Nothing is Familiar

original

Sunday morning.

Fortunately, here we have weekends free. Both Saturday and Sunday! Two days in which we don’t have to worry about scaling Everest to reach a Hindi lesson.

Yesterday I turned 18. I didn’t even realize it! My friends ordered pizza (school food is acceptable, but it’s always institutional cooking and you get sick of it very soon).

I got birthday wishes, cards, and sweet thoughts, a cake! I didn’t expect more. Serenely I celebrated this new achievement, even though here being 18 doesn’t mean anything, the rules are the same for all.

Yesterday was also the evening of the “Homecoming dance”. Nothing particularly elegant, as I might have expected after all the films I’ve seen set in American high schools. Just music, and girls going crazy in the hopes that some one of the VERY FEW boys comes out of his state of imbecility and notices the wagging butts.

“The boys here have a different culture, if they don’t know you, they’ll never come dance with you,” explains a girl. “Oh, great,” I think. Between Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Americans, and a Russian, not even one will try??

Like yesterday morning, today I slipped out of bed more out of boredom than anything else. The monsoon makes me sleepy, and the more I sprawl on sofas and chairs, trying to finish my assigned reading, the more I fall asleep! As in hotels, meals have set times, and we always end up waiting anxiously for noon, the lunch hour, because we slept through breakfast.

I’m already starting to find things that comfort me, that make me feel at home! Like the coffee in the morning, which is very sweet and, even though at home I drink it black and bitter, I gulp down two big cups with great satisfaction.

We go down for lunch and we have to run to get away from a horde of monkeys. The hyper-religious pseudo-anorexic* who claims to love animals had had a “who laughs first” contest earlier with one of these monkeys, through the glass window in our dorm. Everyone told her over and over again that they’re aggressive and often have rabies, so you should NOT look them in the eyes! But she never imagined that the monkey would remember her! “Maybe now you’ll think again when you say they’re not our ancestors?” was my reaction.

The yellow and greenish narrow hallways of the girls’ dorms remind me of an insane asylum. Different cultures, nationalities, origins, and life histories are brought together in a single reality, feminine adolescence compressed into a building. Pre-menstrual sress, shrill yells, laughs, and cries, sentimental dissatisfactions and satisfactions, trying on and lending clothes, sharing mirrors, compliments and advice, secrets and gossip… a year-long pyjama party!

August 15th is India’s independence day. The school advises us to wear Indian clothes or else our own native costumes. My mother had not reacted well to the idea of a Valentino as my national dress, so now I’m screwed and without an appropriate outfit, while my roommate wraps herself in fantastic silk and says “I look like an aunty!” – she puts her hands together and bows her head – “NAMASTEEE!!!” in a tone obviously meant to make fun of some horrible Indian aunty.**

It’s raining, everything is green and gray. Only my orange raincoat stands out. The gray lasts so long that you don’t even remember what the sun looks like! It seems as if the only reality is this one: put on damp clothing in the morning, dry yourself with a towel that is never really dry. See your hair take on strange forms, curves it never had before.

Nothing is familiar, nothing reminds you of home. And it’s exactly in places like this that the most abstruse things come to mind, and you spend the rest of the day asking yourself why your thoughts took you there…

MomComm: We parents, too, are deeply grateful to NOT have to deal with school on Saturdays anymore!

*NB: Ross assures me that she and this girl actually like each other a lot, although they argue all the time!

** Calling someone aunty in India does not necessarily mean they’re related to you.

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