Since returning from India a little more than two weeks ago, Iʼve been asked a common question, "Was your experience life changing?"
The simple answer is yes. How could a person travel halfway around the world, live and work in a completely different culture and not be profoundly affected?
Returning home wasnʼt easy. Itʼs probably one of the reasons Iʼve waited so long to write a final blog about my experience. That, and I was violently ill for almost a week after my trip. Iʼll spare everyone the unpleasant details, but it wasn't pretty.
It may be difficult for most people to understand, but when I came home there was a surprising disconnect to the people and places I had left a mere three weeks prior. Something was just off. I remember driving to my apartment in my parentʼs car on the evening I returned and feeling like a stranger in my own hometown.
Iʼve spent a large part of the last few weeks trying to process what I saw, whom I met, and the experiences I had in an effort to figure out exactly what in me has changed.
I know this -- after spending three weeks teaching some of the poorest children I had ever met, I realize the power of patience, understanding and compassion. I also saw how easy it is to write people off, even if they are only nine years old.
Admittedly, I am not a very patient person. And Iʼm usually far more understanding after I realize the err of my ways, rather than in the heat of the moment. But when you are one person trying to help two dozen, finding those hidden traits is a necessity.
I had two students in particular who tested and taught me the most. Akash and Abinash were difficult in class and often started fights with other students. They both talked out of turn and copied otherʼs work trying to pass it off as their own on almost a daily basis.
These two boys were not only frustrating, but they worried me. The area in which I taught, Oklha Phase Two, was a predominately Muslim neighborhood filled with families who had come…