I am currently sitting in the Delhi airport, it is 2:30am Monday morning, and I am waiting to catch a flight to Kathmandu for our two week Nepal outreach program... Needless to say, I can hardly remember what happened this week because my brain is a little foggy. But I'm taking advantage of the free AC and popping out a quick blogpost before I fall asleep on the airport floor!
Disclaimer: the rainy season was somehow put on pause and it hasn't rained in Hyderabad in a few weeks, so dust, mosquitos, and heat are back on the nightly menu. This also means that it is so dusty in our house that my computer keyboard gets filled with dust! Not covered in dust, FILLED with dust, like my keys stick and have stopped working. My poor little computer can't handle India anymore! So if there are an inordinate amount of typos in this post, it has nothing to do with the fact that I haven't slept in a looooong time and everything to do with a dusty keyboard.
My very first blogpost was written while sitting in an airport in Thailand at 1am, during a layover while flying from Cambodia to Hyderabad. I wrote about "home." I said I was excited to make India our home for the summer, but I honestly wondered if I could ever love it as much as I loved Cambodia or Seattle. Well, it's official. Hyderabad is one of my most treasured homes, on that same list with Cambodia and Seattle. We have been so busy this summer that our time in India felt like FOREVER when we arrived but is suddenly over without much warning at all! I didn't have much time to sit around and ponder about how I felt about India as MY home. I thought a lot about it being a wonderful place where a billion wonderful people live. I have thought a lot about how amazing it is going to feel to just sit down and do nothing or sleep on our bed back in America. I have thought a lot about AC. I have thought a lot about how every single Indian person I have met has taught me a valuable lesson in living true to a culture and belief in service and loving thy neighbor. I thought a lot about development work, how it is difficult, how it is awesome, and how I can continue to develop myself, since we all still need development (in every sense of the word, and whether or not we have a toilet in our homes or not). And while I was thinking about all of that stuff, which was 100% worthy of my thoughts and fundamental to everything I have learned this summer, I didn't realize that Hyderabad had become my home!
I am comfortable here. I am happy here. I feel like I'm growing here. I am frustrated and annoyed here and even very sad sometimes. But everything here FEELS like home. If anything, it feels even more like home than most places because I had to work to get to know it and I had to choose to love it in ways I would never normally have to. I hate the traffic and getting car sick in those crazy cabs, but I love the autos and how simple life is when everything you really need is within a 10 minute walk. Yes, being extremely busy as a Country Coordinator is taxing, but really our life is as simple as eating, sleeping, and serving others.
We have grown to LOVE our volunteers, and not just because it's fun being on this adventure together. But we are ACTUALLY invested in them. And I mean invested beyond their few weeks in India. It surprised me when I started feeling an attachment to being in a position that allows me to guide people, discuss with people, and learn with people about how to be better people and how to achieve something in life. Because we have been doing that with our volunteers all summer, we have seen SO much growth in ourselves and in them. I don't want that to be over! Even our partners have invested in us, and us in them, for the long haul, not just May through August 2018.
SAPID, aka our Indian mommas made the most delicious meal for us, gave us the biggest hugs and the best advice.
The most tender goodbye: Jerry (nobody could say "Jaret" so they called him Jerry all summer haha) and Bindhu <3
All of the powerful women!
President Mekala, headmaster of the Indo American High School invited us into his home and cooked us a delicious meal and thanked us for being an example of service and love in the world. We road tripped multiple times with Coney back to the rural villages to make sure the water filtration systems get built and his auntie pinches my cheeks and kisses me on the forehead and feeds me yummy curries.
Mr. Harry from the St. Anthony's Orphanage and School where we teach English cried when we said goodbye because he felt like members of his family, not just friends, were leaving. All of the students at his school sang us songs and hugged us so hard before we left.
They all call to check up on us. They call us up when we're sick, when something good has happened, and sometimes just to chat. Kind of sounds like a family to me. Maybe that's why Hyderabad feels so much like home. Because we built a temporary program that resulted in a permanent family here.
This week was a week of wrapping things up, if you couldn't tell by my sentimentality up to this point. Painting a few final murals, teaching a few final classes, visiting lots of partners, and writing lots of reports.
We even had an inauguration ceremony for the Karmik Nagar preschool where we painted the whole new preschool building (donated by the community leaders), planted a garden, started a composting pile, and built a low-cost playground. In that same village we also built 6 new soilets this summer and we definitely celebrated the completion of those this week! They gave us more garlands of flowers and even some beautiful silk shawls that we wore like flags around our shoulders at the olympics. Braxton and I even cut the ribbon that was across the doorway of the school room! Everyone clapped and cheered and it was a beautiful thing.
The randomest thing we did this week was film a road safety video for the Roads Safety Organization of Telangana, and we had to speak some Telugu hah! When that video is posted I will definitely be sharing the link.
Small development update: the team will be in Hyderabad for 3 more days (Braxton included, this is longest we have been apart in the past year... our previous personal record for time apart post August 2017 was 10 hours.... this might be difficult haha) so they will be finishing up all the last inventory-ing, packing, and goodbye-ing! But they will ALSO be carrying out an AWESOME project for the rural schools in Warangal province. We are bringing clean drinking water to over 500 students by installing water filtration systems to their bore wells!
I feel like I didn't say goodbye to anybody nearly enough, but Braxton and I haven't seen the Taj Mahal yet (we ran out of time and had some extenuating circumstances keeping us from joining our team on the trip sadly!), so we have to come back to India anyways right?! I mean you can't come to India and not see the Taj. We managed to defy that classic statement so we're already making plans to come back and visit our Hyderabad home when we hit up the Golden Triangle. Really it's just an excuse to come back home.
Melody Allred, India Country Coordinator