When I returned from England some four year ago, I never would have imagined that I would have a second opportunity to study abroad. With only a year left of college I knew I wouldn’t have another study abroad opportunity before graduation, and I never would have imagined that a graduate program would offer courses overseas. And yet, here I am. There was one course open to psychology graduate students, like myself, that takes place every two years in India. A psychology professor in my department is from India and studied at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, so he decided to develop an immersive course for students to learn how an individuals’ sense of identity is shaped by their culture, and how mental illness is perceived within that framework. The course sounded interesting, and the adventure was too tempting to turn down. So, here I am. It’s still a little hard to believe. With each overseas trip I have found myself saying “this trip is my last for a long time,” and yet somehow I keep making that long trek across the ocean. I don’t know how I got so lucky.
As far as trips across the ocean go, this was the hardest. After a layover in Atlanta we had the usual 8 hour flight across the Atlantic and we landed in Amsterdam. Although we only had a two hour layover I was particularly excited to return to the city. On my last visit I was unable to find a miniature flag to add to my collection, and as such it was the only country that I have visited that is not represented on my wall. My best friend from Holland informed me that they don’t really care as much about their flag as Americans do (does anyone though?) and they don’t put it on everything like we do. So finding them can be hard. I found one shop that sold a Dutch flag which had “Holland” written across it, and figuring it was the best I would find I bought it. At least it’s something, right?
Then from Amsterdam it was another long 8 hour flight to Delhi, India. If I thought one 8 hour flight was bad, two is exponentially worse. We flew with KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, and they were definitely great with excellent service, but no amount of service can compensate for cramped airline seats and crying children and the complete inability to get any useful sleep. I did get a cup of the best airline tea I have had since flying with Aer Lingus though. That was a plus. Oh, and free wine of course.
We landed in Delhi at 2:30 am, and despite being warned of the heat we were unprepared for just how hot it would be even at that late (early?) hour of the night. We looked at each other knowing it would only get worse when the sun came up.
I can’t even begin to go into all the details of everything we have done so far, but I can say that Delhi is one of the most unique cities I have ever been to. I don’t know what I was expecting, because obviously this isn’t Europe, but Delhi is a different kind of beautiful. It’s hard to call it beautiful because through the eyes of Westerner, it probably isn’t. There is dust and smog and litter everywhere, and because of the dust everything looks dirty. The traffic is horrendous and no one follows the traffic rules (if any rules even exist). And yet, there are more trees than I have ever seen in a city, and vibrant flowers, and women in glittering saris and kurtas with veils and scarves that are adorned in both simple and elegant designs. There are colorful flower stands and fresh fruit markets everywhere. There are amazingly intricate designs on buildings, and architecture rarely seen in the West. The domes and towers and arches are a wonderful testament to the skilled craftsmen who built them. And within those beautiful arches are some of the most beautiful doors and gates!
Delhi has been called the city of gates, because there were once 52 gates throughout the seven cities of Delhi. Now there are only a handful that remain, but the legacy is there. I have made it my mission to photograph as many of these unique doors and gates as I can find.
How many adventures have we experienced in the past week and a half? I don’t even know that I can recount everything. We’ve traversed the winding streets of Old Delhi and seen the extravagance of the Taj Mahal. We’ve seen the spectrum of religious temples and worship spaces, bargained with artisans in markets, and drank more tea than I have had in a long time. I think my food has had more spices cooked with it than I have ever used in my entire life, and that is saying a lot because I love herbs and spices. I know that I will have stories to tell for years to come.