Hey everyone! I know I promised a blog about Ganpati, um, a week ago?! Well, sorry. Not gonna happen. I should’ve known that life would move me along at too fast a pace to slow down to backtrack like that. Fortunately I have a roommate who is a bit more prompt with the blogging than I am. AND, she’s a photographer with a much better camera than my dinky kodak easyshare. Robin’s blog is a great way to fill in the holes of my blog if you ever find yourself grumbling about how I haven’t posted in awhile or how I skimmed over something that seemed noteworthy or interesting to you. So if you’re still wondering what I did last Sunday night, take a look at Robin’s blog (incidentally, I am the star of her most recent post…aw, shucks)!
Ok. Let me quickly bring you up to date…
School was so overwhelming that (as embarrassed as I am to share this) I cried at the end of class last Thursday. We spent 45 minutes reading a few paragraphs comprised of roughly 22 sentences—22 very simple sentences…like “At 10:00 they eat and at 10:30 they leave.” I was just a little tired of feeling like a 6 year old learning how to read. But not even that. Dumber than that! Because I didn’t know what 90% of what I was reading even meant. I really didn’t want to cry in front of everyone, but sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you don’t want to cry. Sujata saw my tears and asked if I was ok which prompted a check-in and a little pity-party about the rough life of learning a new language. She was very encouraging and supportive, saying she was on our side and really cared about the well-being of her students. The result of my overpowering emotions and my unintentional over-share: Sujata told me to take a break from homework. “Watch a movie, sing some songs, dance. Don’t think about Marathi. Don’t study for your test tomorrow. You already know everything you need to know.”
Perfect advice. Especially because as I walked out to catch a rickshaw home I got a text from Robin proposing that we go see a movie with a couple of her friends. Perfect. We stayed out late and saw the entertaining and mindless chick-flick “Friends with Benefits (fun fact: when you go to the movies in India before the motion picture begins you have to stand while they play the national anthem). I didn’t study for my test at all that evening. I slept in the next morning, enjoyed a big breakfast with Robin, glanced over my notes from the week and took a deep breath. At school I realized Sujata was right. I did know everything I needed to know for the weekly test. I scored my highest score yet (18 1/2 out of 20!).
I felt reassured after my test. Maybe some of this is sticking with me after all! I headed into this weekend excited to try to use Marathi as much as possible.
Our friend Kristen, a Fulbrighter who is based in Mumbai, came to Pune for the weekend. Her fresh eyes were eager to experience what makes Pune Pune. The rest of us who are living here and have settled into the city were grateful for the excuse to explore and break away from our normal routines. So Sunday morning we all (minus Robin) met up at Vaishali’s, arguably Pune’s best, or at least most popular, restaurant. Every table is always full and often you have to wait 20-30 minutes for a table. There’s no lingering after eating allowed here! Too many people wait anxiously for a table. Any ways, we had delicious South Indian coffee and delicious breakfast, and ordered sandwiches to take with us on our grand adventure of the day: Sinhagad
I love forts (blanket forts and ones made of stone). I love nature. And Sinhagad is a fort out in the countryside (about 20 miles southwest of Pune). YES!
After twisting and turning through the fog and up a steep and bumpy road, we arrived at Sinhagad. Taking Rachel’s friend’s advice, we got there fairly early (about 10:00 a.m.) to beat the crowd. We were able to take our time exploring. It was nice to be in a cool and green place! Although I see these “Green Pune” signs everywhere and I do love the amount of greenery I see on a regular basis, it just doesn’t compare to the greenery of the countryside, especially at the tail end of the monsoon season!
We walked on slightly slippery paths under ancient archways and across the lush hilltop. The air hung in chilly fall fashion. Soaking in the vibrant colors, I sadly realized that I had left my watercolor supplies back home in Illinois. The deep greens and subtle warm purples that surrounded me gave me a fresh sense of life. I was happy to be away from honking cars and the overpowering exhaust pipes of the city buses.
I enjoyed the quiet of the countryside coupled with the hilarious company of my Fulbright friends. It was a rejuvenating Sunday full of laughter, deep breaths of fresh air, the pleasant exercise of climbing steep steps, the adventure of making our way back down steep slippery slopes, and musings of what this fort looked like before it was overtaken by the land into which it seems to have sunk. We walked around for a few hours and then sat down to enjoy a few cups of chai and some delicious deep fried vegetables that looked like critters of some sort (कांदा भाजी). The air around us was cold and damp and the warm food and drink settled nicely in our stomachs.
And now I’m back in Pune, ready for another week of Marathi! I’m sure I will find myself feeling overwhelmed again, but I’m hoping that the refreshing Sunday adventure will carry through my week. I definitely felt that lush peace throughout school today.
Last night I went to the Cafe Coffee Day (on the corner of the street where I live) to study Marathi and sip on a cappuccino (which is really more like a latte). The Cafe Coffee Day employees saw me writing in Devnagari script. When I went to the counter to pay they asked if I was learning Marathi. The whole crew of about 6 employees had gathered behind the register to send me off. They were delighted that I was learning Marathi. The guy operating the register smiled and said come back every day and I will teach you something new. I asked how you say goodnight in Marathi. “Shubhratri” he replied, grinning. “Shubhratri,” I said. I think I earned major points at Cafe Coffee Day and I’m looking forward to learning some new Marathi vocabulary!
And this evening I finally set up yoga classes with a teacher who practices literally a five minute walk away from my flat. I start tomorrow morning. So if the refreshing feeling that I found yesterday at Sinhagad does fade, I’m sure practicing yoga with Shirshi will fill that hole!
Here are a few more photos from yesterday’s fort adventure. Until next time!