Stuff I Talk About

by Christina Ledbetter

Opposite Land

Continuing life in the land of opposites. Bamboo scaffolding climbing up the walls of rickety buildings; a persistent goat nudging his mom’s udders at the bus stop; a woman covered head to toe in black, guiding a blind elderly man clad in a white tunic across the dirt paths of their slum; three boys running over an expanse of rubble with a kite.

Friday night we celebrated two weeks of surviving this land by going out to eat by ourselves off the hotel property. Look at us growing up! We ate buffalo burgers (beef is illegal here) and gorged ourselves on truffle macaroni and cheese. We clinked our beer mugs to India. We took the leftovers home in a paper bag (plastic bags are illegal, too).

On Saturday I noted to Benson that I hadn’t cried in a week.

On Sunday Benson’s co-worker and her husband took us to a fascinating restaurant where all of the waitstaff are deaf. To order our food, we followed the symbols on the menu. I made signs for vegan dishes (I think). Our boothmates ordered a dish covered in edible silver and graciously offered it to me. So now I’ve eaten silver. So there’s that.

It was a week of some firsts, but it was also a week of some seconds. Seconds are invaluable in situations like these. Seconds let our brains take a breather in a chaotic city. The second time we went to the church, this time knowing exactly which secret door to open at the top of the hidden stairs. The second time I shopped at Nature’s Basket, knowing where they store the lettuce and knowing what the lady at the register was saying when she asked in that thick-as-gravy accent, “Do you have a value card number?” (And knowing that “No, I do not have a Value card number,” but I hope to get one soon.) The second time I properly used the shared, foreign washing machine on our hall (after a conversation with the cleaning staff consisting of pantomime and pictures from my phone, where I learned that I had been pouring the soap in the wrong compartment the first week).

At church, a man told the story of his life and said that what had formerly set him apart from every other human was his realness, his refusal to put on fronts. “You are real? I will be realer,” he smiled. He went on to say that holding so tightly to that identity caused him to judge others. Anyone less real than him was simply less than. I listened and thought, I know someone like that. He went on, and I realized, I am someone like that. I’ve always enjoyed wearing my heart on my sleeve, but I could relate to the pride that threatens to accompany that posture. It was a good lesson to learn from this person so different, or maybe not so different, than me.

We’re thankful for the church we’ve found, but are unsure if it’s where we’ll stay. The ride there is long, and carsickness is an issue for me even in the States. By the time we arrive I’m lightheaded with nausea. To be determined, as are so many other facets of life here.

We hope to look for an apartment this week, and are praying God provides the right one. Any spare prayers you all have are welcome.

Until then, here are some scenes from our past week in the land of extremes.

Our first double date in Mumbai

Sharing the road

Construction

Out on the town

Bus stop in front of a rickshaw in front of someone’s laundry in front of someone’s home. Welcome to India.

Categories: This and That

4 replies

  1. You sound different.

  2. I feel different. I imagine I’ll return to my witty side eventually, but right now this is where my mind and heart have (temporarily?) landed.

    • Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
      But even some of your sentence constructions seem different. Yeah, India is changing you, as it probably would most Westerners. I imagine your readers like when you’re funny because you have a unique gift for that, but we don’t expect you to be funny all the time or even most of the time.

  3. Totally get what you’re saying about sentence structure. Lately when I’ve been writing from here, my old style feels like putting on clothes from a previous decade. I think it’s because every single thing I see and experience here is foreign, so clumped together scenes find their way into the same space on my page without my commentary, which represents exactly what’s happening here – me staring out the window, mouth agape. Isn’t that funny how reality seeps it’s way onto the page? Love your insights.

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