I wish I had had time to write more about the Delhi Orientation while it was happening, but between coming down with some kind of weird allergy/cold combination the night after getting in, being totally jetlagged, and the schedule being so busy, it just wasn’t possible.
In short, it was absolutely wonderful. I felt so welcome, and it was great to finally meet the people at USIEF, with whom I have been exchanging emails for the last five months, in person. It was also a much smaller orientation than the South and Central Asian orientation in DC – there were probably only 50 people total at this one, and so it was way easier to spend time with the other Fulbrighters.
The highlights (in stream-of-consciousness order):
- A doctor came to talk to us about all the possible diseases we could get. I really appreciated the fact that she was brisk and humorous in her presentation, trying to inform us without scaring us too much. There was a point at which she was skipping through diseases that we were less likely to get. One of the categories was “Plagues” and one of the items was bubonic plague. She mentioned that it hadn’t been so popular in the last few years, so she didn’t think we should be too worried. Wow. Of all the things I was worried about, bubonic plague hadn’t been one of them…
- USIEF engaged Dr. Himanshu Pande, an amazing professor from JNU to talk to us about the Indian economy. I was riveted the whole time. It seemed like he was extemporizing, explaining things in a very straightforward and intuitive way. I really feel like I understand now how a lot of the things I know about India fit together.
- The orientation was in the Taj Mahal Hotel, where we are staying, overlooking the entire city of Delhi. I will take pictures before I leave. It was incredible.
- Also, I wish I could convey how amazing the food tasted. Every dish just had so much more flavor than anything I remember having tasted for a long time. I am not normally so attentive to the flavors of my food, but maybe that was because I was not aware such food existed until now. And the tea…
- After the first day of orientation, we were whisked off to a dinner reception at the house of the PAO (I wish I remembered what this stood for…). It was definitely an important official who had an incredible house, and put out an amazing spread for us. Of course, because I was anticipating buying clothes in Delhi, I only had very casual clothes, and I may or may not have worn exercise pants to this occasion, though they were well hidden by a stray, un-ironed kurti I found in my suitcase. Luckily many of the other Fulbrighters were in a similar situation, but I can’t help wondering what the PAO thought of us…!
- Three of the Fulbrighters who are still here from last year’s group had many interesting tips. Among them were a variety of ways to refuse food. One of the more surprising ways was to tell your host that you were fasting from that food on that day (to avoid possible confusion if they saw you later, eating that food). So for example, you would say, “I’m so sorry, but I fast from citrus fruits on tuesday afternoons,” instead of, “I don’t want that orange.”
- Also, as a way to get out of answering invasive personal questions about your relationship, she suggested giving a jaw-dropping horrified look instead of trying to say anything. Again, completely counter-intuitive for Americans, but I can see how Indians would back off fearing offense more than Americans would.