I’m on a Plane

I’m on a plane, two hours and seventeen minutes away from a place I haven’t even come close to visiting before—Mumbai. My research tells me that Mumbai is like New York, a trendy metropolitan city with trendy metropolitan people. Still other research tells me that this city is home to some of the largest slums and worst sanitation problems in the world. I’ve decided that my habit of trying to compare everything new to something familiar has to be put on hold for a bit. Over two hours away from my destination, I’m already making assumptions. While research is incredibly valuable, nothing can compare to seeing something in person. Given the fact that I’m 37000 feet in the air somewhere over Pakistan, I consider myself on it. In the meantime, I can’t know. I just have to wait and see.

                  My desire for the familiar is not the only thing that I have let go of. I’m also a lot less scared than I was, say, 18 hours ago when I clung to my brother for dear life in Logan Airport. While I think (I hope?) it’s normal to be a little scared, I’m glad the feeling has been replaced by sheer excitement. I can’t wait to see the unfamiliar city and meet the unfamiliar people and, dare I say it, taste the unfamiliar food. Coming from a picky eater, this is a big step. I like to think that I have left all my pickiness at home. (This probably isn’t true, but I’ll force myself to think it for the next three weeks.) I know that I’ll get a little homesick—I can feel it already settling in my pit of my stomach. But I’ll take homesickness over fear any day.

There’s one more thing that I think I will lose sometime in the next three weeks: some of my ignorance. While I do consider myself somewhat well-read in foreign affairs, I also recognize that there is so much that I don’t know. My research has been helpful, but I still don’t really know much about Indian culture, traditions, and politics. I think that’s okay for now. This trip is a rare opportunity to learn first-hand about a city with a booming economy and an even bigger development issue. 5.82 million people live in slums in Mumbai. If the government chooses to develop those areas, where will those people go? How will they live? Of course, it is impossible to learn the answer in a mere three weeks. But I hope that over the course of my stay, I will learn enough about this and many other issues facing real people half a world away from me. When I go back home to my quiet Illinois town, I want to be able to say that I learned something that allowed me to form an opinion about something I previously had no knowledge about.

In less than two hours now, we’ll land. We’ll probably be greeted by lots of rain and air so thick we can swim through it. I can’t wait.