January 12, 2010

Culture shock

I feel like I have stubbed my toe but only now do I experience the pain of the blow. The first few days here I had the benefit of being still numb; they were such an utter shock of new things that I could not even see the nature of what is the reality here. Not that I can understand it now, but I am certainly feeling the culture shock as things things slowly but startlingly sink in. One is the constant struggle of my own personal hygiene. I am trying to get accustomed to the idea of no toilet paper, and using my own hands and water to wipe, but I feel like I am more dirty than I started, never mind the fact that I walk around constantly damp. I also am trying to get used to not having running water, mostly for flushing the toilet. I actually quite enjoy bucket showers because I save a lot of water and feel in control when I can scrub longer since no water is being wasted. It just takes much more time, since I must first heat the water and use a small cup to wash and rinse repeatedly. As for flushing, I am trying to perfect the smallest amount of water that will successfully flush my waste. I am having the most difficulty blowing my nose. I suppose I should invest in some tissues, but it is more just the disturbing amount of black snot that continuously streams from my nose after I run. I have started to keep my mouth closed in caution from the pollution, trying to let my nostril cilia protect me. Finally, the utter abundance of waste is absolutely astonishing. Trash, feces, urine, paper, food, plastic, is constantly accumulating on the streets, fields, and even people's rooves. Though street-sweepers and trash-collectors are ever at work, it is a desperate fight for cleanliness and order. The critical mass of trash has created an apathy about litter, the copious waste so visible and daunting, it seems even the tireless cleaners and street fires will never catch up with it. There is simply so much that no one has motivation to even try to pick up after themselves. The infrastructure cannot handle the loads of waste produced daily by the massive human population here. It is a different kind of waste than I see in America. Not a waste of excess, like expensive things and people dripping with wealth, but rather a waste of necessity. Indeed, India is the recycling capital of the world, and scavengers certainly raid all piles of scrap for anything that they might be able to eat, sell or reuse. The contents of the trash are the mere remnants of daily life, whether plates, feces, dust, spit, newspapers, cups, wrappers of food, or other by products of a person's day. However, it is the endless accumulation of this refuse and filth that is so deeply unsettling, as it feels to be futile to hinder its growth, and its building quantities create terrifyingly chaotic and unstoppable entropy.

1 comment:

  1. How true, mountains of rubbish everywhere -one of the most heart-breaking things there. Given the simplicity of life overall, I wonder, how does it happen?