Its been about a week since I got back to Philadelphia. Everything still feels surreal. All my senses have finally calmed down after being on high alert for so long. It’s relieving. I walk around the streets and people don’t directly stare at me or sneak in a picture just because I look foreign. There is a sense of relief that comes with blending in with the population (well, not fully because I am still Kenyan). On the other hand, there are no rickshaws (or any other form of transportation whatsoever) that costs less than a dollar to get to anywhere and most of all, food prices are so high here. Can we talk about the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables in Philadelphia? *internal scream*
My experience in India cannot be explained exactly in words. It was both a physical and emotional journey that if I had to do it over again, I would approach it in a different way. If you ask me what these ways are, I cannot fully list because it is the everyday living experiences, the small things in life that make the difference. I thought I had patience until India tried it. I thought I could adjust so easily to different living conditions and live as the Romans do while in Rome but what I didn’t notice is that, living extensively in Rome really brings out a part of you that you didn’t know. Both positive and negative.
It would however be beneficial if I knew the following things before I left.
People are going to hike the prices if you are foreigner. If you bargain, that price can drop by more than half until at some point you will wonder what the value of the item is. Be ready to get your communication and bargain skills on.
Carry gifts for people. Indian culture, at least from what I noticed is full of love and community and what better way to express this emotion than gifting? I was gifted by so many people whom I interacted with and had a relationship established on my last day there. How amazing is that? So, carry something small for the mentors in the office, for out hosts and for those people you meet everyday and have awesome chai talk with.
iii.) Personal space.
Personal space is a foreign concept for so many people. Keep in mind that India is a densely populated country and so you should expect to see some people push into your space and they will not be triggered by that. However, you can always ask for space if need be. Dont be afraid.
Do not have expectation for most things. Open minded-ness is the way to go. Expect that some days you’ll feel disappointed, some days you’ll cry and some days you’ll be happy. But you can never tell what these moments are because things in India change so drastically. Allow yourself time to feel the emotions but don’t let that get into you. Also, do not allow people to take advantage of you because you are a black woman. This will happen for sure especially from random men whom you may love to hate. You can and should always speak up for yourself.
My thoughts and heart are so attached to India because it was such a remarkable experience that I’m glad I had the chance to live through.