Up until February of this year if you had asked me what my summer plans were I would have told you that I was going to work at my 9 to 5 job, save money, spend time with friends, and maybe go to the beach a few times. Nothing too special, nothing out of the ordinary. Things changed, obviously. I ended up spending my summer in India volunteering at a safe home for refugees from sex trafficking. I spent two months learning about Indian culture, speaking a new language, dealing with constant power outages and no running water, and having the adventure of a lifetime.
I fell into such a comfortable daily routine that sometimes I’d forget that I wasn’t at home, that I was in a country that was so completely foreign to me. Things that had left me shell shocked when I first arrived became normal, I stopped thinking that things smelled like India, I just felt like this was my normal life. I had to remind myself that I was in India, still just saying the name of this place creates a sense of magic and wonder. It brings to mind smells of saffron and incense, beautiful brightly colored sarees, and towns that seem to be still operating in simpler times.
I have so many stories, so many little adventures, so many crazy moments to tell. Sliding into sewers, eating things that should never be eaten, and signing hundreds of autographs. Even after sharing these I don’t think I’ll fully be able to explain this country, these past two months, or how both changed my life. I can’t show you the hundreds of fireflies that light up the darkness over landfills, I can’t bring back the smells or the mud, I can’t replicate the days so heavy with heat and monsoons, I can’t make you understand India or my life here.
All I can tell you is that these past two months opened my eyes and my heart and taught me more than I could ever have imagined. This summer instead of the tan lines, movie nights, and the big savings account I expected I got sarees, chai, and windblown auto rides. Two months of adventures, of new experiences, of the best and worst moments, of taking on the world without my friends and family, and of relying on God in every way possible.
All I can tell you is that this summer I rode elephants.