Here, an invitation isn't
This is why it's so easy to get sick here.
Another volunteer and I were stopped on our walk home today by the father of one our students. He insisted we come inside his house (a pretty typical request here) to chat for "one minute."
Now, understand that some cross-cultural translation is needed here. First of all, this offer to come inside is not an invitation. This is a demand. It is rude in India to turn down any invitation to join someone for "one minute" to talk. Time is not kept, so it doesn't matter if you have lunch or want to shower or x, y, or z. You have time. In fact, you have time to chat for much longer for "one minute." If you don't have that much time, you will have to make it.
Secondly, any "invitation" into an Indian household involves eating and drinking something. When asked by a host for a drink, you usually don't bother saying no. Because they won't accept that answer. Today, I said no, my friend asked for tea. We both got tea, and we both got crackers.
That I got tea instead of anything else is important. The water drunk in most of Dharamsala is not safe for volunteers to drink, but people in the community don't understand that. So here's the trick -- every time you are asked to drink something, you say tea. The reason is water for tea has to be boiled.
Thirdly, chatting for "one minute" is actually a drawn out social routine that lasts for 30+ minutes. We were shown wedding pictures, taught to play an Indian board game, and asked (read: demanded) to teach English to our host's wife every day for an hour. (We didn't want to say "yes" initially; who knows what that "hour" would turn into. But I think I may actually take it on, because there would be no better way for me to learn and practice Hindi.) It was only after that request that we excused ourselves for lunch.
The rains have begun here, which means it is much cooler now. I'm feeling fine, and I'm heading up to McLeod Ganj tonight to eat some American food and change money. This weekend, we're off to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple and see the changing of the guard at the India-Pakistan border.
Also, the Dalai Lama's place is pretty darned interesting. When we were last up in McLeod was saw about 40 Tibetan monks "having debate." I can't describe what that means, so I won't try.
Pictures, I promise, for next week.