Unsolicited Compassion (from others and to myself)

One of the hardest things to do when you’re traveling alone is to stay motivated. I’m a natural introvert, even though I do a lot of things that may seem counter to that characteristic. One of the hardest things for me to do is actually put myself out there into the thick of it. It takes motivation and sacrificing my own comfort level to make myself available to new experiences and people.

Take for instance my current situation. I moved from the US to India on Monday. Well, really Tuesday. Tuesday was my first full day in Chennai. From the moment I landed I would have to do a number of things to keep myself legally in the country and also figure out where I’d need to be at a specific time. Not to mention I had to navigate a new city with a different culture and language from my own. It’s been difficult negotiating my way around and not knowing names of places, people, or even names for common things. It’s been tough not even having a consistent way of communicating with people. I’ve been relying on my own instincts, being patient, and probably one of the toughest things— trusting things will work out. Part of that trust is accepting help when you get it, and asking for it when you need it. Both of those things are hard for me regularly in my everyday life in the states.

 My room at the guesthouse. Nice quiet street and surrounded by a garden. Feels comfortable.

Luckily I’ve had a lot of really wonderful people help me out this week. People have really been patient when I’ve been tired and fumbling around. They weren’t angry or short with me, they were compassionate as they waited for me to figure it out…or helped me out.

The Frangi House has been an excellent way to start out. I didn’t have to worry about accommodations right off the airplane. I was fortunate enough to have the Fulbright reserve a guesthouse with a feeling of home. Because of the comfortable environment, I’ve had a lot of really pleasant and helpful conversations with other visitors and locals who are staying or working in the guesthouse. Numerous times I’ve asked the house manager to help me get a taxi or water. It’s also been really nice to have some conversations with actual people face to face instead of being cooped up in a room attached to the computer and virtually talking to someone via messaging or texts (although…don’t get me wrong, they’re helpful too—and that’s a whole other blog post).

One of the biggest helps to this transition was finally connecting with my affiliation. I’m working with a non-profit organization called NalandaWay. I knew from the get-go that this was the right fit for me. I immediately felt welcome by the director and my mentor. They made it clear to me that they were there to help me to get settled if I needed it. And I really did need it. They helped connect me to people for my housing need, and also lent me a phone so I could speak to those contacts. So thankful for that. Mostly, I’m just so very happy I get to go work with the whole team of people for the next four months. It’s a group of very motivated and dynamic people, who clearly are energized by their work. It’s a pleasure to just be able to show up there everyday.

I’m touched by the strangers who’ve lent a helping hand in my housing search. They don’t even know me, and they were willing to reach out and offer to help with whatever I needed. Even if they couldn’t totally do it themselves they offered to find someone else who could. I wouldn’t even call these people strangers anymore. I would call them friends, because I would do the same for them.

And the Fulbright! There is a community out there, and we should remind ourselves to connect with them. Having that connection can really help when you are feeling the ups and downs of living some place new by yourself, culture shock, or just want to have a conversation in your first language. It’s good to reach out and connect with these folks.

This transition could have been difficult, and it is challenging. But, I think my motivation is that I’m passionate about what I’m doing and why I’m here. I’ve been given a chance to come to India, work with an amazing group of people, participate and be immersed in another culture, grow as a person, find new ways of doing things and problem solve in ways I never even dreamed of. I know that there will be moments that won’t be great (and I promise to reveal those times too).   And even though I am currently feeling anxious because I don’t yet have a new and more permanent address, I know it will work out.

A nice cafe around the corner, yet a world away.  Just in case you need something familiar.  I needed a coffee and some snacks.

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