I arrived in the magic hour. Winding my way up through shadows and into dawn. We stopped for tea and my limited Hindi speak seemed to feel at home again. We spoke about the cold (my primary vocabulary) and huddled around an iron box of barely burning odds and ends. Whether or not such sources provide much heat is debatable, but it does seem to thaw out the coldness in the mind.
I’ve been away since the 13th, primarily in the South where I attended our midpoint conference followed by a week of traveling before coming home to Satoli. I still have a lot to process about the experiences I’ve had the last few weeks, but I can say that has been an incredible journey for such a short amount of time. A break from the familiar coupled with the warmth of the sun, the sea and the fellows seemed to thaw rigid barriers that I had set in my mind about work, life and my own abilities within these paradigms.
The journey down the mountain was a unique one. I crammed into a bus with the 20 kids that make up Aarohi’s song and dance troop as well as an equal number of Aarohi staff, all on their way to carry out Aarohi’s annual fund raising event in Delhi and Bangalore. Energy was high as we made our way down to the train station lighting up the road with Kumoani and Hindi songs. Once on the train, the adults did their best to get the kids, some of whom were on their first train ride, settled into the right bunks. I sat on my own, observing the chaos with a large grin on my face. I woke up as the train approached New Delhi. I hadn’t been back in the city since I left for Satoli in September, and must say that the laid-back atmosphere of the hills was immediately missed.
A day later I had arrived in the South of India and was reunited with my fellow fellows. This time we were the kids who could hardly contain our enthusiasm, and the AIF staff had the challenging task of corralling us for the next week.
Our midpoint conference was intense. We came together after being immersed in the experience of living and working in India for 5 months, and it seems that many of our waves came with us. For my own part, midpoint gave me an opportunity to reflect on my experiences without being caught up in them. This process was very much propelled by exchanging stories with the other fellows. The heaviness of our frustrations was countered by laughter, levity and a bit of music and meditation as we relished in the luxury of our surroundings in not-so Silent Shores.
Spending a week with these amazing people was a gift, though in some ways it was difficult to see changes in attitudes from what they were when we first arrived. During Orientation the amount of motivation and determination in the air was palpable. Since then we have gone off to our respective locations in different cities and villages across India where we have struggled both mentally and physically in the face of sometimes unforgiving situations. It seems to me that learning the hard way is sometimes the only option, if learning is to take place at all. And often the hardness of what we encounter and struggle through, both internally and externally, sticks with us. This is what I saw in myself and many others during midpoint. It’s my hope that some of this hardness has given way to fresh outlooks on our respective realities.
Our beloved AIF staff say that coming together for this conference half way through our fellowship is to refresh and renew, after ample sharing of both the difficult and joyous experiences we’ve had. For me this was certainly the case, and as I step back and try to make sense of it all, I am reminded of a poem that seems to put the good, bad and the ugly into perspective…
Take all the sadness of your life
Into your left hand
And all the joy
Into your right.
It takes both hands
To hold the truth.
Accepting only the good
And rejecting the bad
Is like trying to breathe
Taking only inbreaths.
(poem by Ian McCrorie)
And to my fellow fellows: May the feeling of knowing no limits that we had when this journey began, be felt again as we reflect on our own intentions and capabilities in this crazy world we find ourselves in…