Last night marked our final night in India. We celebrated our official campus farewell yesterday in a Valedictory, but have been saying our goodbyes for several days. There will certainly be no shortage of farewells today, as the end of our semester is actually here, but with those goodbyes comes a lot of reflection.
I remember arriving in India over three months dazed and exhausted from the nearly 20 hours spent on planes. We made it through the airport to meet a man (Roshen) whom I had never met before and was shorter than I had expected. We stood waiting, with our overstuffed bags, for the bus that would take us to Visthar. When it finally came and we were all loaded up we began to weave our way through the city. There were coconut trees everywhere and tons of advertisements and lights. Out the window we saw dogs and people roaming about in the darkness and it really started to hit me that I was far far away from home. I remember our arrival at Visthar very clearly, and walking into our rooms for the first time with a huge sigh of relief that it was “inhabitable” for the next three and a half months.
These memories seem like so long ago, as they mark the very beginning of this journey for us in India. I look back and laugh at my bewilderment, confusion, and slight apprehensions from those first few days. Now, we all feel at home. We know the people who live and work here, the names of some of the food, and the best techniques for washing clothes by hand. However, if we compare the beginning and the end, this doesn’t seem like a fair way to describe this semester.
In between that first night and today our lives have changed. We’ve met and been inspired by hundreds of people here. We’ve seen amazing sights- both beautiful and horrifying. We’ve learned new perspectives through which to see the world, different questions to ask ourselves about what is just, and actions to take to work for justice in society. And mostly, we’ve learned about each other; about each person’s past, present, and dreams for the future. We’ve made strong bonds, some of which will be staying here in India when the 15 of us students, Martin, and Laura all travel back home to the states.
So much has happened over these three and a half months, no words or pictures will do it justice. While the beginning and the ends might sometimes be seen as some of the most exciting and emotional of life’s events, it’s not the most important part. Everything in the middle- the field visits, the classes, the long conversations, the laughs and cries- those are what mean the most to us. In reflecting on this, I realized that the same is true for life going forward. Today is the end of our journey in India, and landing in Minneapolis is the beginning of the journey for whatever comes next. And yet, the beginning (while we will be excitingly reunited with our families) is not what matters. What matter most is the time in the middle of this new beginning and its coming end; what we chose to learn, where we chose to go, whom we chose to journey with, and, most importantly, what we chose to do with the time before the next journey’s end.
So while I am sad about the end of our journey in India, while I am ecstatic about seeing my family again, I am most looking forward to hearing about the “middles” of our coming individual journeys; everything in between the beginning of our new adventure at home and its end, everything that truly means the most.
I hope you will all find ways to be a part of our middles during our next adventures, wherever they may lead!
Love and peace,