This week marks the fifth of my time in India, and it’s crazy both to think about how long I’ve been here and how long I have left to go. The past five weeks have been filled with Indian food, intense heat, and learning lots about SPS and the interconnectedness of their various programs. A standard day consists of daal with rice and roti twice a day combined with various side dishes including potatoes and okra.
Getting used to a savory breakfast has been one of the most difficult parts as noodles or spicy stews have typically always occupied dinner territory in my mind. This past weekend we took the two-hour drive to Indore, the closest big city, to pick up some American snacks to complement our meals here and watch Wonder Woman. Surprisingly the about fifteen words in Hindi I know meant I could understand Sameer’s plea of dhyanavad (thank you) to the guard while driving Steve Trevor into the estate. Afterward, our friends at SPS took us to a food market nearby and convinced Kameron and me to try pani puri, which consists of hollowed-out dough pockets filled with potatoes and spicy tamarind water. When you buy six, they don’t all come out at once. You’re given a metal bowl and you wait near the cart as the vendor hands one each to everyone waiting like a spicy shot. After overcoming the initial spiciness, I gladly participated and tried not to think about how furious my stomach would be the next day (surprisingly it was alright).
Kameron and I have developed quite a routine for dealing with the numerous pests that get into our room. We have fortunately passed the three days in a row when a mouse visited and agilely was able to get basically everywhere in our room. Our squeegee to clean the bathroom floor became our greatest weapon as we climbed on chairs, threw shoes, and devised plans to get the mouse outside. We have thus far seen two severed geckos, only one of which was able to survive. This particular situation required me to tie a scarf over my mouth and gingerly lift up the severed tail of the battered gecko who had seen the wrong side of our cooler fan with a piece of cardboard to deposit it outside where nature does its own disposal. There seems to be an infinite number of bugs in our room at all times from the infestation of flying termites two weeks ago that wormed their way through our mosquito net after shedding their wings to the crickets that seem to apparate away the minute we get close to the ants, the bigger ants, and the biggest ants that exponentially increase in difficulty to kill. This doesn’t even count the tiny bugs that constantly end up in our bed no matter how many times we shake out our sheets at night. Regardless, the bottom of our shoes are almost permanently stained with bug carcasses and I have used nearly every item I brought here to bring down a bug at this point.
I’ve begun work on my main project that I’ll be working on while I’m here which consists of documenting the effect of an SPS program that provides night shelters for chicken farmers. I go out to villages nearby with my supervisor/interpreter and an SPS employee that knows the village well to speak to families involved in the program to see the effect it has had on their livelihood. I have memorized a short little spiel in Hindi introducing myself, saying my name and that I’m a student from the US. It’s usually immediately followed by their laughter and a repetition with more accurate pronunciation from a native speaker, but it does break the ice and make the situation of talking about their lives to a clear outsider less awkward. I’m excited to continue learning about the Adivasi people of India and all the work that SPS is doing to ensure their livelihoods and empowerment.