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314 pages, Paperback
First published December 3, 2012
After stepping out of her comfort zone of American suburbia, Sandra Bornstein found herself in a life altering experience that made her question the meaning of marital bliss. Living alone in a three-hundred-square-foot dorm room, she taught fifth grade at a renowned international boarding school in Bangalore. This compelling, honest, and edifying memoir shares everything she learned about perseverance, travel, education, faith, and family. Had Sandra never resided in India, she would have missed out on an experience that ultimately enhanced her resiliency, confidence, and passion for life.In retrospect, that's pretty vague, and—together with the cover—led me to believe I'd be getting something very different from the book than it was actually offering. It's two things, I think. First, I didn't realise that Bornstein was (relatively speaking) older, with children who were grown or very nearly grown. She was not (contrary to what I assumed from the cover) a twenty-something who stuffed her worldly possessions into a battered backpack and went off to see the world. Not that there's the slightest thing wrong with that, of course (if anything, good for those who do the extra-unexpected)...just not what I expected.
"I missed everyone so much," I said with tears streaming down my cheeks.I suspect more reflection would have helped. Anyone who's travelled has had those cranky moments when all you want to do is go home or eat familiar food, moments when you think your home is better. But these anecdotes just end there, and I'm left wondering whether Bornstein's perspective has changed since she left India. Was that just a moment of hurray-there's-someone-from-my-world, or was that Bornstein's lasting impression? Or when she's in an Indian OR and demands to know why the entire room isn't speaking English...years later, is she still indignant, or is she laughing at herself for being that kind of foreigner? Because there's not really any analysis, the way Bornstein writes about it feels really uncomfortably negative to me.
"We missed you, too," the boys said in unison.
"Rachel, you're a trouper. How's your back?"
Instead of answering my question, Adam and Rachel merely blurted, "India sucks!"
"What happened?" I asked.
"The guard wouldn't let the bus through the gate. We schlepped our luggage here," Adam complained. (231)
"Mom, does everyone look through you all the time?" Adam asked.
"Yes, people do stare at me."
"Mom, Dad, the garbage...it's pathetic. Why doesn't anyone clean up?" Adam asked.
"Do you ever feel safe? Crazy maniac drivers," Jordan said.
"Take it easy, guys," Ira said.
"Mom, do you wear goggles or a mask when you shower? I'm closing my eyes and my mouth when I shower so that none of the water gets in," Jordan said with a smirk on his face.
That got a rise out of everyone and we all laughed. "Jordan, that's pretty funny. But, guys, you know the answer to all of these questions. Please don't harp in front of Rachael or her family," I said. (233)
"Sandy, I'm happy we missed lunch. The food sucks."
"The cafeteria offers more choices."
"Most of that food looks like diarrhea. It's disgusting," Ira responded.
"That's Southern Indian cuisine. I don't care for it, either."
"Between the water and the food, no wonder you lost weight." (264)