We were asked what was the most difficult part about India? My answer: leaving.
For three weeks we worked with children who came from families who had nothing. For three weeks these children gave us everything they had, whether it was in the classroom or on the soccer field. It didn’t matter if they were hungry, or tired, or frustrated; each child greeted us with a smile and an energy that was absolutely contagious.
The last Wednesday of our three-week period at Vidya, my partner, Michelle, and I had a free period, so we decided to drop in on a fifth-grade dance class. The teacher had to step out for a few minutes to attend to some business, so he left us in charge. In less than five minutes we had our favorite American songs blasting, and all the kids dancing and jumping around with us. To our luck the teacher didn’t return until the end of the period.
I can’t remember if it was Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” or Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” that had the kids going wild, but what I do remember are the smiles and giggles of all the children as we embraced hands and spun around in a huge dance circle. That dance period might have been my favorite memory from this entire trip. There is nothing in this world that compares to the purity in youthful bliss. To experience that firsthand in a setting where I felt connected with the kids was priceless, and something I will never forget.
That period ended, like they all do, and like all periods, it felt much too short. The children, however, instead of just waving and saying, “Bye Didi!” came up and one by one gave me their biggest bear hugs.
I never wanted that class period to end. I never wanted to stop sharing the joy that lies within dancing to great music with friends. When the children said goodbye at the end of the period, it finally hit me that my India experience would rapidly be coming to an end. Eventually I would have to leave the school, and eventually I would have to give my final goodbyes to the incredible students of Vidya.
“There is nothing in this world that compares to the purity in youthful bliss. To experience that firsthand in a setting where I felt connected with the kids was priceless, and something I will never forget.”
As the students left the classroom after our dance session I held back tears. I expected this experience to have a tough conclusion, but I did not anticipate the strength of the attachment I would feel to the children after only three weeks. So when asked what was the toughest part about India, my answer will forever be leaving. Leaving those children was single-handedly the most heart-wrenching part of this trip. They showed me more kindness, and more genuine acceptance than I have experienced in a very long time. Going to the school every day felt like the greatest blessing.
When I look back on this trip, I will be thankful it was incredibly hard to leave. I will be thankful for the relationships I built, and the memories I shared with the children. I will be grateful I was able to learn about, and embrace, a new culture while sharing my own. When I look back on this trip, I will remember it as a collection of the most humbling moments of my life; a collection of moments that I hope will continue to impact my actions and shape my future. Most importantly, when I reflect on this trip, I will reminisce on the magnificent moments I had with the children, with the staff, and with the new friends I made. We struggled together, we prevailed together, and we experienced India together, and that is something no one could ever forget.