The Scent of Home

*deep breath in* Smells of fresh dirt, impending rain, and farm animals

With my eyes closed and my feet firmly planted on the ground, my mind travels 12,640 km to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York where my family has been vacationing since I was born. As a person prone to homesickness, my inner longing for the States surprisingly took a different form than my usual. With a normal case of homesickness I often find myself missing the city of Philadelphia and my home filled with my family members and dog. I usually miss the Septa bus or eating ice cream every night with my siblings. Now, two weeks into my trip in India, whenever I close my eyes and take in the smells and sounds around me, I can’t help but feel like I am standing on top of a mountain in the Adirondacks, covered in sweat from hiking all the way up but feeling a strong sense of accomplishment. The ground beneath my feet is solid but alive. The plants emit the scent of life from every pore in anticipation of the coming rain and a strong breeze cools my skin with every gust. A nearby farmer tills his land, turning the dirt over to release that glorious smell only dirt can. With my eyes closed, I am back in the States with my family.

A day in the life of a farmer and his family in the Araku Valley.

Now, I open my eyes. The scene is quite different. I am in India, standing in the center of a rural village in the Araku Valley surrounded by people who stare in intrigue at the strange foreigner who is closing her eyes in the middle of the unoccupied road. The comfort brought on from my quick trip home immediately transforms into a ball of panic at the bottom of my stomach as if I have swallowed a rock. I have travelled back to reality. My undying wish to make the most out of every moment while in India mixed with my relentless homesickness has made these first two weeks rough. I knew this would happen, as it always does, but when one is in the middle of a battle it is hard to imagine life after the battle is won. Luckily, Emma has been at my side this whole time, allowing me to rant continuously about my changing feelings. Our work with Naandi has been very rewarding and has served as a great way to forget about my homesickness. Interviewing farmers and their families and listening to how Naandi has impacted their lives has made me feel incredibly blessed to be working with an organization that actively works to benefit the lives of many farmers and their families without seeking any profit for themselves. Every person I have met that works with the Araku Valley coffee project is overwhelmingly happy to be a part of the project’s mission and their genuine interest in the well being of the farmers and their families is clearly reflected through their work every day. 

Me smiling after our very first interview and being given two bundles of bananas that the farmer chopped down just for us!

I will never exist in this exact time, place, or moment ever again. This realization, although a very simple one, is what made that ball of homesickness at the bottom of my stomach shrink. As a person that constantly finds herself looking into the future to prepare for the next step in life, I have decided I need to slow down and enjoy the moment I am currently living in. Whether it be staring off into the mountain range that can be seen from the porch of the guesthouse or riding in the back of one of Naandi’s cars on the way to a new village, I am determined to live in the here and now. I know my family back home will always be there for me, no matter how far I travel. 

A mountain scene that reminds me of the Adirondacks and my family.

Open your eyes *deep breath out*

3 thoughts on “The Scent of Home

  1. These words and pictures are so beautiful! I definitely feel the homesickness factor as well, so this was nice to read. Stay strong!

  2. Amazing Sophie! What a challenging and a life changing experience! You writing and thoughts are so vivid. I am amazed at your courage. Keep up the good work and make this world a better place! Love you ❤️

  3. Hey Sophie, What a great writer you are. You are destined,girl. Love the photo of you and your 2 bunches of bananas.You should put them on your head. And take a picture. I really like the pic of the mountains. Jay mountain??? No wonder you are homesick for the Adirondacks. Mattie and crew are coming up this weekend. I am having a garage sale. My grandson Glen (Clayton’s brother) is helping me. As well as Nula. She loves all the excitement and people. Enough said. Love you. Your Adirondack Grandma.

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About Sophie Walsh

Hello! My name is Sophie Walsh and I am a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying General Anthropology and considering a minor in Religious Studies. I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania just about 15 min away from Penn's campus! During the summer of 2019 I will be interning at the Naandi Foundation in the Araku Valley. Outside of my interest for anthropology, I enjoy playing music with the Penn Band as a member of the trumpet section. I am also a team member of Penn's Club Field Hockey Team which has been a great experience thus far. I am incredibly grateful to CASI for providing me with this opportunity to study cultural anthropology in India this summer and I look forward to all this adventure has in store for me and my fellow interns.