Thursday, November 4, 2010

I know the world!

After reading my previous posts, if you think my world revolves around my husband, you’re right. However, I literally met the world a year ago.

I moved to the US with my husband last year for his MBA. Coming from India where all visitors with white skin are “foreigners,” those with elongated eyes are “Chinese” and it is assumed that blacks can be found only in Africa; my view of the world got expanded here. At the business school, meeting students and their spouses (called partners at HBS) from places I had never been to- Iceland, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Italy, Germany etc. - these generalizations turned more aware and specific.

The common thread of being international in the US connected us partners instantaneously. All of us were missing home. Despite study and work restrictions imposed by our visa status we were resolving to make the most of the time we were destined to be in Boston. We were seeking a nearby grocery store that carried ingredients required to prepare our regional food. We were trying to absorb the fact that we would not see our husbands much in the next two years. We were learning to melt in the proverbial cultural pot. Meet my friends:

Before meeting my friend from Iceland, I never thought people could emerge from that country. She is bespectacled and skinny. She is the intellectual types who I’ve never seen laugh wholeheartedly. She seems to get bored listening to the international partners being sissy about uncontrollable phenomena like cold weather (She comes from the Land of Ice after all). Yet she nods and throws affirmatives to fake her interest in the conversation. While her husband is hyper-enthusiastic all the time, she always seems unruffled.

On first seeing my friend from Indonesia, I thought she was Indian because of her brown skin (I believed like me all coffee-skinned people must be Indian). She looks like a 16-year-old with her plump face, teddy-bear-like eyes, blunt nose, and fleshy lips. To me, Indonesia meant Bali and Bali meant beaches and beaches meant laid-back people. However, she is an adventure-sports freak who enjoys hiking, biking, snorkeling, skiing and all the ‘ings’ out there. She goes to cheap markets for her grocery, finds thrifty accommodations while travelling (she mostly couch-surfs), buys used books and is a big Craigslist fan. While I always keep clinging to my husband, I never find her smooching or sticking to hers. I wish I could become independent and practical like her one day.

My friend from Mexico hugs everyone she meets for 36 seconds (I counted) as if you are the sole reason for her existence. She writes emails as love-letters beginning with Linda (meaning pretty in Spanish) and ending with Besos (translating into kisses). She keeps outer-right strand of her hair longer than the rest. She is the sort who is satisfied with her day if she gets to eat good food and sleep for long hours. In the race of super-ambitious and hyper-active cheetahs at HBS, her pace is that of a tortoise. She notices my perfume and compliments me for being a “good cooker.” Her eyes often water while she dramatically describes how torturous seemingly-manageable life is. Last year when she did not get accepted into Harvard School of Education, she said, “I felt distressed; then I took a trip to BVI and felt much better.”

For me, these friends are representatives of their country. Whenever I’ll come across anybody from Iceland, Indonesia, or Mexico, these personalities would be the data-points for comparison. Any deviation from these standards would puzzle me. Judgments will be judgments, I guess.

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