Thursday, March 3, 2016


Last week, my classmates and I started to realize we are halfway through our semester. While it feels like I just arrived, I have also been here long enough for it to start to feel like home. I finally have settled into a "routine" of classes, family dinners, tea, and weekend train rides to explore far away towns and ancient temples. In that routine there has been some extremely non- routine things as well, mainly the birth of a baby.

Kavya gave birth to a healthy baby girl two weeks ago! Life was very busy here, with even more family members coming to visit and everyone caring for baby and mother. Kavya and I became very close in the time that she stayed here, and she told me “Mike, you better be at the hospital the day my baby comes.” Being there waiting anxiously with soon to be grandparents and Kavya’s pacing husband was an intimate glimpse into their lives. It was not a situation I have even been in at home, and I think it will always pop into my head when I meet new babies. The look on everyone’s face when they pulled the curtain aside to give a peek of the clean baby girl is impossible to explain. Listening to Kavya say “Hey, hi!” to her baby through the window (she had to be in the ICU for a day after she was born due to some complications) was the most amazing sound. I never really understood parents when they talk about how it feels to see your baby for the first time, or why the hell Brenna wanted to be a midwife, but being in the hospital that day I got a little glimpse.

The host dad! 
About a week before the baby was born, we had a special religious ceremony to ensure a safe and painless delivery. I thought I would just sit in the corner and watch, but my host dad pulled in me in. As my host aunt put portu on my head, they laughed and said “Mike, you are part of the family now!”  Being part of an Indian family who welcomed a new member was an experience I’ll cherish. First of all, it was amazing to see how my host parents welcomed Kavya and her mother in for almost two months without batting an eye. The baby didn’t seem to even cause a disturbance. Rather than baby proofing the house and stockpiling toys and clothes and god knows what, life went on as they patiently waited. Bringing her home was an ordeal of course, but at the same time, the baby was simply laid in the bed next to Kavya with a blanket and everything continued, the same but so so different. After the pregnancy, Kavya’s mother and mother in law, and whatever aunties were in the house that day kept a constant vigil in the room with mom and baby. My host mom cooked for 7-10 people every night without a worry, relatives came to stay the night with a bag of flour, whiskey, or some oil to offset this cost (I assume). I forgot how tiny babies were, and that stupid wonderful feeling you get when you hold them. They were surprised I knew how to hold a baby “Even I don’t know how to hold her Mike” Kavya whispered to me one day. She seemed to care for her baby so naturally, I was glad to find out even she had moments of cluelessness. Babies terrify me. I’d say I don’t like babies, but I’ve never had a friend who had a baby until now. It was pretty exciting. We were very sad when Kavya left last week, but happy for her because it meant they were both healthy enough to go back to their hometown.

With the quiet house, I started to focus on how I missed a full house and my own family (whether it be five sisters or the house full of guys at PLU). For some reason, I fancied myself as a world traveler, and thought I wouldn’t get homesick. I thought since people go off in the army for years, they immigrate, they live as refugees, so I shouldn’t get homesick. My host family’s daughter, Divya, got married in December and moved to New Jersey. Every night they Skype her to say good morning. Some nights I hear her crying, talking rapidly in Telugu about how she misses them, misses India. My host parents tell me it makes them less lonely to have me here. They make me feel like I have a home. The other weekend, my host mom and some aunts spent two days preparing snacks to mail to her. I’m awaiting my own package of American snacks (mainly peanut butter). Though my homesicknesses isn't permanent and I can't compare it to Divya's, I do miss Washington. 

I find myself getting homesick for weird things like the nasty salty smell when the tide goes out, a rainy walk to class, an oatmeal packet for breakfast. I wish in the evenings I was watching Parks and Rec or Office reruns with my sisters rather than the really awful Telugu series my host family watches. At forst I thought I’d use it as language practice. By now I have developed an unhealthy hatred for all the underdeveloped characters and sad plot line to use this as a learning opportunity. , so I sit and make highly offensive and inappropriate dialouges for what I wish they were saying and incorportate the few Telugu words I can decipher.

My host family makes me feel at home and homesick at the same time. There’s nothing like getting ill to make you miss your mother and sisters. After a trip to Hampi (where I found the real dirtbags, more in next blog post!) I had a little food poisoning, and my host parents ensured I was well taken care of with a highly specific regimen of how to get better. 
“Lay on the couch so we can watch you Mike!!” “Now eat these because vomiting on an empty stomach leads to dehydration" “Now sit for 10 minutes. Drink some water” “Now sleep for  two hours” “Ok now eat some curd rice with salt” me: *vomits* “Ok now eat the rest of the curd rice slowly” “Take this tablet” “Sit for 1 hour, then go to bed.” Curd rice is what it sounds like; a delicious combination of curdled milk and rice, with a little salt sprinkled on top. Try it next time you feel like vomiting.

Hampi sneak peak 

I'm going to miss this food 

It was different than how I would get better at home, but it worked. When I got back from Hampi, walking up to the doorway felt welcoming. It was a relieving feeling, like I was actually home from a trip. While I’m homesick for Washington, I also know in just a few months I will be homesick for afternoon chai, samosas, my host parents, India Time, this bathroom I have to myself, the neighbors’ 11pm music jams, hitching motorbike rides on campus, even curd rice. I know I will miss the family I made here and the amazing friends I can hop on a train with, eat ice cream at all times with (Enrique), and take way too full rickshaws with to unsure addresses. So I will "full enjoy" every day with them as best I can.