settling in

Last night I spotted a woman in a doorway on a crowded street. I was on my way to dinner with a few new friends; it was dark outside and the hustle and bustle of the crowded street made for a challenging walk. Dodging motorbikes and stray dogs, abandoned shoes, last week’s garbage and a man selling bangles on a blanket, I finally looked up as the lit-up doorway caught my eye.  The woman stood with her hands on her hips, glowing in a perfectly wrapped, bright orange sari.

She took my breath away.

Her stance, her sari, her serene presence shook me, and for the first time since I landed on July 24th, it hit me.  I am not just visiting India for a few weeks.

I live here.

I am buying food containers and setting up a spice cabinet. I am investing in pots and pans and garbage cans. I am in the beginning stages of friendships of all sorts. I am getting up early and heading in to work. I am starting to know which way to turn to get to a particular shop and how to get back to my house in the dark.

This weekend I visited friends who are stuck in the hospital with Dengue Fever. I had cocktails at the home of the U.S. Consulate General. I danced into the wee hours of the morning to 80s music and stood in the rain laughing with friends. I went to a school picnic and had a hot oil hair massage and walked the tree-lined streets of Besant Nagar. I ate paneer tikka masala and dal mahkni and checked out a handmade cane swing for my porch.

I wake up to the sound of waves crashing outside of my window. Crows cawing to each other and the street guards chatting away. I know it takes 17 minutes for the water to heat for my shower; I adjust my snoozer accordingly.  I know the morning guard wants to speak in English so he quickly says, “good morning!” before I can greet him in Tamil. I jump in a banged-up, bright yellow auto-rickshaw and watch with wonder as my driver weaves his way through the onslaught of cars and bikes and motorbikes, tuk-tuks and trucks. I pass the young guy with the two pugs and the smiling maid. I pass the ironing-wallah and the old man with a rose filled basket on his bike. I arrive at my new school, pour myself a cup of tea and dig into my work. I am starting to learn the names of my co-workers children. Sunita’s birthday is September 20th, Priya’s mother-in-law is staying with her for a month. I know if I don’t leave school by 4:30, I will be stuck in a cluster of traffic that will turn my 5 minute commute into a 50 minute commute. When I get home the guys will be on the beach playing cricket. The couples will be sitting in the sand watching the waves come in.

My calendar is filled with new student meetings, yoga begins tomorrow and I have dinner plans on Tuesday.

I am living.



12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jaime
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 08:39:06

    What did you think about the hot oil hair massage? I thought I was having a foot massage and was surprised when she told me to take my shirt off but I went ahead with it (I guess I’m kind of easy like that) I was even more surprised when she poured a gallon of oil on my head. It felt great but my hair looked wet for a month.

    I’m so glad you’re getting settled in. I’m also very glad the beach is nearby. It looks very peaceful and surprisingly not packed with people. A nice place to relax.


  2. Carla Ten Eyck
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 14:18:43

    Dam. I was there with you, hanging on every word. I am so happy that you are not only living, but seeing.. and more importantly -and selfishly- sharing it with all of us! I miss you so much xo


  3. Liza McMahon
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 14:27:53

    I agree with Carla, miss you terribly. Your writing brings tears to my eyes, but not those tears of sadness, tears of joy that you are having such a wonderful adventure. Sending peaceful positive energy to you…


  4. Uncle Pat
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 17:28:10

    Sounds like you are ready to be Miss McGlamery–ji.


  5. Jazzy
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 18:36:48

    it’s the feeling of finding icecream in the freezer i didnt know i had hearing the details of your day! what beautiful moments you’re having. a beautiful life you’re living! xo


  6. Jenn Bucchiere Wilson
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 18:50:05

    As always you amaze me and I am so excited for your students and the moment they realize how much of a gift they have having you as their teacher


  7. Suzanne Tremble
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 14:53:42

    Wow, thank you For letting me into your world! Im so happy for you and selfishly i love being the armchair traveler on your adventure. Enjoy every second of it. You’re an inspiration!!!!! Go get em.


  8. Sherri
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 15:40:08

    And I am living in India through you. Thank you, Susannah!


  9. June Krisch
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 21:13:35

    Susannah – I am totally in awe of your ability to get right in there and take it
    all in. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Keep them coming.



  10. john murphy
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 11:43:00

    Susannah, Your history about everything in your life in India brought me back on a memory trip 50 years ago to my first few days in Haffouz Tunisia when I was in the Peace Corps. You’ve had so much more outreach in your short stay than I had in a year! I could go on and on but I know Tara and Heather would be chiming in – “Dad, It’s not about you.” Anyway: Here’s just one story: There are three stages to one’s getting used to/acclimated to the country (at least in Tunisia.) First: When you see a fly on your plate, you throw out the entire dinner. Second: When you see a fly on your plate, you carve out where it’s footprints have been, and then you eat the rest. Third: When you see a fly on your plate, you eat the fly first! Keep those stories coming, Susannah – about saris and spices. And dengue fever. (In Gabon we took shots for this, as well as for loa loa and schistosomiasis, whatever that is.)
    Don’t you see, Susannah – I just can’t stop. John


  11. Claudia Klingler
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 14:32:24

    Susannah: Reading your words is just like “listening” to Globe Trekker on PBS! Keep those stories coming! It’s great!


  12. Kerry McVaney
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 23:16:58

    Fan-f***ing-tastic!! You’re the best! Love you and miss you, but am so glad your new journey is going so well 🙂


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