As I was sitting in church this morning listening to the priest say something about the passage of time, I realized: today being the sixteenth, there are exactly two weeks left before I leave.
I am trying not to feel panicky about this, but there just seems to be so much to do.
1. I want to power through the Beginner's Hindi book & companion CD I've been working with, to get back up to the level of familiarity I had with the language at the end of last fall semester. Yesterday I watched Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge with my mother, and I was able to understand things in that sort of "oh yeah, I see that word in the subtitles and I totally heard them say it" kind of way. Mostly the speech was too fast for me to pick up whole sentences, especially in regards to tenses and conjugation. I had to concentrate really hard and there would be a major delay in my comprehension. This must change!
2. I need to procure clothing that is conservative but works in hot weather, and which I will not mind parting with at the end of my time abroad. I plan on wearing locally purchased cotton salwar kameez for the majority of my time in Jaipur (in order to be a less conspicuous foreigner, and because I will enjoy it) but a) I foolishly donated the one I had to Macalester's Habitat for Humanity rummage sale at the end of the semester b) Once I arrive, there will be a period of one to two weeks before I am able to go shopping. We are being whisked off to some hotel outside of Delhi for orientation before being taken to our host families, and I have gotten the impression that we will not be given time to explore during this time.
Past participants in MSID (Minnesota Studies in International Development) have told me that most of the clothing they brought with them was rendered not worth taking home at the end of the semester, due to how hard the process of handwashing was on the materials. I am always cutting down and refreshing my wardrobe via shops that buy, sell and trade, so there is not really anything I feel that I am willing to part with. At the very least I am hoping to find some decent linen cargo pants before departure.
3. I need to find gifts for my host family. I usually enjoy looking for gifts, but this feels like such a shot in the dark. I know nothing about my family. I requested that there be someone my age in the family, but I don't know whether this will be fulfilled, whether it will be a boy or a girl or both...Some host families are even just single older women, apparently. My first idea, to bring a local food product (Frango chocolates specifically) seems a poor choice given that I will be in the country for a week before seeing my family. They would surely melt. MSID suggested hand lotion, as it is supposedly expensive in India, but I am not convinced that that would be such an exciting gift, and besides I don't know what scents my hosts would prefer. Not to mention that I doubt any males in the family would get much use out of that. My remaining ideas seem sort of lame as well; a White Sox baseball cap, a tote bag or some sort of memorabilia from the University of Chicago bookstore, a framed photo of the skyline...argh. Any suggestions would be much appreciated, dear readers!
4. I need to finish the mega packet of readings MSID assigned me. I am about halfway through. Happily I just have a few more pages in an article about development theory and an excerpt from a microeconomics textbook before getting to more humanities-esque readings (first-person stories from study abroad students & articles on Indian history and culture), so it will begin to go much quicker.
5. Finish reading R.K. Narayan's prose version of the Mahabharata, finish Namita Gokhale's Paro, Dreams of Passion and become familiar with particularly Rajasthani folktales and religious traditions.
6. Prepare my old laptop for the trip--delete things I don't need on it, put photos and documents I do want to have with me on it.
7. Finish roll of film on my SLR and get it developed so I can take some photos with me.
My goal is to get the majority of things done this coming week, so that I can enjoy my last few days at home with a minimum of stress. I have started a Ta-da list to keep from forgetting things. I think I will figure out which suitcase(s) I am going to bring tomorrow, and start putting things I know I want to pack in them, so I can easily add things as I think of them.
I think I can check off the first element of #5 tonight, I just have a couple chapters left. I also need to find Paro tonight, as I have mislaid it and it needs to be returned and re-checked out ASAP.
Since tomorrow is free mocha day at McDonald's (and taking advantage of free things is my specialty) maybe I'll take the Blue Line to Jackson and read my MSID packet at that really nice glass-walled one. It's quiet, beautiful and a very good place to concentrate. The only sad part is that they don't have mochas for some reason, but they give you a bigger coffee to make up for it.
Starting tomorrow I resolve to go through a chapter of Beginner's Hindi per day. It shouldn't be too bad, as I have learnt most of it before. I will set aside an hour or two on the weekend for reviewing and writing practice.
Tuesday I will try to hit up summer sales to find linen pants, and maybe some below-the-knee skirts.
Wednesday I am going to a sleepover at one of my best friend's homes in Hyde Park, so I will try to check out one of the U of C's bookstores then, for potential host family gifts.
Whew! That's all for now, I'm off to start attacking these tasks...
Good night! <3