15 July 2011
We have now been in Mussoorie almost a week, and are starting to feel at home here. It really is a beautiful little town, despite the frequent rain.
The views are perhaps slightly less spectacular than they might be without the dense fog, but they are stunning nonetheless. The entire town is built along the mountain slopes, so we do a lot of steep uphill walking whenever we go to school, to the main downtown area, or just wherever our feet take us. The thin mountain air means that I get out of breath pretty quickly, but at least I get to enjoy some nice views whenever I have to stop to allow oxygen into my lungs.
Hindi classes are going well. The teachers here are very nice, but move very quickly, so I have to work hard to keep up. There have been moments when I’ve cursed myself for taking Conversational Hindi, rather than Basic Hindi while in Hyderabad, but I’m finding that the Devanagari script is quickly becoming the least of my problems. Now, often I will know in my head what I want to say, but my mouth still trips over the new sounds. Even though my mind knows what to do, my tongue just doesn’t want to flap retroflexively. Oh well, practice makes perfect I guess. And that’s the nice thing about Mussoorie. Because the town is home to one of the oldest Hindi language schools for foreigners in India, the locals are not only used to tourists; they are also used to tourists who want to practice Hindi.
In terms of Hindi practice, we ETAs are lucky to be staying in a guest house whose managers and workers are happy to let us practice our meager Hindi with them. Sometimes they laugh—I once accidentally said pacchas instead of pacchis (50 instead of 25) which was particularly hilarious—but it’s always good natured. Besides, now I’ll never make that mistake again, and imagine how much that mistake could cost me while bargaining!
Today, the 15th of July, was our guest house manager Manoj’s birthday. The day before, I went into the main area of Mussoorie with two other ETAs (Jo and Jess) to order a cake. We went to a nice little bakery called Casa Mia (recommended by Lonely Planet, but NOT the only reason we went there) and ordered a black forest cake, to be picked up the next day. Well. The next day rolled around, and so did the thunder clouds. Jo and I, not wanting to walk twenty minutes in the pouring rain, called a cab. Riding in that thing was like riding one of those log flume amusement park water rides. The narrow winding roads looked like rivers, and when I looked out the window, I could see the valley far below us, with only a flimsy little guard rail denoting the edge of the embankment. Once we got into the very beginning of the main part of town, our driver informed us that he could not go any further (this explanation took a while; our driver spoke no English, and though my Hindi is improving, it still has a long way to go). Not knowing what else to do, Jo and I decided to split up: she would walk to the bakery to pick up the cake, and I would wait with the driver. Once Jo had walked out of sight, the driver told me that we could not wait in that area. He then proceeded to driver away, far up the road. Then he hopped out of the car and ran out of sight. Great. I also had no way of reaching Jo, since our phones didn’t want to connect with one another, so I used another ETA as a go-between (her phone magically worked while ours didn’t). Still though, I had no idea where Jo was, and was so worried that she was wandering around, thinking I had left her, holding the cake. When I was just about out of patience, and about to jump out of the car myself, the driver returned, and drove back to where we had dropped Jo off. I feared that she had already begun the long walk back to our guest house. Fortunately though, I soon saw her walking up the road and screamed her name. She was soaked; the bakery was much farther than we remembered it. That girl is my hero. So, despite the rain, the anxiety, and the miscommunications, we had a happy ending. As so often happens in India, chaos resolves itself. Happy birthday Manoj! Janm din ki subkamnae!!
|Manoj feeding birthday cake to the owner of the guesthouse|
|Returning the favor|