You can see photos from Terry’s explorations in India here.
I would never expect my experience in India to be this exciting yet meaningful.
It was not my first time to go to a foreign country alone, but it was my first time to visit a country that I had little knowledge of. On May 28th, I hopped onto the China Eastern flight to Delhi with anticipation and a little fear. However, when I arrived at the sparkling-new Indira Gandhi airport, my fear was gone. The minute I stepped outside the terminal, I did not see the famous Ambassador taxi, nor the samosa sellers; instead, I saw some latest version of Mercedes E-series and a Costa Cafe. I was a little relieved yet a little disappointed. I was relieved because the living situation in India was not as poor as I thought, and I was disappointed because I thought I would not live in an environment that is different from my life back in China. However, it was not until the next day when I knew that I should not judge a country by its airport.
My next destination was Palampur, a distant town located in Himachal Pradesh in northern India, and I had to spend a twelve hour train ride and four hour road trip to get there. On the way to Palampur, I could see the snow-caped Himalayas standing in the north like a natural barrier that separated India and Kashmir. The minute I arrived in Palampur, I realized that I was going to live in a community much different from my home. When I passed by the central bazaar (market) of Palampur, I saw cows lying in the middle of the streets and smelled the odor of Indian spices. My project village, Village Lohna, had a breathtaking view of both the Himalayas above and the rice field below. My host family lived at the foot of a hill, so I could see the tea plantation from my bedroom window.
I woke up at six everyday and had a warm cup of chai upstairs, then I had to climb over a hill and cross a river to reach the school where I taught computers and English. The morning fog and the snowy mountains made the trip even more joyful. For instance, I would walk in the fog where I could barely see the trees on the side,and a minute after I could see the Himalayas and the glaciers on the top. After spending two hours at a school and three hours at a daycare center, I walked back to the host family under either extreme sunshine or heavy rainfall.
My lunch was usually Basmati rice with peas and pickles. My host mother used her fingers to eat the dish, while I used spoon and fork. After lunch, I had to take the same path to the school to teach for another one and half hours. In the afternoon, I could see the villagers casually walking their cows and sheep on the road. After the classes, I usually laid on the balcony on the second floor and read books. It was the most relaxing moment of a day, since most of the time I simply felt asleep when I was reading. I did not mind the buzz of insects nor the sound of rainfall: I felt that I was part of the peaceful nature when I slept.
I had my dinner at eight thirty with my host family. My favorite dish was chapati with curry potatoes. We teared the chapati into slices and used the slice to grab the vegetable. Different from other parts of India, the dinner was served with a small bowl of special salty yoghurt. Since my host family are vegetarians, I did not have any meat or eggs for forty days. I thought it was impossible for me to become a vegetarian before I came to India, but my host’s excellent cooking skill turned me into a vegetarian, and I eventually lost almost 20 pounds after I left India.
Update 11/1/2011: Terry was interviewed in the October 28, 2011 edition of The Brandeis Hoot!