Very Long and Ultimately, Relatively Rewarding, This Trip and This Post. -Elliot Goble
Honestly, India has been pretty dope so far. Like so dope honestly. Like wow, how dope can this get? It turns out, really dope. Like I don’t even know if it could get doper were it to try getting doper. If it were to endeavor to become doper, I scarcely imagine it could increase its current levels of dopitude.
More seriously, (though I am being extraordinarily serious above), this trip has been excellent. From the sushi we brought onto and consumed on the fourteen-hour plane ride from San Francisco to Hong Kong, to proceeding to grind Peggle for five of those hours on the plane, to the development of my ongoing thesis on the dope-good-energy three-dimensional coordinate plane (unrelated to air travel) with which many on our hot, humid, and horticulturally experiential tour have begun to analyze and reevaluate people, ideas, events, and our own lives, there have been exciting new feelings, emotions, and impressions which have pockmarked our young and moldable minds. I strongly believe that everyone here has grown, up to and including Adler, who is great and who I love dearly and actually, I assure you.
I love the kids, just like everybody else, (Jane apparently excluded), who has blogged so far, I’m sure. I am inspired by the vigor with which each and every individual child I have met so far has aspired to cooperate and gain knowledge. It’s tempting to believe that people are different everywhere you go, but I think that everyone here, Adler included, sees themselves in the children. It’s similarly tempting to think paternalistically about this voyage, declaring oneself the managerial master of these kids, and India, and the concept of poverty and struggle. The reality is that dreadfully unfortunate and largely malicious and historical happenings in which we are not non-complicit to this day are the only things which separate the experiences of the charming young people with whom we work and our own. It is not through a paternalistic sympathy that I hope to see the poverty, the half-constructed buildings, the vaguely displeasing smell which haunts this place. There is a specter of history here which I believe many of the parents reading this and voyagers around me as I write this are ignorant about but which I hope I am not. We are part of a historical wave, one we are unaware of and the consequences of which are yet unknown, and it is important that we realize that the poverty we seek to do our tiny part in remedying is at the same time part of a larger underlying consequence and simultaneously largely inconsequential, as waves, as Yeezus has assured us, do not die. I have scarcely in my life seen people so happy as the young kids I have met who live in huts and whose prized possession is a cell phone and who exuberantly greet our presence with a demand for that western cultural behemoth, a heavily accented and heartily announced “selfie!”
What I’ve learned here is that people are pretty happy here. People go about their lives and live and love and die here and they don’t mind that they will never visit the unsettlingly vacuous airport we will use three more times before we end our venture. They don’t care that they have no air conditioning or money and that they labor at the earth for hours just to survive, never hoping to reap anything resembling a profit. It’s easy to think about that as some beautifully simple lifestyle, but it’s just humanity. They don’t love poverty, they just get through it. Adaptation happens, and life is the main event, not the pieces in between working and sleeping. Of course, that’s easy to say when I’m going back to warm showers, bountiful clothing, and an economically advantageous nationality.
What’s been more important, probably, than the sociological implications of the trip, has been the study in social cohesion and action. Seeing people alienated, included, talked about, and interacted with has been fascinating. As ruthlessly cheesy as it sounds, it’s one of those capstone late-adolescent moments that’s supposed to mean something to you (and no matter how hard you try, does). Everyone here is a different person, which sounds like a dumber statement now than it did before we left. I’ve built, and everyone else has built, beautiful relationships and impressions, elegant gateways to the experiences of others. Some people are going to come back ostensibly the same as they left, but the biggest danger is coming back actually the same. I don’t know if that will happen to anybody.
Between all of this thinking and reflecting has been life, and as I’ve said above, that’s what really matters. I like everybody, more or less up to and including Adler. My village team, the Green Team, with Connor, Grace, Mariana, and my boy Talmage, led by the fearless and never feckless Jill, has been a dream, with a really tremendous sense of group cohesion and flow, shared experiences, bad and good, in the villages and slums of Kolkata, and most importantly, a shared love and appreciation of Indian pop music, including standby and veritable jam “Relax Man”, the chorus of which we have parroted in both sincere and mocking imperative at one another and others in the group. I’m sure our driver is amused with our Beatle-mania-esque screams in retort to essentially every song that comes on the radio.
My beard is coming in excellently, I’m excited to show it to all the folks back home. The kids love it. In the temple on the second floor of the school we all teach at, there is a picture of Christ on the cross and the kids love it, and they gave me a neckless with a cross on it and beads, the first and last of its kind I’m likely to wear so enthusiastically in my life. Indian soda is great, Indian hot sauce is great, Indian music is great, Indian people are great. I haven’t experienced the whole country of course, but the broad generalizations help convey the positivity with which I view this place, despite the poverty, which never rests easy on the eyes, even with prolonged exposure, and the smells, which are the same way with regard to the nose. I’ve processed so much information here, and chances are that I will never really make sense of everything I saw and felt and experienced here. It’s the unwinding of that knowledge through my ever-changing lenses in life that will be the reward I get for my work and my anxiety and my $3900. I have so much more to say, but I’m already testing you, dear reader, with this veritable digital tome, and writing over 1,000 words for absolutely no grade, while rewarding and objectively good, has been programmed into me to feel bad, so I’ll try not to.
Point is, this experience has been way dope. Shout-out to my parents for being excellent all the time no matter what and indoor plumbing for being excellent most of the time where lack thereof is excellent none of the time. Obligatory shout-out to Joe’s sister Paris, who I’m told is just excellent as well and who I’ve been advised to give my best to.