Friday, July 22, 2011

"The Road Goes Ever on and on..."

This is my last blog while in India!  I'd like to give out a shout out to those checking out my experiences from the MLG forums, especially Malibu.  I'll see most of you guys in a week at MLG Anaheim!  If you are just checking out my blog I strongly suggest you go back to the first post to understand what the heck is going on.

I have to apologize in advance for what you will read... I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.  My illness topped with physical labor, early mornings, and heart wrenching good bye's with the children make for a poor mental state to write.  So bare with me please.

Before I conclude my India experiences, I will first elaborate quickly on my last day doing construction in the leprosy colonies.  For the most part, it was more of the same construction work.  Filling in holes, moving rocks, playing in the dirt.

First septic tank we worked on today

Some group teamwork on #2.

Even the North American native turkeys made a brief appearance in the colony.

Couple things that were different:

First, it was the same colony that we had medical the day before.  As such, I bumped into a number of people whose feet I had washed and they all were especially friendly.  It seemed like I was an accepted member of the community.

I get a kick out of all their glasses.

Just kicking it with the crew.  A few of these guys were there yesterday.  Where is the poker chips when you need them?

Second, we got to see the local snake charmer playing with a cobra... and then getting bit.  Luckily, he drinks the venom everyday so his body is used to it.

 It's sizing me up.

Proof of the guys bite.  That's nuts.  Literally that snake bite can stop a heart in an hour.  He just was used to the venom because he drinks it.

While construction was fun, the most memorable part about this day was family time at night.  We had to say goodbye to the children and it was really, really sad.

Every other week these children are introduced to new volunteer faces, knowing full well that they will 'abandon' them after their session is over.  Personally, if I were them, I would become caustic towards volunteers, refusing to become attached instinctively because I would be tired of saying so many depressing good byes.  Yet, despite knowing the future departure of the volunteers, these children still keep their hearts open and allow themselves to become attached.

Two of the children began to cry as I said my good bye's.  Goku particularly affected me.  He was my sparring partner.  He looked down and refused to meet my gaze as I hugged him and said farewell.  He brought me a piece of paper, and mumbling, asked me to write my email so he could write me.  He said he won't have any more fun pillow fights now.  He asked me if we'd see each other again.  I wanted to reply "what does your heart tell you" but I can only pawn off so many cheesy star wars quotes and keep my dignity.  Instead, as I walked out of the room I said, "I hope so.  Goodbye, Cana Puna".

Me and Goku.  On a side note, I'm wearing a lungi.

I asked Joseph Stalin if he had anything to say to the people back home.

I will miss India.  

If one wishes to be happy here, one must quickly adopt 'Indian eyes'.  It would be only too easy to only pay attention to the rancid smell or the trash that blankets the land and makes all of India a landfill.  To only pay attention to the sweltering heating, the sweat provoking humidity, and the dangerous animals that demand one maintain constant vigilance with their foot placement.

But if one looks deeper and puts on the bifocals of the Indian people, a whole new world is opened up.  A world where the most impoverished people are also the most happy people.  A world where the ancient cultures and religions do not just exist in societal interactions but within the very hearts and souls of the individuals.  A world where strangers are regarded as brothers and treated as honored guests.

I know, as evidenced to me by the short time it took for me to become spoiled again after staying in that comfortable hotel in Agro, that I will lose my Indian eyes shortly after departing the country.  After the first couple nights spent relaxing in a comfortable bed it will again become commonplace.  After the initial joy of using a western toilet I'll quickly become habituated to such a luxury.  As Dostovesky says, "Man gets used to everything- the scoundrel!".

So did this whole adventure go to waste?  Am I destined to return to my state of being that I described in my initial post, where I KNOW I am lucky for my lifestyle, yet I don't FEEL that I am...?

When I was younger, I struggled sleeping.  My mind would race and I just couldn't drift off.  I asked my Father, "Dad, how come you can sleep so well?  Wherever we are you always fall asleep before me!".  He then told me "Well Son, it's because one night, when I was a boy scout doing a Winter campout, I nearly froze to death and rolled around all night unable to sleep.  Whenever I am having a hard time going to sleep, I remember how miserable I was that night.  Then whatever problem is keeping me awake instantly vanishes because it can't compare to that night and I fall asleep."

As Barrie says, "God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December".  Or rather vice versa, 'God gave us memories so that we might remember the freezing blizzards so we can appreciate the warmth of the radiant sunshine'.

Because I have the memories of my experiences here in India, I hopefully will be able to put on short term Indian eyes to allow me to FEEL how lucky I am whenever I am feeling ungrateful.

To add to this point, I just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo again, and on the last page Edmond says "There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another..."

This journey has helped me better compare the two.

While I'll miss the country, climate, and culture of India, I will miss the people much more.  From the energy filled and loving children to the disease ravaged but happily optimistic 'leprosy affected' individuals, all have found a special place in my heart.  I will miss how much the children in India loved to hug and be close to me.  I will also miss the beaming toothless grin that the leprosy patients would bestow upon us volunteers during the medical and construction days.

I am confident that no poker face could withstand the smile given off by these individuals.  You have to smile in return.  It's truly instinctive.

Look at that smile she has on her face and tell me you could stonewall that...

One thing I love about these traveling adventures is that it forces you to have first hand encounters with the world.  The world, the way it is, not as you have imagined it.  

It compels you to grapple with the limitless kindness and the bottomless cruelty of humankind, and realize that perhaps you are capable of both.  It changes you.

Well, enough of that.  I could go on for a long time about how incredible these experiences were to me.  Luckily, they won't be the last, both in the immediate and in the distant future.  I head straight from India to explore Paris with my cousin for a few days, then I depart to MLG Anaheim.  I am going to be one jet lagged gamer.  I'll keep a less up to date blog about those experiences as well.

The journey won't stop there though.  As Bilbo says, 

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

I look forward to a life of adventures, wherever they may take me.

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