By Maggie Brown (@MagsonWags)
Because the only travel I have ever embarked on outside of the United States involved white sand beaches, crystal clear ocean water, and fruity drinks under the sun, I had no idea what the city of Chennai would have in store for me upon our arrival in India this summer. Having studied India in a good amount of depth through several of my courses at Phillips Academy, I imagined what the journey may end up being like, but the words and descriptions of another person can ultimately only go so far in shaping your own preparedness for such a trip. I knew the nation was home to over a billion people, and that many of these people lived in extreme poverty while also dealing with devastating disease epidemics, but I had no idea what it would truly be like to call India home. While certainly not my home, our two week journey to Chennai with the Crossover Basketball program will give me a great sense of what life in India is like from the perspectives of numerous people who actually call India home.
Because I had absolutely no experience with foreign travel, I left the only way that I know how to live behind in the United States, ultimately traveling to India knowing nothing about the native way of life. Everything I know about the world I have essentially learned from growing up in one nation, and have only learned about other nations through educational endeavors and popular culture. Coming to India is my first chance to see another culture firsthand and see how one of the world’s largest populations of people live on a daily basis.
With this said, it will also be intriguing to see how I learn about the people of India and Chennai, given that the only way I know how to live is the American way. Already, in just a few short hours, I have realized that by giving up my American style of living, the daily tasks of life have become more difficult in India. For example, I cannot simply run my toothbrush under the sink whenever I need to brush my teeth, and I cannot just walk into the shower and expect hot water to rain on me. Furthermore, I cannot simply walk down the street at my own leisure without wandering into a risky venture, and I cannot leave the airport with gardening a hundred intense stares. These simple tasks that we take for granted back home cannot be done in India, and therefore they all constitute a portion of the lives that we have temporarily abandoned for the next two weeks.
I guess to sum it all up, the biggest thing that stayed behind in the United States as I boarded the British Airways flight bound for Chennai was the sense of comfort that comes from living in a place that is familiar, homey, and understood. Here in India, we have been ripped from our comfort zones and the life in which that zone existed, and placed into a situation destined to make us uncomfortable while also teaching us to adapt through learning. Because the trip has just begun, I do miss these comforts, and wish I could snap my fingers and make them re-appear. But, I know as the trip progresses the things that are uncomfortable will become more familiar, and in two weeks may even become something we see as normal despite our residence, and not only associated with living in another country, specifically the nation of India.