Perception is a crafty thing

In the first week here, while walking around in the streets, we felt our eyes tearing and burning, our nostrils itching, and our skin cooking in the sun. The smell of garbage would blow by our faces, all hot and sticky sweet. We observed on every corner rotting piles of food, fetid water, garbage, or swarms of flies like a thick blanket covering some discarded meal. Matt somehow stumbled into some poop on a walk one day, and for a few days you could see him glancing down when he placed his foot. We'll admit, in the first week, things had a raw feeling to them.

In reality, none of these things was so prevalent. But perception is a crafty thing. It amplifies new things and ignores the old. Patterns develop quickly, regardless of how much we consider change to be slow. 

Just over three weeks later in a rickshaw on the way back from the mall, we were enjoying the pleasant ride, the cool air, and trying (and failing) to decipher the "meter" that was supposed to be counting the fare. It felt very different from two weeks prior - familiar, natural, and fluid. We relished the shade of those tree-lined streets and the way the breeze felt on our skin as our driver maneuvered through traffic, not even noticing the heat of the day. 

Over the last year we've been inadvertently exploring the concept of "settling in." We've determined - for us - it takes about three weeks to settle in anywhere. Within those weeks we find ourselves generally accepting things as they come, observing them, fighting a bit when things go against our standard flow, but otherwise taking it all in. After three weeks, things feels natural, and we begin to have more meta thoughts about our surroundings. We ask ourselves questions along the lines of.... What am I getting out of this experience? How can I improve my situation? What do I like about being here? Am I learning? Am I being actively involved or passively observing?

After three weeks we find ourselves ready to expand, progress, and, well, occasionally flee. Because while things can feel all new - some rosy and some overwhelming - once those three weeks are up, we find things we don't like have sunk well in. 

This makes photography particularly interesting. When I'm photographing - especially in a new place - I try to keep a heightened awareness of my surroundings, seeing things everyday with new eyes. But this many times conflicts with being a traveler who desires to sink into a place and feel at home. Other photographers have combated this problem by devoting time to a single subject at one time. Ah, but this is not the life for us. So we have found an energetic medium, sometimes feeling at home and sometimes exclaiming, "WOW, did you know we're in India?!" to one another.

In our first month here, we felt a great peace being with family, but a sense of "otherness" hung over our experiences when we ventured out into Mumbai. Now, one month and a half in, language is beginning to settle itself inside our brains. It's slowly trickling down like water, searching for the path of least resistance. Overheard conversations no longer sound like one continuous word spoken for several minutes, but little bits of meaning separated by minuscule pauses (haha, sentences!). A single English word thrown in and we feel like a lightbulb has gone off. Communication!

We find that our perspective comes in waves, coinciding with the many facets of our interests. We can amplify these waves based on reading more about a place, experiencing more, and sometimes taking pause.

It's an incredible world out there; many, many lifetimes of fascination. You could spend your whole lifetime exploring the world out there and never get tired, if you remembered occasionally to say when and head on home. 

Place: Mumbai Tags: cities, reflections

We'd love to hear from you

  • Or you can log in via

    Twitter Facebook Google