Before Departure

Five days left till departure. I don’t know what to be more excited about: my internship, the culture, the food, the locations to explore, the people to meet, everything?? I’m going to be that overexcited girl who probably freaks out the hotel manager with my horrible Hindi that i’ve been practicing. Although that’s unnecessary; English is so common there.

India. Ahhh. It’s such a strange word in a way- like a hill, rolling in a cascade. (Like my emotions this week). We’ve seen the stereotypes in America- good ol’ Eat, Pray, Love. Land of the yogis. Spiritual healing! Meet the elephants! Exotic mysticism! Lots of taxi drivers! Mango lassi! (I’ve only had the WU experience, but it’s been the best kind-of-authentic Indian dessert I’ve tasted). Third world country #whitesaviorcomplexletsgo!

I wonder how many foreigners go to India for their spiritual healing/ reawakening. Definitely if you’re Steve Jobs, (and Mark Zuckerberg too went as well, apparently). Maybe it’s an equation now: go to India → get spiritually healed → become a billionaire? I don’t think it’ll work for me, though. But I don’t deny or undermine the importance of religion and the different culture there. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, trying to soak up as many different experiences from travellers as I can this week (in addition to packing, overpacking, and then under packing, and then packing again). What will India be like?

The blogs have been extremely interesting. The cultural differences I’ve read about are slightly alarming but sometimes very humorous. I read one where a western lady talked about how after she took a picture with a random elephant, a man ran up and tried to convince her she had to pay him 1000 rupees for the picture. It’s heart-breaking in a way, because so many people live below the poverty line there, but if you show any sign of weakness, you will get scammed out of your money. The best bet is to be brusque and firm. It makes me aware how the culture of western politeness is a privilege we can afford in America because safety is less of a concern; at least, there are less scammers here.

Another thing I realized is that being overly friendly or smiling to strangers could also be misconstrued as inappropriate. This will be hard because I do tend to smile a lot, but I’ve been working on a good poker face for walking through the streets. India is a more socially conservative country, and the gender divides are more apparent too. When I was eating lunch with a friend, she told me how they have seperate places for women on the bus. It’s not intended to be sexist, she said, but used as a form of protection and solidarity. I found this sad but understandable.

Reading these blogs has made me more excited than anxious or worried (although, not looking forward to any potential cases of “Delhi’s Belly”). I’m pretty glad for my change to a vegetarian diet two months ago, because it’s easier to be one in India. Many people actually convert to a vegetarian diet there because the meat might be unsafe. Also tap water. And milk. And eggs. Maybe foreigners are just over-over-over cautious, but I don’t want to take any chances with potential diarrhea or vomiting. Get excited to hear more experiences about my vomiting in the upcoming weeks!! (woo!!!!)

I still can’t believe I’ll be flying across the world to this place, and will probably become a Whatsapp addict by the end of this trip (at least, that’s what I’ve heard from people). However cliche it sounds, I want this to be a summer of self-exploration and growth. I want to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone, both in my internship and my cultural explorations. Which, speaking of this internship and this organization, Centre for Law and Policy Research, I am super super low-key (not low-key, not low-key at all) SO FREAKING EXCITED. I’ll be working as a litigation associate and I have low-key stalked all their Facebook posts (sorry future bosses if you’re reading this). The dedication to social equity and justice, especially in such a socially conservative place where issues like transgender rights, women's rights, disability rights and children’s rights are more than often not spoken of enough is so inspiring to me. I will do all that I can do during the short time I am there, and use this experience to grow and learn more about women’s rights and how to make an impact.

stay tuned for more :)