I wasn’t expecting so much culture shock when I got here. I figured traveling for two months throughout four developing countries would prepare me plenty for Kolkata. I could not have been more wrong. Leaving the soothing, picturesque paradise of Koh Phangan behind me, I stepped off the plane into a world like I had never experienced before. And all I could think of was…I seriously have to liiive here for the next 10 weeks? Thiiis is home??
I was met at the Kolkata airport by the young American couple, Chris and Sally, who would be my fellow roommates and coworkers for the next few months. They were an extremely kind couple who had been living here since September and they had graciously offered me a place to stay in their apartment for my time in Kolkata. When we stepped outside the airport, I was quite relieved to feel a slightly “cooler” temperature than the unbearable 100 degrees I kept hearing of. But my joy was short-lived as Sally announced to me that this was the coolest day they had had in a while, and warned me to prepare for the worst. I did not understand how much worse it could get past 100, but I decided to avoid the reality of it until I had to face it myself.
Taking the taxi home, my subconscious slowly soaked in the chaotic surroundings: cars racing around one another in a series of beeping chaos, dark-skinned people flooding the streets all rushing onto their various destinations, shiny and colorful trash heaps lining the roads, women dressed in full Indian garb with bright-colored dresses flowing past their ankles and elbows, and towering, plain structures appearing as if they hadn’t been used in years. And all I could think to myself, in a silent fit of shock, was “welcome home Kaleigh, welcome home.”