Ten months is no short holiday. Sure, I’ve been to India before – for two days, for ten days, for five months. But never for 10 months. In saying goodbyes over the last week, I was repeatedly asked, ‘are you ready? Are you excited’ to which I confidently responded, ‘yea, of course!’ But now that I really come to think about it and reflect on the fact that I’ll be boarding a plane in the next few hours away from the home I’ve known all my life and to a new home I’ll be making myself for the coming year, I’m not sure that I’m completely ready. How can I be? I’ve done all that I can to get myself physically prepared to live in India – updated my vaccinations, ordered a supply of contact lenses, eaten a year’s worth of Mexican food, packed (relatively) lightly, etc. But how about mentally? Sure, I’ve read up on Kolkata, arranged my accommodations, researched the NGO I’ll be working with, etc., but there is so much that I just can’t prepare myself enough for. So I guess to answer the frequently asked question of whether I’m ready, I just have to say that I’m as ready as I can be right now and look forward to running with it when I land in India.
The last time I was India, I spent five months working at a non-profit in Bangalore. Overall, a really great learning experience, I thought that the time was both too long and not enough. As I had initiated the relationship with the non-profit on my own, I faced a lot of communication challenges and hardships getting started with the work. Because of the challenges, at the end of five months, I was ready for a break from India but still felt there was a lot more I wanted to and could accomplish. Quite unlike my last experience working in India, I feel more confident and competent about the project I will be embarking on with Anudip Foundation because of AIF’s continued support and organization. My conversations with the mentors at Anudip and the alumni who have worked there in previous years have also helped to quell my trepidations. I’ve heard so many positive things about Kolkata as a vibrant, artsy, intellectual city that I look forward to exploring it and making it my home. I am excited about all the learning opportunities that await me starting with Orientation in Delhi to the day-to-day work at Anudip. I am excited about travel opportunities to visit Fellows in other cities and being deeply immersed in the local Bengali culture (language, food, lifestyle). Of course, I am sure there will be many things that I will have to learn to adapt to and be patient with – sense of time, communication, work ethic, the famous Indian head bobble, etc., but I know those will all be minor adjustments compared to everything I stand to gain.
Sure, I will miss home – I will miss my family, friends, the lifestyle, birthdays and other milestones, but for now, I’m encouraging everyone to come out and visit me while I live in India or else we’ll stay in touch through Skype, email, Facebook or other wonderful creations on the internet. I just have to look at it this way – next July, I’ll leave India having gained a whole new family and excited to catch up and share my stories with everyone who I have missed at home.
Until then, I’ll take one step at a time and enjoy everyday that I have in India.