Right now, I am on a plane on my way to Kochi, Kerala. As I wrote in my last post, I am spending the next two weeks travelling through the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka, known for their coastlines, mountains, and coconuts. As soon as my Hindi exam ended today, I rushed home to pack my things and headed to the airport, eager to finally escape school life and being an amazing adventure. But this excitement came at a price. I have been so engulfed by exams and planning for this trip, I had not realized that I would be seeing many of my friends for the last time today. When we left the exam room this afternoon, many of my friends and I realized that our end-of-semester travels would be separating us until it was time to go home in December. We said our goodbyes, but it seemed so rushed and unexpected that it left me feeling strange about leaving for my trip. I know I’ll see many of my American friends again, whether it be in India before we leave or once we are back home, but these goodbyes made me realize something even worse. Even though I’ll be in India for a few more weeks, I will never be in the daily routine that I developed earlier this semester. I may never get to experience the little things that became so normal and part of my everyday life, like being greeted by the familiar auto-wallahs in our neighborhood, riding my bike to class with two flat tires, or eating a pound of rice at my favorite canteen on campus. So although I am thrilled to start my two-week trip, it is a bittersweet excitement.
I know I’ll miss every experience, every interaction, and every person at some point when I get home, because it is often the little things that come to mind first when I am reflecting on my stay in India. Nevertheless, there are a few people that I will really miss having as a part of my everyday life once I am home.
The first is my host family – Nivedita, my host mom, and Prerna, my host sister. Looking back on the semester, I feel so lucky to have been placed with this host family. Nivedita and Prerna were always so kind and patient with us when we would ask endless questions about Indian culture. Nivedita would always let us crowd around her in the small kitchen while she was cooking dinner to watch and write down recipes. She would also spend hours after dinner telling us the religious stories about different gods behind all of the holidays we were celebrating, and was the primary source behind many of my blog posts this semester. Prerna was also a very good source of information when it came to understanding the ins and outs of Indian culture. We really got to bond with Prerna when she came with us on a long weekend trip to Mumbai. She had never been to Mumbai before, so we all went together to explore the big city, see some sites, and go shopping for “western” clothes. My favorite part about hanging out with Nivedita and Prerna was when we go on trips with them. Last weekend, Nivedita’s sister and her two kids, Sanskar (12) and Isha (5), were visiting us from Pune to pick up Nivedita’s mom, who we called Aji (grandma in Marathi). While they were all staying with us, we went for a day trip to a town to the north of Hyderabad called Warangal, known for its farmland and historic temples. We spent the whole day hopping from site to site in the taxi while we had the best time hanging out with the family, especially the two kids, Sanskar and Isha. Everyone welcomed us into the family and treated us like we were one of them, especially Isha, who attached herself to Jennie and me the whole day.
I am also fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet the neighbors in our apartment building. One of the first people we met when we moved into the apartment was Moulali, the watchman. A middle-aged Telugu man, he knew very little English (and I knew even less Telugu), but somehow we always managed to communicate about where our host family was, what he was having for dinner that night, where we were going, and when we’d be back. Every time we came into the carport, where he and his family lived in a small room, he would yell, “Namaste!” and fold his hands dramatically. He was always extremely energetic, and my best memory of Moulali was when Jennie and I gave him a flower for him to give it to his wife, Narasimha. He took the flower, then sang and skipped all the way across the carport to his wife to give it to her.
Throughout the semester, we formed a close relationship with the other family on our hall, spending many afternoons or weekends hanging out in their apartment watching TV, or eating lots of snacks, and playing with their two kids Binnu (9) and Quiny (5). Madhu and Sandiya, the parents, were so kind and welcoming to us, and now seem like an integral part of our host family. We also became really close with the family living in the “penthouse” apartment on the roof. They also had two kids, Lalith (14) and Spandana (9), who we also spent a lot of time with. Lalith, a super smart rubix cube master, would always hang out in our apartment and tell us about the things he was learning in school. Spandana loved to come over to color or learn English songs from YouTube on our laptops. As the semester went on, our three families spent more and more time together, sharing meals, going to the park, and even doing sunrise yoga on the roof.
There are many other people I will miss as well. I will miss spending evenings with Jennie doing homework, making cookies, and watching old episodes of Disney channel shows. I will miss traveling to new, exciting places with my friends from CIEE. I will miss meeting with my peer tutor Rajini twice a week to attempt at speaking Hindi. I will miss going to dinner and concerts with my friends from Hyderabad. And the list goes on.
Of course, I could list just as many, or more, things that I miss from home right now too, and I’m excited to go back to my family and friends in America. But now that my time in India is coming to a close, I wish that I could stay here for a little longer and prolong the end to these wonderful experiences I have had this semester.