Just like that, it’s over. Six weeks have come and gone like the blink of an eye. I swear yesterday I was meeting the others in the airport to fly out. It seems a little bittersweet – we all leave the airport, go our separate ways, back to our real lives. Will we keep in touch? There’s no way to go back to who we were, no way to un-know each other, or to forget the six weeks we just shared.
My first steps outside the Auckland airport and I’m struck by the quiet. No cars honking at each other, just families saying goodbye and welcoming home, the excited chatter of people embarking on their own adventures. The air is cleaner – it feels like my first real breath in weeks. The homesickness eases, and I let the familiarity of it all wash over me. Despite how exciting Mumbai is and how much I will miss it, it is good to be home.
I’m not the same person I was six weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a 19-year-old prone to bouts of stupidity and adventure, like rolly-pollying down a sand dune at midnight in Jaisalmer, but I’ve found that I’m good under pressure and I have skills that can help other people like public speaking, multi-tasking, time management and communication (good thing it’s my degree). And there is space for all of these things, even the stupidity, it’s just a matter of balance.
One day I know I’ll be back, in this decade or the next. Maybe it will be sooner rather than later, given that the Aunty who owns my office building wants me to learn marathi and gujarati and marry her nephew, whose credentials include working in IT, being 5’4 and having money. Don’t think I haven’t given it serious consideration. All jokes aside, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that kindness, curiosity and compassion, mixed with a healthy work ethic, are so important when it comes to tackling situations and experiences head on. I hope I have come back with kindness in my countenance, and compassion in my gaze. I certainly gained a new awareness of my own position in the world, and the profound privilege I have as a Kiwi. On the outside I look the same, but I’m overflowing with experiences, memories, and understanding. Now I face the challenge of defining the experience, putting six weeks into a few words that capture the breadth and depth of it all.
All I can say right now is thank you. Thank you to 360 International, CDES, GCC and Auckland Uni. Thank you to Naveen and Mala for your guidance and tips for surviving Mumbai. But especially thank you to Chris, Angelica, Jasmine, Deklin, Tabby, Stirling, Daniel, Niharika, Adithi, Srishti, Emma, Caitlin, Jana and Tash for six weeks of adventures – it’s been unreal.