I have mixed feelings about going home. This seems a little odd since I had so much to do before we could leave Portland that I never really experienced any pre-trip anticipation. We were in southern Karnataka for a full three weeks, but it seemed like a whirlwind tour. We were just getting to know a few of the many dozens of family members, and missed getting to know several more because our travel schedule simply did not work with the heavy work expectations of employed professionals in Bangalore. In some ways I am really ready to go home, but it seems like there is still so much to do to fall deeply in love with Karnataka.
It is definitely time to quit living out of a suitcase. Not being able to settle in was partly the nature of a trip. Our travels focused on meeting different family members in different locations and trying to cover a lot of ground in experiencing a state at least as big as Oregon with thousands of years of preserved and active history in between important life-cycle events for Jyothi and Rajeev. Crawling into the same bed more than a few night in a row, having a real closet and drawers to unpack some things, a reliable place to do some laundry, and a familiar dining room would be welcome anywhere at this point. Maybe part of my mixed feelings about leaving is that I never felt properly arrived and settled. How can it be time to leave when have literally spent the last three weeks just getting there?
I am ready to snuggle up with the cat. I know Miss Sumi has had super love and attention since we have been gone. Lately I have been wondering if the street cattle would appreciate a little scratch under the chin or behind the ears. There are some house pets in Karnataka, but not in the close, family-style treatment they receive in the U.S. Pet treatment has become a bit overboard in the U.S., and I’ll be the first to admit that Miss Sumi has managed to elevate herself to the ultimate spoiled-pet status. That is because there is something irresistibly warm and fuzzy about sitting down with a soft, purring bundle of love. It is true, even if you are not a warm and fuzzy person. Sumi can convert anyone.
I miss U.S. style showers. I did not realize how much I missed them until I got into the shower at the Hong Kong airport. You can get pretty clean bathing out of a bucket, but it is hard to rinse quite as well, and it is difficult to get your face and ears really clean. Bathing facilities seem like a rural or urban condition, with more newer and urbanized homes plumbed for showers. Still, I miss the shower curtain. Standing in the shower at the Hong Kong airport it was almost amazing to watch the water pool up on the floor, and try as it might, never once cross the line of the glass shower wall to the rest of the bathroom, then turn off the water to step out onto a dry floor and a plush towel. The dry floor was as magnificent as the water flowing like Niagara Falls almost directly out of the ceiling from the oversized shower head. If I ever were to have the opportunity to settle in for a time in Karnataka I might need to put up a curtain, assuming there is a shower option. If not, I might need to find a good shower once a week or so.
I miss a lot of things about home, but most have an adequate alternative, or the alternatives are no better than one would find in New York or California than in Karnataka. We have missed a lot of friends and family in Karnataka. There is no alternative for friends and family. Partly, the language and culture have made it a little slow getting to know people. Names are hard to learn, because nearly everyone is introduced as “sister” or “brother” but family label names are used differently than in the U.S., and children call all respected adults (aside from their parents) Auntie or Uncle. In conversations names can go by so quickly with sounds we are not accustomed to hearing, and with so many people to meet it takes effort and time to remember a name with a person for who they are. It would probably require an additional two months or more to spend adequate time with each person.
When Mama and Sis each gave hugs this morning it was like being part of the family. I had not quite been allowed into the kitchen yet, so still a guest. The sense of service and welcoming is so strong it might take a few weeks, or even a few months to learn the secrets of the kitchen. So maybe next time, settle in, stay a few weeks or even a few months, and practice my Kannada before arriving and spend some real time with a lot of friends and family. I’m not done yet, so there has to be a next time.