As I was typing in the title of this blog post, I was about to I’ve been to Jaipur once before, but only for a day seeing 1-2 touristy sites, so I rewrote it as “Second Impressions.” My second impressions, while somewhat similar to my first ones, are quite different, and I have mixed feelings about them. More on those later.
I arrived in Jaipur a few days ago and settled in with my host family, in addition to looking around the city just a little bit and taking placement tests at the language institute with my fellow students. My host family is great. There’s the resourceful and king Aunty-ji, who speaks only a bit of English and mostly Hindi, so we can practice our Hindi with her. As I found out last night, she’s also a fierce carom player (carom is a type of Indian board game). She’s a great resource and has been telling us about the places to see in the city; also, being a native of Jaipur, she can tell me whether or not I’m getting ripped-off on the prices of my purchases, and was able to reassure me that the salwar set (a type of Indian clothes) I bought were a fair price. Uncle-ji was an executive chef at a bunch of restaurants in top-notch hotels, but recently switched jobs to work in the Indian government’s RTDC. Uncle-ji tells long stories, including one of how he’s been in a battle with the Indian court system for 26 years, and another one on the first night, when he regaled us with a tale of his love for his home country and why it’s important for us to preserve our Indian culture. (I knew I would get one of these speeches before my time in Jaipur was up). They have two girls, a younger one named Sidditha (or her pet name Nanu) who likes to play pranks on people (she once threw someone’s expensive slippers into the Rajasthani deserts) disdains studying and likes playing sports, and an older one named Thanuska who intends to become a neurosurgeon some day, also plays a fierce game of carom, and makes funny faces when she’s amused or pleased or flabbergasted. They speak English perfectly fine, and therefore we’re able to have many relaxing and fun conversations about random things. The banter between the two sisters is honestly hilariously entertaining. Just a lot of good-hearted teasing. Oh, and before I forget, they have a Doberman named Bravo who sometimes just won’t stop barking.I love most dogs, but Dobermans are a wee bit intimidating. I’m also staying here with another girl and two boys from the language program, and it’s great to have their company as well and someone to walk with to school.
There are some less-than-pleasant things to report upon. I guess I just realized now how fortunate (aka spoiled) whenever I’ve gone to India. I’ve never had to arrange transportation for myself by bargaining with an autorickshaw when I’m not too familiar with the proper prices (my relatives would always arrange a driver or they would do the bargaining for me), or had to handwash my own undergarments ( we always had a dhobi/washing woman who would take care of that), or converse with shopkeepers on the streetside in my broken Hindi and avoid giving away my confused expression when I’m totally clueless as to what they’re saying. I thought I at least had some experience with living in India, seeing as I’ve been there several times before, but I really don’t know anything at all. It’s a completely different experience living with a homestay and figuring things out on my own than living with my grandparents. My bumbling experience shopping in Raja Park (a bustling busy bazaar in Jaipur) was indicative of that. Although, I did meet a nice clothing store owner who spoke English well and was kindly trying to help me understand Hindi, and we had an interesting conversation in Hindi about how Chinese is more useful to learn than Hindi, because English is widely spoken in India, whereas it is not in China.
But hey, I guess this is the process of learning how to get by in a city in a different country in which you know only a little bit of the language. It’ just a bit frustrating, because I look Indian at first glance, so people become confused or irritated once they hear my poor Hindi and they realized I’m a foreigner. Hopefully that’ll become less of a problem as the summer goes on though. It made my sympathize a lot with the Spanish-speaking immigrants that I assist back home in the U.S. And they’re in a country where the majority of the population doesn’t even speak Spanish, unlike in India, where quite a few people speak English, so it’s 10x more difficult for them to manage in the U.S
I’ll end this post for now, and finish off with some pics of Jaipur:
^Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace)
Leadup to the Amber Fort
Shops at night