kalamazoo College because it’s a wonderful school, but he was stuck on trying to attend the University of Chicago because he loves the Chicago Bulls! His aunt began cleaning up the small bowls and took the plastic mat away as well, which puzzled all of us, seeing as we had expected a mass amount of food instead of a little, sweet snack. We saw this as a sign that it was time to wrap it up, and we left within the hour.

The ghats are all flooded – it rains constantly, and it’s actually quite refreshing because it’s so humid and hot here. I′m either wet from sweating, from getting rained on, or from showering. Monsoon season is quite interesting!

We’re on a hunt to try and make the perfect cup of masala chai – the way they make it here is absurdly delicious. We’re all just living and trying not to get too caught up in the logistics, such as scheduling errors, spending up to three hours at a bank whilst exchanging money, never knowing what happens next – essentially giving up every sense of control we thought we had. It’s fun! We’re going to Lucknow this weekend (the capital of Uttar Pradesh), and we will be staying with one of our professor′s parents – I′m looking forward to it!
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About Courtney Wise ʼ15

Courtney Wise is a senior at Kalamazoo College. She is an anthropology/sociology major with a community and global health concentration. Courtney studied abroad in Varanasi, India for six months from July to December of 2013. Outside of academics, she enjoys running on the cross-country team, making puns, eating, stimulating conversations, and playing Scattergories.

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