Today is the 22nd Birthday of one of my dear friends, Elizabeth. We will celebrate with breakfast cake, sweets at work, and either Thai food, burgers or blueberry pancakes for dinner. And while this might be Elizabeth’s day, I want to take a moment to celebrate other friendships, the ones I’ve made in India.
There is Akshita, an intern at SELCO who has already told her mom about us, and promises to invite us over to her home for real Southern Indian food.
There is Vishal, another SELCO intern, who introduced himself by asking about river deltas, and has not stopped asking questions since. He knows what good Southern Indian food is, as he steals Akshita’s lunch every day.
There is Arpita, a student at Saint Joseph’s College that I happened to sit next to at an SJC/GCIL event and quickly bonded with after she told me she has absolutely no desire to ever go to Canada.
There is Gabby, another SJC student, who guided myself and other lost souls around Commercial street (Bangalore’s overwhelming shopping district), and who has a sister working in Wollongong, the small town in Australia my grandparents live an hour away from.
There is Adarsh, a third SJC student, who swears he is going to ride his scooter all the way to Goa this weekend to hang out with us.
There is Shanti, the shop owner in Hampi, who gave me Chai and introduced me to her family, and who I know I will never meet again.
And then there is Cristina. (A disclaimer: some of these friendships existed before I came to India, but all of them have strengthened since being here). She reminds me of a beam of sunlight, or a field filled with puppies. Until she steals the Agatha Christie book we are sharing before I’ve finished reading it, and I’m left with an unsolved murder and the idea that maybe some of those puppies are really foxes, sly and sneaky.
There is Carmen. Our food-eating preferences are complete opposites. But in other forms of taste, such as music, and which texmex dips we want to watch a chef prepare at an upscale restaurant (just watch, not eat), we tend to agree.
There is Amber, my bathroom buddy. The only person I could imagine spending hours on a bus with, changing accents and names as we become old women from New Jersey, British witches, and a 1970’s country duo hoping to start a reunion tour but stuck in Wichita, Kansas. She makes me laugh more than anyone else I have ever met.
There is Bujin, who never gives up. Whether its learning to illustrate in 3 days, bouldering for the first time and always getting up to the top of the rock, or just her unending search for some decent beef, she inspires me constantly, without ever seeming to realize that what she does is impressive.
There is Evan Lester, who I met on a different study abroad only a few months ago. In the middle of our first conversation he told me we were best friends. I was skeptical. He was right. Now he probably wishes he could take back ever saying that, as it’s painfully obvious how much cooler he is than me.
There is Henry, who can still rifle off player stats from “Backyard Baseball”, a PC game from 1997, and who asked me once if I thought we would still be friends a few months from now. I hope Henry and I are still friends a few decades from now.
There is Henk, who I knew for over a year before this, but unfortunately, was not really friends with until going to India. I don’t like to think about the time wasted in Seattle just doing our homework, when we could have been making fun of ourselves, and on very rare occasions and only from a place of love and respect, the rest of our peers.
There is Clara who stands firmly in her beliefs, but also dances around like a child, in a much more literal sense. She calls herself immature and annoying, but the rest of us just think she’s really fun. I somehow didn’t meet her until I got to the airport, which is devastating for us both, but hasn’t made our friendship any less strong.
There is Mary, who I sort of met in class Sophomore year. I wanted to be her friend then, but now that we are friends, I think I really wish she was my only-slightly-older sister. Mary is prepared for everything, and on the rare occasions that this isn’t enough, she’s prepared to find a new solution.
There is Evan Ponto, who I told myself I wouldn’t write any dad jokes about, because at this point its way too easy. I’ve been lucky that we were assigned to the same internship team, because it means as much as I annoy him, he has to hang out with me. And Evan is the sort of person that you always want to spend time with, even if he is forced to do it.
There is Anjanee, who is only four years older than me, but I still think that one day I’d like to grow up to be her. She is open and kind, and listens with empathy to all of your ideas, but has absolutely no time for any bs.
There is Jaspreet, who claims he hates everyone. But he makes sure to order feasts for all of us when we go out to eat, and somehow knows exactly how to cheer up anyone, without them ever saying they were upset.
There is XD, who dances better than the rest of us combined, and who can’t possibly ever understand how much joy he brings to any place he is in, because he never sees how boring it is when he isn’t around.
There is MaKenzie, who I had inside jokes with after two days of knowing her, and who hasn’t lost sight of her goals since she was 16, while I lose sight of mine five times a day. I am so appreciative of her presence on this program.
There is Shirley. Sometimes the only adult in the room, sometimes in need of at least 3 babysitters. She lights up over the smallest things, and it absolutely never fails to make my day. She had every idea you had, only 2 days before, and already knows exactly why it doesn’t work.
And then there is Elizabeth, whom I have known since fall quarter of my freshman year of college. Last night she asked me what my inspiration for my blog post would be. I didn’t tell her, but it is the fact that after three and a half years, I still feel like we are becoming better friends. Elizabeth is the sort of person who knocks on your door four times and then asks you what you want to talk about. Elizabeth is also the sort of person you can make up awful songs with, go to Greece with, and try to solve the world’s grand challenges with. Elizabeth is one of the most kind-hearted people I know. I hope that her 22nd year of life is the best one yet, and that we are friends for all of it.