To be honest, I have been afraid to get back on my blog since coming home. I think I was afraid of what I would feel when I looked through the photos; sad it was all really actually over. Did I realize as often as I should have what a unique experience I was living?
Now that I'm home, it's been another mental adjustment. Driving home from the airport with mom and dad, my eyes felt different as I looked out of the window. I've become accustomed to seeing one thing, now I'm back to another life. In a moment I realized that for a brief while, without noticing it, the foreign became the normal for me. And as much as my life at home is still completely my 'true' normal, there's a part of my mind that still feels very much in a daze with India seeming like my normal. You fly half way around the world in a day and can't just expect to sever the connections in your mind with a way of life just because you're not physically in that place anymore. I've found myself looking at things and seeing the comparison in my head of how things were in India.
-Water. Here it's cold and comes out of a faucet. I'm used to warm and seeing it drawn from a well, having to double check with each new source that it's clean and 'safe' to drink.
-Sidewalks. Well, they actually exist here. I'm used to gutters and dirt with trash everywhere.
-Skylines. Here I see buildings. I'm used to palm trees and cow filled fields.
-Carpet. Here we have it in our cars, houses, and even bathrooms. I'm used to concrete and tile, where you take off your shoes before entering a home or business to help keep it clean.
-Houses. They're so big! I'm used to one room concrete homes where families sleep on mats outside to escape the heat, with cows, dogs and frogs right there with them.
The air, the food, the noise...it's all so different. I'm used to people and cows being everywhere outside, inside, on the streets and in the rivers; eating, laughing and living. Here it seems people spend the majority of the time inside.
Culture. There's just a noticeable culture difference.
The last few nights, my dreams have been evidence of the mild culture shock you go through with experiences like this. I've had elements of India intermixed with elements of home, like my mind is saying it realizes I'm home, but my heart is still crossing back over from India a little slower than my body. I wake up with memories of shopping for bindis and bracelets, but find I'm in Turlock instead of Tamilnadu, or I dream of having held children all night long in a school yard that might be in India, but could be anywhere.
And on my favorite mornings, I wake up with the echos of conversations in my head, where people ask whether or not I'll be going back now that I know what to expect, and I always answer yes.
The echoes of those conversations and my answers of 'yes' have been tender mercies for the unspoken fears of my mind. I've been secretly fearful that after coming home and having every comfort of life restored to me, I would compare the feelings of 'here' and 'there' and categorize one as better and the other as worse. I think I was afraid I would too easily remember all the hard times of India and forget the many many wonderful, beautiful, and unique memories I made these last three weeks. I was afraid I would give off a negative impression of my time in India because of how hard it was, when in reality the short time I spent there was one of the most wonderful and teaching experiences of my life so far, with friends I've made for a lifetime.
Lastly, I was afraid that if someone asked me if I'd ever go back...I might say no.
But how can you say no to this?!
So, I view my jumbled dreams of India and America as answers to my unspoken, unformed prayers and fears. I view the echos of conversations in my dreams, where I repeatedly answer 'yes' to questions of going back to India, as evidence that my heart grew to love a country that offered very few comforts; as peaceful confirmation that we can remember the joys of things learned while forgetting the occasional pain of the learning process; and as merciful answers to fears nobody heard me say aloud, but my Heavenly Father heard me pray inside.
*To those I contacted before I left, who generously donated to Rising Star Outreach, thank you again. I hope you feel you were a part of the good work that is being done to bless the lives of the people and children of India. I witnessed their gratitude personally, and it is genuine.*