So I’m “home”

•July 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I have been home for just over a month now. This isn’t what I expected to find at home, but its okay, because it’s better.

I think about India everyday. But I don’t cry like I thought I would. I smile. I enjoyed my time in India so much, and I wish my host family lived closer than 2-3 days away by plane. But its okay… I look at the positive. i WILL see them again, and I have hope they they will be able to come to my corner of the world, and see me.

When I came home, I had to give a speech for my local Rotary Club and its Rotarians and this is what I told them:

When I came home from India, I got from people exactly what I expected: questions. What I didn’t expect was that i wouldn’t know how to answer the most basic questions.

Some people asked,”What do you like about India? What do you miss?” I felt like I could not give them a fair answer. How was I supposed to tell them “Everything” when they did not understand what ‘everything’ was? How could they. They had never been to India. They had not lived like I had lived. They could not understand.

Other people asked me, “What did you not like about India? What did you want to change?” If I told them the truth, “Nothing. I didn’t dislike anything.” I didn’t think they would believe me. I did not split India into the good and the bad, the pleasant and the unpleasant, or anything else. I took India as a whole. As a country and a culture. And that’s what I liked, India as a whole. I wasn’t there to pick and choose and special order an India just for me.

Then there was the last question, “What did you learn? What did you get out of it? How has India changed you?” That was the hardest question of all. I had no answer. During my years in college, the years after graduation, and I am sure for the rest of my life, I will discover more and more just how valuable India was to me, and realize how much it really changed me. That is why when I graduate from college and start my career, I plan to become a Rotarian and help do for others, what Rotary did for me. They helped me live my dream.

I know there are more teenagers out there who want to travel the world. They don’t want to travel for monuments, landmarks, and great vacations spots, but like me, they want to travel for culture. They want to taste the foods, learn the languages, meet the people, and immerse themselves. I want to help them. Rotary changed my life, and I want to help change someone else’s



So that’s what I told Rotary, and every word of it was true. My year will keep changing me, and become more valuable as the years pass, to a level I am sure I can’t currently imagine it now.


My next chapter in life takes place at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Follow me through my journey on my next blog : Life as a Husky                  Link:





Happy 8th Birthday

•June 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

Yesterday was Jasmine’s birthday. I was not awake to see her off to school, dressed in her ‘home clothes’ (i.e. not school uniform) that she had purchased in the States and saved for this special day.

I spent the day with Minnie, including a few hours in the market, buying many of my last minute items for before I leave India. We hurried home to try and be there by the time the children returned from school. We didn’t make it. When we entered the house, Jasmine stepped out from her Grandmother’s room in short baby pink cotton shorts, and a white and matching pink tank top. She had little pink rose earrings, and some pink clips in her hair to match the fuzzy light pink and white pony tail.

For her birthday, we went to the mall. The first and only mall in Bhopal, as well as the first and only McDonald’s, which was the children’s destination. One car, and one SUV, both packed with friends, family, and 1 birthday girl, arrived at DB Mall. The children were seated in a large red and yellow booth inside Micky D’s, the cake was cut, the Birthday song sung, and slices of overly rich chocolate cake distributed. I remember when I was small and McDonald’s Happy Meals were something to look forward to. I watched, smiling, as the children opened their red boxes with golden arch handles, and played with their toys, looking at who got what, before they even gave a passing glance or care to their food.

After food, the adults sat and had kulfi (Indian ice cream…yum) while the children went to the arcade. Jasmine won a transparent hot pink plastic cell phone. The phone was filled with liquid for bubbles, and the antenna could be unscrewed to become a bubble wand. Slowly (as Grandma had also come with us) we made our way down to the car, and headed for home. For the ride home, Jasmine, being the birthday girl, was allowed to pick a song. She knew somewhere on the CD was a song with the word “Birthday” in the title. She found it, pressed play, and turned up the volume. The song was done by an American rapper, and the title was “Birthday Sex”. Jasmine had no idea. We begged her to change it and she finally did.

Out of everything that happened, like everything these days, all I think about it that I am leaving. I want to be here for her 9th birthday, and her 10th, and all the ones after that… but I won’t be, and that hurts.

Happy Birthday Jasmine. I am going to miss you more than you realize.

Almost On the Other Side

•June 9, 2011 • 1 Comment

With only 3 weeks left in India, I was feeling okay and handling the soon to come change better than expected.

Then it hit me. It started with a sore throat. Then my eyes started watering. My ear felt like someone had stabbed it with a knife, and I couldn’t breath through my nose. In addition, my new fever had me sweating double thanks to my my inner heat source to kill germs, and India’s lovingly provided free of charge outside heat source. I couldn’t stay awake. I woke at around 7am, and couldn’t swallow without cringing and I had a dull headache. I called my mother for medical advice and ended up taking some painkillers (mild) and a glass of milk to get something in my stomach with the drugs, and went back to bed. When I woke, I was a bit better.

I headed downstairs and had breakfast only to find out I didn’t want food. After about an hour, I headed back upstairs and went to sleep. A few hours later I woke up to tell Minnie I wouldn’t be able to go with her to the market like we had planned. I tried to eat lunch, failed, and headed back upstairs. Minnie put some drops in my ear to try and get rid of the pain, and told me to lay down on my side for a few minutes to let them absorb. I fell asleep for a couple more hours. When I woke up, I checked my email, went to my room, tried to read my book, and fell asleep again. Finally, when I woke around 7pm, Minnie told me Johny was coming to take me to the doctor.

Turns out I had water trapped in my ear (common for me, but normally not that severe), my tonsils and infected (again), and I have a sinus infection. awesome.

The antibiotics and anti-inflammatory started working within 45 minutes and only got better from there. Finally. Maybe that makes me a baby, but suffering from sickness in India’s summer heat for 1 day is more than enough for me.

The past 2 days I have been slowly getting better and better and remaining on my course of antibiotics. Almost back to health.

I will look at the positive side of this. I am glad I got sick now. I much prefer sickness and fever in India summer when I am at home here and have people to take care of me and a place to sleep, rather than on the way home with sinus problems during flights and feeling crappy while shoved in a seat that is not made for people who are as tall as me.

Keeping in mind the positives, still it wasn’t fun, but yet another Indian experience.


p.s. last night was the first pre-monsoon rain I have been present for in Bhopal. It was so cooling and the air so fresh. It almost smelled like home. I am looking forward to the cooling rains to come. I took my camera out and played around with different exposures of the the post-pre-monsoon rains. I have to photograph everything I can before I don’t have the opportunity anymore.

Home Sweet Home Away From Home

•June 6, 2011 • 2 Comments

The first time I left the Chawla home for an extended period of time, it was for my South India tour. I was a little scared. I had grown accustomed to life with the family, and then I was being told to leave and live with a group of teenagers on the road for 1 month. Groups, especially non-adult groups, of people has always been a social weak point of mine. However, I was just as excited as I was scared, so I went optimistically, and although I was sick, sometimes violently so, for all 28 days, I had a fantastic experience. But I loved coming back. I wanted home-made Indian food. I wanted a room, bathroom, and bed to myself. I wanted sleep. I wanted my host family back. I enjoyed my stay for a few months and repeated the prolonged absence from home with a tour to North India. Even though my experience in the North, not only with the places, but also with the group, was better by at least ten-fold, I still loved coming back.

Travelling around the country, spending a month with friends, didn’t give me a lot of time to think about things back in Bhopal, or miss my family here, but I always realized how much I had missed them once I came back.

Last month, the roles reversed. I didn’t leave them, they left me. As Irony would have it, they took a one and a half month vacation to the States, while the American stayed in India. I didn’t have a group of friends to hang out with. I didn’t have sleep deprivation, sickness, and limitless amounts of new places to explore to keep my mind busy. I had books. I had a journal. I had an iPod. I had nothing but free time. And it was hard. I didn’t like living in India as much without my family. I looked at the good sides, and met new people and had a few new experiences, and it wasn’t that I had a bad time… I just missed my family.

Now I am home. Back in my room, in my bed, with my family. Stories about a month in the States, a month alone in India, and my 3 weeks left, fill the conversations.

I was worried, I won’t try and hide it. I thought things might be different when they came back and I moved back in. I thought… well I am not sure exactly, but I was worried that things wouldn’t be like they would have been had they not gone… but I was wrong. Nothing to worry about. Almost.

Coming home to the Chawla’s and seeing the way that life fell back into place so easily without effort, makes me realize just how at home I am here… and of course that makes me think of leaving… like everything these days does…

I’ll be okay, I know I will… but I will still miss them, and my family, and life as I have known it for 10 months.

31 Days. 32 Days. 286 Days.

•May 25, 2011 • 2 Comments

The days I have left.

The days until I arrive home.

The days I have spent here.

All of them = unbelievable.

My mind is whirling. I’m leaving. So soon. Sometimes I feel helpless knowing I set this day over a year ago. A year ago, before I experienced knowledge, I chose when I would end my journey. Seems… unintelligent in a way. Sometimes I feel rushed. Other times it feels like due time. 4 weeks and some days and my life takes another drastic turn. I am excited. I am depressed. Its like i am bipolar. I think about the good but then I am reminded of the bad. I over worry about the downsides and then get caught up in the excitement of the future.

I am leaving my family. I am returning to my family. I am leaving and returning home. I am leaving and returning to life. My life is a confused right now. My reality is roaring in protest and excitement. My thoughts dance and argue, like eager performers for the spot light. Its almost entertainment. I could sell tickets for this kind of thing.

31 days and I leave half of my life.

32 days and I arrive in the other half.

286 days I have spent discovering a half I didn’t know I had and a part of the world I did not previously understand.

My life is changing. Ready or not here I go.

I’m ready.

Update: She’s Gone… almost

•May 15, 2011 • 3 Comments

To describe myself as sad this morning at the airport would be playing down my emotions… a lot. To be honest, I knew I would miss Kelsey, but I didn’t know how much. Now I do. Answer: a ton.

We saw her leave at the airport and I cried and looked ridiculous. As if we aren’t stared at enough, the crying did not help. While Kelsey was away handling things at the airport counter, her host-mother proceeded to ask me questions about why I was crying when I lived in the same country. She asked what city I lived in. I told her. She asked how far away that was from Vermont. I told her. I cried harder. Of course I have the comfort of my friends remaining in India, and the comfort of knowing I will see her again. But right now, its hard.

This morning I watched my un-biological sister get on a plane, and leave me. Knowing it will be months until I hug her hurts. Knowing it will be months until I can laugh with her hurts. Knowing it will be months until I can make fun of things she does, and her ‘handicaps’ hurts.

I miss you Kelsey.

I love you Kelsey.

and that’s why it hurts.

She’s Leaving

•May 14, 2011 • 2 Comments

This week I am living in a cell. Although I am thankful to have a room at all to be able to stay in Indore, its not exactly luxurious…. or even standard. The room has air conditioning and a fan. The fan is beige (white at one time I’m sure) and has blades outlined in fuzzy grey dust bunnies that occasionally decide to ‘jump ship’ and fly across the room and land in unexpected places. The air conditioner is… necessary. Although old and dirty with missing panels and a dead lizard hanging out, it works, and we would die without it. I am almost not exaggerating. The walls are textured in a way that collects maximum amounts of dust and grime, while also possessing the power to shave skin of your limbs should you happen to rub against it or hit in in your sleep. The tube light is missing, but a few small lizards use to left-behind light fixture to hide. The windows are grimy beyond visibility, and never stay closed, insuring the maximum amount of unwanted mosquitoes are allowed to enter. I survey the room and its ‘amenities’ and laugh. Its good to be adaptable. Indore has some serious downsides. One of them is power cuts. Bhopal, the city I have become accustomed to, has power cuts that last between 5 seconds to 5 minutes, but normally not longer. Indore has power cuts that are hours long. The two other students and I lay on the floor or the bed during these long periods, trying not to move and create heat while we wait in out heated still-air room for the power to come back. As we lay there for 3 hours this morning, staring at the fan with desperate eyes, Jordan wants to know why air comes to our room to die. I burst out laughing. He’s right.

In India, bucket showers are a common thing, brought on by common sense. India has a water shortage. To take a shower, you can use a shower head, or you can fill a bucket and pour water over yourself with a small cup. It takes much less water this way and gets the job done. In the bathroom attached to our current room, we have no bucket and the shower head is clogged with hard water and god only knows what else that could be living inside. We discover sitting showers. All of us take turns taking our showers by sitting under the tap. Not a dream, but at least we get clean. Its surely better than nothing.

I am happily living in the sometimes airless room and washing myself by sitting on a slippery blue tile floor, because it means I get to see Kelsey off at the airport. That’s right, she’s leaving. Tomorrow. I can hardly believe it. 1 more day means minimum 10 more months, although probably more, until I can see her again. Part of me wishes we could all leave on the same day instead of being left alone, but I know thats not an option, so I look forward to my future days and what more I can do before I leave.

Its been such a memorable year, I wish it could continue in the States, and I guess it some ways it will. An odd broken family of friends has been created this year. We laugh together, cry together, yell at locals together, and commit small crimes together. We even created our own broken English-French-German-Spanish- Hindi together. I have been dutifully informed it is called exchangestudentese. Quite a difficult language to master. but we’ve done it.