"There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place."
My own personal saree, tailor made according to my measurements. First I picked out the material, then was measured and chose the design style I wanted for the blouse. I also had my saree made as a "ready-made" saree so that the pleats were sown in and I wouldn't have to remember how to wrap it, because it's fairly complicated to learn how to wrap a saree.
Before I delve into the reverse acclimation in America, I would like to thank everyone for their support, encouragement, and motivation throughout my 3 months in India. As I now view the stats on my blog, I can say that at this point my blog has had approximately 3000 PAGE VIEWS since I started it a little over 3 months ago, which is roughly a thousand page views per month!!! This is fairly astounding to me, as I never expected so many to anticipate my posts, but it has been just as rewarding, if not more so, for me to blog, and the fact that others have been interested in what I have posted makes it that much more rewarding. I hope that I have at least in a small way reduced stereotypes and provided an honest view into a culture halfway around the world.
I don't think I knew how hard it was going to be to leave India until I got to the airport to board my first flight out of Hyderabad. My last day in Hyderabad was full of goodbyes and farewells to my many new friends who wished me well in the future, hoping we would meet again.
In case you're wondering, yes, I'm THAT dork who will take pictures from my window seat on the airplane, watching the ground every take-off and landing with awe. And yes, I'm 22.
Munich, GermanyIt was really kind of entertaining because several flight attendants on the plane ride from Delhi to Munich started speaking to me in German, and as soon as I gave them a blank look on my face as I tried to comprehend what they were saying, they were like, oh, English? Yes, please, English! A few times I knew what they meant if they were giving directions in the Munich airport, having quite a bit of experience at this point with communicating with people that I don't speak the same language, but what a riot. The funny part is that if they would have spoken to me in Hindi I would have had a better chance of grasping the general idea of what they were saying than German (not that I'm anywhere near fluent, mind you, in Hindi), but German I don't speak a lick.
The Munich airport is the only place I have ever seen indoor designated smoke zones like this, and there were multiple spots. The Camel Smoking Zone is specifically designed for smokers to light up in.
Chicago, IL, USA
St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN, USA
The last stop... I can still hear the relief in my mom's voice when she knew I had landed safely...
When I returned to America, one of the first things I did was have a sip of tap water from a drinking fountain because I knew it was safe, and it was the weirdest feeling. I can really appreciate the fact that the US has such an abundant supply of safe drinking water right out of the tap, hot and cold water straight out of every faucet. Americans really have no idea how luxurious our lives are, things like clean drinking water we take for granted, and yet, it is such a privilege to be blessed with that. And Americans don't have the constant power outages for a few hours a day, or the chance that there won't be any water pressure for a couple hours at a time. I remember several mornings in India going to take a shower, and wait, no water! The cities in America are cleaner, more spread out, and much, much quieter. There isn't a constant flow of honking in the streets. Driving for the first time again also felt very strange, opposite side of the road and the car, and people actually follow the traffic rules! I am really not enjoying the weather which has been about 0 C, or 32 F, which considering it has actually been a fairly warm winter so far, it's predicted Minnesota will have a brown Christmas, instead of the usual white Christmas, a rare thing in the Midwest USA not to have snow this time of year.
Since I've been home I've also been enjoying the simple things, like having an American cup of coffee, beer at a bar with friends, salad, pasta, pizza, and peanut butter sandwiches. Yet I will say I miss Indian food and the flavor, I think I will try my hand at cooking up a few things here that I always liked to eat in India. My first morning home I had my first bowl of cold cereal and cold milk in over 3 months and at first I was really excited, and then I took a few bites and was like, oh, this is kind of bland... For dinner one night my mom made tacos, a Mexican dish generally consisting of tortillas (America's version of roti/chapati except it's store bought, pronounced tore-tee-yas), cheese, tomatoes, onions, optional beef, and lettuce. The American way to eat it is to put all the ingredients inside the tortilla and wrap it up, but it just felt too strange for me to eat it like that after India, so I tore my tortilla into strips and scooped up the toppings just like how I would eat a roti and curry.
I like the fact that I'm in the same time zone as friends so I can just call them up again. I look around and I'm not a foreigner anymore, I don't stand apart, I'm much more normal, and that actually is very comforting. I love that my grandparents can have a 15 minute conversation about how long they think we have been or will be, waiting at a red stop light. Speaking of which, people from Innopark might be interested to hear that my Grandparents took me to experience my first real life casino gambling experience yesterday! Basically broke even, but learned how to play a poker game called Deuces Wild, and witnessed a lot of slot machine gambling.
About a week after my arrival back to America, I've almost completely adjusted to the time difference of 11.5 hours, which really threw me off at first having my nights and days flipped. So now I'm feeling much better after a good couple nights of sleep. On top of that getting sick the last weekend in India and traveling home with virtually no voice didn't help things. Overall, it really has been quite strange adjusting to life again in America, and slightly overwhelming at first, still not nearly as difficult as adjusting to India, but I would say difficult in different ways, and physically and emotionally difficult in different ways.
Leaving India was definitely bittersweet. Wonderful to be home to see the "3 F's" family, friends, and familiarity (yep, I just made that up), and yet very sad to be leaving India because I know that I will really miss it. I miss the chaos, the daily adventures, the food, the crazy routine my life took on, and the people, I have many friends I want to keep in touch with! What made life challenging also made it exciting. But I hope to always continue the ultimate journey, the endless journey, the journey of self.
It has been so awesome to see college and hometown friends again, and to communicate in my oh so familiar American English, not having the frequent language barriers anymore. It really is such a wonderful feeling coming home to people that are so happy to see you again, and now I've got a few thousand crazy stories to add to the fun. My friends here tell me I seem so relaxed now, so much more confident, so comfortable, and more direct. And really, daily life just seems so much easier again in my familiar environment. And I know that this new sense of self I wouldn't have discovered without going to India, it changed me as a person.
I think that there are often things that people like to read, but don't want to personally write, either out of sense of privacy, fear, or not wanting others to be upset at their views. I hope I have provided through my blog a small outlet that can help people voice tough or contrary opinions, to stand up for what they believe in, and to be more accepting of people in general. It's not easy to publicly write things that are deeply personal, or that you think others might not agree with, it hasn't always been easy for me, but that's really the only kind of writing that can make an impact. And then something really amazing happens, as soon as you begin to open up more, it becomes easier and easier, and you become happier that you are being more honest, and then you keep expressing your true and honest opinions. And then you start becoming more of the person you want to be, and you're more satisfied with yourself that you're not scared anymore of being what you really want to be, behaving and believing how you want to behave and believe.
When I look back to who I was as a person just starting college, I can't believe how much I've changed since then. If you would have told me I was going to live 3 months in India, I would have thought you were suffering from some sort of mental illness. You never know where life will take you if you are willing to work for it, and recognize an opportunity when it comes. Stay committed, to all my design friends, if you love design, then really love design, live design! But also stay inspired, do things that inspire you just for the heck of it. In order to be a better designer, you also need to experience life, take up a hobby, read a novel, learn to play an instrument, go for a walk, or travel abroad. Because if you don't take the time to do things that make you happy, you'll be waiting your whole life to start enjoying your life. And what's the point if you're not enjoying life?
So now as I enjoy the holiday season, I know I will be applying for jobs soon in Minneapolis, which is still an intimidating prospect, but I hope that the adventure I have gone through has better prepared me for a life and career ahead. I have grown as a designer, but I have also grown deeply as a human being, and I hope it is a journey which never ends.
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."