Roses and Thorns

Traveling to different places and different countries has taught me that there are always highs and lows. I could be in Vienna eating Viennese cakes for a week but that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and flowers. India is the same. Let’s start with the Thorns. It’s always better to end on a high note, right?


-First and foremost, it was finals week. I had a Tamil exam and 3 papers to submit. I can’t say it was the most fun or exciting week; it was stressful and tedious. I sat on my butt for so long writing my final papers that by the end of the day it felt like my butt was flat as a pancake.

-The weather in Madurai has not cooled down. The high is always 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If we’re lucky, the temperature will dip right below 100 degrees. According to my host mother, it is unusually hot for this time of the year. To make it worse, the rainy season has not started. I asked my host mother about the rainy season that I had heard so much about from previous students who had studied abroad through SITA (South India Term Abroad). My host mother looked at me with an amused expression.

“There is no such thing as monsoon season in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is a very dry state. Our rainy season means that it will rain two times a week, if we’re lucky maybe three times a week.”

I was shocked! Prior to coming to India people described the rainy season as the “skies opening up to let the rain pour down on you.” It was all a lie. After being corrected by my host mother, I was in denial. I wanted to be caught in a rainstorm. I wanted to wear my raincoat. I wanted to bathe my Chacos in some fresh rainwater by jumping into huge puddles. Most of all, I wanted the temperature to drop. It’s the beginning of October and rainy season should have started here in Madurai. I assure you it has yet to begin. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will pick up!


-Classes are over! Enough said!

-From the 9th to 15th I will go on a week-long excursion with my study abroad program. We’re traveling to Kerala, a bordering state, where we will be exploring tea plantations, spice farms, and so much more! I am VERY excited! After 8 straight weeks of class, all I want to do is find a quiet outdoor space and read my eBooks for hours on hours. An additional perk to going to Kerala is the fresh seafood! Stay tuned for some awesome food pictures in my next blog post.

-As I mentioned above, I took my last Tamil language exam. During the speaking portion I was speaking one-on-one with my Tamil professor, Dr. Arun. I am proud to say that I can actually speak Tamil. I can say complete sentences and understand questions directed towards me. I’ve only been learning Tamil for 8 weeks but I can have conversations with auto-rickshaw drivers and locals. This is the difference between learning a language in an American classroom and being fully immersed in the country it is spoken in. I’ve never been exceptionally good at learning languages but being forced to speak it and hear it all the time paid off!

-I locked myself into my own room…on the day of my Tamil exam. It was 8:30 on that sunny Wednesday morning and I had my backpack packed up and my gym bag ready to go. I knew I had to leave soon if I wanted to catch a shared auto and make it to class on time. I put on all of my stuff and went to my room door. I unlatched the lock at the top and turned the handle to open it. The door wouldn’t budge. I thought to myself, “maybe you’re doing it wrong Michelle.” The door was a little finicky beforehand and I just thought turning the handle a little bit more would unlatch it from its lock. It didn’t work. Third time was not a charm, neither was the fourth time nor the fifth time. My mind blanked. I didn’t know what to do. I banged on the door, hoping to attract my host mother’s attention. She slept on the first floor so I pounded on the door. I paused and tried to listen for footsteps. The house was dead quiet. For twenty minutes I beat on the door. Still nothing. Finally, I came to my senses and went to call my host mother on my cell phone. The problem? I had 2 rupees left for phone credit and she wasn’t picking up her cell phone. I should have added phone credit the day before. Why was I so dumb?! At this point, it was 8:50 and I knew I wouldn’t make it in time for my Tamil exam. I called my friend and told her that I was stuck in my room and there was no way of getting out. She was confused. I mean it’s not everyday where your friend is stuck in her room, right? I hung up and tried to think of ways I could leave the room. I could try to climb out through the window. I was desperate. I went to the window and soon came to the realization that there was NO way of getting out through the window. The window had metal bars, which my arm barely fit through. I tried to think of anyone else I could call. With the slightest bit of hope I called my host family’s home phone. After 5 or 6 rings my host mother picked up! Turns out she had gone out in the morning to run some errands. When I told her I was locked in my room I could hear the panic in her voice. She ran up to my room and fiddled with the door. No luck. She told me to remain calm and called a serviceman who could hopefully open the door. I sat at the foot of my bed and started laughing. The frustration had passed. Now, the whole situation was funny. Of course this would happen to me on the day of my exam. It was too good to be true. Being stuck in my own room would make one heck of a journal entry, I thought to myself. Eventually, the serviceman had to break the doorknob to get me out. I didn’t make it to my Tamil exam on time but I got to ride on the back of my host mother’s two-wheeler, which was SO much fun. So who really won here, the door or me? I’m leaning towards me.

-I saw an elephant! My friend and I were taking an auto-rickshaw to the fitness center when my friend shouted at the driver to stop. I look outside my window and sure enough there was an elephant 5 feet away from me. Sitting on the elephant was a man, who I assumed was its owner. The elephant was beautiful and SO big. I knew they were large but seeing one in-person and so close showed me the vast size of these animals. It’s too bad I couldn’t take a picture of it. Later that day I told my host mother that I had seen my first elephant and she informed me that it was the neighborhood elephant! Of course India has neighborhood elephants, so casual. She said the elephant’s owner takes it on short excursions to say hello to neighbors. How awesome is that?

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Filed under Michelle in India, South & Central Asia

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