My hiatus from blogging can be best explained by the fact that I have a schedule again and am in Bangla class for 20 hours or so per week. Combined with the heat and a bout of intense food poisoning, it’s been an exhausting–but story-worthy–week. (I refused to believe how bad my food poisoning was until I realized that I lost 9 pounds in 7 days and finally went to the doctor and got some antibiotics-all’s well that ends well)
There’s 7 students who are in the AIIS program: 5 graduate students and 2 Fulbrighters, myself and Jacob (who is researching language-based political movements). At the Delhi orientation, I told Jacob that I wasn’t too worried about Bangla class because, “My Indian genes will pull me through.” I made a similar claim a few years ago in Guatemala where everyone urged me to brush my teeth with bottled water but I ignorantly refused. (Spoiler alert: I caught a nasty stomach bug which lasted for almost a month) Well, my Indian genes don’t exactly seem to be working for me in this case either.
Bangla is a challenging language-spelling is especially difficult, as is grammar. Luckily, the tutors at AIIS are fantastic and extremely patient. My knowledge of Telugu does come in handy as does my (brief) stint with Hindi. I just forgot how frustrating it is to learn a new language! I want to say and write so much but am very limited in my knowledge and especially in my vocabulary. Spanish was never as difficult because the script is the same as English, I kept at it for years, and I had the best teacher ever (hi, Mrs. Rogers!)
Other interesting tidbits: I’ve started volunteering with an NGO, Tiljila Shed. They work in community and economic development in Kolkata’s most disenfranchised communities (rag picker children, families below the poverty line, etc.) I dragged Rachna along to my first meeting and it turns out that that the work is right up her alley so she signed up to volunteer as well. I also managed to visit the American Center in Kolkata yesterday–which happens to have a great library. I am honestly surprised at how many libraries there are around this city! I’m planning on joining the Ramakrishna Institute of Culture Library at Golpark as well. Speaking of books, I went to College Street today, which houses the largest second-hand book market in the world! I’ll post some pictures on my Instagram soon. I’ll sign out with a line from The Alchemist, an inspiring book I just finished last week, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I certainly want to make the most of my year-which for now means that I need to get as good at Bangla as possible. Wish me luck!