I can admit now that I struggled quite a bit my first few weeks in Banaras. I’ve never been this far from home before, let alone for this long. I didn’t know how I would manage for five weeks in a busy city like Banaras where everything – the food, the people, the customs, the traffic, and the cows – feels foreign. In addition, I felt ungrateful for not taking advantage of all the opportunities around me to see and learn new things. I came this far; how could I not spend every free moment exploring? I hated that the expectations I had set for myself could not be met given the level of energy this city often demands of me. Slowly, I adjusted to life here, and, miraculously, things in my day-to-day here started feeling more “normal” to me and less like I am an outsider who does not belong here. And now, I see tourists walking around with fanny packs on their waists and cameras around their necks and think to myself how silly they are, trying to experience Banaras in just a few days before their tour bus moves onto the next city on their itinerary. I may be a foreigner, but I have a warm home to go home to every night with a loving host family and home-cooked meals. I have grown to love my morning walks to the Program House, and I look forward to the calls of my neighbor’s baby goats and saying “namaste” to a woman with a friendly smile and a yellow sari who sits outside her home every morning.
I have had my share of challenges in Banaras. I find the chaos, at times, frustrating. I am looking forward to the change in tone that the peaceful mountains of Ladakh will bring. Despite this, I will look back so fondly on my time here in Banaras. I will miss my Mataji and Pitaji, and my morning walks to the Program House, and sitting at cafes on hot afternoons with my new friends. (Luckily these new friends are coming with me to Ladakh!) I feel privileged to have spent these past weeks here. I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and discovered new comforts to retreat into when the chaos is too much for me. I am so grateful to everyone who has made this experience so special.
As we move on to X-Phase, I am nervous but feel confident that the eleven of us have the tools we need to be successful, to take care of each other, and to grow together. I am excited to see each individual’s (including my own) strengths shine.