Something that I have been thinking about lately since being here is the different ways in which I have been connecting. I think of connecting as an ongoing process wherever one is, but one that is usually most noticeable at the start.

What first comes to mind is of course learning to communicate in Hindi. This has been such a challenge, and I am enjoying the process so much. Unlike other learning processes, the language-learning process has been special in that I feel especially aware of where I am in the process each day- it is very tangible. One day I discover that I can finally verbalize a thought I’ve been having, or remember a new word I was always looking up, or understand a phrase I didn’t understand before. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such patient people (shoutout to co-intern Ravi) who are willing to listen to my really slow and grammatically atrocious speech, help me to learn more, and speak slowly to me also.

Of course, I embarrass myself with misunderstandings on a daily basis. One day during lunch I was talking to one of the CORD staff, and I asked her what her name was. She told me her name, and told me (I thought) that she was the mother of Ram. Ram is the name of the night guard at CORD, so was surprised, because I didn’t expect them to be related. I was also excited to communicate to him that evening in Hindi that I had met one of his family members. When I told him I met her under a nearby tree, he was really confused, and finally said, “but my mother doesn’t work at CORD,” at which of course everyone laughed, and I knew I had gone wrong somewhere. The next day, I asked the lady whose mother she was again, and she told me two (different) names. When I asked, aren’t you the mother of Ram, she said, yes, my name is Kaushalia, which is the name of the mother of the Ram, the reincarnation of Vishnu. Another time, I ran out of pens, went to a general store, and completely blanked on the word “only.” So when the cashier took out 4 pens, I kept saying “2 pens,” upon which he would take out 2 more pens. Although these mistakes don’t indicate particularly successful connections, I’m glad that at least they have given other people laughs, and am also glad of how much I learn through them.

Another way in which I have found myself connecting is to what I am eating. Besides the fact that everything is so fresh and absolutely delicious, it was so cool to learn that it is common here to eat everything with the hands- rice and beans and sauces included. It’s been so great to eat slower, and to feel the texture of my food, and to be more actively involved (and not have any metal intermediaries) in the eating process.

Lastly, one of the highlights of staying at the CORD training center has been meeting Kusum Didi, (“Didi” meaning “older sister”), who has been volunteering and living at CORD for 8 years. She is so caring, and so wise. Most mornings, I meet her before work to meditate, walk, or talk about India. It has been great to have a more frequent meditation practice, and I find the ability to connect with others in silence something so beautiful. I am so thankful to each person I have met here, and look forward to each day so much.

(One picture is the valley between CORD and the village, and in the other, I am rolling out a roti with the Mausis in the kitchen).

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About lopezmichellle

At Penn, I am majoring in International Relations and minoring in Environmental Science. I'm in the class of 2016. Through CASI, for the summer of 2015 I will be interning at Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development, in Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh.