Saying that I experienced a bit of culture shock on our first day in India would be a rash understatement. The bus ride from the airport to our hotel was relatively short, and I spent it flipping out about the fact that we finally made it to our destination (It’s been a whole day and I still haven’t fully processed it). One of the first things I noticed was a stray dog wandering around the streets of Delhi, trudging through the dense air. Later in the morning, after several hours of sleep, we took a bus to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. There we climbed one of the towers and looked down at Old Delhi. Afterwards, we all took a ride through the bustling city streets, in bicycle-driven two-seated carts called rickshaws. If I had been walking through the endlessly busy avenues I probably would have been scared out of my mind trying to navigate around the seemingly infinite stream of cars and motorbikes, but the rickshaw driver maneuvered the vehicle with an expertise that put mine and Izzy’s minds at rest. One would expect such a hectic traffic pattern, if you could even call it that, to produce a massive amount of hourly accidents but our commute went without a hitch.
After our rickshaw rides we went to a delicious lunch. Once our stomachs were comfortably stuffed with spicy, delicious Indian food, we set off to shop. In the marketplace we joined the cultural practice of haggling prices down until you think you’re getting a good deal. However, as most chaperones warned us, you never really get one. I’d say that going into this first day with an open mind was definitely a wise choice because it allowed me to begin to settle into an entirely different way of living.
It has only been one day and it has been incredible. Jama Masjid was beautiful and very hot. When we entered the mosque the women were asked to wear large cloth robes over our traditional Indian clothes. The architecture was so beautiful that I did not even mind the heat.
I doubt I will ever forget our first rickshaw ride. It was like a rollercoaster but without seatbelts. And yet, it felt safe. During the ride Param and I talked about how it felt to finally be in India. I am here after four-years of anticipation, but nothing compares to Param, who has been waiting all his life. Both of us agreed that we felt at home here. I think what has surprised my most about India is the fact that I am not feeling any culture shock. The methodical chaos created by the high population, air quality, and intense atmosphere feel perfectly natural. I feel so at home that sometimes I forget that I’m in a foreign country. The only thing that is a struggle is seeing the animals. Sweet looking stray dogs are everywhere and it is hard not to reach out and give them love. Other than that, being here has been a really positive experience. And, nothing beats the quality of the chai.