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Hi from San Francisco! My name is Lily Cunningham and I am eighteen years old. I graduated high school last spring, and have been working at a cafe and making art at home for the first semester of my gap year. I have never been to India (or even remotely close) but I am so excited, and a little nervous, to experience India’s landscape and culture with the Dragons instructors and fellow travelers. Can’t wait to meet everyone!

I thought Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk about the dangers of a single story applies greatly to our travelling to India. In preparing for our travels, I have thought a lot about what I should expect and the images that I hold in my head of the country. Just like Adichie described in her talk, the only images of India that I hold are the ones that I have seen or read in western movies or books—images of poverty, overcrowding, and chaos. So, naturally, when I first starting to consider this Dragons course I was a little afraid of going because of all of the negative stereotypes I had compiled in my head. As the weeks went by and I got closer to these last days before beginning this new experience, I did more research and asked more questions and became more comfortable. It might sound silly, but when I was told that I would be taking showers every day, and even multiple times a day in Varanasi, I was so surprised. For some reason I had gotten it into my head that even cities in India do not have the everyday necessities that we enjoy in the US. And so my ideas of the country changed and continue to change.

And I know that I still have a single story of India, and only when return will I have more than the one. But I think it is definitely important to watch this Ted Talk as it opens up the possibilities of more stories and serves as a reminder to keep an open mind when experiencing new things. I think when we are confronted with things were don’t know, we tend to be defensive and fearful and we close ourselves off and stick to what we know. But as Adichie says, keeping to what we know only limits us to half of the picture. Keeping an open mind and an open heart does not only fill in more parts of that picture but also allows us to experience and learn even more.

(p.s. I also do a lot of sailing! didn’t have many pictures of myself to post so here is my sailing team photo)