Saturday, July 2, 2011


It is Wednesday, June 29th 2011.  In less than a week I will be leaving for India once again, this time on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.  I have been jabbed with countless needles and swallowed many pills, all in the name of immunity.  I have excitedly dug out my old but forever beautiful salwaar kameezes.  I have attended a very thorough pre-departure orientation at the swanky Renaissance Marriott hotel in Washington D.C., where I met my fellow Fulbrighters.  These people are exceedingly talented and accomplished, but warm and friendly at the same time.  Meeting them was both enjoyable and humbling, and I am honored to be traveling to India with this extraordinary group of people.

I am of course extremely excited to return to India, where I had an eye opening, challenging, frustrating,  exhilarating, wonderful, semester abroad in Spring 2009.  I look forward to once again dodging cows, monkeys and camels while walking down the streets.  I look forward to the smells of paan, jasmine flowers, curry, and cow dung.  I look forward to smiling children addressing me as "Didi."  I look forward to idli, dosa, paneer, and malai kofta, to "chaiiiiii...chaichaiiiii...garam chaiiiiii," and to fresh pineapples and papayas.  I look forward to learning from the people I meet, and hopefully teaching them a little about my own culture.

I have to keep in mind however, that this trip to India will be an experience in and of itself, not merely a continuation of my semester abroad.  I have changed since then.  India has changed since then.   Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh have certainly undergone a number of dramatic changes, with much uncertainty remaining.  But I am sure that subtler changes have occurred in India.  Though I still hum "Guzaarish," I am sure that the people of India are now singing other songs.  Though "Ghajini" is still the most prominent Hindi film in my mind, I am quite sure that India as a whole has moved on; I am willing to bet that much has happened in Bollywood since Aamir Khan first bared his eight-pack.

A huge difference is that this time I will be in Delhi, in North India.  Quite different from the South Indian city of Hyderabad that I grew to know and love.  Dosa and idli may be harder to come by.  (And although I tend to think with my stomach, I do understand that the differences stretch far beyond the culinary!)   Additionally, I will be a teacher this time, and not a student, a situation that will bring a whole host of new challenges and opportunities.

Something else to remember is that the wonderful people I met in Hyderabad, both Indian and American, will not be such large part of this experience.  I will have to navigate the country without Mr. Das, Kalyan, Madhuri, Kavitha, and Mamatha, though I do plan to visit them in Hyderabad.  My Indian classmates are also spread out around the country now, though I do hope to visit them as well.  I'll also have to do without my CIEE travel buddies, who became a vital part of this experience.  I could not have hoped for better companions by my side while walking into the bat infested caves of Ellora, bangle shopping, wandering forlornly around Pondicherry looking for lodging, gorging on delicious food, chugging pepto-bismol, and trekking through the Himalayan foothills.  

Looking back, this post reads as a rather sappy love letter to my junior semester abroad, but I am glad that I wrote it.  Naturally, I hope that my year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in New Delhi is a wonderful experience in and of itself.  However, I also hope to build on my past experiences in India, and to learn even more about this fascinating, colorful, stressful, infuriating, delightful, beautiful country.
Some of the people I worked with while in Palampur in May 2009

This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State website.  The views here expressed are my own, and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.

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