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India: Stories from a Fellow Global Nomad

Hello everyone. I am a self-proclaimed global nomad--an overseas kid--who has lived the majority of her life in developing countries. We have all gone through the experiences of missing our old friends, our great memories, our interaction with a plethora of cultures, yet each one of us has a special overseas place. A place where you became you--the person you are today. Whether it's the little American club where you spent your childhood summers, a teacher who changed your perspectives on life, or the tight community--that place played a crucial role in developing you as a person. For me, that place was India.

Making the long, exhausting voyage from my static community in Vienna, Fairfax County, Virginia to the hustle bustle city life of New Delhi, India, is the biggest leap I have had to make yet. Fortunately, the leap was made at the age of 12. Fascinated by the stereotypical portrayal of India as a "jungle" from the Jungle Book and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I created my own child-like fantasies of what I envisioned "the land of the tigers" to be. Don't get me wrong. I had lived in Nigeria and Tunisia for the majority of my life, but never had I ventured off a place as exotic and strange as the inward-looking subcontinent of South Asia. My 2-year residence inside and outside of elementary schools, McDonalds, and shopping malls in my hometown in Virginia had made me forget the exciting life of a global nomad.

Arriving as an 8-year-old to the land of spicy smells and overwhelming throngs of humanity, India frightened me with her cows roaming through the streets, the poverty, the pollution, the crowds, the staring. It was a big adjustment from our protective shield of Northern Virginia. But I found a place of refuge--the American School of New Delhi, India, to which I am forever indebted. The greatest aspect of living overseas is the people you meet: people like yourselves, who sometimes feel bewildered by their experiences. When I look back to India now, I realize that the country gave me a reality check with all the brutality and ridgidity a rigorous caste system brings. Yet as I saw beyond the "dirty India" labeled by the media, I appreciated India for its culture--the Diwali celebration with its fireworks, Holi with its irrevrent drenching of every passerby with colorful dyes, thousands of years of mystical feelings, and the striking array of color and regal look of the sari (dresses)--precariously wound and always in danger of falling when foreigners try to wear them. The spices thick as the air itself created a deep and mysterious complexity which characterizes the food, the people, and the land, itself.  I have never been so attached to any other place. There was a magic about this exotic land which underlay the bustling complexity of the people, many of them struggling to stay afloat, while the middle classes and the rich struggled to claw past the others and display their wealth. In school I formed close friendships with three I would always be eager to return to the American "land of opportunity" in the summers, but a part of me always needed my India to feel at home again.

These are all the reasons why moving to Cairo, Egypt, was probably the most devastating yet wonderful thing that's ever happened to me. My attachment to India was so intense that I was unwilling to budge. And in the last few minutes in the country, I vowed to myself that I would never love a place like I loved my India. I was determined to intensely dislike this Cairo. The first 2 years are a blur to me now, as I shunned my fellow students and ignored everybody who tried to reason with me. My best friends from the past, my parents, even some of my teachers were concerned at my standoffish attitude. For a while, everything seemed lost; Cairo was a completely different environment, the school was more American, and I felt overwhelmed that the community was more sparsely populated than the one in India. The only words that ever came out of my mouth always seemed to commence with "...Well, in INDIA...."

But no one can be that stubborn--for that long anyway. As much as I resisted admitting it, Cairo became a home to me, too. Through student government, forming a kinship with African Hope School Sudanese refugee children, and joining the track team--and after a long period of avoidance--I finally developed close friendships and became enamored with the land of the pharaohs. But I still maintained that India was my utopia, my home.

Now I have returned back to the States for my junior year. Devastated? Holding onto the past? Yes, this is an accurate description of what I was about 3 months ago, as I resented the public high school education which was being inflicted upon me. The teenagers obsessed with things I couldn't relate to: cars, malls, football games. The essence of suburbia was too much to handle back then. Several months after my arrival, after the leaves have died and fallen, I have decided to turn over a new leaf. At present, I'm trying to comprehend this exotic American culture which I looked up to in all its immensity as a tiny elementary schooler. Maybe I still have a few things to learn. I decided to become actively involved in the community, and I was lucky enough to find a part-time job on the weekends, in which I interact with Americans of all types. Some of them aren't so bad once you get to know them. "Some of my best friends are Americans." I have decided to give America a chance; the culture which I had learned to shun except for brief shopping expeditions during my 8 years overseas. Yet, in my experiences of moving, I have finally learned. Go in with an open mind. Do not forget the past, but face your obstacles, and maintain your identity. Never shun your home country, or hold on to your "utopias in the sky."

Take a reality check global nomads.


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