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(Part III) Teresa in India: More than San Francisco Tea Culture

Teresa and the Gang In India
Teresa and the Gang In India

This time, I will try to take a closer look at the specifics of culture and life in India. I don’t mean to plunge into any elaborate analysis, but rather draw a couple of examples which might strike a
foreigner, make him think, laugh and wonder.

In India, you can experience uniquely diverse, colorful and spiritual culture – women of all castes gracefully wearing sari, Hindu gods smiling from the temples, markets full of scents, spices, people,
animals and shouting…

Of course, the holy cows have unlimited access everywhere and so do the numerous stray dogs. There are billions of people living in India,and at least the same number of animals on the streets. No wonder that my friend who was coming to pick me up just recently, used a curious but a very credible excuse for running late – he hit the buffalo on the way, since it was dark and the black buffalo certainly didn’t have any night lights.

Westerners, especially girls, might be scared of mice, cockroaches or spiders. I haven’t seen yet any of these species here. Instead, there is an army of lizards creeping on the walls, in the bathrooms and windows. The girls at our home are all scared of them to death, while I think they are rather cute and harmless.

The local shopping center looks as a nearly abandoned market with exclusively over-the-counter type of shops. No vast parking lots, no shelves of goods, no trolleys…but a kind “uncle” who speaks broken English and is extremely helpful. I can also sing odes to the mango shake I’ve had once at the juice stand. After some doubts as for hygienic reasons, I have consented to try the famous potion which was positively the best mango shake I have ever had. With raisins, cashew nuts, dried fruit and ice-cream. Yum!

Every country has its own ways, America has its Jamba Juice, India has, for instance, Pappu Juice Corner – find 10 differences.

Talking about the services, what an unexpected surprise it is to realize that Pizza Hut over here is not a fast food place, but one of the most popular restaurants at the Connaught Place in New Delhi.
People are waiting in crowds outside to be seated (imagine a good sushi place in SF) and then ushered to a restaurant with booths, waiters, porcelain plates and menus. Yes, that’s Pizza Hut in India.

In my opinion, what makes any culture specific and different is the people. And let me tell you – the Indian people definitely let you feel that you are in a different place. Their generosity, boundless curiosity and constant smile never wear out. It is so natural for the Indian people to engage in a conversation with any foreigner (who is always easy to be spotted). I have been attacked by questions ranging from the education and economic system of my country to my private life (in a detailed cross check). Indian people are curious and at the same time let you know their pride over being Indian. They eagerly explain about their traditions, food (which is a crucial part of their culture), religions, movies, languages (they are sometimes very fierce to teach you Hindi)…etc.

It is amazing how most people here know English and there is hardly any need for the foreigners to step out of the language safety zone. However, their English is the “Queen’s English” as they proclaim, which means that some words are almost obsolete and hardly even used in today’s England. For instance, my little girls have never heard the word “dress” but daily operate with the term “frock”. To describe a teacher, one of the girls told me “she is a learned woman”. It has been some time since I’ve heard teenagers speaking like this.

As a part of cultural pattern, I never stop wondering at the emphasis Indian people, especially women, place on good looks. They are extremely outspoken when it comes to appearance. It is normal to comment on weight and overall looks to the point when one woman says to another “You look so beautiful!” whether they know each other or not. Good looking people seem to have naturally gained an authority and respect.

The Beautiful Girls of Uttar Pradesh
The Beautiful Girls of Uttar Pradesh

The general idea of beauty is ruled by the fairness of your skin – the fairer, the better. In amazement, I watched a TV commercial advertising a product for men called “Fair and Handsome” – some kind of a skin lightener. You could see a guy in the commercial being surrounded by sexy females, after he used the product mentioned (which makes a good idea for a crazy souvenir).

There is plenty to learn and explore every day. The children uncover hidden Indian secrets for me and teach me how to live, be happy and fight life’s hardships. If I could teach them half as much as they teach me, I would be able to leave content and satisfied.

With this I leave you for today. Be well and make others feel good.
Yours, Teresa

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(Part I) Notes from Teresa in India: I Arrive!

Since every journey has its beginning, this one starts in the cozy shelter of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, and ends on the streets of India.

Teresa
Teresa

Having loved tea with its different varieties since my teenage years in the Czech Rebpulic, it has always been a necessity for me to find a good tea spot wherever I live. So when I moved to San Francisco last August and started my desperate tea search, Samovar was one of the names that came up. I soon realized it was my favorite place to visit, and, yet that if I kept up my student life, I would go broke drinking up my savings!

And so, knowing well that I loved the environment there, I decided it would be a perfect place to work (and, I could drink all the tea I wanted!) It was always wonderful to cross the Yerba Buena Gardens when going to work, which never really felt like work but rather like a community of people sharing similar values and love for tea. Doing matcha services, smelling the opening leaves of dong ding, hearing the church bells from across the Mission street, joking with my colleagues (who I miss and send my love to)…that all was part of my job which I very much enjoyed.

When the idea of my leaving to India came up, I was, of course, sad to say goodbye to all the tea-lounging of Samovarites and to all the friends I made there within the few months I was part of the TEAm. At the same time, I knew the India experience would bring a lot of joy to my life and to the life of others as well.
My mission in India is to make a difference, to help other people live their life in a rich and satisfying manner—and I decided to put my educational training (in education) into play by starting a program targeted at helping homeless Indian girls.