I am going to India in THIRTY DAYS. Thirty days, people! There’s still so much left to do, but I’m trying to focus on all of the incredible things I’m going to do while I’m there!
For those who don’t know, I am going to Delhi, India for three weeks beginning on December 5th with International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). IVHQ is super popular and trustworthy when it comes to volunteering internationally. Another thing that was important to me was “voluntourism”, a term that pretty much means volunteering, typically on an international scale, without leaving some kind of long-term impact. It often means going for all the wrong reasons. IVHQ does an awesome job of making sure that there is permanent change from the work their volunteers do, and I’m proud to be representing this awesome organization!
I’m staying in a homestay, meaning I’ll be living with a family in Delhi (don’t worry, they’ve been background-checked and given the all-clear!), eating their food, and basically becoming a member of their family while I’m there. One of the positives of this is that vegetarianism is popular in India because of the religious preference of a lot of Indians. So no worries there! I am slightly worried about the spicy foods though…. ANYWAY.
I will be volunteering in a slum school in Delhi with some other volunteers. I believe the age group that I’ll be working with is younger elementary school age, around 5-10. The program focuses on things like math, reading, and reaching important developmental stages. We’ll also be putting a focus on other things, such as art, that these kids might not typically be able to learn.
On the weekends, I’ll be exploring Delhi as well as touring some amazing places, such as the Taj Mahal and Varanasi. I studied the Taj Mahal last year in my Sacred Art of Asia class, and I’ll have to read up about it while I’m on the FOURTEEN HOUR plane ride. Varanasi is a holy city to the east of Delhi, and it requires a plane ride. It’s along the banks of the Ganges River, and is said to be one of the holiest cities in the world. Hindus believe that if you die in Varanasi, your soul is released from samsara (pronounced sahm-sah-rah and means reincarnation) and achieves moksa (pronounced mohk-sha and means the release from samsara). It’s an incredibly important city, and I can’t wait to go visit one of the cities I’ve been studying this quarter!
Another reason I’m excited for this trip is that I’ve been studying India and Hinduism this quarter, in a course called Modern Hinduism. This week we’re reading about caste. In particular, its relation to Indian politics, societal structure, and spiritual realm, as well as how it’s changed over time. Outsiders are quick to judge the caste system, and it is often all people know of Hinduism and India as an entire nation. Originally, the caste system wasn’t even intended for an actual society, it was more of a Utopian ideal. Spiritually, the caste system is said to represent God’s body: the Brahman caste comes from the most pure area of the body, the mouth, while the lowest caste comes from the feet. The other castes come from other varying areas of the body, the higher the better. Although there are governmental actions set in place to help lower-caste individuals receive jobs (a form of affirmative action), they aren’t always enforced. I am so excited to go love on children from the lowest castes, to show them that they can be loved.
There are still so many things to do to prepare for my departure! I’m freaking out just a little, but I’m kind of a last-minute person, so I know it’ll all be okay.
Left to purchase:
- Travel insurance ($89)
- Visa (Somewhere between $60-$100? I’ve read different things regarding the price)
- Flight (I have a flight voucher for $970, and I’m flying out of Chicago so it’ll be cheaper. Flight = $500-700ish)
- Vaccinations, medications (no cost–insurance ROCKS)
- Tour of Taj Mahal ($100)
- Flight to Varanasi ($300)
- Spending money (????)
The number one thing I’m afraid of is the flight, of all things. I’ve never flown over the ocean before! I’ve never even been on a flight longer than three hours, and the flight from New Jersey will be fourteen hours. I’m not afraid to fly alone, because I’ve done that before, but I’m terrified to fly over the ocean. I’m embarrassed to say it, but earlier in my planning, I thought more than once about cancelling the trip altogether because I’m so petrified of the ocean. I don’t even like looking at photos of the ocean on Google Maps. It just freaks me out, all that deep water and scary things. The Titanic is a horror movie, in my books. What keeps me going is knowing that I am at my absolute happiest when I’m volunteering in another country. The world is so exciting to me, and I can’t wait to get out and explore it, over and over again.
If you’re looking for things I would like prayer/good thoughts/good vibes about:
- FEAR OF FLYING OVER THE OCEAN
- My paychecks come sooner than later (long story….)
- The children in Delhi! I’d love for their hearts to be open to me, what I have to teach about school, and what I have to teach about life.
And most of all:
- For my heart to be opened. I want to take everything in without any judgement. I know that it is human nature to judge and think we know best, but I want to be completely open to this incredible experience that is just around the corner. I know that I will learn so much more from them than they will learn from me. I am not the most flexible person in the world, but I want this to be an uncomfortable, growing experience for me. I want to be changed in the best of ways, the way that Guatemala changed me time and time again in high school.
If you’d like to read a little more about India or donate to my fund, click here! Every little bit helps, and I am overwhelmingly grateful for all of the support I’ve received so far, through text messages, emails, monetary donations, and all the people who’ve been praying for me. I could not be more nervous/excited for this trip, and I’m counting down the days until I leave! Keep checking back here for periodic updates, and if I get good wifi in Delhi, I’ll definitely be posting updates here while I’m there for everyone to read!
Thanks for reading, and I’m sending all my love.