Last summer on the flight back to my birthplace, I look out the window of the plane to see the city lights fade into the engulfing white clouds and into the green and brown patches below. And as we crossed into the other hemisphere of the world, I wondered how it would be. I remember when we left India 13 years ago to come to America, the land of opportunity.
Now as I went back, I questioned if I would be accepted. Thorough out elementary school and middle school, I yearned to find a balance between my fading culture and living in America. I saw myself as an American citizen standing under the red, white and blue but also the Indian colors of green, saffron and white.
With this trip I hoped to find a balance and preserve the culture I had. Only minutes remained before we landed. It was 5:32 am when we landed in India.
As my family and I stepped out of the airport I saw in front of me, my birthplace like it was 13 years ago. I could smell the mixture of wet earth and smog as the gray and muggy fog settled over the still sleeping city. Three hours later I was fast asleep on a hard surface that seemed to be a bed inmy uncles house.
I awoke to the cook-a-doodle of the roosters and the honk-a-tonk of the pass taxi’s and not my soft sounding alarm clock. The first week was horrible, no A.C, no computer, power outages every other minute and bug bites. I felt like I didn’t belong and wanted to go back.
But as the days went by, I got used to it and started to enjoy it. The things I experience for the next weeks gave me an insight to world of little material but much happiness. It was not an everyday thing in America that I can pick fresh mangos or see an elephant walk through my backyard.
One day on a trip to the market I figured out it was not going to Wal-Mart, but more like a zoo. The mixed smells of dried fish, animal-funk of dead goats, pigs and chickens filled the air along sounds foreign chatter. The vegetable side consisted of the eye-watering sharpness of peppers, huge piles of lime greens bitter gourds, fresh squeezed lemonade, and greens galore.
The stalls were endless and I soon became weary at the sight of homeless children with missing limbs and the unfathomable living conditions. The sights left me frustrated that there was nothing I could to stop it for good, but toss another coin. I met cousins that I never knew I had and through kindness and respect people had there, I learned my culture.
I saw how people cherished the smallest things like a pair of flip-flops, a good pen, or even water. And through out the weeks my explorations continued. I learned not all snakes were dangerous, a coconut is a seed and it tastes really good too, how to make chicken curry, how to row a boat, bite sugarcane, get water from a well and even brushed up on my speaking skills. Although there were differences, slowly I changed from a foreigner to a regular person. I was questioned on my speaking skills and my clothes, but in the end I sensed a vibe of acceptance. When I left India to go back to America, not only did I take back scars and new clothes, but a greater appreciation for the things I had and a new outlook on life. Never had I felt so blessed and aware of the world around me. My hour long showers turned to thirty minutes, I used both sides of a sheet of paper, I planted flowers and TV became rare.
The trip not only changed me as a person but gave a better understanding of my culture. And now a year later, the trip still effects me as my friends make fun of me for picking up trash, taking the time to reuse paper, and turning off the lights as I leave the room. But I think what I do is hopefully for the better good of the world. My trip last summer has been one trip that I can never forget and hope to go back once more.
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