rose, bud, thorn?

|Author: Cameron

This week I received a text from a friend that simply said, “rose bud thorn!?” After avoiding (ignoring) previous questions of “How’s India!” and “What have you been up to?” this question made me smile, as I replied to the text more quickly than I’ve messaged anyone from home these last few weeks.

When I transferred to UW last fall and moved into a house full of ten people, practically strangers, something that became my norm in order to break the typical “How are you?” “I’m good” conversation that is all too common and frustratingly uninformative, was to ask about the highs and lows of my housemates’ days, and something that they were looking forward to, or “rose, bud, thorn” as I have learned to call it. This simple question, which I by no means stopped asking once housemates turned to friends, was a great way to have more meaningful interaction while also allowing us to be reflective and find value in our often monotonous school days.

However, these past few weeks have been anything but monotonous and I have found it overwhelming attempting to process the unbelievable number of experiences and things we’ve learned, often making it harder for me to prioritize giving myself the time to then be reflective. Well, not only did the text remind me of a slice of home but it helped me to break through my overload slightly; and so, in an attempt to organize my thoughts in a semi-coherent way, here is my rose, bud, and thorn:

My Rose: I am so thankful to be here. This program is allowing me to learn in so many different and thought-provoking ways, for example: learning about culture, caste and politics within India through discussion with St. Josephs College students; hearing about the history of India by visiting different temples and markets; learning through conversation with people closest to the work, about the ways in which the grand challenges, such as water scarcity/ security, education access, and wealth inequity affect everyone including the environment; and by developing our skills through team building and design thinking in order to be more effective solution builders. The wealth of knowledge that we have access to while we are here is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, let alone in a classroom back home. I am glad I’m not in a classroom back home.

My Thorn: I am struggling to not feel bogged down by all of the stories that we are hearing, and the challenges people are facing. Although feeling sorry for someone is unhelpful and only serves to devalue that individual and their happinesses, I’ve often felt really helpless. This hit me especially when learning about what goes into making a product such as silk, which we so readily and unthoughtfully consume at home without thinking of the stories that go into making whatever item of clothing we buy and the lives that are affected by something like the fast fashion industry. But, I say “such as” or “like,” because this isn’t just the story of one individual and it doesn’t only apply to the silk industry. These grand challenges are grand because they pervade so much of the world, often in really similar ways, and because these issues are so large and interconnected it is hard for me not to feel really small and disillusioned with my potential for creating change.

My Bud: One of my favorite questions to ask is, "How do you stay hopeful?" (if anyone has thoughts for me I would love to hear them) and I’ve found that people’s responses are really beautiful. A professor a few years ago said that all you need is faith and self-love, while a friend of mine finds optimism and value in the individual and smaller scale successes. A new response that I really appreciated hearing this week was that this person’s hope comes from having conversations with people, learning their stories, and creating relationships. I think that I really love this idea because I truly believe that the power of creating connections and community is invaluable and can be stronger than any violence or negative forces in the world. I look forward to working to create those connection and community in whatever ways I can both while I am here in Bangalore, and in the future.

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