Disclaimer: This blog post has more to do with being an American in India and less to do with the software development I’ve been doing. As an update on that, I did my first official git push yesterday, which included a preliminary module to quiz students on arithmetic facts.
It seems really hard to believe that less than two weeks ago I was sitting in Pittsburgh, having a cheeseburger (with American cheese), worried about how I was going to have enough time to pack everything. It seems like a lot more time must have passed–but this always happens to me when I’m in a new place, so I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve learned a lot about India. I’ve learned more or less how the government is structured, how the school system works, and the general geography (both according to a proper map, and people from various parts of the country). I’ve even picked up the Indian sideways head nod, which I’ve found myself unconsciously doing in conversation.
When I started telling people that I would spend my summer living in India, I got a lot of mixed reactions. It was late December, and India had recently caught a lot of bad international press. Some people told me it would certainly be an adventure of a lifetime, others told me that I would certainly get sick from the water, and others told me it was certainly not safe for me, as a woman, to go there. If none of that got to me, I would surely get hurt and/or killed in a car accident. I must say, thus far the only thing that has made me feel sick is American Airlines food, and short of two questionable auto rides, I have not felt in danger. I don’t find myself anymore ill at ease riding in cars here than I do driving into Boston.
My time here (however short it’s been so far) has taught me nearly as much about the US as it has about India. I had traveled a decent amount with my parents when I was younger, but as I got older and busier, I didn’t leave the country (with the exception of Quebec) for seven years. Looking in from the outside, I can’t help but feel that I have lived most of my life in bubble-wrap. I grew up wrapped in fire retardant blankets and buckled into car seats in cars with side-curtain airbags. I was fed milk so pasteurized that I can’t drink milk here unless it’s been boiled. I wore helmets when sledding, biking, scootering, skiing, skating, rollerblading, and horseback riding. My coffee cups would warn me in eight places that the hot tea I had just ordered, would be in fact, extremely hot. I grew up thinking that America was about the safest place you could be, but being here, it seems more sterile than anything else.
Yes we have helmets for every activity imaginable, but we also have people who come into elementary schools (or high schools, or colleges, or movie theaters, for that matter) and shoot people. Is that really any safer? People here live every day without wearing a seatbelt (sorry Mom, but I have yet to be in a vehicle that has one for me), and without signing waivers or wearing helmets. I realize India has its fair share of problems—like any country does, but one thing I really like here is that people seem much more reasonable. If something’s dumb, then you don’t do it (as opposed to doing it, and suing as recourse). If you need to take little time off to visit family, do it and make up the work later. A lot of people were concerned that I would somehow be in terrible danger if I left my bubble-wrapped world, but I don’t think I’ve been this relaxed and at ease in a long time. I realize that I haven’t spent lots of time here yet, so perhaps I’m not an especially authoritative source, but I highly encourage everyone reading this to take the chance to live outside their comfort zone if they are able, and to see that not everything not wrapped in bubble-wrap will break.
(image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubble-wrap_closeup.JPG)