Counting down the minutes until our flight to Dubai, I’m surrounded by people with whom I’ve laughed until my stomach hurt, cried till my eyes couldn’t hold more and grown like the roots of a new tree—fast but widespread. Two and a half weeks ago, the idea of being with people I didn’t know very well made me feel like the beginning of an exciting yet intimidating roller coaster. A roller coaster filled with meaningful discussions about the meaning of service, friendship, closely-knit community and eventful bus rides. I am taking with me a treasure of memories but more importantly, I am taking with me people who I’ve felt vulnerable and protected with. A suitcase with so many beautiful moments and the chance to explore more together as we continue to grow closer, feel deeper and be true to ourselves and each other.

            As I think about my return to India, I feel safer and closer to this place. So many people I had never met before fostered a house of unparalleled affection; it seemed unreal to view them as strangers and to see the smooth, unnoticeable transition into confidants and companions. I am holding the thin threads transforming into a silky rope as I think about leaving this place that gave me so much: hope, understanding, love, trust.

            A place that seemed unrealistically comfortable has taught me the meaning of true, genuine understanding. The passion to serve and the willingness to welcome with open hearts and minds has moved me. As we say our final goodbyes, I carry with me the insightful sharing epigraphs of Jayesh bhai, the sayings imprinted and practiced at ESI and the heart-warming laughter we all shared together as a group.

            As much as I want to, I know that some memories will fade away. But the important part is the ones that are now embedded in my heart. As the heavy rains cleansed the dirty surfaces, the freshness of the soil is now dwelling and drifting between the spaces within my heart- fresh and rejuvenating.