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In the Going

18 Mar

I have my head pressed against the car window and watch all of the activity outside on the street like I usually do. I watch a lot of things pass by… a funeral procession, two weddings, lots and lots of cows and goats and dogs and chickens, and people doing anything from chatting to eating to fighting to praying and everything in between. There’s also everything on the ground, like food, flowers, trash, poop, and shoes. And at any given time, people are yelling, kids are crying, music is playing, and cars are honking their horns. But there are also moments of stillness if I look closely, like a baby sleeping or a woman sitting quietly on the ground washing vegetables. And the whole time, the car is bouncing up and down, swerving all over the road, and speeding, braking, speeding, braking.

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I read a wonderful piece of writing the other day by a friend who wrote “It’s not in the getting, it’s in the going.”

In a program like this and in a place like India, no one can count on getting. It’s all going, and in order for any of us to be happy, we have to learn to love the going. Get up, scarf down some breakfast, pile into the car, and go learn, teach, try, explore, speak, listen. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes all I want is to go back home to the familiar, but other times I experience something truly remarkable and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.

As a traveler in India, I am in a unique position to learn to love the going and set the getting aside. On top of the uncertainty and unpredictability of traveling in a new country, this is India, where it seems that getting is rarely guaranteed. Water, electricity, education, and even crop yields are all things to which, through our service, we are learning that access is often not a given. For me on this trip, the only given has been that nothing we do or see is ever what I expect it to be.

Nico has said that as a teacher, before loving the people you see your students becoming, you first must love the students as they are. Similarly, before we can shape and fully understand our visions for India in the future, we must first love India as it is. And the more we can love the process of working towards our goals, the more successful we’ll be.

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It is a joy to see our small community both forming our own group identity and figuring out our role in so many different contexts (as teachers, students, peers, foreigners, young adults, etc). We’re learning to be flexible but resilient, open but questioning, and to dream big but act now. I feel so fortunate to be here with this group and the ideas I’m learning are ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

-Molly Berntsen