I can’t believe that 4 weeks and a day have passed since I left home for Chennai. In some ways, the time has gone slowly. I miss my husband, dog, family, friends and colleagues very much. You don’t realize how hard it is to not be able to just pick up the phone and call someone until you are dealing with a 9.5 hour time difference (or 12.5 to my friends on the West Coast). I’m definitely ready to be home and enjoy all of the usual comforts. Wouldn’t be surprised if my husband greets me with a giant diet coke full of ice. I haven’t had a truly cold drink in too long.
It will also be nice to not have to second guess everything I do. Brushing your teeth with bottled water sounds easy in theory, but I can’t count how many times I would remember that for the beginning of the process; halfway through when I’d normally rinse my toothbrush and then scrub some more, I’d forget and use tap water. Or I would forget to keep my lips pressed firmly together in the shower and get water in my mouth followed by lots of spitting. It’s amazing that I never got sick. More than half of our team ended up ill by the end of this journey – my paranoia paid off but I am ready to not second guess my routine each day.
On the other hand, it sort of feels like I just arrived. The time with our customer and colleagues seemed too short. You invest four weeks building strong working relationships, and then say goodbye. What are the chances that I will ever see most of these people again? That is hard. I loved the Villgro people. I loved the kids at the orphanage and the senior citizens at the nursing home. I loved my teammates. Most places we’ve gone, we’ve been treated with kindness (and tons of curiosity – but I won’t miss the stares). It is much harder than I expected it to be to say goodbye and walk away. It takes me so long to feel comfortable enough around people to be myself, I feel like I just got to know them. Like really know them. I’ve spent every day of the past four weeks with Hollie (the Australian), even on weekends. It will be strange not to share ideas and stories with her. I will miss Heera from Villgro. She is amazingly beautiful inside and out. So many wonderful people and experiences in the last four weeks, there isn’t enough blog space to list everything.
When I signed up for this program, it was with one simple goal: to give back. It didn’t occur to me how much I might grow and learn. Well, that’s not totally true. I knew I’d be exposed to many new things and was afraid of some of the emotional impact, but I thought the impact would be temporary. Will I ever be able to not think of the global impacts we all can make? Will I start again to take for granted that I never have to worry about safe water, plenty of food, shelter, and all of the basic necessities? Will I remember seeing such pride and joy from people in circumstances that are beyond comprehension to most of us in America? Will I stop thinking of social impact as writing a check and instead share my time? I honestly don’t know. I hope this awareness and compassion lasts. I hope to learn to be more open to people and experiences. It’s a journey; can’t expect to see a complete change overnight. But my horizons have definitely been expanded and I’d be incredibly disappointed in myself if I didn’t change as a result.
Tomorrow, the long journey home begins. I fly from Chennai to Delhi to Paris to Cincinnati. With flight time and layovers, it will take 31 hours. Add in drive time to and from airport, it will be closer to 36 hours. Not looking forward to that, but knowing that Brian will be standing in the airport waiting for me makes it easier to stomach.
Thank you to those who read my scattered thoughts and shared yours in return. I’m blessed with amazing family and friends. Much love to you all!!!