Monday, April 8, 2013

Surprise, I'm Home!

By the time this posts, I will be home in America after a year and a half abroad.

Since I made the decision to surprise my family 7 weeks ago when I booked my flight, the thought of  putting words together for this post seemed impossible.

With money enough in the bank and a valid India visa until June, deciding to cut the cord on over half a year of backpacking - 3.5 months of which were in India - was not an easy decision. I had hopes of exploring North India further and trekking in Nepal on this trip. I was still savoring my time in India, not even tired of living out of a backpack and moving around.

It may at times seem my priorities are distorted being so far away for so long. In reality, the distance from my family and friends is my biggest dilemma in choosing to follow my dreams – dreams that often seem to take me everywhere but home.

My sister and father tried to persuade me to join in on my sister's surprise visit for my mom's birthday on April 7. When the proposal arose, I wasn't ready to go; it felt too soon to go (I still don't know if I am “ready” to go). I was already in India with a valid visa, and who knew when I'd realistically be able to come again?

And then it dawned on me: If there is one thing I know for certain now about myself, it's that I am going to be doing this for a while.

I will be back to India because this country fills my heart and mind in ways I've never dreamed of, and I will trek the Himalayan range in Nepal because I have a pattern in my life of accomplishing what I put my mind to.

For now, ready or not, I've been away for a long time. And I miss the people who love me unconditionally as much as they miss me.

But instead of surprising only my mom, why not freak out the whole fam? With my sister visiting for a few weeks also, this may be the longest time we'll all be together for a long time. Happy birthday, Mom!
Photo from my graduation weekend May 2011 in Ithaca, NY
I've spent a year and a half in Asian countries that value family in a way that we have lost touch with in the West. The multi-generational households of Asia are abnormal by American society. I've witnessed grandmothers and granddaughters sharing domestic responsibility, cousins more like siblings, grandparents raising the children as equally as the parents, the elderly taken care of not in a nursing home but by their children who are indebted with love – the beautiful environment of a close-knit family living under one roof.

As much as I admire this lifestyle, it's something so far gone in the United States that I'll never experience. Still, appreciating the family dynamic in Asia reminds me of how grateful I am to have a supportive, loving family of my own.
Lucky to have parents that visited me across the world in Thailand
Even if I'm truly sad to say goodbye to India and the incredible travel lifestyle for now, spending time with my people in my country is a priority.

And so I am heading home after 18 months and one week away – a feat that seems an awfully lot scarier than the one-way ticket to Thailand that brought me to where I am currently drafting this post by pen and paper in a rural village in the poorest state of India.

In my final days in Asia, I admit: I'm freaking out. I've experienced a weird sensation of time going both fast and slow in anticipation of my return. Nothing can prepare me for the reverse culture shock (let alone, figuring out all that life crap) that is about to hit.

Rather than focusing on the obstacles, allow me to share a few things I'm most looking forward to in America: hot showers and strong water pressure, free and clean tap water, toilet paper, cooking (!!!), food variety and accessibility (especially Mexican food, the one cuisine they cannot make right in Asia), understanding and being able to communicate with everyone around me, public trash cans and people who use them, driving a car and traffic regulation/sane drivers, giving my toothbrush a home/unpacking for a while, spending time with old and good friends, visiting new places and discovering the beauty in my own country, a little spa pampering (c'mon, I am still a Western girl at heart), a million doors of opportunity, unconditional love at hand, sharing my experiences with loved ones and most especially, creating new memories with my family.

So, what does this mean for Stories From the East?
When I started my blog in September 2011, I had zero expectation that I'd keep it up or that anyone would actually read it. Over time, Stories From the East has taken on various shapes and helped to both encourage and define writing an an important outlet in my life. Whether or not anyone besides my mom reads it, this blog has accompanied me on a hell of a ride as I try to make sense of my experiences.
This may be my final post from the East for now, but I have a feeling I will be needing this outlet more than ever to dissect my experiences while sitting in the comforts of my air-conditioned home in the West. I really don't want to be that girl that only talks about Asia, so I'll need to get it out somewhere! Besides, I only have time to write about 5% of what I'd like to while traveling, so I hope to share more stories while I am settled in one place for a while.

Needless to say, I have a strong intuition that I may be back in the East sooner than later.
I'm looking forward to starting right where I left off, with a quick visit to my aunt in Los Angeles
 (Photo was taken right before I left for Thailand in September 2011)
This photo was from the sky train my very first week in Bangkok October 2011. Little did I know, this lady would only be one of the first of hundreds of people who would come into my life, touch my heart and change my perspective of the world - both Westerners and locals. I am coming home a changed person because of the people who have showed me that, despite cultural differences, we are all just human beings.


Emily said...

This is such a beautiful post! Seeing that last photo of you on the Sky Train made me really nostalgic. What a great time :)

Anonymous said...

Such an honest, touching story! It's so hard to return home when our dreams, as you say, lead us so far away, but it's good to go check in. Then, when you're ready, nothing can stop you from leaving! Enjoy it while you can.