So, I was tired today. We got back from dinner around 10:45 so I wasn’t in bed until around 11:15. Then I got up at 6:45. Fun times. Of course it was still a good day, and luckily our plans were pretty subdued. But first, I need to tell you all about last night’s dinner!
The director of Anand Niketan School is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met. As a treat last night she took all six of us Americans, two AFS volunteers, Sonal, Jinal, and the two year-long students Salisa and Max, out to dinner at Novotel, a nearby hotel. The restaurant there is currently having a Mumbai Street Food Festival and it was incredible. First of all, the hotel itself was very nice. And then the food started coming. I’m not going to pretend I remember what everything was, but the meal started with waiters bringing out various dishes which we served family-style. There was a spicy fish, a “Bombay burger” (no meat, but SO good), something with lamb, pani puri, and I think one or two other things. Everything was delicious. We all thought that was the main meal, but we were wrong! After all that we went over to the buffet. Oh. My. God. So many options, so many new things — it was crazy. Abby (one of my fellow Americans) and I started freaking out over the carrot sticks. No one eats raw vegetables here! But, naturally the focus was the Indian food. I tried small portions of quite a few dishes, and while I couldn’t in a million years say what they all were, I loved every last one. My rule was anything I can get at home, I didn’t have. I thought this would keep me from overeating but, alas, it did not. Once we finished, everyone was stuffed, and dessert was still to come. I tried a few little Indian treats, which were very good, a blueberry mousse, and a “chocolate pudding” which seemed to be slightly-cooked brownie batter with white chocolate chips. It was divine. The last thing was a cup of Indian chai, wonderful as always. We were offered ice cream as well, but I decided against it.
While the food was amazing, the best part of the evening was sitting around, laughing and talking with everyone. Because we’re doing so much during the day, we don’t often have the chance to just relax and hang out. I laughed more than I have this whole trip and there was a real sense of family. In just one week, we’ve become such good friends and I’m so glad we still have a week to go. Goodbye is going to be hard!
So that was last night. Now on to today! It was a pretty standard day (or as standard as days here can be). We arrived at school, I waited in Sonal’s office for the others, and then we went to art. Today we dyed the scarfs that we tied yesterday. Mine is going to be blue and purple and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. We dyed them by placing them in boiling water with the dye mixed in and holding them there for 5-10 minutes. Apparently it’s normally 20 minutes, but we couldn’t do that because we have limited time. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful! Hopefully the patterns I tied into it work. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow!
Dance was followed by Hindi where we learned about some Indian national holidays and festivals. The teacher had put together a slideshow and then our student-teachers explained each one. They all sound fantastic! I couldn’t imagine having so many huge festivals every year. It seems so fun!
After Hindi we went to sit-in on a Chemistry class. This was the first thing we’ve done that I just didn’t enjoy. I took Chemistry last year, so I wasn’t learning anything, and I was so tired that I kept writing in my journal so I wouldn’t fall asleep! That was a long hour, but it’s okay! It would have been a miracle if I had loved everything we do this trip. If this is the worst thing that happens, I can deal with it.
Up next was yoga. It felt so good to stretch and take some time to calm my mind. We started with some light meditation before learning five sleeping postures. I really enjoyed it! I felt bad for Carlos though. He’s the only boy on this trip and is very tall and gangly. Yoga is a struggle for him! He said so himself, he just can’t bend. He’s being a good sport though. I’ve never done yoga before, but I’ve loved everything we’ve done on this trip. Even the eye exercises.
Our next activity was dance. We’re still working on our garba (traditional Gujarati) dance for the end-of-stay performance. It’s fun, but I was so tired today so I found it hard to build up my energy. And as I’ve said, it’s a very high-energy dance! I enjoyed it anyway and hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow. Jimmy kept trying to get us to lip-sing with the song. We explained that we don’t know the language so we can’t mouth the words, but he was very insistent. I’m sure the end result was six very out-of-sync mouths that appeared to be having slight seizures, but oh well!
After dance, it was time for lunch! The canteen pulled through today — the food was so good! There was a roti-like bread, daal with chickpeas, and rice. Delicious!
The day’s final class was vocal music. Sujata, Olivia, and Carlos opted to attend a Biology class instead so it will just be Abby, Mandy, and I for the performance. Neither of them feel very confident singing, but they’re doing really well! We kept working on our song and I’m feeling good about it. Besides, no one will judge us if we’re not expert singers of Indian classical music after a week of training. I hope.
Instead of site-seeing after school, we had our Mid-Stay Orientation. AFS requires that every program have an orientation at the beginning, halfway through, and at the end. Don’t ask me why they’re all called orientations. No one knows. This is the shortest program AFS offers and it’s new this year, so instead of doing any formal activities we just talked about what we’ve observed, differences and similarities we’ve noticed, problems we’ve encountered, likes, dislikes, etc. Typically mid-stay orientations are for year or semester programs where they obviously have much more to discuss. I can’t believe the trip is halfway done, but we it was good talking about our experiences. It’s nice to talk about things like the lack of toilet paper and napkins with people who can relate! There was also lots of freaking out about driving and the absurd amounts of food that people offer us. Literally everyone one we meet says, “How do you like the food? Are you hungry? Let me get you something.” The gesture is appreciated, but we’re all pretty sure we’ll be going home a few pounds heavier!
Once that was done, I headed home in the school van. Gaurvi was at the apartment and we hung out for a bit before a friend of hers came over. We all sat and talked for a while and then decided we wanted to take an auto-rickshaw down on the main road! I hadn’t been in one yet and was dying to go. The friend ended up not being able to come, so Gaurvi and I headed off on our own! It was a really cool experience. They’re very small so they can weave through traffic which, while efficient, is a bit nerve-racking! I wish we had them in Oregon — seems like a convenient way to get around! Once we got to our destination we went to a McDonald’s where Gaurvi got a McFlurry and then went into a grocery store where I oohed and awed over flavored milk. I’m sure everyone there thought I was so weird. But the store had the wedding march playing over the loudspeaker, so they can’t judge. Afterwards we went back to McDonald’s (I know, I know, we have them in the U.S, but it was the only place there!) and got iced tea. We also shared something called a Pizza McPuff which was essentially a Hot Pocket with more spices and no red sauce. It was fine. We took the rickshaw back home and I started to work on my blog. So there you have it! It was a very chill day, which was perfect since I was so exhausted. Tomorrow we have school and then we’re watching a Hindi movie! That should be interesting. I also found out that I might be able to use the society’s gym and I’m so excited. I’ve really missed working out. Yes, I’ve missed working out. You’re not misreading that. Okay, I need to go to bed. Sorry if this post wasn’t the best, my brain is functioning at about half-capacity right now. Until next time, अलविदा!