On Tuesday, I departed for the world. First stop: Mumbai, India. Right before leaving, I found my mind already being blown a bit by the fact that I just had no idea what to expect. I boarded the plane with my hair in a blue scrunchi from my 90s childhood and my UCI Alumni hoodie, feeling like something in between that terrified child and an enthusiastic graduate ready to take on the entire universe. I had a very cool experience on the plane ride over. I sat by a woman who had uncanny looks and mannerisms of my dear, deceased Indian aunt, who lived with me in high school. I couldn’t get over it. Don’t gawk, I told myself (it seems my mother made it into my head after all). She was at least 90 years old and did not speak any English, but we helped each other. She put down the window shade when I tried to sleep. I taught her how to use the airplane seat belts. She put a towel on the ground when I spilled water. I opened all her food and drink items. We traded salad for bread with every meal. Language barrier, but without any lack of understanding. Basic kindness, a universal language of itself. I will never see her again, I don’t even know her name or origin. But it was the perfect beginning.
Arriving to India was wild. I held off on social media and contact with people because I had no words to say. I didn’t take photos (I always take photos), didn’t write things down, didn’t do anything but just breathe in order to take it all in. Everything was (is) different. First of all, the driving. THE DRIVING. There are literally zero road rules. Every second feels like the moment you realize you are getting into an accident. So there are 2 choices: Laugh or cry. Of course I giggled the entire way over from the airport. Also, you don’t realize how much you use faucet water until it smells like rotten food and you have to pour half of a bottle of water on your face to brush your teeth. The wardrobe is entirely different. I came with one shirt and one pair of pants that I thought to be initially suiting, and immediately had to get more appropriate clothing (I look Indian now! Kind of).Mosquitoes swarm everywhere. We haven’t got along so well. The switches– All different and so many of them! There was definitely a moment in the shower when I accidentally hit some switch and spent the next 30 mins with soap suds in my hair trying to figure out how to get the water back on. Post shower I looked out the window and saw a small boy washing behind his house with a bucket of soap and water. Skinny, diseased dogs are all over the streets, and chase the fast vehicles. Most striking of all, the poverty. Elderly women laying on the streets, women who should be comfortably in retirement and are instead trying to get comfortable on a pile of soiled trash. People without shoes and pants being a casual pedestrian. Homes held up by sticks and reeds everywhere. Overwhelming. I have found that a mind blown begins with the phrase “Oh my god” in every tone of voice.
Currently, I am staying with my very sweet, older aunt. She is the shortest, feistiest bundle of joy you will ever meet. Also living here is her husband, son, daughter in law, and their 2 year old. A full house! My first night here, my aunt told me, “I am so thankful to have you in my house. I saw you as a small small child, but I never thought you would come. I never dreamed I would see you here, in my own house. I am so happy.” It was the warmest welcome I could have asked for.
And finally, the day I started my position as Pediatrician’s Assistant. First thing on the agenda? Assisting a live C-Section. Literally, all of it. Everything. I saw how life begins. I got light headed and I’m not sure if it was because I had not yet had breakfast and it was extremely hot in there, or because I saw a pink and purple alien looking thing pulled out of the bloody, cut stomach of a woman who was awake. Either way my head filled with stars (and not the kind you get from an amazing kiss or your favorite song at full volume). But the weird little thing (rather, human) was alive and well, a baby girl. It was magnificent and unreal and everything in-between.
I have no idea what will happen today. Every day has brought something entirely unexpected. For now, I’m just drinking coffee. Thank goodness that is one thing that is universal.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” ~ Rumi
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