Sending Love From India
Let me start by saying how truly grateful I am for the opportunity I’ve been given. I am surrounded by a country which few have the ability to travel to, and even fewer have the ability to serve the capacity I have been given. I am aware of this honor and again, am so grateful to both the university and my scholarship for helping me reach India.
Because I am so thankful for this scholarship it hurts me to say that I have spent the first few days of this trip riddled with anxiety and homesickness. Immediately upon stepping off the plane my senses were overcome and I physical felt the shift from the world I knew to where I am today. I was trying to think about what was causing this anxiety. I have travelled abroad before and have never felt this stress. I think part of the anxiety is coming from the isolation I feel here. There are no hotspots where I can hop on the Wi-Fi and send a quick text to my parents. That coupled with the time difference makes it nearly impossible to communicate with my parents, friends, and family. When I am wrapping up my day around six or seven, my family is just beginning theirs. While isolation is feeding my anxiety, sleep deprivation has definitely been a factor. From yesterday to today, I can noticeably feel a shift in my mood. While this shift hasn’t caused my anxiety or homesickness to completely dissipate, it has eased a lot of my tension. Traveling for 30 hours straights tends to put a strain on the body. Finally, I think my anxiety is being fed by this inherent feeling of being trapped. While if anything serious were to happen, I know my safety is not in jeopardy, but I am very powerless to leave or truly have control over any situation. That loss of power is something that is very hard for me to part ways with. After thinking for many hours about the root of my anxiety, I have come to the conclusion that these are all factors.
While anxiety has been integral to my trip so far, my senses have been thrown into overdrive as I am desperately trying to take in all that is around me.
Smell – Immediately upon stepping off the plane, the smells were distinctly different. Here in Chennai the waters all smell like rotten eggs (I wish I was exaggerating). Trash lines the streets, consequently adding to the overall rather unpleasant smells. Surprisingly the people do not smell, quite frankly I think I smell worse than my new friends. I am still learning how to properly cleanse myself here and with buckets as substitutes for showers, there is definitely a learning curve.
Sounds – As in almost all other countries I have been to, the driving here is crazy. Beeping is an integral part of driving here, so with heavy traffic means lots of beeping. Next store a huge addition to the police department is being constructed. With working beginning at day-break that means we are woken every morning to the sounding of the hammers. Finally, the children on sight make lots of noise. They sing and pray, and it is fascinating to listen to the intricacy of their language.
Sight – As I mentioned under smell, the trash which lines the streets paired with the concretes shells of dilapidated buildings are one of the first things I noticed. While they are not pleasing to the eyes, they have a sort of appeal just because of how vastly different they are. The people are beautiful. The way the dress is one of vibrant colors and an assortment of patterns. One observation I thought was interesting was woman must keep their legs covered here, but in the traditional sari woman’s stomachs are exposed. I wonder why, something I need to investigate.
Taste – Just to recap what I’ve eaten so far.
6/26/2015 – 2 handfuls of granola, ½ a granola bar (my stomach was very upset)
6/27/2015 – 5 handfuls of granola, a small cup of chai (chai is the Indian word for tea), and traditional Indian food (some sort of HOT, rice dish)
**I am drinking plenty of water. Approximately two liters a day, my appetite is just stunted.
Overall the food I have had that is traditional to India is very hot. The fruit here looks so good, but I am resisting temptations for fear of more stomach issues. I have been dealing with large amounts of nausea over the past few days unfortunately. We did go to the grocery store, where they have no concept of lines, and it took forever to try and check out.
Touch – The final sense and problem the one I have the least to write about. I will say this culture is not afraid of contact. I was shoved several times when trying to get my bags at the airport and the gentleman thought nothing of it.
Just a quick rundown of what our schedule over the past few days has been. We arrived around 2:30 am Friday morning. After a slight battle with customs we made it through and spend an additional 30 minutes waiting for bags. At this point it was about 4 am (local time) and we managed to book ourselves a taxi and spent the next hour getting lost and finally making it to MCCSS. One of the workers names Lucy let us in, showed us our room, and brought us water (not bottled to our dismay, so we had to pass).
After trying to rest, we got up around 8 in the morning and wandered downstairs. We met another worker name James, a 19 year old man who is studying to be a cook. He took us on a mini tour to get water and show us where the bank is. My stomach was in a knot at this point so I passed on breakfast and began the orientation process. Around twelve we headed back to our rooms and took a much needed nap. That afternoon we went on a walk with Isabel and began to acclimate to the city.
Isabel Richardson is an amazing human being. She has dedicated her life to serving women affected by trafficking. She is dedicated and passionate, and her presence demands respect.
Today I woke up around 3 and was unfortunately not able to return to sleep. We were downstairs by 8 seeing how we could serve the organization. We spent the morning helping Isabel with appeals for donations to send 7 women back home to finish their rehabilitation. (If you’re interesting in donating let me know!) In the afternoon we went to what was almost like jail where the women go after they have been rescued by the police. While these woman are treated well at this facility, they are locked in, and this is something I’m not okay with. I understand why they must be locked in, fear that they would leave to return to their previous lifestyle, but I don’t like how their liberties have been stripped.
There is so much more I can say, but I am running out of time at the internet café. I hope this didn’t come across as ungrateful, but I am using this blog as an outlet to help alleviate some of my problems.
Sending my love from India,
To read the rest of Emma's experience abroad in India: click here
Written by: Emma Labovitz