Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've been so slow to post because it really has been an overwhelming change. I don't have any idea where to start or how to convey all my thoughts and emotions, many of which are conflicting. I think I've really frightened my mom and my mother in law when I've spoken by phone with them, so I was trying to wait until I was pretty sure I could post without frightening all of my friends too.

I guess I'll start with a few of the surprises, some of which I probably should have been aware of, but wasn't. We're in New Delhi, which is in Northern India, and things vary a lot throughout the country, but here's our experience.

I have been very surprised by how little English is spoken on the street. I guess I was expecting it to be more like South Africa, where most people speak a different language at home, or natively, but English is very widespread, especially anyone that lives in a large city or interacts with tourists. We were surprised when our driver that picked us up at the airport didn't speak English. Neither do the guards, or the housekeepers, or some of the landlords of places we've looked at. We'd gotten used to getting by in Spanish and this has been kind of frustrating.

Air quality has been a surprise. We didn't find the air in Mexico City a problem at all, and of both cities we repeatedly heard that air quality was improving. So we have been surprised that it’s very smoggy. In the morning and evening it’s smoky. I think that’s because of cooking fires at nearby squatter camps (that’s surprise number 3). It’s also just really dusty and dirty. We’ve arrived shortly after the end of monsoon, and we’re basically at the edge of a large desert, but it’s REALLY dusty. Most of the trees that you see don’t look quite green, more grey. They all have a layer of dust.

And then there’s the poverty, which isn’t a surprise. But what is a surprise is that there’s no real getting away from it. No oasis. We arrived at night, so on our first morning I was surprised to find that from my $200/night hotel room I could watch multiple families getting ready for the day, sweeping their dirt floor (if you can call it a floor when it doesn’t have a roof over it), cooking over their fire, and sponge bathing. And it seems to be like that everywhere, in front of the embassy, around the corner from the school, anywhere there’s a little space. We were hoping for a neighborhood like we had in Mexico City. Where we felt comfortable outside and there was a great park nearby. Here all the neighborhoods have parks, and while there aren’t cows (special little gates that the cows can’t get through}, there are usually people sleeping or hanging their clothes out to dry, and it’s all covered in a layer of dust.

Then there are some good surprises: S really enjoyed his school on the first day, no tears, no struggle, no drama. Just a huge smile afterwards and excitement, “Mom, something happened today that I didn’t think would happen! I made a friend!” The amazing monuments right in the middle of the city. The absolute beauty of the women’s clothing.

Then there are the things that are about like we expected: The attention we garner with our two little blonde boys, the crazy traffic complete with cows in the road, pedestrians, bici rickshaws and luxury cars, the weather (currently warm but not too hot), great food (unless you’re S and developing a dislike of Indian food).

I keep hearing it takes six months to figure out how things work and get used to it here, so hey, I’ve got 5 months and three weeks to go.


Hammy said...

Good thing you have skype and can call us whenever you like. And since it isn't so pretty outside, you'll have to hang some great pictures in your house of trees with green leaves, and parks without laundry drying.

ghd3 said...

Wow, what an amazing adventure. Sounds so exciting! I'll try and connect you with our friends the Asplunds, who are also in Delhi. And now we have 2x the reason to try to come and visit. Keep the posts coming!

Ben said...

Wild. I'm glad Sam likes school though. Do they speak English there? Is it an embassy school? Have yo u found a place to live yet? Those Indian girls you have a picture of are beautiful and I like their dresses. By the way, this is Mindy

steve & kim said...

Amazing and soo interesting. I hope you don't mind that I'm following your blog closely:) Amazing. God luck with all the adapting. What an awesome experience.

TX Girl said...

It's great y'all have been able to talk to your families. My girlfriend emailed me her first weekend in India and just kept saying.. I'm not sure you should come.

I was surprised at the language barrier too. Hopefully you can find an English speaking housekeeper, especially since there are HOW MANY different dialects.

Sorry to hear about the air quality. I don't remember that, but y'all got there a month later.

I'm sorry you can't find a reprieve in terms of poverty. I thought that was one of the most difficult parts.

SO HAPPY for Sam. I'm also happy for you and your sanity that he went to school without a hitch.

We miss you an awful lot.

Erin said...

crazy... do they speak more english in mumbai? this blog of yours is going to be one of my favorite websites for a while. yay for sam for liking school and making a friend. tell him hi.

Tarra said...

wow! you are so optomistic to love the colors on the women's clothing. Optomistic, but wise to appreciate it.

Hang in there honey. It may take the average american 6 months to get used to it, but I'll bet you guys adjust quicker than that! You're above average!

Lots of love from New York!
And call me! You know we social workers aren't good at math... I can't figure out the time zones....