Yesterday I bid a fond farewell to Ken, who alas has to return to NYC and his work schedule. I think it is safe to say that Ken was genuinely surprised (and at times quite unsettled) by the chaos of India, but after this trial by fire it is also true that he will not be so shocked again. The next time (if there is a next time) will be much easier to deal with. Ken says he would like to come back, but only time will tell. India is the kind of place that works on the mind not only while here but in reflection after the fact. Ken will need some time to become either further intrigued or suffer bouts of PTSD about his trip here, and those feelings will determine whether he decides to come back one day. As I have said before many times, I always discourage people from coming to India if they have less than a month to spend, because one needs an initial adjustment period before one can see the wonder and beauty and cultural interest behind the disorienting chaos. Of course it was a great safety to Ken that I was here and traveling with him, as it shielded him from some of the uncertainty. And I was really happy that Ken was here as well. Beyond the fact that we are friends and I think that Ken is a really great guy, showing him around (even as we saw things that were new to me) allowed me a unique perspective. Being able to see Ken’s reactions (as well as judging my own) gave me a nice bridge view into past and present, and an awareness of both that is not often able to be experienced simultaneously. Being a guide and negotiating the experiences and daily logistics of this trip allowed me to hone a few skills that are less used when one is alone.
At the moment, I am having a little difficulty determining what to do. I am staying in my friend Sivan’s home, and although she has been very gracious and welcoming, I feel like it is not my space. Call me Virginia (if you must), but I feel I need a room of my own. I need a quiet space to be and work with few distractions. Nothing fancy or large, but simple and ordered. The awkwardness of living in someone else’s space is getting to me a little. That said, I feel that I should probably secure at least a modicum of work before committing to a lease or long term renting. It is a big advantage not to be paying rent right now and I am very grateful to my friends for offering me a bed in their homes. Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and get a little defensible space of my own. My job search and writing are both feeling a little scattered. It is funny that in (most) of the time of my traveling, I didn’t feel so much in need of this, as I always knew I would be moving on sooner or later, and never felt too attached to any place or space. Now having decided to make a go of it here in one place, for an open ended length of time, I feel a desire to have a small mooring. Nothing major, but something to tether to as I thrust myself into New York and its life, in the city I hope to call home.
While in Mexico City, I joined an online dating site that is popular there, duly creating my profile and adding pictures and information. Since I was in Mexico, I obviously wrote the entire thing in Spanish. Upon returning to the US (since this site is also popular here), I changed the location information to place my profile in Los Angeles. I didn’t bother to change the profile text because I was pretty sure that people are all shallow and only look at the pictures anyway (at least at first). Of course I was wrong, people are very interested in the text of the ads. And many of them seem to think (despite the pictures) that I am in fact Latino. I get other Latinos writing to me in Spanish or white guys telling me how much they are “into” Latinos like me.
Little do they know that my enchilada is made of matzah.
And the guys that contact me are different than the ones that used to contact me here when my profile was in English. Interesting, I think I will leave it in Spanish for a while longer.
One of the less pleasant aspects of Mexico City is the super loose concept of planning among the residents. On three separate occasions in the past 3 days I have had people let (what I thought was) an appointment drag on so many hours after it was originally planned as to de facto cancel it. “Let’s meet at 8” Then at 7:30 a call, “I’m across town still. Let’s meet at 10.” And then at 9:30 “Can we make it 11?”
And I thought LA was bad about being late. The thing one has to do here is act as if you never made plans at all. Then if anything happens, it is total spontaneity. I realize this is one of those things that is strongly ingrained in me, and is a part of my culture, but I still think it is rude.
I can’t believe this. Several times since I have been back, while attempting to cross the street, cars have stopped and waved kindly at me to cross. This is freaky (and very nice)! In India (and LA for that matter) they would speed up and aim for pedestrians with a certain relish signified by a crazed stare and a slight drool from the corner of their mouths.
Yesterday I walked to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market with M&K and the kids.
I’ve been to street markets in the States, lots of times before. I’ve been to this particular market in Berkeley before. But I was astounded by just about everything this time. My many months away and many market experiences in Asia could not be more different from a sensory perspective.
Take for example the two images below. The first is from the (several hundred years) old vegetable market in the city of Madurai. The second is from Berkeley. On the left, I distinctly remember the following features: chaos, shouting, animals milling about, dirt garbage and dung everywhere, a crazy stink, a cool sense of scale, an ad hoc approach to everything. On the right: sterile environment, neatly aligned vendors, lots of perfectly safe to eat samples of cut fruit, an incredible sense of calm and quiet. It all seemed so strange.