All the feelings

 few weeks late, but here’s my final blog post!!10565092_10152625008589133_9057591901745781504_n 10310520_10152625012714133_4122010957082351397_n 10592806_10152625012349133_3730518682542637031_n 1654336_10152625018209133_3760734156352271770_n

As I write this slowly making my return to America after 3 months, a process which includes a sleeper bus, 6 planes, and a detour in Europe. In one of my first posts I referenced India as wild, and the more I see of this place the more that thought has been confirmed. I have never been somewhere that is so equally overwhelming and beautiful.
After working with my organization for 2 1/2 months, I decided to leave two weeks early to travel some. Half of the nursing students had switched to a different center to do their practical training, and with 3 volunteers at the center, there was less for me to do during the day until the evening school students arrived. The kids seemed to be confused about my leaving and kept telling me “No Allison America.” When I explained to Umamagaeswari (Dhandapani’s 10-year-old sister) that I had to go back to America because that’s where my family and friends are, she just bobbled her head and then later came back to me and said, “You daddy, you mommy, you friends, all India coming.” We all said goodbye that night and I got lots of hugs and cheek kisses and was told to dance in the street one last time. After that I went back and laid on the floor for an hour, moping heavily and only getting up when I was promised poori and 3 mangos by the other two volunteers for “all my feelings”.
As I was walking out of the bathroom  the next morning from one of my last bucket showers for (hopefully) awhile, I saw Uma walking down the street on the way to school. We both ran towards each other and hugged for a few minutes until she looked at me and asked “America?” When I said yes she went back to hugging me and started crying. So we sat on the porch for a hot minute, hugging and crying and wiping each other’s tears and promising we would be strong girls and that we would see each other again.
It is strange to go from that to here, where I am boarding my flight to leave India. This place that has challenged me and confused me and loved me so well. When I first arrived, got off the plane, and went to the train station, I was terrified. I clearly didn’t belong and all the warning stories people told me before I left were running through my head. I avoided eye contact with men, clutched my things close to me, and paced a lot. I sit here now with conversational Tamil skills, traditional Indian silver anklets with bells on them, fading henna on my left hand, and soles of my feet that are hardened and cracked from walking barefoot so often. I sang my Tamil song to the man who made me my fourth cup of chai for the day and he laughed and told me to go back to America. I slept curled up on top of the engine of the bus in the middle of the night when there were no seats and only moved when I was elbowed by the driver as he changed gears. I have held baby goats and coerced donkeys out of the house with mango peels and been told “don’t worry, be happy!” by a man as I was being followed in a park by a vicious monkey. I have ridden down village roads in the back of strangers’ trucks, side-saddled a motorbike with two other people on it, and ridden the bus so many times that only a few stand out and are referenced as “that time with the fight” or “the one with the goat” or “when the cute bus driver stopped the bus because I was running after it and said ‘Hi Allison’ and laughed when I got on” (swoon).
As I was sitting in the airport today,I met a guy from America who told me I was brave for coming alone and I just laughed and said that wasn’t it really. I think I was more just hopeful of what could happen. Of the beauty that can occur when you rely solely on the grace of strangers you have yet to meet. Was I disappointed at times? Sure. But that’s life. Was I pleasantly surprised? That’s a understatement. 60 giggling and honest children, 7 driven and caring girls, a thoughtful and receptive yoga teacher, a creative and level-headed German, a ridiculous and chivalrous Englishman, a strong and beautiful cook, a boisterous and deep friend, and countless others. So many people that have taught me such different things. I am sad to leave this place and these people but I know it’s not the end. I believe that once you know what’s out there waiting for you, you’ll always want to find it again. All my love!!

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