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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ciao, Grazie and common cleaniness

More adjustments and small little “shocks”: I was stupidly expecting the Western people around me to all speak English or at least understand it. Because this is what I was used to. When meeting Westerners, as you travel, you would never have to wonder if you could communicate with them; it is always a guarantee that they will speak English. Now though, it’s no longer an assumption I can make. Italian people hardly speak English. Davids brother doesn’t and his mother can only say the few basics, which is a shame because I’d love to get to know her properly - such a warm Italian woman. And within a few hours of stepping off the train after leaving the airport on Monday night, I was having to greet people with “ciao”. I felt like such a snob, when I saying this word. It felt so fake and I felt like I was trying to be somebody I‘m not. But on the other hand it was great, because it brought “home” that I was actually in Rome!

The politeness has struck me so unexpectedly too, just in saying a simple “hello“ and “goodbye”. I can’t remember ever to have said these words in any of the local Indian languages. Indian people suddenly seem so rude! I’m now so happy in saying “thank you”.. “grazie” and “thanks a million”.. “mille grazie”! It’s sounding like music to my ears, when I’m hearing others saying it too! In India, nobody even says either “good morning” or “good night“, “hello” or “goodbye“, “please” or “thank you“, “excuse me” or “I’m sorry“. Words like this aren’t apart of their vocabulary. I remember how it used to frustrate me when I was first in India, but I adjusted and started to use these words less and less too. I became rude and harsh, when being out in the chaotic world, just like them.

An uncivilized world is what India now feels to be and it’s a civilized world I’m experiencing. I’m saying “sorry” to strangers whenever I’m passing them, or if I accidentally bump into someone, or if I want them to move. I’m smiling at strangers again and I can rest assured that they won’t want anything from me. I’m no longer being stared at, I blend in with the crowd and it’s not written on my face or apparent through my skin-colour that I don’t belong here. This gives me such space to breathe and the cleanliness of the air and the silence of the traffic - even though I’m within walking distance of the centre - only contributes to my breathing space.

I can sit on wall, and it’s clean. I won’t be wondering if I’m sitting in somebody’s vomit or urine. I won’t be hassled by the old man who is strolling by; I can smile at him with an ease and not avoid eye contact, which is something I had trained myself to do, and felt awfully unnatural at the same time, but I had to, just for caution of what people might be wanting from me. I now smile openly and all barriers seem to have gone, that I had to maintain when I was apart of the Indian chaos. These barriers were in order for me to always stay safe, either because of the crazy traffic, the people in that traffic or the level of hygiene when venturing through towns, simply walking, eating and drinking.

Yesterday morning, I made my way around the winding streets of this city of magic. And I was amazed by the ease, the politeness, the cleanliness. I was amazing by the beautiful boutiques, the café’s on every corner selling every kind of coffee you can think of and the language that was sounding like a melody I longed to understand and speak. The heat that is filling the streets, alley ways and squares with beautiful stylish people everywhere and the brightness of the long days, makes me feel like I’m still experiencing such newness. The sun comes up so early and sets so late! Looking out from the window here in this apartment, at midnight, which is usually way past my bedtime, I can see the stars! The temperature is still 30 degrees and there are still people walking on the footpaths after having had a late-night coffee and a chat, in one of the thousand café‘s you‘ll find here. How surreal..

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