Diving In Head First

Pic: Grace Madigan

I should have known better. After exchanging $70 I had in cash that I had received as a graduation gift less than a week ago, I handed over half of that to a man to help me get to my hotel from the airport.

Unbeknownst to me, I had paid about four times as much as I should’ve for that car ride. But I was too distracted by the constant honking and what felt like at the time, one near-death traffic manoeuver right after another. 

My plane dropped me in Bengaluru around midnight, Friday—I had started my journey from Seattle, Washington around 4 am on Wednesday. Yet, there were plenty of cars on the road which might have led you to believe it was just a late night and not the early hours of the morning. 

Auto rickshaws weaved around each other and the scooters and cars that littered the roads. An ambulance came up from behind our car but no effort was made on anyone’s part to clear a distinct path for it. 

After my 26-hour journey, I slept like a literal log. I only woke to a phone call asking if I was going to come to breakfast which would mark the beginning of my education in South Indian food to be continued over the course of the next week.

I quickly found a love for vada—small donut shaped snack made with lentils that were delicious and the sambar—a spicy vegetable soup—that accompanies it. I let my coworkers order for me when we went out for lunch on my first day. I had masala dosa and chai to go with it. As a rare non-coffee drinker I am always thrilled visiting other countries where tea supersedes coffee. Although recently I did find out I have a taste for Indian coffee—mainly because the actual amount of coffee in it is a teaspoon which is then mixed with milk. 

When you read about India from travel bloggers and others visiting the country you’ll often see the same things; that the colours of the country will strike you, that it’s common to see stray dogs and cows on the street and the fact that scenes of poverty are followed by sleek, tall modern buildings that belong to Amazon or IBM. You’ll read about the crazy streets where crossing one is a real-life game of Frogger, the supposed danger of street food and the ultimate lure of it and the kindness of everyone you’ll meet.

So for everyone’s sake, I’ll skip those observations since they’ve been said so many times before. Instead, I’ll write about the feeling of flying to the other side of the world for an internship starting less than a week after you graduated college.

Put simply, it’s indescribable. My excitement outweighed any fears or worries I ultimately had about spending three months in a new city alone. While many of my friends were headed to Europe or going back home before starting a new job or figuring out the next step in their lives, I was headed full tilt directly into unknown territory. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. If I were at the brink of a new phase of life I was going to dive in head first and fully embrace it.

There’s something so unique about traveling to a new place. As you watch people go on with their daily lives you can’t help but think about how “normal” is such a subjective word. The sight of a mother in a burka holding her baby on the back of a scooter makes you do a double take, as do the number of temples found on nearly every other block. 

After a week spent experiencing a different sort of “normal,” I’m in no hurry to go back to the old “normal.” How could I be? There’s a lot less chai in that one.

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