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Day 6

Having taken so long into our trip to start putting my thoughts and reactions into writing, I know that this first blog will come out as a jumble of thoughts, about everything I’ve absorbed in the past few days, and nothing in particular. This trip for me has been a long time coming, and now that it’s here, I have to admit it’s been exhausting. Yes, we’re barely halfway through our trip and I’m already exhausted. The truth is, there’s a lot about India I’ve been afraid of since before we landed here, since before I even signed up for the trip. The heat, for one, has been everything I’ve feared it would be. Every day, from 2pm onwards, it takes all the strength I have not to be distracted by the thought of my next bucket shower, a bottle of water from our fridge and the ceiling fans that make our apartment a breezy haven in hot and sweaty Hyderabad. The crowds, another longstanding fear of mine are unmatched by any other here in India. Today, we climbed to the top of the Golkonda fort during the Bonalu festival, so the crowds were especially impressive. Holes in the ground for toilets, which I’ve used many times in the past but still fear, and the fear of running out of toilet paper, which has happened every day so far. These are just a few of the things I feared about India, and I have to say, all of my fears have been confirmed. Still, this has been quite frankly one of my absolute favorite visits to  a new country ever, and these past few days have been worth all the sweat and the exhaustion and the loss of personal space and everything else I never could stand. I find myself trying to trick time, wanting so badly to know enough about this place to understand every interaction and every relationship I bear witness to. There is so much that I love about these people who I can barely communicate with using gestures, head shakes and thank you’s. I love their familiarity and their humility and yet, I fear that I’ve misunderstood every interaction I’ve had here since landing. I’m a people watcher, and I’m arrogant about my ability to understand gestures and subtext. Here, I fear that rather than understanding the people around me, I’m making up stories and believing them. Since arriving here, we’ve talked so much about how a “good” global health experience should aim to fulfill the needs of the place or the people it is trying to serve. Being here I see now how difficult it is to become removed from not just yourself but the place that you’ve come from in order to absorb the place and the people you wish to immerse yourself in. It is quite difficult, maybe even impossible. The poverty here is staggering. I look around at the tiny one-room houses shared by multiple families at a time, and i can’t help but think I wouldn’t be able to survive here. It’s easy to think that sure, were I born here, born into poverty, born into crowded housing and heat and sweat and flies everywhere, yes, I would have no choice but to accept that this is life. But I have a feeling that’s not the case.  And for that, I have the utmost respect for everyone I’ve met here.

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