What Sticks to My Heart

Culture shock can hit you when you’re only one time zone away from home. When first arriving at our place on Gorham Street, my taxi driver’s description of the apartment neighborhood I’m living in (to both Naila and I, on separate occasions): “Forget frat row! This street is where the party is at! You’re living in a party house, girl!” These are not words a 25-year-old post post post POST undergraduate girl who is committing her summer to learning a year’s worth of Hindi in eight weeks wants to hear. But although the raucous party from the next house over did keep me up until 3am the first night I got here, and one Saturday morning I was awakened to poor quality drumming, I really like our apartment. My plan to remedy this was to become less of an old person, and blast my fan/close my windows if I want to sleep on Friday or Saturday nights – I have succeeded on both fronts! We are right across the street from a lakeside park and a totally doable walk from the promenade area around State Street. We have a really nice, if largely absent, roommate who seems to love living here and has some great tips on exploring the city. Since we’re only here for eight weeks, I feel like a guest in another person’s house – it took me two days to put my things in the bathroom for fear of intruding on other people’s space! Slowly and persistently, we are settling in and getting to know the area. We just came down from a record-breaking heatwave (the previous records for the past four days were in the 1910’s and 1930’s), and are grateful that our AC-less apartment has ceased to be a furnace.

Farmer’s Market on Saturday near the State Capitol

There are samples of so many kinds of cheese here – you can try them all before you buy.

Studying Hindi has consumed my life in the best way possible. We have class for four hours each day, and are expected to study for three to four more hours. The workload generally ends up being a lot more, but I don’t mind. After having so little to do for four months (besides walking the best dogs ever and hanging out with lots of great friends and family), especially with my brain, I am really enjoying drowning in all the work. There are also several people I’ve befriended that will be going to India next year – three Fulbright scholars (one of which will mostly be in Dharamsala!), a Lutheran missionary, and some students (undergrad and grad) studying Hindi through a program in Varanasi/Benaras. The teacher I’m studying under now will also be in Varanasi next year, giving me more people to visit.

Picnic in the park before the fireworks.

Getting ready to tour the Capitol building.

Hindi itself is proving to be a beauty of a language. The writing of the alphabet takes a long time, and correctly identifying द (retroflex aspirated “dha”) and ढ (dental unaspirated “da”), is still giving me trouble. Learning it so fast can make it hard to appreciate sometimes, but occasionally one of our teachers will tell us the meaning of a word or phrase and I’m completely floored by what I hear. One such word is िदलचसप (this is almost the correct spelling but I haven’t figured out how to merge consonants on the keyboard yet), or “interesting” (pronounced dilchuhsp). It literally means “that which sticks to my heart”. Also, in Hindi, everything happens to the subject – for example, the way you say “I am very hot” is literally translated from Hindi as “Heat is striking me”. The word order is something I still need to get used to. As much as I am enjoying learning the language and I feel comfortable with what I’ve learned, I know the ultimate test of communicating with Indians who speak at a normal pace will be something I initially will bumble through ridiculously.

Inside the State Capitol.

A view of Lake Monona (left) and Lake Mendota (right) from the top of the Capitol building.

The rest of today will be dedicated to preparing for my midterm exam – it’s hard to believe my program is almost half-way through. More later on Hindi and my excitement and anxiety about leaving in 7 weeks.

नामासते! (namaste – goodbye!)

करिसटीना जेमस (Christina James)


3 thoughts on “What Sticks to My Heart

  1. Christina, I’m so glad you’re having a great time in Wisconsin and studying Hindi. It sounds like a really interesting language. Hope we get to chat before you leave!

  2. Your explanation of the two language items that have been giving you trouble baffle me. (What’s dental unaspirated? Using the teeth without breathing???) I can’t even begin to imagine how much you’re learning!!!

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