Entry 07: Documentation Nation

Location: Whistling Woods International Time: 6:21pm

Since working on our documentary, we have been documented by other students and we have even documented ourselves answering questions for another documentary. There’s some docu-ception going on in here.

On our car ride to Colaba last Sunday to see the South Gate of India, Mark asked us: what do you miss about America? Like the profound philosopher that I am I contemplated what I really miss about being at home.
While the food here is spicy and strange, I grew up in a very multi-cultural environment. Honestly, I’m used to eating all kinds of things and trying foods I couldn’t tell you the names and textures of (but I had to try anyway so as not to upset a relative who made it). Also, I love rice. So any rice-eating country I’m in, I am fine.
My answer to Mark’s question was that I miss knowing things. I miss knowing where I am, the best places to go, how to navigate…I grew up in a state that boasts of it’s car culture, and boy do we love our cars and traveling wherever we want to go. So it feels restrictive since we don’t know too much about the area and how to get around. However, 2 and 1/2 weeks in in Mumbai, and I feel more confident here. Many people have told us that Mumbai is similar to New York City, and I’m starting to understand the comparison–people are always on the move, always working, it’s hustle and bustle and not much quiet scenery.

What I know I’ll miss when I return home is the extreme generosity and the amount of smiling done here. Everyone is so generous and kind and full of beauty it’s insane. Even the most under-privileged families who are affected by poverty the most–I find that their smiles are the brightest, their generosity the largest, and their hearts the warmest. I couldn’t tell you the amount of things I’ve learned and seen and observed these past few days, or even past few weeks…I’ve met a range of people from TV Show actors and film industry giants to humble families living in poor conditions to insightful Master’s students. I’ll never forget this tiny moment that summed up the Indian people…our documentary group was walking together to our student subject’s home in the slums. A man on the side smiles and says, “Welcome to our city!” So many little moments just warm my heart.
Even just today on our way to Whistling Woods, our rickshaw driver hit a bump on the highway–and I could tell he felt really bad about it. He turned around and tried to ask if we hit our heads or if we were okay in Hindi, and I wish we could have responded but we just smiled and gave a thumbs up.
It’s all these little moments that catch me, and the ones I will most take back home with me from this trip.

So–what it’s like to be different here? I don’t really know. To be honest, I kind of like it. America is my home, but I’m still regarded as different there, too. I’ll go through my entire life getting asked “where I’m really from” or “where my parents were born” because I look mostly ethnically ambiguous. It’s just a fact of my life and something I’ve developed an automatic response to. What’s different about “being different” here, is, like I’ve mentioned before, the open curiosity. Yeah, I get stares and second looks. But that’s all. In America, I’ll get people trying to hide their curiosity like they’re not curious about my ethnicity, and maybe if I’m talking to them, I already know that the question is in the back of their mind. And that’s fine, I’m always curious about other people and where they came from too. However, in America, when stating your ethnicity or where your from–there are so many unnecessary and unneeded stigmas attached to race and color. Once I tell people where I’m from, there’s a high chance that they’ve categorized me in their head both politically and socially just because of my background. Here in India, I can tell that it’s just curiosity and nothing more.

Which is why I’m not as phased so much as the amount of attention our group gets as a whole whenever we go somewhere. When we visited the touristy Gate of India, people swarmed around us to take pictures of us and with us, and they especially loved my blonde-haired friends. I’m not really shocked or stunned about it, though. We don’t realize how fortunate we are in the United States despite all our internal USA problems. I’m actually more fascinated at how this is the product of our global impact of entertainment. Really, American entertainment has seeped into cultures all around the world–such as India–and this is the lens in which they view us.

On a different note, interacting with our students and their mentors for our documentary project has been extremely touching and rewarding…Whitney, Iara and I can’t stop squealing and giggling at our footage over every kid’s little smile and to see how much their families love and support them. Visiting their homes was incredibly humbling and insightful.

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