Zach, outbound to India

Hey there everyone! It’s been about two months since I got back from India (and longer, I know, since I made a journal entry – sorry). The readjustment process is… difficult to describe.

To be honest, for a while when I returned (and, in hindsight, at some points in my exchange) I was bitter about some things. The main thing that bothered me was that I had so many host families – about eight in total, and the final seven were all short stints at different houses during the second half of my year. I guess I had been getting pretty close to the Raja family and I wanted that relationship to continue to develop. So I was bitter about some things, and it definitely impacted my journals as well as my thoughts about India for a while.
This past weekend, though, I went to the Rebound Orientation program in Florida, and my goodness did I need that. Spending time and sharing stories with other exchange kids, even though I was the only one to go to India, was necessary for me and incredibly cathartic. I really feel so much better about my exchange year, now.
I mean, how blessed was I?! I got to experience and see some absolutely amazing things – dancing Navratri for hours on end, climbing mountains in the Himalayas, simply walking and talking and soaking in this incredible culture. It was, without question, one of the best years of my life.

I feel as though I owe you, beloved reader, an apology. During my year I often took to my journal in some harder times to express what I was feeling – as is natural for any journal, I suppose. But you have access to what I wrote and I hope that your view of this beloved country of mine wasn’t skewed by my moods that could at times best be described as cloudy. I grew so much, and had such a great time in India… My heart actually aches thinking about it now.

I don’t know what I could write here to accurately describe the feeling. I’ll try to make an example. Imagine you had just finished your favorite book of all time. There were some challenging parts of the experience, to be sure, but you just couldn’t get enough of it. You finally get to the last chapter, the last page, the last paragraph, sentence, and word. You want nothing more than to start it over again. Only, in this case, you can’t. You shut the back cover, and it remains forever closed, only to be remembered in thoughts and dreams. There’s such a longing, and yet such a contentment. It is, as I said, very difficult to describe.

I can only reiterate that India marked me, shaped me, helped me discover my purpose. I cannot express enough gratitude to all that helped me get here – Rotary, who I saw work wonders for those who needed it most; my lovely Mother, who gave me support and guidance whenever I needed it; everyone who helped me pay for the trip and in so doing showed me such love that defies description; and above all, my Father in heaven who was with me every step of the way, who was at times my only and strongest Companion.

See, look at that… At the beginning of that long sentence, I wrote ‘help me get HERE’… I guess I still haven’t fully realized that I’m back.

There is a Hindi song I’ve been playing over and over again since I returned here, called “Tere Galiyaan”, which means “Your Streets” in Hindi. Some of the words are:

“Yahin doobe din mere, yahin hote hain savere.
Yahin maurna aur jeena. Yahin mundir aur Medina.
Tere galiyaan, galiyaan tere galiyaan.
Mujhko bhaave, galiyaan tere galiyaan.
Tu mere neendon mein sota hai. Tu meri harshko mein rota hai.
Sargoshi si hai khayaalon mein, Tu na ho, phir bhi tu hota hai.”

The translation is as follows:

“Only here do my days end, and only here do they begin.
Here is my life and my death, here are all my pilgrimages.
Your streets, your streets, They suit me well.
You are there in my sleep, you are there in my tears,
You whisper in my thoughts – Even when you’re not there, you’re there.”

This pretty accurately describes the longing I feel for my new country. It’s the strangest thing. I never dream. But these days, if I do, it’s in Hindi. The memories are sharp and bold, almost pungent in my mind. I will never forget my wonderful time in my new country. God knows I miss it.

I’ll give you a quick update on what I’m doing these days before I close this… for what I guess will be the last time. I am currently working about thirty hours a week, as well as trying to learn some Russian (I’ll expand on this later). I’m hanging out with my best friends and doing American things. I move to FSU in about three weeks. I’m technically still an Exploratory major, but I think I’m going to dual major between English and Russian/Eastern European Studies – I guess I just have a thing for learning languages and cultures that don’t use our alphabet - as well as doing Army ROTC. So I suppose my tentative plan right now is to do my time at school before spending five or ten years in the Army. Once I get out I’ll have the option of working abroad if I want, or teaching English here. That’s what I’m thinking now, I guess – we’ll see how things shake out.

What cannot be disputed, though, is that my time on Exchange has made me a better, more effective person. I will always cherish my time in India, and I hope to return one fine day. I couldn’t have asked for a better country, better friends, or a better year.

I guess this is it, then. God bless you guys, and thank you all, once again. Ao jo – goodbye.