I realized I haven't published for over a month, which is especially strange because I'm definitely one of the most prolific publishers of the kajillion Northfield exchange students. Here's what happened the last month, in a nutshell.
Where we last left off, I believe, was the exciting school trip to the Saputara Hill Station, which was fantastic. After that, however, things started to go downhill. There is nothing specific that went wrong, although my frustration with my teacher that has me do nothing but draw straight lines grew immensely. School went on normally, family life was solid as usual. I don't know what it was. Everyone tells me about this notorious slump that comes about three or four months in, and I think I might have been hitting it. Just a combination of homesickness starting to really set in and all of my little frustrations with the country teeming up and bursting. So it was bad. I felt about as unhappy as I've ever really felt.
Then, one Monday night, I was sitting down with my family, watching the delightful program Kaun Banega Crorepatti (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - exactly the same as in Slumdog Millionaire) hosted by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh Bachchan is awesome. Anyways, the phone rang, and it was for me, which is highly unusual. I was surprised and pretty overjoyed to hear my dad's voice on the end of it. Of course, I quickly realized that was only one event that would necesitate an urgent call rather than an email or Skype date.
My grandfather died, very suddenly, in a car accident. Grandpa was not a young man, but he was really healthy and this was completely unexpected. And I've never really had anyone in my life die before. Up until now, my family has been completely intact. The worst that happened is once my cat died.
This was killing me. I took a day to carefully consider the repercussions of the choice I faced - sticking it out or going home for the funeral and burial. It was a tough choice, and of course, it was probably made in some haste. There might be weird, unforeseeable consequences to my exchange arc by having done this, but it just felt ethically wrong to sit in India while this was happening. I felt guilty for abandoning my mom and my grandma. And, I'll be honest, the decision was somewhat for me too. My host family did their very best to comfort me, and I'll always be grateful to them for that, but despite their best efforts, they weren't the same as my real family. I've never felt so very lonely in my entire life. Maybe it would have been worse for the exchange arc to have stayed and not grieved properly. I don't know. But I decided to come home for two weeks, the length of the journey being necesitated by the fact that the burial itself had to occur nearly two weeks after the funeral. Grandpa was in the Korean War, and he wanted to be buried at Fort Snelling, and it takes a while to get a slot there.
It was a rough trip in many respects, but I got the closure I needed, and frankly, it was incredible to see my friends and family and to have a short time to enjoy the beautiful Minnesota fall that we had this year. At the same time, I learned a valuable lesson - every time that little voice pops into my head and tells me to hop the next flight back to Minneapolis, I know that's a bad idea. Because, fellow exchange students, there's nothing for us there, as a permanent resident, right now. Our friends are at college. We don't have any school we can go to. We'd be dead weight around our folks houses. Which, granted, it was exceedingly nice to be for a short while, but we simply can't do that permanently. I wouldn't want to - I would have gotten restless after another week or so.
So I came back to India, sad to leave, but not nearly so much - I knew that I had good family and friends in both countries supporting me. I'm reinvigorated about this exchange, and I have to say - the first week back has been darn good. Hopefully I ride this high for the rest of the year. And there's a lot to look forward to - South India trip is coming on December 1st. I'm stoked.
I'm really grateful - all of you exchange students and Rotarians and friends and family and whoever else reads this thing - you've all been incredibly supportive of me, and that was the thing that got me through what was a really crappy October.
Next post will be about Diwali, which is contributing hugely to my good mood.