Why do I feel this way?
I vividly remember the very first time I walked down a street in India. It was September of 2017 and I was studying abroad in Varanasi for three weeks. Countless vehicles spewing black smoke weaved around one another on a dirt road, and the sidewalk was spotted with cow dung and missing stones. There was a pile of burning trash and a constant orchestra of horns honking. But all of this chaos culminated in an electrifying energy. I felt as though I had been in a haze my whole life and this moment snapped me out of it. I was enthused, in awe, eager for more.
For the first time in my life, boarding the plane for Bangalore twelve days ago, I felt a pull tugging me in the direction of Seattle, back towards home. As though I was attached to the city by a string and as the plane flew away I was leaving an essential part of me behind. Instead of the excitement I had experienced on my last disembarkment, when arriving in Bangalore, I felt uncomfortable. Over the last two years, I have become increasingly accustomed to the comforts of home.
My first day exploring the city left my throat scratchy and my eyes burning from the air pollution. I was exhausted from the vigilance it took to cross the streets and keep track of the group and I missed my big tempur-pedic bed. Although Bangalore is much more developed than Varanasi, the street scene I described earlier is equally as accurate. As the days unfolded I found that meals don’t always start on time, schedules change, and traveling 3km can take 30 minutes with the city’s dense traffic. The type A personality in me didn’t know what to do.
I started to question my ability to keep an optimistic mindset over the next three months. I wondered why this time I felt disgruntled rather than excited by what I was seeing and experiencing. Whereas before I found the inefficiencies intriguing, now I was finding them frustrating. The overarching themes of this trip are crucially important to address, but facing them on the ground was making them look impossible. Not long ago I truly envisioned myself pursuing a career outside of the United States, and today I felt more attached to my home country and my lifestyle than ever before. I felt guilty for feeling this way.
It wasn’t long before I began to refind my rhythm. The disorder of the landscape started to become familiar again, and I surrendered to the whirlwind that is India. I have little control, being a guest in this country, unaccustomed to the culture, and this is good for me to experience. No one said it was going to be easy. Recognizing my American tendencies, and beginning to peel away at them is a valuable undertaking. I am beginning to find freedom in the natural movement of society where a week ago I only saw disorder.