30,000 Feet in the Air

Though I am hovering somewhere over Pakistan about 30,000 feet in the air, mentally, I am home, and still functioning on the EST time zone. I am still trying to catch up to this whirlwind of an adventure, and though I’ve longed for adventure like this for a long time, everything seems too exciting and unbelievable to be real. Faraway places and foreign names like London, Mumbai, and India are suddenly not far away at all, but right beneath me and all around me. Nothing quite seems real, and my adventure still doesn’t seem to have started. Even the British accents that are on everyone’s lips sound more humorous than true. I don’t think I’ve quite accepted the fact that I am on a plane, flying over the places I have dreamt about and read about. After all, I am the small town girl from Red Hook, a place as simple and small town as it gets. Who knew that there actually is a world out there beyond Andover and beyond Boston? And what an exciting world too! Those places in my cherished National Geographic atlas really exist, and I am more willing and ready to accept the splendors, miracles, horrors, and terrors of the world.

I am definitely still in awe of everything that has happened the past twenty-four hours, but once this plane lands, I am ready for the reality of it all to smack me full on in the face (as the jet lag will later do). But until then, I will look out my window and see the moon reflected on the wing of this plane and remember that this moon is the same moon shining over all the rest of the world right now, even my parents in Boston and my sister in Oklahoma and my distant relatives in Japan. It reminds me to keep a level head and remember that the world is big, but not too big and that home is never far away.

Physically, there’s the Atlantic Ocean behind me, but there’s a lot more than an ocean I am leaving behind. West to East, I am entering a new world of new people, new colors, new smells, new everything. A lot of the comforts I took for granted at home are miles and miles away. Though I am safe and though I am in no discomfort sitting on a bench in London Heathrow, I can’t help but feel nervous for the things that will be a little uncomfortable with in the next few weeks. For the next three weeks, I will undoubtedly see and experience things that are shocking and painful. I’ve been granted a privileged life with love, security, and protection, and in a way, that shield of security is being left behind. Being an Andover student, I like to think that I am a cosmopolitan, enlightened person—but I am not. At age eight, I thought I understood poverty when I walked through the streets of New York City; I thought I understood suffering and struggling—but again, I do not. In this way, I have been shielded my whole life by never having to see or deal with these kinds of issues that occur all over the world; I was just a naïve child.

Most of all, in a way, I am leaving myself behind. In India, I will embrace a brand-new open mind of looking at the world. As we learned during one of our orientations for Niswarth during the spring, I am leaving behind as much “cultural baggage” as I can. With an open mind and open heart, I am hoping that over the next three weeks, I will grow and mature with a little more knowledge of the world than when I first stepped foot in India.