With the AIF departure impending, I find myself starting to detect some familiar feelings: the challenge and stress of physical preparation as well as the mental preparation to leave all that is currently normal and routine. While the former has been business as usual (make a packing list, lose the list, repeat), I have taken a bit of a different approach with the latter.
I still consider myself relatively “fresh” off the fishing boat from my fourth non-consecutive summer gillnetting in Bristol Bay, Alaska. As I was stuck on that little boat in the middle of nowhere I found myself comparing the experience with my upcoming AIF Clinton Fellowship. Now there is nothing “fresh” about being on a fishing boat for 7 weeks without a shower, but I thought about how the AIF Fellowship would be the first truly “fresh” endeavor I have embarked on in quite some time. My excitement stemmed mostly from the fact that I will be able to fulfill a role that I have not only been passionate about for a long time, but one in a beautiful country that I have spent relatively (to most of the other fellows) little time. In certain ways this seems like a bit of a disadvantage, but it will also enable me to bring a unique enthusiastic perspective.
While my Bengali study on the boat came along somewhat slowly, reviewing some of my old economic development notes and books was a great way to start thinking about what I could bring to the table in Kolkata. Workforce development plays a powerful role in rural development, and it is something that I am extremely excited to delve back into. I spent many restless hours below the snoring 300 pound fisherman bending the thin plywood bunk above mine thinking about this and what I could do to best prepare myself for working with Anudip. I thought about the feeling that I get when I experience new cultures, new people, new ideas and different perspectives; the rich encounters that result in horizons expanding at a much greater rate. I thought about how ten months in West Bengal will bring to me the familiarity that can only come by living somewhere, not just visiting.
In Alaska I spent a lot of time daydreaming about my bicycle and scratching the bygone days off my calendar (with a Victorinox). It is not a place I generally enjoyed being, nor a place I saw as particularly useful to my future. This sharply contrasts my expectations for India. I feel extremely privileged and excited to embark on a journey that will change my outlook forever.