Monday, November 12

wherever you go

These past few days have been some excellent ones as far as being full of typical Delhi experiences!

As you know, i'm really enjoying getting all situated with my surroundings. Before you know it, i'll be driving my little scooty to Nandlal slum and taking Hindi lessons from a housewife. (okay, i'm not that comfy here yet, but i'd love to be!) I really love it when I find myself adjusted. Even if it's just when I know which direction to take the metro. Small victories, people.

These last three days have been like that.

On Friday night, after our PMI seminar, a group of my friends was going out to see a concert by Aradhna. They invited me, saying that it was a Hindi Christian worship band. I thought it sounded like a fun outing, although I don't like concerts very well. So six of us packed up to take the half hour trip downtown, found two willing auto-rickshaws, and tuk-tukkkked our way through the smog and the traffic and the diwali firecrackers (the holiday is on tuesday and the lack of fire code is a real hazard, and a frightening one!) to Dilli Haat market where the concert was being held in an open-air amphitheater. On the drive, there was a strip of shops along the highway that suddenly reminded me very much of Dallas - specifically the East side of highway 75 to the North of parker road. Similarly, as i walked into the amphitheater, i noticed that about 1/4 of the concert spectators were white, and over half of that population were gloriously barefooted and dreadlocked - the whole atmosphere was so reminiscent of a small Ohio town called Yellow Springs which is dear to my heart. These home-reminiscent experiences influenced the atmosphere of my evening, but not with the dominantly homesick flavor i thought that they might overlay. Instead of longing, i felt peace. i felt home in the midst of my travels. i felt centered. i love that wherever you go, you can find the same things. i love that wherever you go, you encounter the same people.
 Dilli Haat is an especially foreign-dominated area of Delhi which attracts the more hardcore tourists, as it has a wide variety of really great and really Indian trinket and jewelry shops; but more than that, when i looked up at the band, i saw they were predominately white guys, too! There were two playing western instruments, and one singing in perfectly enchanting, perfectly pronounced Hindi as he passionately plucked away at his enormous sitar. The performance was moving and heartfelt, and the beauty in the technicality of the music inspired my soul. I love that though in different places worship sounds different, wherever you go worship feels the same.
I closed my eyes as i sat on the ground next to my dear new friends, and let the music surround me. I love times that you can really be in a moment like that, times you can form an intentional memory based on a truly moving experience. i love that wherever you go, beautiful things happen.

The next day, my task was to go and find gifts for our guests from Great Britain who have been hosting an Evolution vs Creation seminar in PMI this weekend. After some successful and budget-friendly shopping at a strip of trinket markets called Janpath, Praise and I hopped in the car with two PMI employees, Sumit and Shivanshu, and drove back in a PMI-ish direction. As usual, though, we got stuck in traffic, and as we all started talking we realized that we were all starving. Sumit had this place in mind, but he was worried that i wouldn't be able to handle it. I waved away his uncertainties and ordered Shivanshu to take us there, because i could tell they were all really excited about it. We got there after much winding and walking through a building that looked like it was probably a hotel of some sort, and i stared up at a menu entirely in some North Indian language - there wasn't even a Hindi translation anywhere, let alone English! I shrugged, glanced, and nodded at Sumit, who promptly ordered us four all-you-can-eat meals for 60 rupees ($1.20) per person.  Here's what came to the table: Papard - basically a huge round crunchy chip made of lentils; Roti - a soft, round, thick wheat tortilla-like bread; Aloo - potatoes and masala; Chana (or beans of some sort, i'm not sure) - beans and/or chick peas with chiles in a sauce; Sweet Dal - lentils boiled, mashed, and sweetened; and Subji - assorted vegetables, similar on that day to sourkrout. There was also rice available, and some fermented mango chutney with whole pickled lemons.
Now, all of that sounds very exotic and frightening, i know. But if you get past the fact that it's not American, you can enjoy that it is delicious. I love that wherever you go, people have comfort foods. Praise couldn't get over it. She couldn't stop saying how delighted she was with the whole place. The two guys couldn't stop eating! I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. The potatoes were a little too spicy for me, and the dal a little too sweet, but I gobbled everything else. :) At the end of our meal, we ordered something like citrus yogurt or lemon pudding which was had perfect cooling effect on all the heat i had going on in my mouth! Honestly, whenever I eat true Indian food, instead of feeling full and revived, i usually feel a little lightheaded from all the different spices - haha. It passes, but i always just cross my fingers and hope for the best as my body deals with the aftermath. And I am getting more and more accustomed to it, i can already tell.

Then, today. After church a large group of the girls set out to go to a choral competition put on by an association which celebrates Northeast Indian culture. Many of our church members are from the Northeast, and so they were particularly excited to be around so many people from their home. We had some traditional Northeast food at the gathering before going into the competition, and I'll be honest, this stuff, i did not like. There was a smell coming from something that was turning my stomach before i could even get to the plain rice and dal, and though there was beef on my plate for the first time in forever, it was indistinguishable as meat -- i tried not to be too obvious as i eyed it with caution. That whole plate was a flop in my book, but there was an interesting and enjoyable masala-filled salad that caught my attention. After we sat down to watch the show, my friend Jesse busted out this dried and spiced shredded beef that she'd just bought downstairs. Everyone was warning me about how hot it was and advising me not to eat it, but it looked so dang good! I decided to give it a try. Friends, i am proud to say that i loved it! It was something like beef jerky with some ginger and a good amount of heat. I kept wanting more -- after the program i went down and bought some for myself. The Indians seemed a little shocked, but i think in at least a small way, they were proud of me. At least, i like to imagine they were...
I love that wherever you go people are proud of their upbringing, and i love the way that wherever you go, sweet pieces of home make people nostalgic and wide-eyed messes.

We're just wired to be people; love-needing, truth-seeking, passionate, hope-hollow, homesick,  community-hungry people:
you'll find that wherever you go.

Love from Delhi,
Julie [wherever she goes.]

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