Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Orientation in New Delhi

So, this is the first of several "catch up" posts that I'll be writing in the next few days. Hopefully, by the end of the week I'll be up to the present! Basically, I have now been living and learning in India for over three weeks and I have a lot to report from that short time. I'll start from the very beginning.

On August 15th, I left my family and my home to begin my journey to India. Saying goodbye to my parents and sisters in the airport was tough. It was especially hard to walk down the line to security and to see them standing outside the barriers. I had this insane urge to just leap over the people in my way and turn back before even beginning. Luckily, I suppressed this urge, but it was close... Once my emotions had calmed somewhat, I was able to begin really processing what I was doing. It is amazing that although I had been thinking about going to India since August of 2008, it wasn't until I was in the airport, departing, that what I was doing truly struck me. The mind is a funny thing. As reality hit, I was filled not only with fear, but also with a great deal of excitement. Like I said, I'd been thinking about this journey for more than a year and to finally begin was exhilarating. Although the actual physical trip to India was definitely not exhilarating!

From Denver, I hopped a three hour flight to Chicago where I had a five hour layover. In Chicago, I ran into two other Fulbrighters headed to India and it was a great feeling to no longer be completely alone. We boarded a 777 and began a 14 hour flight to New Delhi. Despite being somewhat of a nervous flier, the flight wasn't bad. Decent food, free movies, and an empty seat next to me all helped improve the atmosphere. We finally arrived in Delhi at about 10 p.m., fetched our luggage, met the Fulbright welcoming group, and headed to our hotel. It turned out that there were actually 7 Fulbrights on the flight, most of whom I hadn't met.

My Fulbright experience began with a whirlwind two day orientation program in New Delhi. After a few hours of sleep, we spent the day engaged in meetings and sessions all meant to help us transition to Indian living. We were also privileged to meet the new Indian Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao. She spoke with us about India's foreign relations and showed a lot of interest in our projects. It really was an honor that she made time in her busy schedule to meet with us. The day was packed and by the time our first break rolled around at 5:30, we were all on the verge of collapse. But, we only had about two hours off and then it was back to the Fulbright House for a beautiful welcoming dinner. Despite our exhaustion, the sessions and the dinner really were worth it.

Day two began early and was again packed with informational meetings. The most impressive was one with a professor who came to discuss doing research in India. He had actually read all 45 proposals and prepared contacts and information and advice for each person. Sadly, he knows very little about the medical field, so he didn't have too much for me, but it was still incredible the amount of time that he must have spent preparing.

Well, orientation ended and I raced back to the hotel, packed my things, and hopped in a taxi with two others who were also headed for Chennai. Nothing very exciting to report from this leg of the journey... Basically, I took a three hour flight to Chennai, spent one night in a hotel, and then had a two hour taxi journey to Vellore. I arrived around mid-day, was welcomed into my room (a temporary home for about a week), and collapsed. I think I slept on and off almost the entire day, which was desperately needed. In the midst of a somewhat sleep deprived haze, it struck me that I was actually, finally there. I was in Vellore, the travels were over and everything was really beginning. I could hardly believe it...

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Sarah! I'm so happy that you can experience this! It's good to know I'm no longer alone in my experiences. Have some garlic naan and palak paneer for me! We all miss you.