Bitten By The Travel Bug

Hello everyone! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss writing over 1,000 words everyday. Hopefully at least one of you kinda misses reading them. Maybe not, but that’s okay.

I had mentioned wanting to do a “what it’s like to come home” post and since I’ve been dying to write something, here we are! However, after writing this, I wasn’t sure if I should post it or not. I’m sharing a lot more of my complex emotions and thoughts than I have before, but I feel like that’s been a big part of this journey and if I’m going to share the good, why not the bad, too? It’s been weird, to say the least. While seeing friends and family and having some downtime has been nice, I would be lying if I said that post-trip depression hasn’t slapped me in the face harder than I expected. Summer vacation means that my days are fairly blank and after two weeks of tight scheduling, I’m unaccustomed to the act of making plans. As a result, I haven’t been. Now this is not a, “feel sorry for me, I have nothing to do” post because I am well aware that I could easily pick up the phone and find someone to hang out with. But for some reason, I’m also finding myself quite disinterested in that idea. Perhaps I’m just lazy, perhaps I miss India too much, or perhaps I’m just sick with a case of the travel bug. Or all of the above.

My (exchange) sister from last year once told me that one of the reasons she came to the U.S. was that no one knew her here. There were no preconceived notions around who she was or who she became as the year went on. Obviously she experienced this to a much more extreme degree, after all she was here for 10 months, but even after two weeks I understand what she meant. The idea of returning to school next month and seeing people who have known me since I was five-years-old sounds absolutely exhausting. One of the most beautiful things about India was that I could relax. I didn’t feel any pressure to act a certain way or say certain things. There were no expectations of who I am or how I should act. I hadn’t realized how boxed in one can become when everyone thinks they know you.

Being back, I feel an odd obligation to avoid talking about my time in India (not that that’s stopped me) out of fear that others will find it annoying, or braggy, or, horror of horrors, realize that I loved it there and that I don’t particularly want to just be in Oregon anymore. I don’t know why, but I’m scared to tell people that all I want to do is buy a ticket to anywhere, get on a plane, and go. I guess I’m not afraid anymore seeing as this is going on the internet where literally anyone can read it. I’m sorry, but home simply isn’t as interesting as new people, new cultures, and new adventures. It’s just not. The desire to see and learn about the world has never been stronger in me and I’m determined to find a way to act on it.

I would also like to issue a formal apology to everyone I’ve interacted with over the past week. I promise I don’t hate life as much as I appear to. Exhaustion does strange things to me, and I have most certainly been exhausted. No matter how much sleep I get or how good I feel in the morning, by 2 PM I am ready for a nap. Today was slightly better, but that might have something to do with the melatonin supplement I took last night. Clearly I’m desperate to feel rested. And because of my extreme fatigue, which weirdly I wasn’t feeling in India, I’ve been finding the cultural adjustment slightly harder than anticipated.

Noticing the cultural differences has been odd. The lack of respect that we, as Americans, have for each other stands out to me far more acutely than it ever did before. Though Indians don’t use please and thank you among friends or family, they phrase things in a much more nuanced and gentle way. Sometimes. American culture feels abrasive and direct — which is nice (people say what they mean) but also uncomfortable. I had grown used to the indirect nature of Indian interaction and, while it was frustrating at times, I also found it less stressful and more pleasant. Here, it feels like everyone is trying to be the focus and the leader. The concept of followers being important and letting other people take charge when appropriate doesn’t seem to exist. This results in more tension and frustration, but because Americans are also trained to always be nice and never hurt anyone’s feelings, no one does anything about it. I remember being so shocked when I heard an Indian teacher tell a student he was a liability to the group, but now I see the benefit of that method. I guess in some ways Indians are more direct than Americans too. Culture is a complex beast and I won’t pretend to fully understand American or Indian culture, nor declare one to be better than the other, but this is what I’ve observed.

On a completely different note, it is nice not to be offered deliciously tempting food whenever I go somewhere. Though I do really miss Indian food. I’ve also, as I predicted, been very tempted to eat with my hands when convenient. I’ve been able to abstain so far, but we’ll see!

Clothing. It’s just less fun here. No bright colors, no bindis, no gorgeous dupattas and kurtas. Overall, the American clothing scene is quite the letdown after India. I’m also strangely missing having to wear leggings and long shirts no matter the weather. What can I say, it’s comfortable, low maintenance, and requires minimal thought. I suppose I could wear those outfits here too, but it feels wrong for some reason. Cultural norms, anyone? Also the lack of appropriate opportunities to wear a bindi is a travesty. Honestly, it’s just awful. And why are we so against color? Bright colors make everything better.

Mostly though, I miss the little details. I miss sitting in Sonal’s office every morning and observing the going-ons of the primary school teachers. I miss sitting in Hindi class trying to decipher what Pratima-ma’am was saying and the feeling of accomplishment when I finally figured it out. I miss laughing whenever Sujata pulled another roll of Hide-And-Seeks or Monacos out of her bag and passed them around. I miss Tanmae’s passion for coding and the internet and pretending I knew what the heck he was talking about. I miss art class, which is the only time in my life I will ever say that. I miss sitting on our bed with Gaurvi working on blog posts while she studied. I miss long, sweaty bus rides to yet another temple, the name of which I knew I would never remember. I miss being mistaken for Abby. I miss teasing Mandy about all the clothes she bought, even though she looked gorgeous in all of them. I miss Jinal-ma’am and her sheer awesomeness. I miss Anushka, and Vedanti, and Aakansha, and Tweesha, and Max. I miss not knowing how to pronounce or spell anything. I miss walking through the hallways of Anand Niketan and saying hi to everyone I passed. I miss Salisa and how we could communicate and be friends without even speaking the same language. I miss the places. I miss the people. I miss everything.

I know that, eventually, all of these feelings will fade and India will become a lovely memory that shows up every once in a while. But this too makes me sad. I don’t want to forget what I learned there or the experiences I had. The human brain ought to be capable of keeping memories crystal-clear for all time. Maybe science will figure that out someday. I’m sure that going back and reading blog posts and journal entries will help, but it’s not the same. What I truly want, and naturally I want the impossible, is to go back. To return to the Narang household and Anand Niketan School and have that be my normal. Though I love Oregon and have no complaints about my life here, right now that sounds like a dream come true. I know I’ll return someday, but the magic that occurred over those 15 days will never be replicated. Maybe someday I’ll be okay with that. But right now, it kind of sucks.

I don’t know when my next adventure will take place, but I won’t let it be too long before I’m writing a new chapter. At the moment, I’m trying to focus on getting excited for this coming year because it’s starting soon whether I like it or not. I’m now a registered volunteer with AFS (yay!), and am in the process of developing a support system for foreign exchange students at my high school to provide them with the best experience possible. Because that’s travel-related (and gives me an excuse to write) I’ll probably share some of that with you all. Of course there are some non-travel-related projects and activities that I’m working on and looking forward to as well. For example, I’m currently in an a cappella camp which is getting me psyched for being a part of two groups this year. I also definitely want to do a lot more writing. Maybe start another blog where I just post random things whenever I feel like it? Whatever I end up doing this year, I’ll definitely be carrying a little bit of India with me through it all. Until next time, goodbye!

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