I come from a place, a family, a community of people who have not seen the world and believe so much of the horrible things they read and see about the place I have become so familiar with in these past two months. These horrible things, however, were not kept to peoples' minds, but vocalized to me as I prepared to leave and ruined my plan of coming with no expectations.
Culture shock here is intense. So much that was familiar to me at home was not here and the negativity thrown at me before I left was all that was coming to my thoughts. I spent a lot of my first month here wanting to just stay in my new bedroom, that doesn't and will probably never feel like mine, and avoid the scary place I had been warned about. I ultimately gathered up the courage to step out and see my home for the next 7 months, but not without caution and preconceived ideas of what it would be like.
Almost everything people had warned me about, was absolutely false.
I didn't expect this to be something that would mess with my head as much as it did, but here we are. As I was still trying to come to terms with being here, I couldn't bring myself to answer all the questions from people back home about how I was doing. I didn't want to be honest and tell them that I have a bitterness towards them for telling me all these horrible things about India as a whole when this place doesn't even have a national language because it's so vast and diverse. I didn't want to tell them that culture shock, for me, was a demon that I had to figure out how to exile from myself when most of them have never lived in a place other than the United States and have only been tourists in other countries. I didn't want to explain to them how hard it is to go through a day with little knowledge of the local languages when most of them have a hard time understanding someone speaking English with a slight accent. I wasn't ready to explain these things to people who would have no concept of understanding them when I was just beginning to understand them myself.
I didn't, and honestly still don't, want to be the "expert" for people back home on India and living abroad. Yes, I live here, I talk with locals, I get around via rickshaw, I know basic Hindi (even though the language here is Marathi), and I can cross the street without holding someone's hand, but my experience is not universal and it's not something I want people to see just yet. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions with not all of it being fine and dandy. So much has happened, but there is so little I want to share about this experience until I've come to terms with it myself.
I wish this experience was easy to explain and the words would just flow out of me into blog posts so you all could be right here with me, but it just doesn't seem to be the case right now and I hope you all understand.
You can step out of the Birkenstocks I wear everyday, which are currently soggy from the abnormally long monsoon season this year, and step back into whatever you're most comfortable in.
I love and miss all of you dearly, but this is something I have to experience on my own for now.