Like Julie Andrews and Andre 3000 say.
These are a few of my favorite things in Kharang:
- Shah and kpu every day. Tea time is pretty awesome, and biscuits are especially awesome. The Brits got this so right.
- Wearing my jainkyrsha everywhere. Jainkyrshas are described by The Lonely Planet as “pinafores in gingham-checked cotton, fastened on one shoulder,” and is basically the Khasi apron. I wear my brown one to work and my purple one at home, and I even brought the latter with me on the Nepal trip. It’s like a coat of armor against all troubles (or at least all stains) of the world.
- Learning Khasi from the construction workers. The workers love us volunteers, and love teaching us new Khasi words and listening to us attempt them. One of my favorite interactions was when one worker asked me (at tea time) if I was leaving to eat rice. I told him, no, I’m going to eat biscuits! After he burst out laughing, I asked Dari if I’d understood him correctly, and apparently he’d asked me if I eat rice at all… And I said, no, I eat biscuits. Whoops!
- Kong Barr students’ shawls. Like I’ve written before, folks wear plaid pants and plaid shawls here. At Kong Barr, all the students have matching blue tartan print shawls and I think they’re pretty snazzy, even though all of the plaid I buy is in the theme of Carnegie Mellon (red with green accents).
- Courtesy at meals. When us Westerners sit together at meals, we always serve each other food out of the tiffins. It’s quite sweet.
- Grace at meals. My family never did the grace thing, but it’s pretty nice. Sharmila talked about it in her sermon at the Dienglieng Unitarian Church, and I agree that it’s a practice I want to take home with me.
- Baby bonnets. All the babies wear these really cute bonnets, and I love them.
- Celebrating America in the Khasi Hills. I think I mentioned that Sharmila and Jon taught Wanrilung and Trei how to high-five and fist-pound (respectively), and just this weekend we had all the kids participate in Halloween. Janis helped dress them up, Jon made a great kitten jack-o-lantern, and Sharmila instructed the kids in how to trick-or-treat while Jon, Janis, and I handed out candy.
- Greetings from the village kids. At first, they were really shy around us visitors, but by now have warmed up and always give us a “khublei!” and “bye-bye!” when we see them.
- Baby animals. Seriously. I love the baby goats (always talk about stealing them), and my favorite animal here in Kharang is the kitten, Richard Corey. (Yes, the cats didn’t have names, so Jon and I named them. Richard’s mother is Kong Robinson, also from Simon & Garfunkel, and his antisocial father is Alex, named after my friend from MATCH who is equally curmudgeonly.)
- Pow-wows. These are sessions for all of us visitors to talk out odd and/or funny things that happen in our days. Usually this is just me and Sharmila as we huddle under our mosquito nets (not to avoid mosquitoes, which are rare, but to escape the moths that sneak through our ceiling), but often Janis and Jon are involved as well.
- Blue skies. The sky here (now that it’s not raining) has a gradated blue color, starting at the horizon as a light blue and getting darker as it goes up. I think it’s beautiful.
- Composing “Dear Karen (and Steve)” letters. Hi, Jon’s mom and dad. Occasionally, your son expresses a desire to do things likely to result in his demise or illness. On such occasions, I begin composing letters home to you, as to deter him from engaging in such behaviors. He hasn’t died or gotten seriously injured, so apparently it’s working.
- Having Senator Obama as president-elect. Hoorah!
This weekend is Janis and Sharmila’s last here, and I’m pretty sad to see them go. I’ll miss them a lot. We’ll have a good time, though, at the Nongkrem Dance (a huge, traditional Khasi festival in honor of the chieftain) in Smit and the Autumn Festival in Shillong.