Were we really in India for six months, or was it just a dream?
It's four months now since our return from our adventure in India. That's how long it has taken me to finally sit down and compose this final blog entry. For I while, I was frequently asked about what it was like to be back and the answer to this question has really been quite easy - for me, it's very much like it was before we left. My life has resumed much as I left it despite my best intentions of resetting some things. My life in India was so completely different than my experience here that it seems now almost surreal. The whole experience went by so quickly and now occupies my mind in a kind of sleepy haze like a once vivid dream. Did we really go there? I guess this blog and many hundreds of photos confirm the experience but it does feel odd at times to think back on our lives in Kerela and at TRINS.
I'm posting a few photos from our final weeks and days in India.
Mariana with her sixth grade classmates in front of the middle school. It can be tough being a sixth grader even in your home school where everyone is familiar and the culture is your own. Mari had a good school experience at TRINS but is was not without the difficulties and dramas that often play out at this age. She experienced at times how some of these difficulties can be amplified when they take place in the context of a cultural and social context in which the rules are unfamiliar. I really respect how well she stuck it out during some difficult times. She'll know better in the coming years what she gained from her experience as a student and a resident at TRINS.
Jenn and I attended Elena's final school assembly during which she was a participant in a program about space and planets.
The assembly also included a small farewell ceremony for Elena, a very touching moment for her. Having just experienced a third grade year that she still talks about, fourth grade at TRINS was going to be a tough act to follow. As she does everywhere she goes, she seemed to fit in well but longed for the connection to her teachers that she enjoys in her schools at home. She's seeing now that she learned a lot more than she realized as she finds herself well ahead of her classmates in math and some other areas due to the different pacing in her class at TRINS.
During the month of January, a group of about 30 students from South Korea were on campus as part of an English language program. They led the assembly through a short yoga/ meditation program.
Listening to kind words being shared on our behalf
A short farewell speech at our good-bye assembly
Many things to laugh at.
With my 9th grade class
With my 12th graders
With the 11th graders
My colleagues in the biology department
Our mother hen, Sangeetha, who set the gold standard for mentors.
Cutting a good-bye cake.
Dealing with handicap accessibility always involves a little help from your friends
Checking out the Andover high yearbook.
Lena's getting reacquainted with greenbacks...
Home, sweet, home, for a little while...
An enjoyable farewell lunch with some of my colleagues at a local hotel restaurant.
Our TRINS family portrait - wonderful people who showed us tremendous hospitality throughout our stay in India.
Time to go home.
Our trip home was as enjoyable as 24 hour journey could be. The temperature was near 80 F as we departed from Mumbai, in the mid-40s during our layover in Amsterdam, and just about 0 upon landing at Logan airport in Boston. Tropical India to New England mid-winter was a harsh transition. With seven hours in Amsterdam and an amazing Dutch transport system, we were able to both visit the Anne Frank House and take a canal tour with time to spare though the girls won't remember much from the boat ride - they were fast asleep for most of it. We enjoyed a few days at our home with Sreeja Rajan, my exchange partner, while she repeated the closure process in Amesbury that we had just completed in Kerala.
The impact of my experience still lingers in subtle ways. Though India itself was a fascinating and memorable travel experience, the more profound experience for me was the opportunity to step outside of my "normal" life and look at it from a different perspective. I made some promises to myself about how I wanted to change when I returned to my life in the US and ironically, little has changed except for my deepened awareness of how out of balance my life often is. That awareness has at times haunted me and at other times motivated me to work harder to keep my personal promises. Deciding to pursue a Fulbright Teacher Exchange was a decision inspired by a desire step outside my comfort zone in an effort to grow as a person. I'll have to wait to see what personal transformation I'm capable of achieving along my life's path ahead, but I am grateful to have had the experience in India as fascinating side trip that had compelled me to pay much more attention to the familiar yet unbalanced path I've been following.