Question EVERYTHING

Before I start this post, we just got news of the goings-on in Paris and the rest of the world, and I wanted to send my love and support to everyone back home, and my prayers to the victims and families being affected right now. I love you all so, so, so, so much, and my thoughts are with you guys right now.

This is a blog post that I’ve been avoiding for a while, but considering how things have been going here, I don’t think I can put it off any longer. I’m going to be spending a majority of this post talking about some of the bigger issues and ideas that I’ve been struggling through, so if you’d rather spend your time hearing about all the cool things I’ve been doing in India, this isn’t the post to read. If you do continue, no promises on clarity of ideas, and please know that I’m definitely not trying to offend anyone in any way. Also, if you have any free time and want to get some sense of where I’m coming from on some of these points, I definitely recommend reading “To Hell With Good Intentions” (an address by Ivan Illich), Pedagogy of the Oppressed (a pretty dense book by Paolo Freire, most of the ideas we’ve looked at thus far come from pages 43-69), and Whatever it Takes (another novel, it’s pretty interesting and a lot easier to read than Pedagogy).

So. As you may have noticed, I neglected to talk about how work is going in my last post, and that was because I was super overwhelmed with the entire situation. The topic for India is education, and going into our work projects, we were told that we would be placed in a classroom at a local school to shadow/help a teacher. My work partner (J. Mom) and I were assigned to Gayan Deep, a privately owned school of about 200 students, and we went in with high hopes and bright expectations of what was to come.

To say that it hasn’t been what we were anticipating would be a severe understatement. That first day, we were given a schedule of six different classes and thrown into a classroom without a teacher. We didn’t know what to teach, where to teach, who to teach, or how to teach. The bell would ring between every 30 and 40 minutes, and we would search for the next classroom and group of students. We filled the time as best we could, asking basic “Get to Know You” questions, with varying levels of success. It was stressful, confusing, and extremely frustrating, especially since no one seemed able to communicate with us about what the hell we were supposed to be doing. The next two days were a lot better, as we were able to prepare lesson plans for the classes we knew we were going to be teaching, but yesterday we were given an entirely new schedule with brand new classes.

As far as we can tell, the teachers use us as a kind of filler time, shoving us into a classroom to babysit the kids while they take a break. While I understand why they wouldn’t take us seriously as educators (considering the fact that neither of us have any training, I don’t blame them), I can’t help but feel somewhat disrespected and question whether we are actually helping in any way. Going along with that sentiment, after reading “To Hell With Good Intentions,” I’ve been struggling a lot with the entire concept of this unit. How dare we, American students with no background in education or even basic understanding of life and culture here, assume that we can be anything but detrimental to the students here? Of course we can never really understand them, or come even close to relating to their lives. We are a spectacle here, and the students clearly see us as such, as they go out of their way to shake our hands and stare us down. It’s been so, so incredibly difficult to go into a classroom and try to teach when I’m starting to feel like the entire concept is a bad idea. J. Mom and I try to use the methods we believe to be most effective, but they vary so widely from the methods used here that we are met with little success. Our reality, and the educational experience that we have been blessed with, can never match with those of these students. So how much good can we really do?

Additionally, yesterday we were able to observe an actual teacher in the classroom for the first time, and the experience nearly brought me to tears. The children are forced to memorize the answers to specific questions relating to an English text, seeing as these are the questions that will appear on their exams. During class, the teacher went around the room and had each student stand up and recite the answer one at a time, scolding them when they made a mistake. Their comprehension of the words is negligible, as long as they are able to regurgitate it on a test. The worst is that the teacher was obviously well-intentioned, and truly believed that this was the best way to help the students succeed. And why shouldn’t she? It is effective, if not disheartening to those who have been taught to think, not recite. These are children, individuals, who have thoughts, and ideas, and so much potential to shape the world around them if they are able to communicate, but the influence of the Western world has convinced them that this is the only way forward. They must learn English, pass their exams, and chase the ideal set forth by the more “developed” countries. And to what end? Why should the Western standard of success be the only one with which to measure their lives?

Development is a tricky subject. By what standard do we measure it? What I’m learning is that sometimes, a “Western” education is not the one that will be most beneficial, both to the community and the individual. What good does an English education do for a child whose only career path is to work his parent’s farm? It sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to, but sometimes, more education is not a necessity. Yes, it can be an empowering source, but it can also be detrimental. In so many ways, we are a product of our education, both inside and outside the classroom, and in that way, education can almost be a source of oppression. In refusing to teach the local language, in insisting on an education based on Western ideas, can we ever truly claim to be liberating these children? Or are we simply perpetuating a system of oppression that we are so numb to that we have accepted it without thought? I can’t help but feel like it is my fault that these children are subject to such tireless repetition and mind-numbing teaching styles. Indirectly, they are being oppressed, not just by their teachers but by an entire system built on this skewed idea that “West is best.”

For my entire life, I have seen books as an escape rope, and words as wings. But here, now, they become the bars of the cages these children are trapped behind, and the books they carry weigh heavier on them than bricks. I want to scream, cry, lash out against the fact that everything I have always accepted to be true is not. Education may not always be the solution. Development is not always the ideal. Am I here truly here because I want to help, or because of some horrible need to validate my own existence and believe I can make a difference?

To summarize how things are going, I couldn’t help but scrawl these words across my arm during class yesterday: I am both the oppressor and the oppressed, and both have cost me my humanity.

To any of you reading this and seriously questioning my mental health, don’t worry, I’m actually doing fine. We have plenty of discussions and time to debrief, but it is extremely difficult. That’s actually why I’m posting today: Julia and I decided we needed to take a day off work to debrief. I’m finally understanding why people told me that this would be one of the hardest things I would ever do, because it is. I’ve never questioned so many parts of myself and the world around me, and while I know it is making me a stronger, more aware person, it’s also challenging me in ways I never expected. And I’m grateful for that, and the opportunity to think in so many new ways.

So if anyone wants to take on the task of discussing some of these things with me, I have so much more to say, and would be happy to engage in a spirited and probably offensive discussion with you. If you never want to talk about any of this again and pretend like this post never happened, I’m also totally ok with that as well J

Thanks for reading this hot mess of a post, and potentially entertaining some of my existential crisis. I love you all to the moon and back, and that is something that I am totally sure about (probably?!?…jk).

 

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

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Sorry in Advance for this Ridiculous Post…

So since my last post, a few exciting things have happened, the most important being NELSEN DAY, but we’ll get to that later. First, I won second place for my superior card making abilities in an IDEX-organized “Fun Fair” on Friday! Essentially, we drove to a nearby school and spent the day playing with little kids, so no complaints there.

Then, on Saturday, a group of us decided to take what we thought would be a short, casual hike to a nearby temple to see a baba. What we didn’t realize was that it would actually be a six and a half hour trip up a literal mountain to an amazing little temple in the Himalayas. It wasn’t exactly an easy trek, especially considering the fact that we had to be fairly covered up, but it was a fun one. Personal favorite moment was when Vinod convinced Sarah, Mom, Lily and I to take a “shortcut” by literally climbing up the side of a cliff. We almost died, but hey, what’s a fun day without an adrenalin rush or two? Saturday night, Lily and I drove an hour and a half with our family to our uncle’s birthday party, where we were taken to a separate room and given chips to eat while the whole family crowded in and stared at us. The experience was bizarre and more than a little awkward, but it made me more grateful than ever for Lily. Somehow, even though we were confused and exhausted, we were able to joke and laugh throughout the night. I think one of the reasons I like her so much is that we can go from giggling about stupid stuff to having a super intense conversation without it feeling weird. She’s crazy smart, strong, responsible, independent, considerate of others, and interesting to talk to. And even though she hates physical touch, she lets me steal food off her plate, so I love her.

Anyway, Sunday was one of my personal favorite days of the year: NELSEN DAYYYYYY!!!! Aka Nelsen’s birthday, because Nelsen is the literal love of my life (sorry Anne Kim…). To celebrate Nelsen Day, Lily and I made a huge card with our host siblings for everyone to sign. All of us found ways to get in to IDEX so that we could celebrate as a family, at which point I enacted Operation Baked Goods. Since I am of the personal opinion that everyone deserves something baked for them on their birthday, I decided that we absolutely needed to bake something for Nelsen. There was, of course, the minor issue that Nelsen is allergic to gluten, and also lactose-intolerant. Also, the kitchen at IDEX has neither baking soda nor an oven. But did that stop us??? NAY. OPERATION BAKED GOODS WAS A GO.

The original plan was to make peanut butter cookies using the chapatti stove, since the only ingredients were peanut butter, sugar, an egg, and baking soda (BTW, peanut butter is the new crack for all of us). Just replace baking soda with baking powder, and good to go, right?!?

As anyone who knows anything about baking can guess, it didn’t go as planned. After several failed attempts, and almost setting the kitchen on fire, we turned the cookies into a crumble, then mixed the crumbs with crushed bananas and laid apples and cinnamon on top. We stuck some candles in the whole thing and called it a birthday cake, and even though it looked disgusting and had to be eaten with spoons, it actually tasted pretty darn good. After, we spent three hours getting lunch at a fancy restaurant called Pizzian Hut (what it lacks in originality it makes up in deliciousness), and then Patrick led us all in some acro-yoga exercises. All in all, Nelsen Day was a raging success, and actually one of my favorite memories of the trip thus far. Can’t wait til next year!!

Finally, I’ve compiled a list of a few things that I’ve learned from my time in India thus far, and I figure now is as good a time to share as any. Without further ado, here is

AN IDIOT’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING PALAMPUR, INDIA

  • Don’t look at the monkeys. Eye contact = aggression.
  • There will be a lot of random fires on the side of the road. It’s casual. Try not to freak out.
  • Make sure your cracker is facing away from the house before you light it.
  • Close your mouth while showering.
  • Be ready for squatty-potties.
  • Learn the language of honks, if you’re ever crazy enough to try driving. Also, remain unrealistically optimistic about the spaces in which your car can fit.
  • Chai and chapatti are your life now. Deal with it.
  • Sitting sideways in the back of a car is the best seat, unless you get carsick.
  • Everyone else has gotten used to the mountains in their backyard, so don’t stare too long unless you want to look like a FOB.
  • Watch out for motorcycles!
  • Every bathroom is now BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper).
  • Share the road with the cows.
  • 3 o’clock is always chai time.
  • Don’t use your left hand to eat, since it’s technically your “wiping hand” (hence the lack of toilet paper).
  • Yes, the puppies on the side of the road are adorable. No, you can’t touch them.
  • Practice smuggling things into your pockets so that you don’t have to eat all of the food you feel obliged to accept.
  • Find a way to convince yourself that leggings under shorts is indeed “hip”.
  • Anticipate selfies in any house you enter.
  • Embrace the curry stains!

So yeah. India.

Lots of love to everyone back home, especially as we start entering the time in the trip where homesickness sets in. Thank you all for always providing such an amazing support system: I would be lost without it! Always nice to hear from you guys!!!

 

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

HAPPY DIWALI!!!!!

SURPRISE!!!! HAPPY DIWALI EVERYONE!!!!

Ok, so per usual, the only reason I’m posting twice in one week is because of a slight mishap. Unfortunately, yesterday I made the mistake of drinking the unfiltered tap water given to Lily and I when we visited some neighboring homes with our host siblings, and as a result I have been fairly sick for the past twelve hours. Luckily, it’s not too bad, but I decided to stay at IDEX this morning while everyone else takes a tour around Palampur. Which gives me an opportunity to talk about the Diwali celebration we had yesterday!!

Let me start by saying that I didn’t really know anything about Diwali or what it meant before coming to India. Our host sister, Ananya, explained that it is a festival of light celebrating the return of Lord Rama. It is a multi-day celebration, but the most festivities take place on the final day, which was yesterday. The best way I can describe it is an amazing mixture of Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and 4th of July.

During the morning, Lily, Ananya, Vinayak (our little brother), Pavni (our ten-year old cousin), her little sister of 2 and a half, and I all used chalk to sketch a rangoli on the pavement outside our home. While Ananya claims to be terrible at drawing, she managed to help us create a beautiful, if somewhat lopsided, design that loosely resembled the picture we used as inspiration. A while later, we used vibrant sand/dust to bring the image to life. Lily and I marveled at the way the colors seemed to jump off the pavement (and into our clothes/hair). The process was messy and filled with giggles, but it gave us an opportunity to spend time with our new family, and definitely made my grey skirt a lot more colorful!

We also took a few walks around the neighborhood, and looked quite the gang as we made our way through the village. I can’t imagine ever getting used to the view: the Himalayan mountains are clear enough to see their snow-topped peaks. We passed by houses with lights cascading off the sides, which Ananya explained were part of the elaborate process of cleaning and decorating for Diwali. At one point Ananya took us inside their local temple, where the air was smoky with incense and the drums kept a steady beat. We also got the opportunity to see the rangolis of other houses, which often involved us getting invited inside for snacks and drinks. We usually made some small talk with the parents of the household, and were the subject of several awkward photographs, including the oddly popular “Selfie with the American students!” One house even gave us wrapped presents as we left, which we later discovered contained tea and chocolate. The treatment of guests here has been discussed amongst the group at length: apparently, the word “guest” is right next to the word “god.” Lily and I talked about whether our overly gracious hosts were acting in such a way simply because we were guests, or because we were specifically white, American guests. The answer is still unclear, and the situation still makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

Anyway, we returned home as the sun was setting, and that’s when the real fun began! Vinayak was ridiculously excited for fireworks, or “crackers, “ which is to be expected from any nine year old boy. We brought out boxes and boxes of different crackers, and spent probably around three hours just setting them all off from our patio. To the best of my ability, here are all the different kinds of crackers we exploded last night:

  • Small, exploding balls, which you blow on in your hand and then throw forcefully at the ground (Lily accidentally stepped on one, and I’ve never seen her jump so high)
  • Sparklers of all different sizes, often used to light bigger fireworks
  • Mini-whistlers, with a short fuse, loud noise, and not much light
  • Ones that spin on the ground and shoot off sparks like demented tops
  • Little pyramids that sit on the ground and send up a tower of sparks
  • Mini-rockets that shoot off in an explosion and have to be carefully aimed before lighting (I finally understand the term “bottle-rockets)
  • Bombs that sizzle for a few seconds before exploding loudly
  • Legitimate fireworks that shoot into the sky and explode

Yeah. So that was fun.

The scariest part was that all the kids were in on lighting the fireworks, and yet they kept telling Lily and I to be careful when we joined in! At the end of the night, I kept seeing spots in my vision, and my ears were ringing, and I felt dangerously desensitized to the idea of setting off fireworks by myself. At least no one lost a finger (although the neighbor’s cows were less than pleased with the experience)!

Throughout the day, we all ate a ridiculous amount of sweets, which is apparently part of the tradition. At one point, Ananya and Pavni showed us how to kneel in front of their altar, sprinkle water, and then give food and flowers in blessing. It was amazing! We also helped the family decorate the courtyard with dozens of candles, the beauty of which was enough to take my breath away. I kept having to remind myself that it was all really happening, because the whole thing was so surreal.

Later in the evening, the whole family went around to different houses to give sweets to the neighboring families, in a sort of reverse-Halloween fashion. It was interesting to see different homes and taste even more sweets, even if I did feel a little like throwing up at that point! At the last house, all of the kids went outside for (surprise) even more crackers, and we all sat around laughing and goofing off. And even though the entire day was amazing, I honestly think that was my favorite part. It felt like home. Like I was truly a part of this amazing family. I chased Vinayak around the yard after he jumped out at me and laughed with my new sister and ate chips with my super adorable cousins, and I knew it was a night I would never forget.

So that was my day yesterday! Probably one of my favorite parts of the trip thus far, and making me even more excited for the rest of my time here in India! Love you all so so so so much, and hope everything is good back home.

Also SHOUTOUT TO ELLEN YAO FOR KEEPING ME HIP TO POP CULTURE IN THE US OF A!! Can’t wait to show off my knowledge of the trends back home since we’re all so out of the loop here (“Cheerleader” and “Trap Queen” are still hip, right?…)

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

And Suddenly, India!

You know how sometimes doing something amazing makes everything that comes after seem kinda…dull? It’s not even that it necessary is boring, but comparing whatever it is to the crazy wild adventure you just had makes it feel lackluster. Uninspired. Because how can anything, anything, come even close to living up to that?
If we’re being honest, that was pretty much how I felt coming to India, and I don’t think I was alone. We were all still really excited, of course, but I think the unspoken agreement was that the highlight of the trip was behind us.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong.
But before I get into that, quick summary of the 52 hours that we spent traveling here. The first plane ride was uneventful, but the second plane ride was AWESOME because we had mini-tvs!! And movies!!!!! I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to just sit and watch movies in my whole life (I ended up watching “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”). This took us to Ethiopia, where we ended up sitting in the airport for a few hours and playing cards. By the time we got on the third plane, we were all pretty tired, so most of us passed out. Highlight: the plane was pretty empty, so Sam and I both moved up to the emergency row (woot!). We then got on a bus that took us to Delhi, during which time I got really sick, really fast. At one point I hopped off the bus and ran across a busy road in the middle of Delhi because I desperately needed to get to a bathroom, so that was fun! We checked into a hotel and I spent most of the day sleeping off the sickness, so I was feeling much better by the time we took another bus to the train station that evening.
The twelve-hour train ride was completely unlike anything I have ever experienced. Our guide, Vinod, scrawled a series of numbers and letters on our hands that represented where we would spend the night. Mine read as follows: B2 (car number), 58 (bunk number), MB (middle bunk). There were eight bunks to a room, stacked three high on two walls and the remaining two on the third. As it is, the rooms were too small for eight people to stand in, so we all had to crawl into our beds immediately in order to fit. Sam, Jules, Becca, Jenni, Noah and I were all in one room, along with two friendly strangers. One of them, an elderly man who smiled often and used exaggerated gestures to compensate for his lack of English speaking abilities, watched me write in my journal for a few minutes before animatedly asking to see it. After a few seconds of hesitation, I figured the potential to form a human connection outweighed the risk of losing it, and I gave it to him with a bit of trepidation. He flipped through the pages and picked out the words “South Africa,” which made him nod with excitement and approval before happily handing it back to me. I know I’ll never see him again, but thinking of that makes me smile, and I hope that somehow it sticks with him as well.
Anyway, the next morning we were herded back onto a bus for the three-hour ride to our new home, a small town in Northern India called Palampur (by the way, if you’ve ever driven down a busy street in India, you’ll never be able to complain about crazy drivers and dangerous streets in the US again). As our bus wove through potholes and over hills, it slowly became evident that this place is just as beautiful as the last, but it a different way. We saw huge river valleys stretching out endlessly, towering mountain ranges that disappeared into the distance, and vibrant city streets where people seem to flow effortlessly into all the spaces not occupied by cars and motorcycles. When we finally reached IDEX, our host organization for India and effective “home base,” the car was silent. The Himalayan Mountains loomed just behind us, with the building overlooking a drop to the sprawling river below. It truly was breathtaking, in every sense of the word.
Four days later, the glimmer has yet to wear off. We spent Friday through Sunday exploring, eating, relaxing, eating, seminaring, eating, prepping, eating, reading, eating, and bonding. Oh, we’ve also been doing a lot of eating. The food is completely beyond compare: curry and rice and an Indian bread called chibatti (hope that spelling is correct) at every meal, in addition to different kinds of vegetables and starches and broths. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my entire life, and I’m dangerously okay with that. We’ve also been drinking a lot of Chai, which is a sweet tea with milk, sugar, and ginger.
Since Sarah and I agreed to swear off Insanity until we’re both completely healthy again (the ankle is still swollen), Kwano Krew took a walk with Vinod down to the river on Saturday evening. He was ridiculously interesting to talk to, and more than willing to share about his life, culture, and opinions. We ended up sitting by the river for a long time, just listening to it rushing over the rocks. The sound is overwhelmingly peaceful, and as Vinod put it, “water is an engineer.” It shapes the world around it: if a stream wants to flow one way, it will cut through rock and move the earth to do so. Maybe there’s something we can learn from that.
Before we walked back, Vinod asked us to each look amongst the rocks on the bank and pick our favorite. He told us to consider everything: size, shape, color, the way it feels in your hand. Think long and hard before you decide. He promised to look at our rocks later and tell us what they say about our personalities, but I’ve already started reading way too much into mine. It’s mid sized, and fits neatly into the palm of my hand, so that my fingers can curl around it comfortably. It’s big enough to cause a sizable ripple, but not so big that it would make a splash. The edges have been smoothed by the flow of water and the passing of time, but the shape is still imperfect, with bumps and ridges that beg to be traced. The coloring is off-white, with dots and streaks of darker grey and black, like a speckled egg. Common enough at first glance, but if you turn it over, it’s slightly stained with a darker gray and a streak of reddish-pink. Unexpected, but not unwelcome. Unique, but not unnatural. Quietly, simply, effortlessly wonderful. In so many ridiculous ways, it is so much of who I want to be.
Woo! Sorry I just spent an entire paragraph describing a rock while I’m living in India, but then again, I’m driving this station wagon. On Saturday we also visited a beautiful traditional temple and got to sit in on some Tibetan monks as they chanted their prayers, which was overwhelmingly trance-like and awe inducing. I feel like I could literally sit and listen to them for hours. Sunday was spent learning about our new jobs and host families, which was equal parts terrifying and exciting. My new host sister is Lily!! Ironically enough, I used to pretend that I had a sister named Lily when I was little, which proves that dreams really do come true! My work partner is (again) named Julia, but most of us call her Mom because of her tendency to drop phrases like “Gratitude for attitude!” and take care of the rest of us. Since kids are out of school for the holiday Diwali this week, work won’t start until next week, so more on that another time. Yesterday afternoon we moved out of the IDEX building and into our new homes, meeting our new families for the first time. Lily and I have an adorable 8-year old brother and a sweet 13-year old sister, who is the only one in the house that speaks English. Our house is the farthest from IDEX and is actually just outside the next town over from Palampur, so we’re probably going to have a little different experience than most people in our group. Since we’re not working this week, we’ll be spending a lot of time getting to know our families, and I’m pretty excited for that!! Hopefully I’ll be able to talk about them all a little more in my next post.
Also, quick shout-out to all my babes back home whom I promised I would Skype with: I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to get online lately!!! Saying that the Internet here is spotty would be an extremely generous understatement, but hopefully I’ll be able to chat with all of you sometime in the near future.
And now that this post is officially ten miles long, I’ll finally wrap it up. Thinking of all of you back home as I move in again and try to figure out how we fit in to this crazy, wild world. I’ll keep you posted if I figure anything out.

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.

Taking Chances

If someone asked me to give them a single takeaway from the past week, I would tell them that life is about taking chances. Big or small, its these opportunities for excitement and adventure that shape the twists and turns of life.

Sometimes, they merely provide us with a chance to spice up an otherwise mundane day. For example, I’ve gotten the whole group hooked on playing What Are the Odds. If you’re not familiar with the game, one player starts by proposing a dare to a second player. The second player then gives the odds of completing the dare based on how much she doesn’t want to do it. For instance, if I really didn’t want to complete the dare, I would give high odds, such as 1 in 100. Both players then simultaneously say a number in the specified range. If the numbers match, the second player must complete the dare! Some of the dares that have been completed include:

  • Eating an ant
  • Streaking across the lawn
  • Jumping into the pool, fully clothed
  • Putting a cigarette out on your heel (I heard it doesn’t hurt at all)
  • Shaving another student’s face
  • Cutting a program leader’s hair

Both of the last two were completed by yours truly, and both turned out pretty well (if I do say so myself). I’ve also taught everyone how to play Liars, a card game involving a lot of fibbing, betting, and risk taking, and it has become the new craze to play it literally everywhere.

Sometimes, the chances you take can be more long term. Yesterday, I decided to just go for it and ended up getting two new holes punched in my ears! One is a second piercing in my left lobe, and one is a low cartilage piercing on my right ear. I’m actually really happy with how they look!! Both were a lot easier than I expected, so that’s good news. Potentially not the last piercings I get on this trip (don’t tell Bill and Beth)??

But not all risks end so happily. Yesterday, the group went ice skating since a storm canceled our alternative activity, and Sarah was brave enough to step out on the ice for the first time in her life. Unfortunately, a bad fall meant a minor concussion and painful whiplash, which was formally diagnosed when I went with her to the clinic that afternoon. On the bright side, the doctor gave her some pretty strong muscle relaxers, so by the time we got home she was pretty out of it. I ended up having to take care of her long enough to get her into bed, which was a completely hilarious experience because of her inability to function as an 18-year old human being. Highlights include fighting her to get her pajamas on and wiping toothpaste off her shirt when she couldn’t figure out how to brush her teeth. Luckily, she’s feeling much better today, and only remembers parts of last night. Prank!

And, of course, some chances aren’t that risky at all, but still lead to amazing experiences. We went on a safari on Saturday, and it was crazy fun! My personal favorite part was when an elephant came within five feet of us (and, in Laura’s terms, it was sporting six appendages), and when we were confronted by an enormous black rhino that seemed like it might charge us at any second. Some of the other animals we saw included water buffalo, warthogs, kudu, and a caracal. On Sunday, we visited a big cat reserve and a weird zoo-type place, so we got to play with baby bunnies and chill with cheetahs (not at the same time, of course). And finally, today we went on a river safari, with Sophie and I throwing it back to our IST by leading the pack with our superior paddling skills. At one point we went the wrong direction and ended up having to forge out own path down the river through a thicket of reeds, but that ended up being my favorite part of the adventure! Every night, we all crowd into one room for movie night or just sit around the pool talking. It’s been four days of adventure, but also four days of just relaxing, which I think we all needed. It’s really nice to be back with the whole group again.

So tomorrow we set off for India! We’re taking three planes, two trains, and a bus to get to our final destination. Again, not sure what the Wifi/internet situation is like there, so it’s unclear when I’ll be posting again. I feel…a lot of things. Excited, but also nervous. Clothing requirements are pretty strict for India, and I think it’s gonna be a bigger culture shock than it was for here. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see!

Sorry for the lack of halloween pics!! I was able to pull together a hippie costume, and I’ll have to scavenge for some pictures to post. I’m also trying to figure out a way to post my final media project, which actually turned out pretty solid! Jules and I were both happy with the end result (which was indeed a podcast). Anyway, love you guys lots, and hopefully you’ll hear from me again soon!

In order to save the world, we must first discover it.