*Tch*

Sophia Alfaro - India


October 17, 2018

*Tch* Szo-Fi-Yahh.

That’s the sound of whenever my host mom is disappointed or annoyed in
something I did or didn’t do.
One thing that I’ve loved about my host family is how immediately welcoming
they are. How accepting they were and how respectful it was of them to
allow me to serve myself however much food I want or didn’t want, and to
not force me to eat foods that I didn’t particularly enjoy eating.
Everything that I’ve already said stands true to this day, a little over a
month since I moved into their home. I know that it will continue this way,
too, but it reminds me of something my team leader told me the first week
the fellows all moved into their respective host family’s homes. He said
that whenever we asked a question, his mind worried. I retorted that he
should legitimately worry a few weeks in, once masks are dropped. When the
façade of “we’re a suitable host family for this program because..” fades.
This conversation reminds me of whenever we were asked as a cohort how we
feel about our new families, with a few weeks of getting to know them. I’ve
always said that I’m getting accustomed to the whole “family” thing. I
can’t remember the last time I’ve felt like a part of a real, intimate and
blood-bound family. It’s been so long that that kind of stuff doesn’t even
matter to me anymore. And that’s what makes this so hard for me.
For the first week of my arrival, while my host family was welcoming, it
was as if we were all walking on egg shells. The day I came and unpacked my
things, my host mom, Megha, told me that they will put my luggage up “after
some time”. Later that day I was told that my host dad, Tushar, had signed
the family up for hosting a fellow without telling them.
To their knowledge before this, they were going to focus on their daughter,
Aditi, so that she could do well on her 12th year exams (major business in
India). Being told this on my first day there made me feel unwanted. But
the way they were treating me made me feel… open-minded, I guess. The
majority of the family didn’t want to host. But one person changed that for
everyone. Two people, if you include Tushar.
I have been called a “perfect Indian girl” by Megha, and have been praised
for how obedient I am. They also have a running joke that whenever I
compliment them or do something sweet, I’m “buttering and buttering and
buttering” aka being a brown nose/kiss ass. I’m not by the way— it comes
naturally, lol. But lately I feel like they’ve become too used to my
obedience and my want to make them happy.
Lately I feel like a servant.
Megha no longer takes no as easily as before, asking me questions like
“why” and scolding me or giving me a look for my answers.
Aji (grandma in Marathi) calls out “So-piya” (her attempt at saying my
name) and has me bring her hot water, salt, food, etc.
I am asked to bring Tushar his food every dinner, which usually consists of
2-4 trips back and forth from the kitchen to his room or the living room.
Megha makes me cut the vegetables for dinner because I willingly did it
ONCE.
Aditya (host brother) drank a bottle of juice that I bought for myself
And Aditi has me do little favors for her such as write her project or
grate the cabbage so that she (and I, but I don’t care as much) has a
tasteful lunch the next day.
These last few weeks have been draining with my host family. I’m naturally
tired from the life I’ve picked up of constantly having to raise my voice
at school and practice and walking/exercising and just being in an
environment where the air you breathe is solely emissions from rickshaws
and two-wheelers and cars and busses. So coming home and being asked to do
this and that, to be this and this, is hard. One thing I’m realizing now is
that I’m becoming better at saying no. And this is something I so
desperately have needed to work on. Why do you think I come across as
obedient?
I’m making this EXTENSIVE post because I’m allowed to complain. I shouldn’t
be afraid of doing so, either.
I’m also making this post because I was so effing frustrated with my host
mom this evening. Today was just one thing after the next, and I almost
lost my shit. But I didn’t. What almost sent me over was when she sent me
to pick something up across the street. I was alone, and trying to explain
to the employees at the shop with my limited hindi what I was there to get.
After a minute and seeing that this was going no where, I called her. I
figured that I was at the wrong shop, and after being passed the phone to
Aditi, I realized on my own where I was supposed to go in the first place.
I was pissed. I ended the phone call with “she should have just said the
snack shop. Ok. Bye.” When I got to the shop I decided I was going to get
myself a Maaza mango drink and put it on their tab (I’ve been given
permission to do so in the past but never planned on doing that. I have
plans to pay for the food myself if I ever go on my own.) For me, this was
getting back at Megha for making me upset and do more for her than I
already have. After getting what she needed and leaving the shop, I opened
up my bottle of Maaza and crossed the street as if I didn’t have a will to
live— aka walking diagonally in a four way intersection, in India. And I
felt like a fucking badass. I came to my senses— yeah, I’m upset. Yes, I’m
frustrated. So what? What am I going to do? Sit in my emotions or let them
go? Accept the fact that my situation isn’t perfect or have the facts of
the case effect me negatively?…
The reason why I’m being treated this way now is because I am seen as one
of them. Megha has called and made me her daughter. I’m a part of this
family now, and so the expectations for me are the same as for everyone
else under this roof. It’s something I’ll learn to adapt to, to adjust for,
and it’s just another experience to learn from. With this trip there will
be many highs, many lows, and many day-to-day neutrals. I’m at a low right
now, but that’s RIGHT NOW. And I’m okay with this.

Today I was at the end of my string. It’s a good thing I like seeing
though… which coincidentally, I’m doing right now.

Sophia Alfaro