This last weekend kicked some serious butt.
Shardayatan had exams Wednesday through Saturday last week, which was a lifesaver because school is awful. Truly wretched. It gets worse by the day. But anyways, I got up at about nine and did my usual morning tea then play FIFA with Pratik thing. I had to go to the police station afterwords for the third of four trips needed to properly register with the police department (one thing that Indians do not do well is bureaucracy). So far I suppose this doesn't exactly sound like a ton of fun, but right after the police station I went to the new Bollywood gangster epic Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, which was a cool movie. Also the movie theater was very very nice. Better than the Atlantis in Burnsville. Following that, Pratik and I went to Subway.
Subway just about saved my life. Now I really like the food here, and you know I'm being honest because when there's something I don't much like about India I'm usually pretty honest about it on this blog. But it just hasn't settled yet for me. It just doesn't quite do the trick always. It's a satisfaction thing. There's just something about not having meat every day that just doesn't quite work for me yet. Fortunately, Subway in India, despite not having the Chicken and Bacon Ranch that I so adore, did feature a Chicken Meatball Marinara. It was so unbelievably satisfying to have something that tasted even remotely like anything that I had ever eaten before. Nothing in Surat has any similarities to anything in the United States.
The evening wasn't quite as eventful. More FIFA and then a long night of card games and going out for sodas with Pratik and his friends.
My mom told me I had to go to school today. I haven't the slightest idea why. They still had exams. But on Saturday school goes from like 11 to 2, so at least I didn't have to get up terribly early. I went in the rickshaw, got there, and everyone was confused why I was there. There were still exams. So I went to the library, which mostly has magazines and academic publications in Hindi or Gujarati. I read one of my books for a bit but then I took a nap for an hour and a half. Then some school friends got me and we went outside to where the rickshaw should be waiting. No rickshaw. So one of my friends drove me home, but a motorcade of about 6 bikes accompanied us - other school kids, I mean. Seemed to be a hell of a lot of trouble so I could go take a nap in the school library. To drive me to Adajan would be kind of like driving someone to Lakeville and back.
Then I went roaming with Akshay and his friends for the rest of the afternoon. We just kind of went around and ran errands that they wanted to go on - soccer shoe shopping, laptop repair and other things. But then we went to a Domino's. Domino's in India is very different pizza from the Domino's in the US but it was a damn fine integration of the spiciness of Indian food and basic concept of pizza. I really enjoyed it.
The evening, however, contained an awesome pickup game of mud soccer. It was the classic developing country soccer scenario - muddy pitch, cruddy ball, no real goal posts, but a lot of pure fun going on. Everyone was very friendly and I didn't suck, which surprised me considering that my extensive soccer game experience includes this one game that I played in Costa Rica. It went until 830 or 9 when it got dark, and I was a delighted muddy mess when I got home. Not so muddy that I ruined the house though. I watched campy Bollywood with the family and went to bed fairly early out of exhaustion.
Pratik and I were going to go to Dumas, which is this beach probably 30 or 40 minutes away, for the morning. It's not really a swimming beach at all, but there's a lot of open space for games and it's a nice place to be. The problem with this was that we would have to get up at 630. Fortunately, that morning featured some torrential monsoon rain so that particular excursion was canceled and I could sleep. Instead, we spent the day in a gathering at a farmhouse about an hour and a half away with some extended family of my dad's. This was a pretty nice house, and it had a pool.
This day was like an Indian version of the quintessential day at the lake for Minnesota - lots of food, family, water games and crazy uncles. I loved to be in the pool, after two weeks of this heat it was just unbelievably refreshing. We played fun water games and they had a wide variety of non-veg things for me to eat - panfish, chicken, and sheep meatballs. It was just way too much fun the whole way through. Probably my favorite day in India to date. This excursion went from about 2 till 11. So I wasn't asleep until 12. That made today a really really nasty Monday, but you know, that's ok.
I've discovered that there is a direct correlation between days of school or no school and my mood. School is really bad for me. The kids that are there are nice to me, but the way that they think about things is just so alien to me that I'm having a really hard time relating with them. Especially their ideas of the opposite gender. These folks are a study in paradoxes on that front. To have a girl as a friend for them is not possible. They must be your girlfriend. So in school, sometimes I talk to Annie and Lila, some of the other exchange students, and Juhi, a Rotex who is also in my class. All of the boys think that I am going out with all of them, which let me assure you is not true. I'm following the 5 D's carefully. They cannot understand that it is possible to have girls as friends, which I have to say seems quite sexist to me. So they never, ever, EVER talk to girls in their class. But (and this may sound a little crude), vocally they are very horny individuals. In fact pretty disgustingly so. Probably 50% of their conversations with me, now that we've gotten past the "What is school like in the United States?" phase, are about different girls in the class, mostly in very crude terms. God forbid we could even talk about how I like them as people. Also they are obsessed with pestering me about my relationship history at home, which isn't extensive enough to even merit a sentence of explanation. But they keep asking, asking, asking.
Also, as I have said, school is just unfathomably boring. They don't learn anything, and even when the teachers actually attempt to teach the class something, it's something extremely dull. I would much rather be taught something useless than be taught nothing. In school, the kids don't do anything. All of their learning is done in their tuitions. I don't even know why India has school if they don't do anything there.
Now somehow I've been lucky enough to fall into an awesome family, and whenever I spend time with them, I have a lot more fun and I feel more comfortable. Case in point, this weekend. Also my brothers' friends, even though they still have that delightful Indian craziness, are a lot more mature than the other guys at school. And they do fun things that don't involved any illegal activity. The other problem with my school "friends" is that, as I have gauged from their conversations, if I were to ever hang out with them outside of school there would be a lot of drinking and smoking. For obvious reasons I must stay away from such behavior. Akshay and Pratik's friends have lots of good clean fun. I wish I could just go to school with Akshay.
This has been a rambling, moody mess of a post, but the gist of it is that there are a lot of days here where I have an absolute blast. Seriously, the tandem of the movie, mud soccer and the farmhouse made this weekend probably on of the top 5 or 10 of my life.