No, not Indiana. India.
Two and a half years ago, my friend Sheri told me about Rotary’s Global Study Exchange. Sheri had gone on a GSE to Poland and suggested I apply to go on the 2011 trip to Argentina. I wasn’t qualified (too young, they said) — but I told myself I’d go someday. Well, someday is this Sunday, and I’m going to India. For four weeks.
This won’t be the longest that I’ve been away from the states (five months in Spain takes that honor), nor my first trip to the other side of the world (Australia and New Zealand, check!) — but I’m quite sure I’ve never been anywhere quite like India.
Here’s the quick and dirty on the trip:
- I’m not journeying solo. I’ll be with four others, two of which I knew prior to being selected for the team. It’s a small world, after all.
- Layovers included, I’ll be traveling for close to 30 hours each way. No photos, please. My hair is going to be … really … neat.
- Where to? We’ll be in the northwest part of the country — the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana. Before we arrive in the district, we’ll visit Agra and the Taj Mahal.
- It’s a vocational and cultural exchange. What does that mean? So sayeth Rotary: Team members experience the host country’s culture and institutions, observe how their vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.
- We’ll be staying with Rotarian host families.
- No, I will not be drinking the water.
- No, I didn’t have to quit my job.
- Yes, at some point I’m going to get tremendously homesick. And maybe other kinds of sick. (I’ve stocked up on every medication known to man.)
- Yes, you can plan on taking me to get a steak when I get home.
I’ll be spending Valentine’s Day at this temple. I think that’s pretty cool.
- I’ve been told time and time again to prepare myself for the worst poverty I’ve ever seen. It’s estimated that a third of the world’s poor live in India, and I’m sure that it will send me back to the U.S. not entirely the same. I’ll cry. A lot. But that’s what the soft-hearted like me do.
- Most importantly, I’ll be blogging throughout my trip. I’ll be writing every day, and assuming I have daily access to wifi, you’ll hear from me on NewsOK as often as I can post. If I can find the time to teach myself how to syndicate blogs between now and Sunday, you’ll be able to check for updates here and on my shiny new NewsOK blog. Was three links to that enough for you? No. OK, here’s one more.
I’m excited out of my mind and, uh, mildly stressed. I don’t hide that well, if you’re wondering. I’ve cried more in the last four days than I have in, well, I can’t remember. Once I get to the other side of security at Will Rogers World Airport I’ll be a-ok, but until then, as my teammate Megan says, we are at DEFCON 1, people.
Four days ’til liftoff. And I can’t wait.