Prior to India:
I worked at the largest Lemur Conservation Research Center in the world; a place that had profound experience with these wild, endangered species. I saw the tiny offspring of rare Blue-eyed Blacks, watched intimate behaviors of Zoobomafoo’s family, lead tours for curious locals, trained Ringtails to follow my command, went to Madagascar, and even did my own research on the eccentric Aye-Aye. But there were many, many, many moments of mundane tasks such as chopping food or spending hours inserting data into excel.
This summer I hiked the Appalachian trail 4x over to culminate in ~200 miles. I saw incredible sunsets and sunrises. I had the uncanny privilege to be part of the growth of not-yet-adults becoming more confident with facing challenges in life, even if that challenge was the seemingly daunting task of having to alleviate yourself in the woods. I saw a bear run down a hill, painted with fire, learned and told countless riddles, experienced trail magic, and learned I am sufficiently capable during natural disasters like a tree fall. And there were moments when hours ensued of moaning from my campers, inside my head, and from my stomach. When going up and down the mountain was relentlessly painful and I ached to get to the campsite.
By now I have had several job opportunities and adventures that have given me astounding, smile-inducing, and deep experiences in life that even today can make me tingle. And much of this is hindsight. Those moments were also laden with mundane, frustrating, long, and difficult tasks. But it is a balance! By sifting through these bad moments I have come to appreciate and deeply love the moments of good and beauty.
Mundane moments and frustrating experiences have already begun with my time here in India. I have experienced the infamous and volatile ‘Delhi Belly’ (I will refrain from going into detail) and learned to not drink the bottled train water (turns out, caps that are not sealed is a sure sign of unfortunate things to come). For the past 2 weeks I have been trudging through a language swamp of viney script that moves my wrist in awkward formations and demands sounds unheard of in the English language; all for the sake to understand Tamil, an ancient language of Southern India. My work at Keystone (an NGO dedicated to the livelihoods of indigenous tribes and conservation of the Nilgiris – http://keystone-foundation.org/) is allowing me to learn SO much about bees, honey, conservation, and the indigenous tribes of the Nilgiri. It also means that for the next month or two I must research and read an exorbitant amount of resources, and discern what chunk of information is best suited for this project (somewhat reminds me of my undergraduate thesis experience…).
And there has been great, great joy! Finding quaint café nooks for much desired coffee and comradery, laughing at the ridiculous nasally sounds emitted by me and the other fellows of the Tamil Nadu squad (Cal and Avan!) as we try to speak this beautiful language, and witnessing the spiritual reverence and devotion present in the temples. My work place still surprises me with monkeys bounding across the lawn on my right and bison chewing on grass on the left, and all perfectly timed at tea break. I love the ever flowing fountain of chai here. I love smelling the wafts of warm honey through my office window when they are adding saffron or ginger to the batch. I love that my coworkers can’t get enough of games like uno and invite me to play, and furthermore have already invited me into their circle of friendship.
Joy is speeding down a mountain on a Royal Enfield motorcycle, the crisp air whipping my cheeks, while the sunset splatters deep orange and red across the wispy clouds. Joy is gathering with new friends over a few drinks and a home cooked meal of toast and veggies while listening to Led Zeppelin and other classics over cassette tapes. Joy is sitting on the forest floor with schools kids, as their eyes are closed and they listen to the birds and giant squirrels in the trees, in a meditative state.
My time in India will have much and there will be numerous moments of sifting through the bad and good. I just hope and pray I don’t wait for hindsight to remind me of the good. I hope I live it and breathe it in deeply once it is present. Here’s to 10+ months in a land rich with culture, food, people, color, music, and life!