Pulling a little inspiration from the Lorde song that Evan Lester would say I listen to too often, I decided to think a bit about perfect places. The girls at Dream School, and other people I have met during my time here, always ask me how I like India. What are my favorite parts? Is it better than the US? While it may come off as the desire for validation, I like to think that being able to see the good parts of your home through a stranger’s eyes is heartwarming.
There are a lot of things I love about India, some of them much harder to describe than others. I love the varying landscapes and watching the trees and sky pass by while laying in a sleeper bus. My go-to answer when the kids ask is that I think India is beautiful, especially pointing to all the colorful buildings that can be seen from the Dream School’s roof. I tell them that in the US, all the buildings are tones of neutral colors and that I appreciate the diversity of color found here.
My other answer about my favorite part of India is that I love the people here. To generalize, everybody here is kind and helpful to me, despite me drawing more attention than I would have liked because I clearly stand out as a foreigner. When I stand staring confused at a map and locals come up to ask me if I need help, I think about how differently the situation would play out in the US. When Henry boldly thrusts his phone into the hands of strangers to talk to his uber, I question if I would trust people with my phone in the US. Nobody has run off with Henry’s phone yet though, so I’d say that’s a good sign to the trustworthiness of people as a whole. Part of me wonders if this welcoming, helpful demeanor shown to me is only because I am a foreigner and if people act significantly differently to other locals than they would to me. Even if that is true, people aren’t as friendly to outsiders in the US and rarely would go out of their way to help someone looking at a map, so I think there are still important lessons to be learned about welcoming new people to our cities to take home.
While there are parts of India that feel perfect to me, when I am surrounded by beautiful landscapes and friendly people, there of course are challenges here as well: water, sanitation, housing, education, etc. But what are perfect places anyway?