At long last, I have arrived at St. Anselm’s Senior Secondary School in Rajasthan, India. To start up this series of posts, let’s back up and figure out exactly how I got here:
St. Anselm’s Sr. Secondary School is a school run by the Order of the Blessed Sacraments. A priest at my home parish from India belongs to this order. When he joined my family for Thanksgiving dinner this past year, he invited both my brother and I to make this very trip. My brother was unable to make it but, well, here I am! It was inevitable, as soon as he asked that I wanted to go. With some planning and two very understanding and supportive parents, I started my journey on the 27th of June.
After three days of traveling, I can, without shame, tell you how exhausted I am! There is a 10 and ½ hour time difference here from home so I actually lost a full day while traveling. When I arrived at the church where I am staying and got settled, I went right to sleep and slept for a good five hours. I think the priests here may have been surprised at how long I slept. One apologized to me for all the noise that was made in the kitchen with which I share a wall and was astonished to hear me say that I had had no idea and was so tired that I slept right through it!
I arrived at the domestic airport in Ahmedabad early this morning after being awake for an inordinate amount of time. That was followed by a three hour drive where the only thing I wanted to do was look out the window and watch everything going on around me. First of all, just like in Europe, here you drive on the left side of the road. The first thing that I noticed were these three wheeled small vehicles, called autos here. They, and your average American car miniaturized are used as taxis in India. Most of them don’t have mirrors on them so the bumpers read, ‘Horn please’, and you honk your horn to announce your presence as you pass them. One thing I was surprised about is the number of motorcycles here. I know we passed hundreds in the course of our three hour drive! I think the drivers are just in practice of honking because even though the motorcycles have mirrors, they still get honked at. There is also no such thing as lane sanctity. The lines painted on some of the roads might as well be decorative for all the drivers pay attention to them. We often were driving down the middle of the line and passing other cars with inches to spare! The first few times alarmed me but then I got acclimated to the pace of driving here. The roads are shared by many different things. Not only are there autos, cars, and motorcycles, but there are bikes, pedestrians, trucks and even cows!
Another fantastic thing happened along the drive: I saw a camel! In fact, I saw several camels being used like mules to pull carts. A camel! Another exciting event was my first real meal in India. I had samosa which is like a cooked crepe. I also had mimosa (?) which seems to be a popular dish. It is a kind of chili/curry concoction wrapped and friend. It was yellow and green! It also came with an absolutely yummy sauce which was like a sweet and sour sauce. Father Shoji was kind enough to order jelly sandwiches in case something failed to agree with my stomach.
It was here that I found another culture shock. In India, the left hand is considered unclean because it is most often used in less than hygienic ways. As such, you don’t reach for things with your left hand, you don’t have your dominant utensil in your left hand nor do you bring your napkin to your lips with your left hand. For a left handed person such as myself, it is going to take getting used to. I am having to relearn how to eat using only my right hand where all my life I have used my left as my dominant eating hand! For all you right handed people, try holding the fork in your left hand and having to keep your right hand on your lap at your next meal. It is much harder than you think!
I just arrived at the school for my first day where there is internet. Please leave any comments or questions you may have. I am trying to learn as much as I can and I’d love additional ideas for questions!