Saturday, May 24, 2014


Today was a much needed day off. It's 6:30pm here and things are winding down. The sun is already set (it sets early because it rises so early) and we are catching up on some reading before our first class tomorrow.

This morning was a lazy morning for me. I got up early and showered, and then was able to get in some pleasure-reading for the first time since grad school started last August! I'm currently reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was a birthday gift from McCaila back in April and I am just now having a chance to start it. It was really nice to lounge on the bed reading with the bedroom flanked in sunlight. With the AC on, haha. We are so, so lucky to have AC in our apartments.

Around 1 we set out to see one of the biggest tourist-y things in Calcutta, the Victoria Memorial Hall and Gardens. Built in 1901 in memory of Queen Victoria, the hall is enormous and sometimes referred to as the "mini Taj Mahal". It's a "memorial and period museum of medieval and modern Indian history". The inside was beautiful, no photos allowed, but was a big museum of Indian history, indigenous tribes and British colonization. It actually felt a bit strange to be there.

After we walked through the museum, we went out to the gardens. A young girl came up to me, smiled and asked to have her photo taken with me. I said yes, asked her her name, shook her hand, etc. I told her that I loved her shirt, and she spoke English well and thanked me very politely. I've decided that until I have time to process things in class and debrief, I'm not going to refuse a photo with a child. It's not me, and right now trying to balance everything is just... I've decided to just go with my gut. She was so sweet, and I love all children.

After that though, it was like all hell broke loose. Every time we rounded a corner, a new family was turning to me and pointing and then gathering around me saying, "foto, foto!" It was a bit overwhelming. I could have said, "No, thanks" but they all seemed so excited to see me, and so smiley, and I naturally just smile back, and most of them were so polite. I didn't mind when it was women, children, or families.

But when it was just guys/men... that was a little weirder for me. Look at this awkward photo (Phillip took it with my camera while another guy took one with his):

To me, it felt like they were more excited to see little old, sweaty me than this beautiful old historical building/gardens that they came to see. It looks like they're posing next to a statue or something.'s me.

There were also a ridiculous amount of people who just snapped photos of me as I walked by, or who posed a few feet in front of me (and Phillip, Beth and Muxuan) and took the photo so that we were in the background. I'm starting to feel like I am here and on display...Kris and I were saying the other day that we feel like it's a parade when we walk down the street. It's overwhelming a little bit, and sometimes I want to stay at home rather than be the spectacle that I feel I am when I am just walking down the street.

I took some other photos while we walked around the gardens:

After we left the Gardens we were walking along the sidewalk and there was a tour group of middle school students. One of them said Hi to me and we started chatting about where he was from (Agra, where the Taj Mahal is) and where I'm from. At first he thought I was from the UK, but then when I said America he said, "Oh WOOW! Hey! Guys! She's an American!" Then the rest of the group was with me and the chatting continued. He really seemed like such a sweet kid, so polite and just excited to talk to me. So I asked if I could take their picture. I thought they were freaking adorable:
Just a group of middle school boys, excited to be talking to an older girl! Hehe. The one who originally approached me is the one with the white sunglasses. They were a really sweet group of kids.

Afterwards we explored some more and ran some errands, came home and have been reading up for tomorrow's first class.

Take care & Much love.


Toni Lupro said...

Oh God, that one photo *is* awkward

Toni Lupro said...

Like they're all trying to look so tough or something?

Unknown said...

I really liked the photo of the young boys. They look so happy just to be living. I can't imagine how your head is spinning with all of these photo requests. When I lived in South Africa and traveled in Egypt, I would get many marriage requests. Men would ask how many cows for me. Having someone take your photo, though, is so different because it's like someone has a piece of you forever, you know? You're out there in the world. I'm enjoying reading about your continued adventures! -Susanne

Unknown said...

Oh, I forgot to say...
I LOVED The Namesake. You will have to see the movie when you finish. Jhumpa Lahiri went to Barnard and I remember meeting her as a freshman in 2003. It is one of my favorite all-time reads - makes me cry every time. - Susanne

Tricia Dolgin said...

I can remember this happening to me in China. At first I also found it awkward and bit scary but you seem to be handling it with total grace.

Mc said...

Glad you're getting some downtime over there too :)