By Gail Switzer, a member of the SkillCorps® India October 2018 team
Village roads, take me home, to a place I belong; Amritsar, Agra, Delhi, and Chandigarh. We may not be on the country roads of West Virginia (or Pennsylvania for me), but this song does not lose its touch being thousands of miles away from “home”. Over the past week I have grown to consider India my home. I would not necessarily say this place felt like that the first few days of adjusting, but knowing at the end of this week I will be traveling back to the US is very bittersweet and I have already been longing for my return.
Initially as I walked out of the Delhi airport I had immediate fears about the two weeks that we were heading into. I have never traveled out of the country so this was about to be an adventure. It wasn’t really the food, language, or cultural barriers I was afraid of, more of the luxuries that I no longer had. This shot me back about 15 years, limited access to internet and the world lifeless as I held my useless iPhone in my hand. Although I have had chances to get on the internet to check my e-mails, upload pictures, and send texts to friends and family, not having the world at my fingertips was pretty much just what the doctor ordered, despite my initial annoyance.
My team and I have been working very hard in building onto concepts and establishing new routines or ideas in each classroom at SOREM. We have also been adventuring around the northern part of India like no one’s business. We have shopped until we have just about dropped, walked around a lake during a breathtaking sunset, toured one of the seven wonders of the world (Taj Mahal), and explored the sights of Amritsar, with the Golden Temple being the highlight of our evening. We often laugh about how two weeks ago we were complete strangers. We have stretched through our comfort zones and have grown as a unit through this unique journey.
One of my personal highlights of this trip was our village visit in Amritsar. I think I can speak for the rest of my team in saying how unenthused we were about the thoughts of touring a village. Literally, what are they going to show me, one of the hundreds of cows I have already seen strolling through the streets in every city thus far? Yes, we saw a few cows, a goat, and buffalo but the day was so much more than that.
I laughed until I cried, smiled so hard that my face hurt, and immersed myself in the lives of those who live in the particular farm in the village. We milked a cow, washed the buffalo, sat on the buffalo, rode on a cart that the buffalo pulled, rode on tractors into a field, celebrated a birthday out in the fields, played a game, ate home cooked meals, and learned how to dance.
As the day was closing I could not help but feel a sense of emptiness. I had one of the best days on my life. I didn’t think once about my own personal to do list or my job back in the US. I was totally integrated into the farm life and truly lived in the moment throughout this day. While traveling the backroads around the village I had such a complete feeling; a feeling so hard to describe, I felt at home.