these old habits

“I am because we are”
--quote in the canteen at ESI

             ESI was so beautiful. I woke up everyday to the sound of chants and birds, “good morning”s and “how did you sleep”s, morning meditation and delicious breakfasts. Here at the Hyatt, I wake up to car horns and alarms, “are you going to the gym”s and “wake me up in 15 minutes”, buffet breakfasts and meetings in conference rooms. The difference was jarring at first and we all felt like something was off. In Ahmedabad, we all jumped in without hesitation, but here in Pune, we returned to nervousness and negativity. These old habits followed us to the Akanksha schools and perhaps clinged on to the other students. Rhea and I joined our new group of six and nothing meshed. Everyone was tired and disengaged and we weren’t accomplishing much. The only thing we did succeed at was being quiet, an adjective rarely used to describe me. In the car ride back, defeat swelled in my heart and moved up to my eyes, which I tried to keep open, but eventually gave up along with my hopes for the next two weeks. We got back to the hotel and I was frustrated with how wrong everything felt. All I wanted to do was go to bed and get through the next two weeks.

            A change in mindset came with my alarm the next morning. I promised myself to be positive. When we arrived at the school, we ate with each other and played games and everyone seemed to be smiling and laughing, including myself, but something still seemed off. When we split up into our group and went to our respective schools, my nervousness increased. Would we be as quiet and awkward as yesterday or would we break the foggy glass blocking our capability to connect? Would the difference in background and culture be too much for all of us? I was trying to stay as positive as possible, but I was definitely not hopeful. Luckily for me, my group had a mindset that I was capable of absorbing, unapologetic positivity. We split up the work and every one of us was engaged and positive and smiling and laughing. Me and Zaid explored his old school, learning all about the way teachers feel towards their students. Beyond learning about the school, I learned a lot about Zaid and he learned a lot about me. Throughout the day we bonded and the contrast between the two days with the group shocked me. At the end of the day, we danced and sang and had fun with all of the other groups, the positivity diffusing throughout the crowd. After learning so much about my group, especially Simon and Zaid, I wanted to learn more about the other students. I discovered the hobbies of Ankita, Ruby and Bobby, not in my group but amazing students. We only met a day before, but we talked as if it had been weeks. My mouth couldn’t stop moving and my ears couldn’t lose focus for even a second. We exchanged social medias, as usual, and the overwhelming mindset was so positive. We were all friends now, regardless of where we came from. When we got back in the cars, my heart was beating strong and my eyes were stuck wide open. The entire car ride back (a long one I must say), we laughed and smiled and tried to get people outside the car to do the same. We waved at people on motorcycles, hoping for a quick wave back. If people did wave back we cheered and dabbed, as usual, and found our next target. Everyone’s attitudes seemed to shift and when we all went off to bed, I slept comfortably, ready to wake up the next day.