Tomorrow I leave for India, a country I for years have felt
a connection with, without ever being able to explain why and what connects us.
I am a bit nervous about the temperature, my lack of appropriate clothes and my
Hindi which is at a level of a two year old kid – maximum. But most of all I
feel ready. I feel ready for the diversity of people, the colors, the food, the
smells, the noises, the chaos, the crowdedness and everything else that I soon
will have around me. As Vipul (my team-leader from Pune) so nicely said:
“everything you say about India, the opposite is also true”.
The summer has been a long and slow summer, with many hours
spent at work. Yet it has gone so fast, and I have had so little time. I have
barely learn any Hindi, I have barely done my research, I have barely done any
of the things I said I would do once I was done with my IB.
I can have a little, basic (and probably grammatically wrong) conversation in
Hindi: “Namaste! Mera nam Stina he. Kya hal he?” (Hello! My name is Stina. How are you?) and of course: “Me nahi mas
khai ho” (I don’t eat meat). I have
managed 90% of my fundraising goal to the Fellowship Scholarship Fund (another
thanks to all of my donors). And I have taken so many shots of vaccines that I
almost, but not completely, have overcome my fear of shots.
The day finally came, and I travelled across the ocean,
through airports I never knew existed to people I did not know. First our
journey went to the Redwoods in California, which is a beautiful forest with
the world’s tallest trees (they can be over 100 meters), and a perfect place to
start the adventure. Here our focus was to get to know each other and the
organization more before we go to our respective countries. So much happened
this week, so that I only will point out my top 5 favorite moments:
– – One of the first evenings around the bonfire I
sat down with a group of people who were playing music. It was Or and Hannah on
guitars, Mason was drumming around, and Desire and JD was improvising different
songs. Perfect moment, with perfect music and perfect atmosphere.
– – Farah Khorsandian-Sanchez’s speech about
understanding global diversity and connectedness and about how this will
influence our experiences abroad. Loved it!
– – The last night in the Redwoods we had a talent
show. I took part in two of the acts. First the whole Indian cohort sang the
Indian national anthem … in Hindi … without ever hearing it before. You can
only imagine how amazing we were…
Then it was the Norwegians singing “ÆØÅ” by Kollektivet, to all of the
Americans in the crowd. We got a lot of praise for this act.
There were many other good acts, but my absolute favorites were: Hanna on the
ukulele; Jakson’s poem and performance; and Mason’s Martial Arts stick-show.
– – During a story telling session, we were asked to
divide into our groups, and tell about a time we felt challenged. It was the absolutely
most intimate moment for our group, where we all ended up telling our personal
stories about when we have felt most challenged in our lives ever. It was
beautiful. And it felt good to listen and be listened to.
– – And then, of course, the time I climbed up in
one of the Redwood trees and jumped out in an attempt to catch a triangle.
Beautiful view and much adrenaline.
Then our journey went to Stanford University, a high ranked
school in the US. The last couple of days here have made me respect Global Citizen
Year more, and whatever doubt I had about if this was the right way to go in my
bridge year has left my mind completely. Here we discussed things from our
roles in our communities and our personal goals, to empathy vs sympathy and what
it takes to be a global leader.
I was somewhat skeptical about that my job this year would
be to go down to India and try to change things. Because what do I actually
know? What would make me better to change the society than the people who live
there? But this week I have realized that that is not my job. My job is to “shut up and listen” as Shea said that
she wished she had done at my age. My job is to learn. To learn what changes needs to be done, and
what the local community wants the changes to be. My job is to integrate, to
build friendships and connections. Then I will later on in life, when I am
qualified and informed enough, be able to work with the local community to help
do these changes.
So with this I am leaving for Mumbai tomorrow. We will
arrive at night, and take a 4 hour long bus ride to the ashram where we will be
staying. Tomorrow the prologue finishes, and the fairytale begins. In only
three weeks I will stand there on my own, in the house of an unfamiliar family.
I have a feeling that this will be one of the most important years of my life.