Getting in tune
This last weekend a majority of the GCIL students took a trip to Goa, partly for the beaches and sunsets, and partly for what happens in that state after sunset. When I got back from this trip on Monday, I hadn’t really slept at all the night prior. Henry and I had a 6 hour flight delay and with no place to stay we wandered around in the night until we decided sleeping on the beach wouldn’t be so bad. Around 4 am I made a decision that I didn’t like the beach anymore, and with my mind set I forced Henry awake (much to his discontent I might add) and we bounced around looking for benches to sleep on until the sun rose and forced us into a cab to the airport. Despite this less than ideal night I remember distinctly stepping off the plane in Bangalore, and walking through the international customs that I had set foot on almost 7 weeks ago. Man did this walk feel different. Colossally different. Although the first time I made this walk I was just as sleep deprived, I also felt an immense amount of anticipation and anxiety. This airport looked different, smelled different, I didn’t know what customs line to stand in and was still mildly convinced my visa had a flaw and I would be sent home on the spot.
This time my steps were rather confident, we quickly moved through the customs lines and were out of the airport in less than 15 minutes. I recognized the taxi services along the exit, but this time I wasn’t scrambling to find the GCIL sign among a sea of staring faces, we already had an uber on the way. The confidence and ease with which we moved was something my former self did not possess. I find this same confidence and comfortability in more than just travelling, it’s become a part of daily life here. There have been countless instances in the last week alone I know my former self could not have navigated easily, if at all.
For example there’s the constant patience and purpose that team Biome must exhibit during nearly every interview we conduct with the schools we document and write proposals for weekly. This skill is integral to our success and one that can be increasingly frustrating as you try and gain information through a translator from teachers and students who have a hard time admitting that things are a problem. Trouble is, one of our main goals is identifying the problem. Ponto talked about boot camp yesterday, maybe this was like afternoon jumping jacks. Just last week I found myself in a government school’s administrative office surrounded by both my peers and two curious headmasters who were grilling me about the state of Bangalore’s political climate and what I thought about India’s prime minister. “Mr. Hendricks,” they ask, “describe what you think of Modi and his vision.” If you would have put the Henk from 7 weeks prior in that same seat, he would have caused a distraction and run out of the office. But instead I met these two gentlemen’s piercing gazes and confidently gave an answer that I hoped wouldn’t get me banned from the campus. Once I was met with a smile I knew I had passed.
I find these small changes about my interactions with the culture here in tasks as menial as grabbing an auto as well. Just yesterday I needed a 2 kilometer ride and was given a quote of 200 rupees by a tired driver. I laughed and said, “Thumba Jaasti.” He didn’t budge so I began walking. As the auto crept up behind me I heard him accept my original offer of 80. I turned to him with a big smile, “Chennagide!” He met my smile with a scowl but we both knew I was still paying too much. I still don’t feel anywhere close to local, but I sure don’t feel like a tourist. To be quite honest, I feel like an instrument getting in tune, and this is the best I’ve sounded all trip.