My knowledge of India, of all places (yes, India - not China or Japan or the United States or anywhere else seemingly logical) has increased tenfold on this trip. It is not because our national tour suddenly veered far West or because I have been doing independent research in the library whenever we don’t have class. It IS because I, along with many of the others in our Fall in China group, have met and befriended many SuDa fourth-year male medical students who are from India.
When Robert, Geena, Staci, and I were leaving church last weekend, a man named George came and introduced himself to us because he was also an American who has had to navigate SuDa. (We introduced ourselves during the service, and he sought us out.) He had ridden his bike to the building and thus would be returning on it, but he kindly directed us to the shuttle, which had a drop-off point near one part of the massive SuDa campus. So that we would surely know our stop, he also took the time to find other English-speaking SuDa students on board. We sat in front of them and chatted for the 15-minute or so ride. We found out a little bit about them and their studies, and then we walked along the same route to our respective dorms for a few minutes. When it was time to part, they invited us to eat lunch with them in the “mess hall.” We were hungry and eager to explore new options, so we of course assented!
This mess hall, which serves all Indian food, all the time, is now probably my favorite meal option. The meals are nearly always exclusively vegetarian, always DELICIOUS, and I can get more food than I can eat for 11 yuan - less than two dollars. Plus, it seems that every time we go, our friends are there, who introduce us to their friends and their friends’ friends...so we now have a network of Indian buddies. Last night, one of them invited a group of us to go out with him to a show, which turned into a show, dinner, and a disco, and the night turned out to be some of the most fun that I’ve had in China!
In addition to expanding our network and having great food, I’ve also had some meaningful conversations with some of the guys. We have talked about everything from school to 9/11 to country comparisons to family to tradition to China. I definitely have learned a lot from them, and they seem to be interested in our customs, too. Their English is sometimes a bit quick or garbled, but I’ve become used to it (with the help of Karim. haha) They’re really nice guys, and I’ll be forever indebted to their exposure of me to daal, roti, gobi, nan, samba, and more (all foods, of course!)