My First Impression of Pune

My first impression of Pune was trying to cross a street. I had been on the bus for over two hours with the rest of the fellows and team leaders, and I could not wait to step off into my new home for the next seven months. The anticipation had been building up slowly, ever since I got a phone call one afternoon in April saying “Congratulations! You’re going to India!”, but now it was exploding in my body. The was officially the first day of my Global Citizen Year. I hobbled off the bus, the blood rushing throughout my body again, since I had been sitting all morning. I craned my neck over the heads of the other fellows, trying to see if my bags had been taken out yet. It was raining lightly, but regardless to what the sky was releasing, the temperature was quite warm. My bags were finally heaved from the back of the bus, and Josh (one of the Team Leaders) wrangled a few of us together to cross the street. After being in this city for over two weeks, I know now that the street I first crossed in Pune wasn’t big at all, mediocre even. But my first impression, and growing up in a town of two thousand, this was a BIG STREET. Rickshaws were speeding by, motorbikes whizzing through the people, and the cars just honking at everything. It was very hectic. I followed Josh across, my shoulders already aching from the weight of my backpack, full of things I thought were necessities, but later realized I could have easily gone by without them. We all threw down our bags, and walked up the four flights of stairs to the small little office. Questions started to pop out of the fellows’ mouths. “What time am I leaving again?” “Where’s the bathroom” “Okay, now what’s the wifi password?”. My backpack slipped off my body and rather abruptly crashed onto the floor. I scanned the office, curious to see where my team leaders worked everyday. There were photos of all the fellows from last year, the very first GCY India cohort. A calendar from last year took up an entire wall, each piece of paper having one day on it. Various quotes and reminders of upcoming events were taped up randomly. I remember thinking about my team leaders working here, talking about which fellows to select for the program and having meetings about where to place all of us for host families. Now the office was full of the fellows, all of us tired I’m sure, but the excitement overriding it. Each of us were placed in a specific time frame for when we would leave to be dropped off at our new home for the rest of the year. No more waking my roommate Claire every morning or having my hair tangled from the wind on the plateau. It was bittersweet, but in the moment I was barely able to sit still. As the day ticked by, groups of fellows filtered out, their faces showing a mix of eagerness and fright. For the fellows who were leaving after lunch, myself included, we all had pizza for lunch, which may not seem very special, but for us it was a gift from the heavens. Was it the ravenous hunger I felt after eating so little that morning, the daily cravings I felt for food from the U.S, or the repetitive meals of curry and rice from Asia Plateau… Most definitely a mix of all those things. It had been a few hours of waiting by this point, and my body was not able to be still. Thousands of thoughts ran through my head, all of them overlapping so I couldn’t pause to think about one thing. “What if I don’t like my host family?” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if the food they make is too spicy?” What if, what if, what if. Before I could think of more things, Josh peeked through the door, and I was off. My heart was pounding, almost jumping up into my throat. The car drove out of the building, and squeezed its way into the mess of rikshaws and motorbikes. I stared out of the window, seeing mixes of words in English and Hindi. I tried to read the Hindi signs, but by the time I recognized one letter, the car drove past, leaving the sign in the rearview mirror. I first saw my host mom on the back of a motorbike, guiding us to my new home. We pass fruit stands, see little shops with potato chip bags hanging outside and a few turns later, we arrive! I practically leap out of the car, my smile growing bigger and bigger. Should I hug my host mom? Touch her feet with my right hand? Just smile and say “Namaste”? Before any of these questions can be answered, she runs into the house, shouting “one minute! One minute!”. The nervous energy is bubbling over, my heart now in my throat, my eyes holding back tears of overwhelmed emotions. After the one minute passed, the door opens again, and all I can see are smiles.