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Quick Update

Having difficulty finding time to post, but will make an effort.

Brief thoughts:

I don’t like monkeys.

India seems to be patched together. From buildings stacked on top of each other, some propped up with wooden poles, to the taped-up rusted rickshaws, everything here seems to be in some state of disrepair.

I did not quite realize how aggressive I can be. In some ways, Chicago can be worse.

Saw the Taj Mahal today, heading back to New Delhi tonight with an Irish couple I met on the train yesterday. Been trading stories about politics and social issues. Heading north to the Himalayas in the morning.

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Arrival

This post is going to be short, because I’ve been staring at the top of my mosquito net, wondering what words to put down. And I should probably try to sleep even though most of you are most likely having lunch. Despite delays, I have arrived safely in New Delhi, India.

The net might be overkill, but I promised a lot of people not to get sick and die. I’ve artfully strung it from a curtain rod and propped it wide with pillows. My hostel room’s windows do not have screens — instead, there is a wooden lattice and solid shutters, opening onto a crooked alley where people pass below, calling out in Hindi.

My flight landed at dusk. For the first time in my life, there was a driver standing at the airport holding a sign with my name on it. Sheba and I hopped into his tiny car and careened through the darkening streets. Diving around cars, bicycles, rickshaws and pedestrians, he pointed out the sights: the ministers’ houses, the hotel where Obama (or, as he says, “omama”) stayed, the president’s house — mixed in with bursts of song and stories about his life. I greeted a little statue of his goddess, Durga, sitting on the dashboard draped with tiny flowers and dried petals. He gathered a pinch of petals and put them in my hands; I folded them in prayer and smelled the sweet, musty scent. He welcomed me to India and dabbed my forehead with a spot of red from his bindi.

I am here.

Seven Needles

And more to come.

Three weeks away from departure (I delayed it a bit so that I could finish a series of immunizations), I spent around an hour and a half with a nurse practitioner today, discussing health issues I am going to face in Asia.

Between the villages and the volunteer possibilities, potential camping on islands and lingering up in the mosquito-dangerous Thai mountains, I’m in the high risk category. Which I knew. Although prepared and anticipating some intensity, I did not quite expect to receive six shots today.

Tetanus booster, polio, meningitis, typhoid, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis.

The first three were a surprise: somehow DePaul did not require meningitis vaccination, and the other two were standard adult updates. The rabies and Japanese encephalitis vaccines are each a three-part series, so I will be back for more over the next two weeks.

Because six needles weren’t enough, I had my nose pierced again this afternoon — a small, gold stud, which will seem like a typical fashion statement in the cities and an important cultural sign in rural communities. I am not pretending I am Indian, but I am attempting to respectfully adopt visual signifiers that will make me more comprehensible outside of urban areas. Will be wearing a fake wedding ring and, along with Ayurvedic associations, nose piercings are associated with marriage. Focused on a poster of the Buddha in the piercing artist’s workroom while my eyes watered from the shock of another jab. This is really happening.

Feeling a combination of side effects (classic stiff arm as well), kind of a pathetic start, eh?

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