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Familiar matters in a foreign place

|Author: Hannah|


The double-decker bus: a bus with a bed that I can lay down and sleep in is surprisingly comfortable compared to the 1-inch thin bed that is on the floor of my house back in Seattle. The bus carrying all of us left for Hampi at 11pm for 2 days trip. We should arrive in the morning.


I looked at the street lights passing by and tried to confirm where I was. 5 weeks have passed since we came to Bangalore. When I am with a large group of people who are from the same place as I came from and hearing the language that I am familiar with, it still makes me feel confused a bit whether I am really here in India or not.


It confuses me because the longer I stay here, the more I can’t help noticing the many similarities between people here and in Seattle. A parent taking his 3 half-awake kids to school in the morning, putting all of them on the small scooters and holding them tight. A street sweeper resting on the side of the road chit chatting with her coworker and smiling.


The clothes they wear, the skin color, the language, and what they have to do daily might be completely different from what is in Seattle. I don’t know why, but I just can’t see much of the difference in people anymore. I can tell my brain is trying to buffer the shock of receiving so much new stimuli and calibrate using 5 senses to differentiate between the familiar and unfamiliar matters.


Outside of the bus window: the night sky seems to be almost the same as Seattle’s, since the moon is following us wherever we go. The scattered gas stations passing by have a bright light just like the ones back home. A dad is driving a white Toyota while a wife in the passenger seat and 2 kids in the back seats are a sleep. A truck driver is hanging his arm from the window and enjoying the night wind. Suddenly, a large car passed by next to our bus screaming with a loud and unfamiliar siren.


Then my brain finally found the focal point. It’s different. I am in a completely unfamiliar different place but carrying my familiar body. It’s funny that I’d think I get to be a different person automatically when I am in different places. But things seem not to work that way. All of the information I am able to sense is from outside, but the main body, which is processing all that is me, is inside. How I judge and react to any of the information depends on me. My familiar-self.


This program has been helping me to challenge my familiar self to be aware of things I have never thought of before, it is helping me to enhance my peripherals. It challenges me to not just be compassionate and empathetic, then stuck in the sadness feeling like I am completely useless like how I used to be, but pushes me to really try to come up with how to change the vicious cycles that people are trapped in. It helps me deviate from the feeling of hopelessness.


My thoughts are still in the old and familiar-self roaming around, but I feel that something has started to shift. I can’t really say that I have become strong enough to see the harsh realities and come up with something to help people yet, but I know I want to be able to solve and contribute and not just to cry for them. The more I feel that people here are similar to the people whom I am familiar with, the stronger my desires to do so became. The stronger my desire becomes, the further I shift from my familiar self.


The lights inside the bus turn off. I wonder how much my desire and my familiar self will be shifted when we are coming back from Hampi.


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