I hate America. not really. I love America. I am back in the U.S.A. and everything is too normal. 36 hours of flying by yourself is not the best way to spend the day after you leave the 200 most adorable and loving people in the world.

my last few days were incredible. so many moments at Shanti Bhavan were incredible. my last day was my birthday and it started with the choir singing For Good and I was a goner for the rest of the day. to each of my classes (I teach every grade except 11th! I was so lucky to have the schedule I did) I read "I Like You" which I fortuitously found in the SB junior library.

it was so appropriate for me to whisper to the first graders, "you know how to be silly--that's why I like you. boy are you ever silly! I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you."

and my 10th graders completely agreed when I read to them, "when I say something funny, you laugh. I think I'm funny and you think I'm funny too."
the 10th graders

my eyes teared at the thought of their generous hearts as I said "if you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one"

and I bawled when I had to read, "if you go away, then I go away too. or if I stay home, you send me a postcard. you don't just say 'well see you around sometime, bye.' I like you a lot because of that. if I go away, I send you a postcard too."

I feel an emptiness I've never known before, and the children permeate my every thought. I miss Devraj and his innocent-but-guilty "Miss..." I wished you were on the plane seat next to me Devraj. I miss waking up every morning to the 6th and 7th grade boys trying to act cool, but cheering when I get assigned to go play basketball with them. I miss Pushpa and her diligent violin practice--every day she brought me a new piece to learn. I miss Reena. I keep dreaming of Reena. I wish she were here sweetly telling me about this time she misplaced her pencil or that time she heard someone singing happy birthday to you, you look like a monkey...

throughout my time and on my last few days, the children showered me with cards and gifts--some of which are friendship bracelets. on Friday morning when I departed from the Bengaluru airport, I had 13 bracelets on my wrist. I am so proud of them and promised each child to never remove them. inevitably they have been falling off, one at a time. I am down to 8. I hate that I am losing them. I hate that I am forgetting them and that they are me. but they are still there. they are still learning, still healthy, still living without me. and that thought makes me happy. I trust that things will go on dandily without me and subdue my selfish sadness and remember that they are adapting and I should too.

as for here and now, I don't really remember how to live. I'm not sure I can dress myself, shop for myself, cook for myself, go to work, go to school, drive. the basics. but I will remember that in a few days time. already I am becoming normal again. despite my initial disgust in LAX at the skimpy attire and my amazement at how nice everything is in my room, in my car, and on my macbook, I am living. I saw a movie today. so there. in no time at all I will be forced to remember how to live--just like riding a bike.

things are normal. as I previously said, too normal. I am so eerily used to the red cliffs outside my window, and driving came back to me with sheer ease. my mom's cooking is like I never left it--warm and delicious. I wish I were more culture shocked than I am.

what hasn't come so easily, though, has been my change. I forgot how to live like an American, but that I will remember. what I'm not sure I will remember so quickly is my purpose. I've forgotten why I live--why I live here. why don't I live in Balliganapalli? who said that's how it is supposed to be?

the last thing I want is to put this "experience" in my coin purse and save it for a testimony meeting or a first-day-of-school introduction. or a random blog post here and there. I know people are genuine and have sweet intentions when they say "what an experience!" or "I bet you had a great experience." I don't mean to be bitter--I know I have said the same thing to others and even about myself. but those 200 children are my family. they're not an experience. they're permanent. they're not tucked neatly into my pocket, ready to be pulled out of their compartment for an appropriate conversation. I love them every day. I will miss them every day.

the 6th grade girls have planted a garden! I caught them doing puja and sprinkling holy water over their new plants.

Ashwat. he is the most devilishly handsome fellow in the 7th grade. I love him.

these two are mine. Naveen and Berkmans. as I told Naveen, one of my biggest fears is being understood. and I feel like they understand me.

reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" to my 4th graders. we finished it on my 2nd to last day. unexpectedly, I cried when Billy had to bury Old Dan and Little Ann. in the book he says he feels he buried a part of his life with them.


Tav and Aims said...

It looks like you had an amazing experience over there.. You are such a great example to everyone Amy... I really look up to you.. I love that poem... The first present my husband gave me when we were dating was that poem... It is lovely... Anyway, keep being you.
Amie Calico

Spencer said...

As I read your post all I could think of was the very similar experience I had as I boarded the airplane in Sao Paulo and left behind the country that had become my home. It's amazing how that can happen. And I can totally relate to being back in American and hating it but not really. Anyway, I'm glad you had this experience. Welcome back

Karly Staples said...

Ok so I am a bit of an emotional disaster today but this post just added to it. Amy - you know just how to put your thoughts in to words. I don't know how you do it. I wish i could write like you. I loved your thoughts about "experience" - not that I have any "experience" feeling what you have felt but somehow I just know that you honestly love those kids. And that they have changed your life forever. Its not just another BYU resume builder. I am so proud of you for going after your heart and doing what you love. You just fit there amy. I look at the pictures and I can just see you thriving helping those children. I just couldn't be more happy that I have been able to read as you went through a transformation and met a piece of yourself across the world.