It’s been 6 months since I posted on here. 6 months since I’ve able to articulate anything coherent about my time in India. It’s not like I haven’t tried:
I’ve started blog after blog about experiences I’ve had: saying goodbye to my precious family in India, reuniting with friends and family in the States, breaking down weeks later with the realization that I can never return to that particular place and time in my life. I’ve been to Chicago, Georgia, (twice), Portland and Canada and Kansas and home. I’ve told countless stories about God’s sense of humor, i.e. sending me to a place where spicy food is the norm and where I was needed to teach Physics, of all subjects. So why haven’t I been able to write any of these feelings down?
On one hand, it really was about time. Even though I hadn’t made definite plans for this summer, I was surprisingly busy – my family cleaned out our attic and had a huge yard sale; I drove to Kansas to help my cousin and his wife move in; I went to two weddings across the country and I visited my grandmother in the Pacific Northwest. I chose to do puzzles with my aunt and help my friends pack, instead of facing the realities of the changes I just made.
Because when I did that, when I really sat down and thought about Elsu and Joice and Nishi and all of the crazy things that happened to me over the last year, it was too much.
It was too much to remember how gracious Elsu was with me during my transition and how many times Joice made me smile. It was too much to recall Nishi’s generosity, and the fact that all she wanted was to see her parents, and a pair of sneakers she could run in. It was too much.
So why now? What’s changed? It’s not like I don’t still miss Mori. It’s not like it doesn’t still terrify me that I am forgetting more and more Indian names and faces. And it’s definitely not like I’m ready to close that chapter of my life.
Maybe it’s just the rain. I wrote a lot about the rain last year, and how desperate I was for rainy season to start. In hindsight I think I was just anxious for another season to pass, so I could get home sooner. But now, with Chicago weather setting in, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine myself in India anymore. Last week, when we were up in the humid 90’s and it felt like Southeast Asia, there was some continuity in my mind between India and the summer. The chilly rain falling outside my window now breaks that continuity. It reminds me that my year in India is truly over. That this is my life again; studying under a warm blanket about theoretical approaches to poverty, instead of living within it.
One of the most helpful things I heard was that “reverse culture shock” is similar to grief. You will necessarily grieve over a lost time and place. You will grieve over the relationships you left behind and the ones that seem so different now. So just like with grief, it takes time.
Time to reacclimatize, time to weep, time to write and tell and replay stories in your mind. Some days nearly everything reminds me of India, and some days it feels like I never went.
I think that the best thing I can do now is to remember. Remember the smiles that made my trips into the village worthwhile. Remember the terrible ways society and “tradition” work to subdue and scatter people. Remember the times God brought me to my knees in utter dependence on Him, and most importantly, how He sustained me through each day in the beautiful, tragic, joy-filled and diverse land that is India.
May God bless and sustain you this very day.
Bonus — One of the best days of my summer: