Arriving in India after midnight, walking out of the airport, inhaling the humid air, meeting with friends and taking a cab to check in to the hostel – an accurate description of my first actions taken after stepping on the land of India. For the reason of it being troublesome to find a short-term rental option, I sticked to living in the hostel ironically called Zostel until me and my colleagues find an affordable apartment. Little did I know it would take a month and a half to finally move into our own place, and, so, my stay in India swiftly divided into two chapters – the one when living in hostel and the one when living in the apartment.
Starting off with the hostel part.
At that time Diwali, a Hindu festival happening across the whole of India, took over and let me chill for a few days before the start of my internship. Brazilian friend of mine Barbara and I decided to not waste any time and hop on the bus to Bangalore – a city in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. We rented an airbnb for two nights and explored the town both during the day and night. If anything, Bangalore is famous for its vibrant nightlife which we got the opportunity to experience.
Reminiscing on my first weeks in the office as a content writer, I can tell how different the working environment is in Chennai compared to my hometown, Chisinau. Although people might seem reserved, their friendliness and willingness to help comes off straight away (shoutout to our fellow colleagues for helping us talk over the phone with rickshaw drivers, SIM card booth salesmen and just every other Tamilian citizen with poor English) . The utmost curiosity combined with genuine interest to you as an expat leads to you developing close relationship which later on turns you into good friends.
Working from 10 AM to 7 PM, our company’s policy allowed us to have a 15 minutes coffee break in the morning, 30 minutes lunch break and an almost mandatory 15 minutes tea break. The perfect, in my humble opinion, schedule indeed positively influenced my work mode and resulted in me not losing my productivity halfway through the day. And, hey, who would mind having a chit chat with your newly acquired pals throughout the day on topics ranging from traveling plans to weekend shenanigans? Not me.
Trying to get the most out of my ‘one in a lifetime’ experience, I managed to not only do some standard sightseeing, but also escape the noisy (and, let’s face it, a bit polluted) city and explore the surroundings. Pondicherry, a city that preserved its French legacy till these days, became my second after Bangalore weekend getaway. Although initially heading there just the two of us – Mayssa, tunisian friend of mine and I, we met an Indian guy touring the country on his bike, a German and a Canadian traveller, thus making it five of us in total. Renting two motorbikes and examining the city was the perfect way of spending our short but sweet time off of work.
While visiting malls in between the jam-packed weekdays, in the back of my mind I was already boarding a plane to the south of GOA, a very much desired destination of mine. Scoring a good deal on a pre-holiday flight sale, me and my roommate embarked on our first to that date domestic flight journey with IndiGo, a local airline. Right after a power nap in our hostel, we made our way to some beaches together with our spontaneously met Italian and Canadian friends (a huge advantage of staying at hostels – you get to meet a lot of people all over the world). Words cannot do justice to the sceneries we got to witness, which is why I suggest you to just take in what is on these pics.
Following a smart decision to rent two bikes, four of us went to explore GOA. We spent about five or so hours in total roaming through the forests of Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, gazing at waterfalls, making contact with village kids, and then watching sunsets on our ride back to the city. Determined to go a little further and ending up wandering at another beach (Colva) the next day, I can say without a hint of doubt that this trip was incredibly memorable. I still go through the pictures taken on that adventure and wish to go back at some point later in life.
On another note, when trying to fully immersing myself into the local culture (and, honestly, trying to not go broke until my first salary), south Indian cuisine persisted in the majority of my meals. Dosa, idli rice and coconut chutney have quickly become my favorites and go-to’s. Yeah, mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t for the love of the universe handle spicy dishes loved and majorly consumed by the locals, but also for their unique taste. Often served on banana leaves and accompanied by at least four to five various chutneys, you simply cannot go wrong with either one of their deliciously cooked flour-based chapathi, roti or paratha. Oh, and how could I forget about banana chips and laddu – a great snack during the day full of workload.
Not really looking forward to staying at hostel for such a long period of time at first, I am now beyond grateful for the right set of circumstances that led me to spending there half of my stay in the country. The amount of people I got to meet each with their own story – from a lawyer on a holiday to a world traveller and to a volunteer – was by far the biggest highlight of my trip. At the end of the day, it is all about the people who fill your journey with memories you cherish for forever.