I’ve been thinking about home a lot lately. Part of this is because of some terrible news I got this week: our family dog sadly past away last Sunday. Another part is that I’m in a critical window for deciding some things about my future. All these things bring my mind back to Seattle, back to Portland, back to the US.
However, timing this week was nearly perfect for an introspective week. This week I spent in Aurangabad, traveling to my roommate’s job site. PACE (Pratham Aurora Center for Education) is a vocational training center just outside of Aurangabad. At the center, there in an entire hotel and two restaurants where participants, who are young people that have dropped out of school, train to become waiters, hospitality staff, or culinary staff. The hotel is not open to the public yet so my roommate and I had the whole place to ourselves and about thirty staff all jumping at the opportunity to show us their new skills. The center was very impressive and I enjoyed talking to the staff and students. The hotel was a little ghostly though, with us being the only guests.
After finishing our work at the PACE center we decided to head into Aurangabad City where I was able to reunite with my friend Josh. If you’ve followed this blog in the past, you will know that Josh and his roommates Aaron and John are Kenyans studying abroad in India. It was amazing to have the opportunity to see him again. While traveling and meeting new friends we always say how we will meet those friends again one day. “Come to the US” or “I’ll return” are repeated phrases. Most times, we know these are empty promises. It’s hard to travel around the world, let alone twice. That’s why, when greeting Josh I was nearly in disbelief that I actually had the opportunity to see him again. We caught up and went on a tour of the journalism department that he teachers at. I was surprised to see how little everything had changed in two years. It was a twilight-zone-esque feeling. Everything so familiar with the slight tint of retrospect and age.
On Thursday, we had been gone for nearly four days and covered hundreds of miles, so we were very excited to start the journey home. We caught an early bus (that supposedly was non-stop for an extra 50 rupees but I counted at least 4 stops along the way) and struggled through the seven-hour journey through traffic and blazing sun to our home, Pune.
My advice for people that want to settle in somewhere new is simple. Stay there for about a week and then go travel somewhere. Without a doubt, you will miss your adopted “home.” Add in an amazing family, and you’ll have totally cured any anxiety about the new place. In the seventh hour of traffic, me and my companion were earning for a cold shower and familiarity. We nearly sprinted from the rickshaw from the bus station into our home.
That night, while I settled in with chai, a game of chess, and a Marathi writing lesson from Jayant, I told Dipti about my dog dying and concerns from home and she listened attentively. She told me about her own dogs and how hard Hrishikesh had cried when their last dog passed. Jayant taught me the word for dog – कुत्रा kutra – and love प्रेम prema and we shared memories. Any place can be a house, but it takes compassion, caring, and love to make it a home.
That caring is not one sided. This week I have thrown myself head-first into learning Hindi and Marathi. I have really been slacking. It’s been over a month and I’m no where near simple-conversation fluency. So last night I studied for nearly 5 hours. I started reading Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian for more story-telling and history knowledge. I wrote every name of my family in देवनागरी Devanagari (Hindi script derived from Sanskrit).
At work today, I made an effort to share what I’ve learned with colleagues. I worked hard to finish my projects that piled up over the last week. I engaged my friends in conversation over lunch. I am trying to give back to Pune and this community, which has already welcomed me as a guest so warmly.
The next week will be a little more normal, less traveling and more settling in. I am excited for our next projects and to work more with ASER on data analysis.