Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mera parivar (My family)

I wrote this post a week ago, but had trouble pasting it into the blog, so now I am typing it all out again.  
Sunday, September 7, 2008
4:03 pm

I'm writing this blog from my house and will publish it tomorrow when I go to school and have internet access.  I wanted to write a bit about my host family and the past day that we have spent with them.  Yesterday, after traveling from the hotel into Jaipur we visited the MSID office, saw our classroom and then were taken to our home stays.

Rachel and I live not far from the MSID office (about three blocks away) with a very sweet family.  Our mother, Shoba (which means beauty of the house), is a yoga master, has studied natural medicine, is a wonderful cook and always has a kind smile on her face.  She has made sure to tell us that this is our home and we are her daughters and to feel comfortable in our home (hamara ghar).  She was the first person that we met when we arrived at the apartments where we live.  She did a traditional greeting for guests by placing red dye and rice (teeka) on our foreheads and circling a diya candle (this action/prayer is called aarti) around each of us.  She then fed us choorma, which is a traditional sweet she had prepared especially for our arrival.  We call her Mommy-ji (pronounced gee, and is attached to names as a sign of respect).  Before bed and in the morning when we wake up, she gives us a big hug and kiss.  

Our brother, Akshay, is 16 years old and could not be a sweeter young man.  He is helpful, quiet, patient, observant, interested in math and computers and would like to be a charter accountant.  He is always the one to answer the door, serve food, bring our chia, run errands, charge the cell phones, etc.  Today he got an English newspaper especially for us and our host father is going to start ordering a daily English newspaper for us to read.  We call Akshay by his name or bhaiya (which means brother in Hindi).  He is warm and makes me feel especially at home.  He really likes music and today we were listening to music and playing cards and he was dancing a bit.  He is also very good with children and all of our little cousins love to spend time with him.

Our sister, Akshara, is 14 years old and quite the talker.  She is bubbling over with happiness at having two older sisters and has already asked to call us didi (which means elder sister).  She showed us all of her jewelry, earrings, bangles, traditional suits, skirts, and shirts.  We call her Akshara or behen (younger sister).  She likes studying Hindi, Sanskrit, and takes very good care of Rachel and me.  She makes sure to tell us when to do things, reminds us not to open the door to anyone except the family, and generally fills in the gaps for us whenever needed.  Last night both Akshay and Akshara helped Rachel and I fill three pages in our notebooks of new Hindi words and phrases we learned throughout the day.  Little by little we are learning Hindi.  We sound like babies-repeating words, asking how to spell them, making LOTS of mistakes, repeated words again, and again, but we are already starting to retain some basic words and phrases.  

Our father, Om Pradesh, is a business man, so we didn't meet him until he came home from work.  He has a furniture showroom with furniture that is made locally and also imported from other countries.  His two brothers, one of his three sisters and mother all live in the same apartment complex, so there is always lots of family around.  It is very obvious how much our mother, brother and sister love their father and how much he loves them.  This morning while we were having our chai, Mommy-ji said "He is my best friend and my husband.  He is so good and so caring."  It is wonderful to be part of such a loving, kind and helpful family.  It makes me feel at home and reminds me of my own loving and kind family in Colorado.  

It is now 9:42pm and we are getting ready for bed.  I stopped writing earlier because Akshara came over to let us know that mamaji and mamiji (her mother's brother and mother's brother's wife) had come over to meet us.  We went back over to the main apartment to meet them and have chai.  Our family has two apartments, the main apartment where the kitchen and everyone lives and the second apartment that is kept for guests, where Rachel and I are living.  We sleep there and keep our things there, but spend most of our time in the family apartment.  

Last night after it stopped raining we visited three temples (all of which are on our same block).  We visited the Ganesh temple, the Shiva temple and the White temple.  

This evening we sat on the balcony (from our balcony we can hear the temple bells ringing as people come and go) watched the people come and go, played cards (our Mommy-ji is REALLY good at rummi), met some more family members, ate paav bhar ji (which Akshay translated as "fast food," but it is really a delicious homemade vegeatble mixture eaten with toasted buns.  It is called "fast food" because you can buy it in the market), spent time with our papa-ji and Akshay and visited a family friend. 

Now we are going to bed so we can be well rested for our first day of classes tomorrow.  Alvida (Goodbye) Namaste. 

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