Today is my last full day in Trivandrum before traveling back to the United States. It's hard to believe that I'll be home Sunday, and this experience in India will be over.
There are mixed feelings surfacing at the close of this trip: Excitement to see friends and family and spend time with my dog; desire to return home where I know where everything is and my schedule is my own again; joy to talk on the phone without jumping through tremendous hoops or sitting in a crouched position under a coffee table to to get adequate signal.
I'm thrilled to return home to the land of strong Internet and wifi, and equally excited to drive myself around without seeking permission from at least four people.
I'm happy to be able to sleep again, in full eight hour segments, rather than three hours here and there and napping when there's a 20 minute lull.
I won't have to wear a uniform, or share a bed, or calculate the appropriate time needed to hang my laundry out to dry.
But as I'm thinking about all these things, I feel sadness because when I return home on Sunday, it means I leave behind too many wonderful new friends.
I never thought I'd love India and the people here as much as I do.
I want to come back, and start a community project here. I want to see my friends again. I know when the team returns home, to our individual cities, there will be a defined silence from not hearing their voices and laughter.
We've spent so much time together, for more than a month, and I know my home will feel still and calm and silent for a few days until I discover my routine again.
I'm so pleased and blessed to be a part of this amazing Rotary Group Study Exchange experience, and I've been able to do things on this trip that I never thought I'd be able to do.
I've met royalty and ridden elephants. I've toured the backwaters of India on their famous houseboats and snake boats, and toured ancient churches and temples. I've experienced the wisdom of Hindu gurus and spoke to the point of exhaustion about God and creation and humankind. I've met endless children and college students who are fascinated to learn and discuss American customs.
I've learned to eat with my fingers and wear a sari, and discovered the art of femininity. I've decided many Indian customs I once thought were strange and old-fashioned, are often pragmatic, if better than my own.
I've learned what I like and don't like, and how to say no.
I was reminded on this trip that there are always more similarities with people you think are the most different from you. And that love and music and food will transcend cultural disconnectedness every time.
I was reminded of my worldly curiosities on this trip, and that an ingredient of my soul is to travel the nations and establish friendships in as many countries as I can.
Since I'm among a group of women who will conclude Rotary International's GSE program (the program will not continue after this year) I feel additionally pleased that I jumped on this experience when it was first introduced to me more than four months ago by a couple of very supportive editors.
I would never have guessed that this trip would break and build me as much as it did, and I will always have kind things to say about Kerala.
I wish I could take India and everyone here home with me. And I guess, to some degree, I will.
Until tomorrow, Victoria.
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