I think the following picture can accurately describe how I felt on the 4th or 5th day up until about a week ago.
Funny how things you enjoyed in your past come back in relevant ways...
The experience I've had so far in Delhi was rocky at first. I was sick and the whole dog fiasco, blahblahblah. Everything turned out okay, healthwise. The dog that attacked me was definitely not as cute as these little guys who also live on campus.
I still can't really process how many animals there are at JNU. Granted, it is basically a forest/jungle with some buildings in the middle. A few days ago, a nilgai was galloping through the middle of campus. They are huge and it is still unnerving to me.
One thing that I've come to realize about where I am is the stark contrast between the rich and poor. In my throes of being sick and wimpy, I longed for a familiar sight. In that weakness I decided to go to a mall because it's heated, there's places where I can buy things without having to bargain and feel like I'm getting screwed and/or being unfair to the other person and I was afraid of the food from other places.
This is the first of three malls that are right next to campus. The first is something that one could find in any city in the "western" world. It's better than the closest mall to where I was born in Santa Maria, California. The second is of higher quality and has salons and apparently a luxurious movie theater. The third, to which I haven't been, is full of shops like Dior and Armani and the like. I haven't gone because I couldn't afford anything there and it just doesn't interest me...I've gotten enough capitalism by visiting the first two. The most interesting/depressing/remarkable/jaw-dropping thing about the first mall is that, although I'm not sure, I think that people live underneath it. Yes, three floors underneath a Starbucks where people pay 200INR (about 3USD) for a latte, there are people in the basement, just hanging out. It was the same situation when I went to get my rabies vaccination. I was told to wait half an hour to see if my test injection reacted negatively before receiving the first dose, and I wandered around the hospital to find peoples' beds and living areas...within the courtyard of the hospital. I imagine there were people there who had been amputated in the surgery ward and then just never left. While on the other side of the building, a state-of-the-art sports rehabilitation center had probably been recently built (most likely funded by private benefactors). I simply don't understand. And more difficult, I don't know how I should feel about it as an outsider. It is one thing when I see inequality in a context with which I am familiar but I think it's quite another to waltz into a country with my money (earned by first-world wage labor) and decry everything as wrong, unfair or backwards. I just...need more time to think about it.
One other aspect of India that will take some time to learn how to deal with is the NOISE.
Interestingly enough, there was a parade (with trumpets! and valve trombones!) near the hostel where we stayed for the first few days as everyone was arriving.
This is the area near to campus where we buy everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I now have a mattress, blanket, pillow, linens, shower bucket contraption (because of the fact that there are no hot showers in my dorm)
Munirka Village, it's called.
It's a crazy labyrinth of corners and pathways and inexplicable motorcycles and people staring. During this particular trip, I ended up being the one to do the bargaining for our mattresses. Because the 11 of us GSPians found each other and all ordered together, for the mattresses to be delivered by a bicycle rickshaw. It was an ordeal but we made it through. I've been telling people this, especially those of us who are having a difficult first few days: Everything that we've done has brought us here. We can do this. We can handle it. India is hard right now and so so so different. But there's a way.