Learning to Love India
It is no secret if you have ever met me that my love for India came slowly. When I first felt called to come to Sarah’s Covenant Homes to be a house mom it was easy for me to fall deeply in love with the photos and the stories of SCH but I felt neutral towards India. I never had a desire to travel through India and my sole knowledge of the culture revolved around an Indian restaurant I had eaten at once when I was younger. After many nights of praying and wrestling with my fears and doubts I finally committed to SCH and came to India on my 22nd birthday.
I immediately fell in love with the children and the ministry of SCH. My days were spent working with the kids to reach goals, managing various aspects of running a home, and advocating for the kids. I felt like I had been preparing my entire life for this time and many of my past experiences and education helped me ease into the role of being a house mom. Even on the hard days I was still so thankful that God had brought me to SCH. But I did not feel the same way about India. I was still overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds, and the pulse of life here. I did not feel at home in India and I found myself resentful towards the cultural barriers that seemed to be wherever I looked. Instead of trying to understand and find beauty where I was I retreated into my own bubble and only ventured out when I needed to. I used to tell people that I loved the kids but could take or leave India. My whole first year at SCH I felt this way and I did not see a problem with it.
As I was entering my second year of serving with SCH and living in India I found myself praying more and more for a love for India. I wanted new eyes to view the country I was currently calling home. As much as I loved the food of India; Chicken 65, curry, and naan, I found myself falling short in my love for India. At first I did not see much of a change of my attitude towards India but during a trip to visit a friend in the Philippines I found myself missing India. I missed the universal ability of people to understand what I meant when I head bobbled. I missed the way the sun set and threw a golden hue around the sky. I missed the warmth of the people who weren’t afraid to strike up a conversation with me. When I returned back to India I found myself happy not just to see the kids but also to return back to the country that I knew and was comfortable in. When I walked out of the airport and into the arrivals area at the airport instead of cringing like I usually did when the non stop hustle and heat hit me I smiled and eagerly looked forward to the Indian breakfast I knew would be awaiting me at Anchor Home.
My love for India came slow but I found myself more and more in love with everything that made it so unique. By the time I started my third and final year in India I could finally say I loved India. I loved the monsoon rains in the afternoons after the humidity had built up all day. I loved my Sunday evening auto (Tuk-tuk) rides home from church where we raced through the bustling and bright streets while jamming to Bollywood hits. I surprised myself one day while I was giving an orientation to new volunteers and I went on for several minutes about everything I loved about Hyderabad. Often times I didn’t slow down long enough to really put into words what I felt for India. It was easier to list out the things that drove me crazy instead of appreciating the beauty around me.
Life in a foreign country surrounded by a culture and language that is not my own was hard but when I took the time to stop and pay attention I was reminded of why I had fallen in love with SCH and India. My love for India went beyond what met the eye. I loved the hospitality that I was shown. I loved that grandmas universally want to feed and love you, even when you don’t speak the same language. I loved that my caregivers could still love deeply and freely despite their own pain and trauma in their personal lives. `It was not always easy to love the kids that I fostered at SCH. Some of them purposefully pushed me away due to past traumas and insecurities. But I kept loving them no matter what. And in that same way I learned to love India. Despite any shortcomings I learned to embrace and love where I had been placed for a season.
I’m currently back in a West Texas city where everything is orderly and I can read all the labels at the grocery store. And although I’m relearning how to love and grow where I’m planted some days I long for my life in India. I miss the kids, I miss the women that worked in Anchor Home, and I miss India. And although it hurts some days I am thankful that I opened myself up to this love for it has made my life richer and taught me that love comes fast, slow, and in-between.