In yoga, they remind us to “observe the changes in [our] bodies” as we do Pranayama (breathing exercises). I usually observe the aching in my lungs and stars before my eyes if I go too far with it, but I’ve certainly observed changes in myself in other ways here.
To start with, my standards have changed for comfort, daily living activities, even hygiene (not personal hygiene so much, but kitchen/food/housekeeping). As I write this, I’m sitting half-cross-legged on a cushion on one of my dining room chairs. The cushion is like a booster seat; the table is a little high for me to type on so I have to prop myself up a bit. There is no comfortable chair, couch, or anything here at home or at work. Ergonomics? Say what? I’m pretty much used to it now, I just shift around a lot with varying postures of legs up on the seat, hooked over the armrest… whatever works. I’m still going to yoga about 3 times a week now, and it’s still doors-open-ambient-temperature yoga, so I’m absolutely soaked from sun salutations onward. I still don’t like it but I’ve gotten used to the feeling of being slick with sweat. I don’t usually consider it worth it to bother opening my umbrella on the way home if it’s raining either. Physical comfort has become more of an “enjoy while you can” than the status quo.
Some people have asked me if I feel safe here. I’d say yes… because I don’t want you to worry. 🙂 But again, my standards have changed. I haven’t worn a seatbelt since I got here. I drive to work every day in a rundown van with a bench seat that is not even bolted to the floor; every time we hit a bump, the bench and I go flying – independently. Behind the bench is a large canister of compressed gas, upon which I’ve managed not to land yet. When I’m walking along the side of the road, I walk with the direction of traffic rather than against it like I would in Canada. The only reason for this is that I really don’t want to see how close I come to getting mowed down every few seconds. I’ve learned to trust the vehicles’ avoidance abilities better than my own, and when I cross the street I do it in stages and sometimes just have to stand there, where the centre line would be if there were lines, while traffic zooms around me inches away on all sides. So far, no hits. I’ve gotten much better at pedestrian obstacle avoidances too, be they piles of rocks and sand, burning garbage, puddles, construction equipment, wires hanging down at eye-level, sleeping dogs, or creeper men.
I think my camping experience has really helped me adjust to different standards in terms of food hygiene and cooking. There are insects in my food all the time. I buy bags of peanuts and raisins (camp GORP!) and even though these are sealed bags, they have sometimes dead and sometimes live insects in them. I’ve also found some hairs and even what looked like rat turds one time. In bags of rice too; pretty much any dried goods has bugs. On Thursday I was washing vegetables (it’s quite a lengthy process here) and a big juicy caterpillar or something in its larval stage came out of the cauliflower. I have major issues with anything of the larval or pupal variety but really, what are you going to do? It’s not like the next cauliflower I buy is going to be any better, and aloo gobi waits for no pests. Squish it and move on. I’ve had some ant problems here as I’ve mentioned before. I don’t know why, they just come out of nowhere by the thousands and it’s not like I keep dirty dishes or unsealed food around that they’re after. This Tuesday morning they covered my fridge and were going for a bag of cashews that had a little – previously unnoticed – hole (I have no pantry so I keep all my dals, nuts, dried fruit, etc in canisters or sealed bags on top of my fridge). I got rid of the bag and cleaned up the ants the best I could. I don’t have any spray or anything so I just use my bug repellent along the trail so they’ll avoid it (See? Another camp benefit: I’m used to the taste of bug spray in my food). That night though they were making a new trail over to my kitchen sink. Maybe they’re after the water drips, I really don’t know. But here’s where the “I’ve changed” part comes in: I really, strongly, dislike ants. I can deal with rodents or reptiles much better than ants. But this time, rather than clean them up again, I just stood there watching the trail for a while, eating a banana, then went to yoga and figured I’d deal with them when I got home. I just kept stepping over their trail rather than do anything about them as I got changed and ready to head back out. And the clean-up after I got back wasn’t really too big a deal.
I’m sure back home I’ve complained about my tiny townhouse kitchen and the difficulty in cooking there. Not enough counter space, not enough room to have the dish drainer out and the cutting board at the same time, the misery of a single sink. My kitchen now is like half a galley kitchen. There is no dish drainer or room for one and my cutting board is a stained piece of particle board about 6”x 10” (I try not to think about the chemicals… if I’m eating DEET the wood processing chemicals probably can’t be that much worse anyway). I have one 6” rather dull chopping knife and one wooden spatula. But you know what? I’m actually doing quite well in the kitchen, and the most significant thing is that I don’t feel frustrated by the lack of equipment or space. I do wish I had a grinder or blender; a lot of recipes call for things to be ground up, like spice mixes and dosa batter, and I can’t do it with a rolling pin. Other than that, and an oven, of course, I’m making do.
My family will be the first to tell you that patience is not my greatest virtue. When I first got my puppy, they saw the need to sit me down and have a “talk” with me about how I would need to be extra patient with “the new baby” and adjust my expectations for his behaviour and such. I’ve definitely had a chance to work on my patience here, though, basically out of necessity. You can drive yourself nuts, or you can adjust your expectations. It’s not like you can change the situation. You just deal the best you can with things; rather than things being fixed, you find a work-around. For example, the cold water tap leaks in my bathroom. It’s been like this since I moved in and I would always try to really crank it closed but it would still drip a bit. I really don’t think it’s a hard thing to fix, probably just needs a new washer or something. But rather than do that, my maid started turning off the water with the valve under the sink. So now every time I wash my hands I have to crawl under the sink to turn on the water. The toilet in the bathroom I don’t use is the same: you have to turn on the water to fill the tank for half an hour before you can flush the toilet (this is the reason I don’t use it). At work, the ceiling started leaking during the rain. The ceiling is only a year old, and it’s located under the patio. They put some pails out and turned off the lights in the area from which the water was dripping. This was a couple weeks ago, and those lights haven’t been turned on since, though the ceiling has stopped dripping. I haven’t seen any use of duct tape here, but I bet it could catch on really quick.
All this to say, I think India may have mellowed me out a little more, even though I don’t think I was particularly high-maintenance to start with. Sometimes I’m not sure that lowering my standards is really a good thing – wait till next post when I talk about that in relation to my work – but for now, I think it’s come about as part of a coping mechanism and honestly, I think I’m better for it.