Saturday, August 18, 2012

Merry Christmas, Dan!

Oh man, this is going to be one long update.  This week was particularly eventful, because Wednesday (August 15) was India’s Independence Day!  (Also Korea’s, randomly enough).
There were special events on Monday and Tuesday leading up to the special holiday.  On Monday night, a renowned kathak dancer put on a performance in Parker Hall.  I entered the auditorium skeptically, because, as you know, I am now a practiced kathak dancer myself.  Three practices, to be exact… so why shouldn’t I just go home and break out my own moves in front of the mirror?  How could this woman possibly dance any more awesomely than me?
Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Microsoft Word suggests synonyms such as: overwhelming grand, splendid, breathtaking, splendid, tremendous, remarkable, amazing, and awe-inspiring.  I think “breathtaking” is the most accurate; it sent shivers up my spine!  (Down my spine?  Which way do shivers run these days?)  The performance was an entertaining mix of dance, mime, theater, and straight-up storytelling.  Because she wasn’t dancing for an all-Indian crowd, I think she narrated the dance more heavily than usual, which I appreciated.  Something else I appreciated was the fact that she was an older woman with a fuller body than I expected.  The only other professional dancers I’ve seen have been stick-thin ballerinas and, while I think stick-thin ballerinas are beautiful and talented as well, it’s sad that they reach a certain age when they need to stop doing what they love solely for aesthetic reasons.  I actually thought the kathak dancer’s age and body type leant depth and authenticity to the performance.  As I watched her, I kept thinking that she would make a great teacher (with her very expressive, commanding presence) but I guess that, in a sense, she already is one.

She threw in various environmentalist and feminist remarks throughout the performance, using her art to advocate for the greater good, which leads me to believe that she’s a pretty cool woman off the stage as well.  Most women here (and everywhere, really) are pretty cool.  If I were to major in something other than Education, I would probably choose Women’s Studies.  But instead, I will just learn about it on my own, by studying women firsthand and reading.  I saw a bunch of books in the library the other day about women’s rights in India.  I’d love to read some *when I have time*, which means possibly never :/

On Tuesday night, there was a puppet show in the auditorium that I heard was really impressive.  Shadow puppets, I believe.  I wasn’t able to attend because I was at another staff member’s house getting mehndi done for Independence Day.  It was such a fun girls’ gathering.  Speaking of cool women, I think all of the new female staff members and “hillside mothers” were there.  What is a “hillside mother,” you ask?  Enter:  Rachel and Cheryl.  Their husbands are employed by the school, but they are not.  Instead, they are true “homemakers” in every sense of the word, making sure their families are able to function in a completely foreign environment.  It’s difficult enough to cook and clean for myself here; I can’t imagine having to provide for the physical and emotional needs of my own children (and they have 3 each) at all times. 
The keynote speaker at the Independence Day celebration was a woman who made a humorous comment about how she wasn’t a mother, “thank goodness.”  It was funny and endearing, but at the same time it made me realize how much I would like to be a mother someday.  I think I’d be pretty darn good at it.  It helps to have such wonderful, motherly role models… my own mother, obviously, my aunts, my sister… and now the hillside mothers!  On the 7ish-hour train ride from Delhi to Dehra Dun, when we were on our way to Mussoorie for the first time, I sat in front of Rachel and one or two of her sons.  Whereas I was busy marveling at the new landscape and worrying about my own well-being, I could hear her patiently reading stories to her children and trying to make the transition as seamless as possible.  It was pretty impressive. 
Okay, I need to work my way back.  Mehdni.  It only took about ten minutes for the woman to freehand this intricate design:

And it cost less than $2. 
All the women at the gathering thought it looked like chocolate and we had to resist licking it off our fingers.  My brother, on the other hand, thought it looked like poop.  I told him that mehndi must be a Rorschach test in the form of body art.  My mom and sister don’t like the look of mehndi; therefore, they must be crazy! 
If you’re wondering how mehdni works, it just takes a couple hours to dry and then you can peel it off to reveal the semi-permanent stain.  My power went out before I peeled mine off, so I went to bed with it on and woke up in a sea of small henna specks.  I’m not sure how long the design stays on, but it’s been almost a week and it’s still very dark.  According to my kathak instructor, the secret to making the mehndi last longer is to apply a mixture of lime juice, sugar, and oil.  I don’t know if I’m ambitious enough to actually make the mixture, but it’s good to know such a concoction exists. 
As I was waiting for my mehndi to dry, I passed time by reading a book belonging to the hostess, all about humorous road signs in India.  I laughed out loud at this one.  Maybe I should show this to my students as an example of a really, really bad simile.  And personification.  And contrived rhyme.  And a run-on sentence:
(Yes, I realize I just identified a run-on sentence with a sentence fragment).

I have no idea why this picture is sideways; I took it horizontally.  To save you some neckache, it reads, "Curves are blind and sharp drive your vehicle like playing a harp."  Hmmm.  Should we hold onto the steering wheel with our fingertips?  Should we close our eyes and sway our bodies from side to side while we're driving, as if we're making beautiful music?  How many people actually know how to play a harp?  If I were to play one, I'd probably break the instrument or my own eardrums.  Let's just stick to what we know, shall we? I guess the sign is telling us to drive carefully, but I associate harps with angels and I associate angels with death (because I'm a glass-half-full kinda girl).  Basically, I do not want a bunch of harp-playing drivers on the road.
 We also attempted to learn more Hindi words to pass the time.  The only one that really stuck with me was “thank you”—a highly useful phrase.  I don’t know how to spell it, but it’s pronounced “don-yuh-vahd.”  The only way I can remember Hindi words is to connect them to English words that sound similar—or, in this case, Spanish words that sound similar.
Let's see if you can follow my train of thought, here.
Whenever I think about saying “thank you,” I think about saying, “Merry Christmas, Dan!” in Spanish, because “don-yuh-vahd” is a fusion of the Spanish pronunciation of “Dan” and “feliz navidad.”  To make it extra-formal and respectful, you add a “ji” at the end, as in, “Gee, I forgot to get Dan a Christmas present.” 
Talking takes a lot of brainpower. 
So does writing a blog entry.  I’m pooped (in the tired way, not the mehndi way) and I haven’t even touched on Independence Day yet.  I guess I’ll just use this post as a teaser and leave you with a


  1. Julia, I have so enjoyed reading about your time in India. Please continue to post intriging observations and thought-provoking vocabulary. I leave for Turkey tomorrow (Aug. 19). It seems like it has come too quickly in some aspects, and in others an eternity.
    Take care,

  2. Hi, Stacey! I'm so excited that your adventure is beginning so soon! I definitely understand your mixed emotions about the departure, though. I saw that you also created a blog and I'll be sure to follow it :) I'm very interested in what your impressions of Turkey will be! like! Enjoy!