Five days until I leave for India. On Saturday, I fly out of MSP, to transfer in Chicago, and then board a 19-hour-or-so flight to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India. It has been getting progressively more real that I’m going throughout the summer, but I don’t think it quite hit that I would be going, and where I would be going, until halfway through last week.
This summer I’ve had to read a lot about India, and I’m currently working hard at finishing up some of my pre-plane assignments. I’ve got a paper to write (and maybe a second? Not sure yet), and a Hindi alphabet to learn. I’m doing fairly well on the alphabet, and have started outlining the paper today (it’s only three pages – should be a piece of cake.) I’m worried about the alphabet stuff, but if I work on it for one or two hours every day, I should be able to get it.
In doing my readings and preparations for India, I lost sight of why I wanted to go there in the first place. The more I read about India, the more I realized that I had very little clue what I was getting myself into when I applied for this specific program. I started to feel incredibly discouraged and downright scared about the whole experience. Everything that I was reading was about conflict, crime, and complications – nowhere was I finding anything about the beauty of India, and that was a scary prospect.
I’m not even sure now why I chose India. These are the things I know: I wanted an entirely different experience, one where I was in the very definite minority, and I wanted to go somewhere that I wouldn’t be comfortable going to on my own – for example, Ireland or Scotland would have been wonderful, but I could go there very easily on my own. I would be very intimidated to go to India without a program or other people.
Those fears I described are still there. But I’m still going. And I think I’ve started to move through that fear to a more productive, realistic place. If I let the fear rule me, I’ll miss the beautiful things. Yes, I will definitely have to be on my guard about certain things, but there is a lot of beauty that I will discover – I hope. SIT, the program I’m going through, has done a pretty good job of preparing me/the group. It’s good that I was assigned readings that challenged my assumptions of India, prepared me for some of the scarier aspects of the country, and brought me up to speed on modern politics. I’m glad that I have challenged my assumptions of India and my own experience.
This reflective work isn’t over – not by a long shot. I’m sure that while I’m there I’ll need to constantly ask questions about my assumptions and what it means that I, a white middle-class American girl, am traveling in India. But this week isn’t about that. I want to take a break from that challenge for a while, and just get excited to go.
I also felt extremely relieved after finding out that some people on my program would be on my plane from Chicago to Delhi. So we will have each other, and not be entirely alone. I’ve heard the Indira Gandhi Airport is really big and confusing, so I’m happy to have a couple of people to navigate the big scary airport with.
Final countdown! Sometime soon I’ll put up a post all about contact info and how to get in touch with me while I’m over there. But today is not that day. I have to try to get through this reaction paper.
Some things that I’m really excited about:
Visiting the Rathambore Tiger Preserve
Staying in the Diggi Fort for a week, doing a mini-internship
Going to the famous bazaars in Jaipur
Being in Jaipur for the camel market/fair
Getting to know my host family
Exploring Jaipur – palaces, temples, and different lunar holidays
Making a bunch of new friends!