i’m pretty much a daredevil.

20 Jun

kittens, i suppose that, when you compare kolkata to where i grew up (i.e. the whitest place on earth), it may seem like i am living life dangerously on edge.

but remember, i have a safe apartment (one no more unsafe than my 120 year old house in canada that anyone just has to look at the wrong way and they can break in. please don’t rob me, ok?), 2 bathrooms for alternate usage depending on what species of wild creature is present and a tiny moustached caretaker who takes my garbage out and kills my roaches.

frankly, this is more than i expected.

when i think of what could have been (i.e being forced into bird murder just to eat or not having access to american tv, the horror.), i am honestly pleased as punch.

so here i am, all thinking i’ve got it good – like really good – only to realize that not only am i am pretty much living in squalor, but that i’m a f*&king hero for doing so.

enter, the americans.

jesus h. christ the americans are so awesome.  they host fun events, they cunningly enter and exit conversations exclusively using the phrase “by the way…” and they love wine.  good wine. imported wine. wine wine wine.

so anything i say about them you have to take with a grain of salt because i’m not joking when i say they are a great bunch.  i may just love them a little. or maybe that’s the wine talking, who knows.

anyway, so last week, as i mentioned, miss jp drove me home after a night of making mid-week love to several pitches of sangria.  (by the way, she has this awesome hunter-green ambassador car that looks like it’s straight out of castro’s personal collection circa 1953, by the way.)

here is how the conversation progressed as we turned onto my street:

miss jp: “wow, i am so impressed you know where you’re going!”

me: “yes, haha, well i don’t really have a choice. no driver!”

miss jp: “so this is where you live. huh.”

me: “yup, it’s great! it’s really safe and my neighbors are nice and oh there’s my office – see how close it is! i’m so glad i don’t have to commute and i can just roll out of bed and go to work. winning, right? hahahaahahahahaha.”

miss jp: “…wow…[awkward pause followed by a few deep breaths and what may have been a gulp]…i’ve never seen a neighborhood like this before.”

i literally was speechless.  speechless on the outside, but my inside voice was screaming: “are you f&%king kidding me!”

miss jp has almost been in kolkata for a whole year.  she speaks really good bengali and spends her whole day interacting with indians. it’s her job to understand their culture. all this and she can’t navigate the 3 km from my house to hers and she has never been in an upper-middle class bengali neighborhood before?

say what?

by her stunned reaction you’d think i had taken her – against her will – into the slums while i stroked my fake mustache, tipped my top hat and said “mwahahah”. gawd.

so after cracking jokes to myself at home that night,  i totally wrote this off as a one time situation.  she’s a really nice person.

but then, this weekend after the murder-mystery dinner party hosted by miss jp (yup, it really happened) – something magical took place as  i was being driven home by mr + mrs abc.

(they’re a super sweet couple, also newlyweds, and he does a mean german-chinese-elmer fud accent, for the record.)

so the conversation went like this as we headed to my house:

mr abc: “hey, you are so good at navigating the city! i can’t believe you’ve only been here 2 months.”

me: “well it’s kind of been a necessity, you know, seeing as i would never eat if i didn’t figure things out…”

mr abc: “so how do you get around?”

me: “sometimes i take taxis, but the drivers are total bastards, so mostly i take tuk-tuks.”

[stunned silence]

mrs. abc: “wow! that’s crazy! you take taxis? we’ve only had to do that twice.”

mr. abc: “wait, by tuk-tuks, you mean those crazy three-wheeler things? woah.”

and here is where my head exploded in the back of their new car.  goodbye cruel world – i’ve given you all i can!

"those three wheeler things"

so mr and mrs abc are pretty much the same story – they’ve been here six months and his primary job is to deal with indians on a daily basis…so…yeah…those three-wheeled car things, you know, that only everyone takes. right.

i guess it’s not so much that the americans avoid integration at all costs which amuses me – because i get that they have to stay pretty western-ized to do their jobs. it’s more their blatant amazement at how i am living here that i find funny as hell.

i figured that expats = adventurers, but in reality, i think their drivers, live-in security guards and budget for importing american food has warped their ability to cope.

so what i am taking away from all this is that i’m pretty much a flipping daredevil. and gosh, please feel free to address me as such from here onwards. everyone’s doing it.

11 Responses to “i’m pretty much a daredevil.”

  1. A.A.B. (auntie angie baby) June 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    When oldest daughter left for South Korea for a year, and then travels through Laos, Cambodia, Vietman et al (shortform, not you my darling) she would only be able to find random places with internet and could only send us a short note, something along the lines of : Hi Mom, everything’s fine. We’re fine. This beach is the MOST beautiful in the world (even though she had said that in the previous email about a previous place). She would then go on to say a few more comforting things like how cheap the hotels were (ph good, you’re saving money), how fun the shopping was,(oh good, you’re buying some nice souvenirs) etc. So when she got home, the stories were a bit more embellished, as in, “ya so we slept with our bags under our head at this one place because we were sure someone would steal it.” or “the van we rented to drive up the gold coast of australia was standard on the opposite side so I drove and K did the stick which was fine but one time we had to sleep on the side of the road…..”

    All I can say is that we didn’t know what we didn’t know. And somehow, as in now, it seemed very comforting.

    Note to Al: If you go more than 2 days without a post my plan was to call in the Americans but now I realize this would be a waste of time.

    • heyitsmeal June 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

      all points well taken. secrecy above honesty. lies above truths.

      noted – which is why i made sure to choose a picture of a tuk-tuk with doors. even though ive never been in one…with actual doors.


      ill try to keep the posts coming. even if its just for proof of life.

      • A.A.B. (auntie angie baby) June 22, 2011 at 12:50 am #

        well to be honest, there were no secrets, just stories not yet told and there were no lies, just stories not yet told. it’s the stuff you don’t hear that’s scary, and that’s why daughters have stories that are just not yet told!!

  2. Jennifer Wilson June 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    totally off topic but……I want a tuk-tuk!

    • heyitsmeal June 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      i really just posted this for you, oh lover of small transportation.

  3. Auntie A's sister June 20, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    We even met Americans who imported all their meat and other foodstuffs while living in Paris, the food capital of the world!
    I think you are bloodly well marvelous to do what you are doing. Maybe it is just us over here that don’t really understand how the majority of the world live, you are helping us to learn……and maybe even help in our own small way…..Thanks!

    • heyitsmeal June 20, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

      well that’s just blastphemous. i would kill for some camembert right now.

      you’re sweet….loving sharing all the craziness with ya’ll! xoxox

  4. Hannah June 20, 2011 at 6:23 pm #


    Note to the world: By “Americans” she means her new, ex-pat friends that she is trying to replace me with. Yea. I said it.

    • heyitsmeal June 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      the americans does not equal the floridian

  5. erinantcliffe June 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    All I have to say is…. yeah. Just yeah. It blows me away how people can live in other countries, but not really LIVE in them. You miss out on so much! It’s always more uncomfortable at the time, but always totally worth it to push yourself outside your comfort zone, in my experience. At least most of the time :P
    Anyway, lovin’ it, good for you for also pushing yourself while still giving in to your Western cravings! (mmmm… I just bought wine and cheese at the fancy Accra grocery store yesterday to take back to Tamale :P)

    • heyitsmeal June 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

      i know you understand my shock. definitely it’s a lot more uncomfortable to be putting yourself out there…but i just keep telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other! i could never have been an ewb volunteer, i’m way too weak afterall. but this is the perfect balance of weekly western indulgence and living life like the rest of india. its perfect. cheese….what a luxury. enjoy every morsel!!!!! love that you’re reading, btw. xo

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