American Friend

American Friend

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One of my favorite hobbies in life is travel as it’s an incredible way to learn about other cultures, meet new people and broaden horizons.(But I have hardly travelled) I would love to see myself as a bridge-builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures; I know wishful thinking at my age!

My parents raised me not to look at people racially. My dad would say we are all flowers born of the same Mother Earth but the colors are myriad.We share a common root, and the root is Mother Earth. The garden is beautiful because it has varied colors and these diverse colors represent our different cultures.

If we are open and non-judgmental then other people can sense that and will be naturally drawn to us. The internet has made it easy for us to access all kinds of online groups and communities where we can meet an assorted group of people and I met Jenna Catherine through this website https://www.couchsurfing.com/

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Its tagline says- Stay with Locals for Free (all over the world) It is a novel way of exploring cultures up close and get to know how people live in other parts of the world. I have not used the site but have hosted a couple of students in my home. Surprisingly, Jenna was here in my hometown on work and wanted to know if I could take her around. This was two years ago and we could manage only the early morning and I took her to a bird sanctuary and an ancient Jain temple. I packed some tea and Appams with  spicy chutney. We met as strangers and in the span of a couple of hours we were friends! Friends on Facebook too and kept in touch.

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We doubted if we would ever meet again but then destiny brought us together again as Jenna was back last week and intimated me about hr travel plans. This time, both of us had more time to spare and it was an interesting time we spent together. Jenna came over for lunch last Sunday and we even made rotis together. I was totally impressed with her wielding the rolling pin and making round rotis that puffed up so beautifully too! You have all my brownie points, Jenna. I had cooked a few vegetables like; yellow cucumber curry, cauliflower& potato, drumstick curry (which Jenna, understandably thought was chicken drumstick) pepper-lemon chicken, Green peas rice with a yoghurt dip and roti. I expected Jenna to react to the spicy food but this girl can really stomach spicy food;unbelievable actually. Jenna broke my myth of all Americans eating only bland food! If everyone on the planet accept the uniqueness of others and imbued their culture in this way there would be making the notion of a Global village come alive. Bigoted views on diversity lead to intolerance.

IMG_8100For dessert, there was kheer ( rice pudding) that I served warm.If everyone on the planet accept the uniqueness of others and imbued their culture in this way there would be making the notion of a Global village come alive. Bigoted views on diversity lead to intolerance.

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I believe travel is very important in helping us embrace others who are different from us. Keep up the travel Jenna! Some day even I would like to travel and explore to know how people’s traits, family values, culture, and experiences shape their personalities. By having a clear mind and heart, we open the doors for more perceptiveness in our interactions.

I feel that that everyone we meet can teach us something new. You never know, you might get a spark of inspiration from a new friend from across the world! The outcome of such friendships results in you having an eclectic set of friends from different backgrounds. When we understand and show tolerance towards others it is definitely a positive consciousness like the song…

Heal the World

Make It A Better Place

For You and For Me

And The Entire Human Race

The need of the hour is for the youth of the world should spread the word and promote peaceful and amicable relationships between world citizens. I like to watch people, at the airport, in the train, on the street and I note almost everything about them; and I wonder how unique each one of us are and how much unity is there in our diversity!

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Well, I diverged…sorry! Jenna was working the next day and we could not meet up. The next day, Jenna wanted to watch an Indian movie and to my horror, there was no Bollywood movie. Jenna was cool about watching the local Tollywood movie while I had my reservations. We had some time before the movie and we headed to a Pani Puri wala.This was authentic street food mind you. I asked Jenna to taste a sweet and sour puri first and then gave her only the spicy one next, asking her to choose the one she liked and guess what she liked the spicy one. I realized that women all over the world are the same and we just cannot dislike Pani Puri.

It has been ages since I watched a Telugu movie (Nannaki Prema to) and we walked into the theater. I thought I would be translating scene to scene but surprisingly Jenna was engrossed in the movie and when the break time came she didn’t like it one bit, as she wanted the movie to continue. To our surprise, the movie was quite good and we walked out with smiles on our faces.

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After a couple of days, Jenna called me around lunch time and asked me if I was free and I said yes. We set out on a food walk and we started with a typical Andhra Thali (an enormous plate with an assortment of food) restaurant. The Thali had many bowls of vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, sambar, rasam, chutneys, yoghurt, rice, papad and a rosogulla(An Indian sweet consisting of a ball of Paneer (cottage cheese) cooked in sugar syrup). It was fun watching Jenna tasting each and every bowl and the amazing part was when she started eating with her fingers. I know of North Indians who turn up their nose at us for eating rice with our fingers and here was a true blue American, happily mixing the rice, drizzled with ghee and gunpowder, with her fingers and relishing it. That was a real big meal and we walked out lethargically and were still talking about food.

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It was time to shop and we walked to the nearest stores. Jenna was looking for Indian kurtis and that’s what we started selecting. It is such fun to shop together and watch the other trying on dresses and rejecting them. Jenna dresses subdued for an American and blends with the locals, which is the clever way to travel. After a couple of hours of going through hundreds of kurtis, Jenna picked a few for her mom and for herself.

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What next said Jenna and I took her to eat Green Chilli fritters (Mirchi bajji in local parlance). Now Indian chillies, especially South Indian chillies are fiery hot. India is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers and Guntur our state of Andhra Pradesh produces 30% of all the chilies produced in India.  I was cautioning Jenna and I thought she would just nibble at the chilli fritters. Even I don’t dare to eat the whole chilli if it is very spicy but Jenna had two fritters and I couldn’t chicken out and give up, so I too had two of them. I was okay after eating and Jenna didn’t admit it but was asking me when I would get her the Kulfi(traditional Indian Subcontinent ice cream) I had promised. You are such a  sport, Jenna! It was obvious that her mouth was on fire and I took her to the most popular place for the softest and creamiest idly joint; Babai Idly. The melt-in-the-mouth idlis soothened the inferno in our throats.  We walked out after Jenna had a local filter coffee and headed to find the Kulfi wala (how much we ate!) We were full but we still ate the creamy Kulfi. Full and exhausted we called it a day and it was time to say goodbye.

I admire you Jenna for adapting so well to the Indian culture and admire you for thinking about moving here. Thank you for enriching my life.Stay blessed!

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Hope we meet again soon, World friend 🙂 !

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kalpana says:

    Great idea …this site on couch surfing !! You hosted a new friend and gave her a culture/food/movie/shopping et al experience !! I did some iPad surfing and enjoyed this blog of yours and went on the merry trip with a ringside seat 🙂

    Like

  2. You have a great way with words.I think you should start your own blog Kalpana 🙂 Thank you for the ring side view.It is always good to be appreciated.

    Like

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