Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving, 26/11, and Mid-stay Orientation update

So the last week has flown by and quite a few things have happened. For one, I had my mid-stay orientation in which the American YES girls staying in Delhi came down for the week-end. Least to say we had a blast. Because of our limited talking, we all took the opportunity to catch up and share our experiences. I actually ended up really enjoying it which I wasn't expecting since the last time I had an orientation, I felt like they were just repeating the same things over again (sorry AFS, just being honest). Anyways, we showed them a little bit of Mumbai, watching the gateway through the bus windows, driving down Marine Drive, going to Juhu beach... Almost the works. Plus I got to do a little bargaining with Sarah in order to buy a bag, which is something I haven't done yet. Shameful, right? But I hope I get more opportunities soon. It's a valuable asset to have.
Now, though, I am missing the rest of Team India dearly. Austin just isn't enough anymore... ahahaha just kidding. I really do miss everyone though. Especially Aru, who is one of the volunteers and is on the board of AFS India. How cool is that? She gets to make suggestions to improve our experience and such, plus she's only 19! And we get along so well ;] Actually Aru was there during my D.C. orientation so we've already gotten to know each other. I think this is another perk that I've been given. Since the YES program is only a few years old, a lot of the alumni are younger and excited to encourage other students. When I go back to U.S. I hope also to take up such a responsibility. Well I don't know about Aru's position, but definitely, working as a volunteer. Along with her were Mayank and Dushyant, both of whom I've known for a while and are also younger college volunteers and two older employees of AFS. It was sad saying good-bye but we'll all see each other again soon.

Thanksgiving in India was slightly more interesting and not just because I had to figure out what to make for my host family. First, I'll backtrack though. On the Wednesday before the holiday, Austin and I were invited for a celebration at the American Consulate here which we agreed to go to. We got there at the end, since we had school to escape from, but there were still turkey sandwiches and pumpkin cupcakes to eat. We got to talk to some of the employees and afterward set out for doughnuts and coffee. I hadn't really been to see much of his side of town so that was nice since I'll be moving there soon. Austin is moving to Bandra, one of my favourite places in Mumbai. But anyways, we had fun, just trotting around and talking.
On Thursday we had a school assembly and it wasn't at all about being thankful. It was instead in remembrance of the 26/11 terrorist attacks that took place in Mumbai a year ago and affected the entire city.The assembly consisted of some song performances, a poem reading, and a translation of a passage of the Q'uran. It put me into an interesting mood, one of both sadness and thankfulness. After getting back from school, I took the opportunity to write out my thoughts on Facebook. This was my note:

I don't think many people will read this but that's okay because in the end, this is really for me. You could probably look at this and say I don't know anything. It would be accurate because according to TOK, none of us really do. But to me this is something I am sure of and I feel the need to put it out there, even if you will never absorb it.

I remember 9/11. I remember sitting in front of the TV while getting ready for school, not knowing why two buildings were crumbling or why the newspeople were so shocked. I remember rubbing one girl's back because she was crying and hoping her brother in New York was okay despite the fact that I didn't like her. And I remember what followed. The countless TV shows of psychics who predicted it and the documentaries on those who lived through it. The girl who said she was now scared everytime she heard a plane overhead. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Around this time last year, I was preparing my application to go abroad and India was my top choice. When I saw the attacks on the news, I was stuck in place. The next few days were spent religiously following the news for what was going on. My parents said not to worry and that it probably wouldn't affect me going abroad. But I wasn't worried about that. I was worried about the people. I've never heard a gunshot before and I know even less about hiding in a corner a few meters from a door where someone could kill you. The fact that it took place so far away made it even less realistic in my mind. But I knew it was happening. I know it happened.

So maybe you feel more because you were there and they killed your people in your city. You can play a blame game, we all have, and recite the events over and over in your mind until it becomes a distorted fantasy of violence and terrorism that consumes you with hate for those people. I wouldn't put it against you. 365 days isn't that long when you think about it. But just because your innocence has been broken doesn't mean you should let your impression of all of them change. I know it's the most cliche thing to say but honestly, haven't you changed? You work hard on improving relations but to how much are you working to understand. Your ignorance can be laughed at with the small mistakes you make in every day but when it comes down to it, how much do you decide based on what you haven't experienced? You have met me. Has your perception changed? You might call me a weird American, but do you know Americans? Sometimes I question myself too, do I know America, can I represent America? Well I am myself, that is as close as I can get to representing my country.

You can decide for yourself, you have that ability granted to you. I will remember those who died in such unfortunate circumstances and will be upset that I can't do much to ease anyone's suffering. However shallow it might seem, I know the feeling of loss closely, it is universal and connecting. I will not blame anyone for what has happened. It's already over and done with and the focus should go to the aftermath and toward securing ourselves for the present and future. And since it's the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to all of my family, both natural and host, as well as my friends for everything that they do. Also for the government for working hard and for those in my community. Thank you. We all go through so much and I'm thankful we're all still together.
An interesting conversation followed between myself and a classmate, but for confidentiality purposes I won't put it up. The note was basically to explain my own feeling on the results of terrorism attacks in no way related to it being because of religion, etc. Just loss and looking to an end to the blinding rage that stops our reasoning. Of course, that's a bit of a utopian ideal but I was thinking of my own classmates' predisposition to those types of feelings ( XD sorry for being wordy). Since I am an exchange student, offering my own views might be interesting to them so I wrote. And even then, the topic had been on my mind for a while, so I wanted to put it down before it went away forever.
In other updates, I saw an elephant on the road today. It kind of made me happy.
And a cow too. He was at the intersection, waiting to cross the street.

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