It’s 12:18pm. I’m currently sitting in my cousin’s pink bedroom – still adorned with stuffed animals and horses even though she is now 32 and has long since flown the nest – and looking out the windows at the many palm trees that surround the house. I’m back in Pavoorchatram, a tiny village near the southern tip of India where my aunt and uncle settled down years ago. He is an aerospace engineer, she is a doctor, and they both left their professions because they felt called to start a school here. And today that school is still thriving. So when our group of 10 adults and 2 kids got off the 13 hour bus ride from Bangalore looking a little worse for wear, we all squealed with delight when we saw that my uncle had brought the school bus to take us home in. I love coming back here – electric current only runs 14 hours of the day, bucket baths are a must (and you must carry the hot water from downstairs), and mosquitos are rampant, but there’s a lot of charm here too. My aunt’s property is amazing – plenty of space for the kids to run around and lots of chickens and icky bugs to look at. Today three of us cousins (and one 2 yr old) stood in awe as we watched my uncle skin chickens in a blink of an eye. It was pretty cool until the whole taking out the intestines thing happened – that was enough learning for one day. Last year I watched my uncle chop coconuts for us to drink coconut milk from – hes so resourceful, that one!
Being back in India with my parents is fun too – my dad hasn’t been here in two decades, and for my mom its been about 12 years. My sis and I have been fortunate to have been able to visit a few times in the last 5 years, and seeing my parents see where they grew up and take us to their favorite places is super cute. My mom already did the typical complaining of how much the city has changed since she was there, and how the construction of the new metro has ruined the beautiful streets, etc. etc. And we went and visited my grandparent’s property that my mom grew up on (and my sis and I, for that matter) which unfortunately is now owned by a hotel and several offices including the Japanese Consulate. I saw just how central my grandparent’s house was, and wished we could have kept the property intact with all the trees and the fish pond that I remember so fondly (minus the monkeys that would hang in the trees and terrify me.)
Adjusting to life in India always takes a while, but this time was especially brutal coming from such a long week of finals and just an exhausting fall term in general. Not that I’m complaining – in the 4 months I’ve been in Milano I’ve been stretched so far out of my comfort zone in terms of classes, working with different types of people, learning a new language and just navigating through the daily aspects of life in Italy, that I feel much more confident in myself and what I can accomplish. It’s exciting to see how much my classmates and I have progressed in just a few months together, and in a year when we are graduating together it will be interesting to see how much more we have grown. On Christmas, when I was at my dad’s cousins house with 30 some of his closest relatives, I got into a long conversation with several uncles about social entrepreneurship in India, and the need for smart business models and a solid understanding of the way of life here to ensure success in a program (especially one that is partnered overseas.) It reminded me of, regardless of people’s good intentions, just how important it is to invest the time visiting and traveling through different countries, and connecting with people there to foster mutual understanding. And on that note, even when we travel for leisure, whether it be a trip to Milan or visiting Africa, we are still continuously seeing how other people are living and how other systems work even though its different from ours. I’m still getting used to paying monthly for my phone bill in Italy – its definitely a hassle to have to go recharge my data plan each month. But then when I think about how I don’t have to worry about going over my limit accidentally and getting stuck with a 200euro phone bill, it makes sense.
Two more days in India with my family before I head back to Milano for a day, and then onto NYC for the New Year. I hope 2013 holds this much travel!