I’ve been in the US for little over a week. Stella was great on the plane, and the luggage wasn’t as much of a burden as I thought it would be. The layover in Munich was cold and miserable, and it was spent huddled, drinking an obscene amount of coffee in one of the only cafés open at 7 in the morning. The nine-hour flight from Munich to Newark was annoying. It was a full flight with no empty seats and I was cramped in an economy seat with Stella underneath in a carrier that barely fit. Earlier during the flight from Bombay she barked when I went to pee, prompting whispers from other passengers, so every subsequent bathroom visit was a precarious dance as I managed the logistics of peeing while holding her up, trying to avoid either one of us touching the disgusting floor. The apologetic, deflated look on her face mirrored my own as we looked at each other, her in the air and me squatting over the toilet, hoping not to pee on myself too much. Parents, I feel your pain now.
I arrived on Election Day just in time to see Donald Trump get elected in the US and Modi announce the immediate devaluation of all 500 and 1000 rupee notes in India in an after-hours missive. These two things independently would have affected me, but together it was amplified. There are people I love in India who live primarily on cash and are struggling to get their old paper notes changed at the banks. They’re standing in hours-long lines, taking off from work and losing wages to do so. Back here at home, we’ve got an uncertain political future and an increasingly volatile divide in ideals which is fragmenting people in a way I’ve only read about in books. Talks of a “muslim register” and “building a wall” between the US and Mexico…it’s exclusionary, shameful, and deeply damaging. Truth be told, I wasn’t happy to come back, and I am even less so now.
In addition to that, it’s been a rough transition. I’m in a new place with new demands I’ve put on myself, and though it should feel familiar, in so many ways it’s completely foreign to me. I’ve found myself pining for the Northeast ever since I got here. Something doesn’t feel right, there’s a grave stillness, a sensation of waiting for something, like seeing the sky change and feeling the wind before a thunderstorm. Though I am going through the motions of setting up “life stuff”, everything inside of me is still in Pune and I just want to go home. A friend warned me not to do this so I won’t, but the struggle is daily and it’s fierce. It’s bigger than me this time, and that’s something I never felt when I left New Jersey.
Personal battles aside, the logistics of re-patting have been a good distraction. I am eager to get back to work so my career search has been consuming most of the day. I found an excellent dog park for Stella, a few good Indian shops and restaurants, and a café with decent coffee that isn’t Starbucks. I know I can survive here, but so far I’m feeling like a potted plant on a patio…portable, impermanent, with no roots in the ground.
It will be interesting to see what the next few months hold. I have plans to visit India, and the shipping container arrives just in time for Christmas. It will be good to have everything back in one place, though after being without “stuff” for such a long time, I wonder if I need it, and the space in the house, at all…oh, the places a brain can wander with the luxury of so much time alone…
Well, the packers came and went. 179 boxes and one Royal Enfield motorcycle weighing, in total, approximately 11,000 pounds. It’s a surreal experience to watch everything you own get boxed up and walked out the door knowing that you won’t see it for 45 days, during which time it will have traveled in a giant steel container by land and over an entire ocean, hopefully even arriving in the same condition that it was packed. I remember moving here, when we received our shipment it was like Christmas morning…I’m sure it will have the same wonder because I shopped in a frenzy and I DEFINITELY won’t remember what I bought by the time it gets there!
It’s funny, over the past three years I went from really missing my favorite products from the US, to finding new compromises, which in turn became my new favorites. I bought everything I knew I wouldn’t want to be without, including:
-- stainless steel kitchen ware – servingware, two milk pails, strainers, tea cups, a chapatti holder, etc…
-- Odomos mosquito cream (much better-smelling than Off!)
-- Patanjali body products
-- Patanjali Ghee (6 liters of it!)
-- Vim Dish Soap
-- Packets of non-perishable food items: poha, dosa mix, dhokla mix, sauce packets, masala oats, spices
-- Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam (the obnoxious bright pink kind)
-- Green Tokri Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil and Basil Pesto
-- Mother’s Recipe Pickle in several flavors
-- Cleaning Supplies (steel wool, sponges, sponge wipes)
-- Gala Sweepers
-- Meswak Toothpaste
-- OTC meds (naproxen, paracetamol, multivitamins, etc...)
-- Anokhi table linens
-- Ariel Laundry Detergent
-- New towels from Fabindia
We’ll be taking Stella back to the US with us as pet in-cabin, same as last time. We have a soft-sided carrier for her, and used Furry Flyers as a liaison to get the “No Objection Certificate (NOC)” in Navi Mumbai. This is sometimes referred to as the “Export Certificate, FYI in case you’re reading this as a pet owner in the same situation. They were good to work with last time and though it’s an expensive service, Rs. 13,800 just for the NOC assistance, we would rather have peace of mind than chance it. Though they take some of the legwork out, it still involves several steps on my end. I need to take her to the vet for a health certificate (template is provided by Furry Flyers) and then go to Navi Mumbai for the NOC the next day. Overall it’s a day and a half sunk into getting her ready to go.
Other than packing and getting Stella sorted, I’ve been busying myself mostly with researching about Houston. Neighborhoods, jobs, doctors, grocery stores, etc…it’s fun but also a little nerve-wracking, and in the back of my mind I worry that adjusting back is going to be hard. I just don’t know how hard yet and only time will tell.
We leave in a little over a week, and I’m trying to enjoy the rest of my time here in Pune. I have farewell dinners and coffees and lunches to look forward to, and will hopefully get in a little relaxation as well.