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Trip to India inspires new outlook
Posted Feb. 16, 2007

Allison Farole
Web Editor

As I prepared for my trip, many questioned why? Why India? They always said it like it was a bad thing.

Yet, that question seemed to linger in my head as I sat on the 10 hour flight to Germany.

I sat there thinking to myself “What am I getting myself into?” I was going to a third world country and staying in one of the-world’s poorest cities, Kolkata.

For me, it was an opportunity. An opportunity to experience a place many would not dare to explore.

I stepped off the plane in Delhi at around 1 a.m. and I was faced with a complete unknown.

We were slowly directed in a straight line to a beat-up dirty bus.

Oddly, the minute I entered this setting I knew I was in India. Why? I don’t know. At that moment I knew I was in India because it was dirty, old, rustic and had a sense of fear.

The bus would soon take us to the domestic airport to board a flight to Kolkata.

This was not any ordinary bus ride. There were about 12 rows with a seat at each window. There was no luggage compartment and the majority of the seats were consumed by other travelers, which were mainly locals.

Our group was a total of 19 carrying two bags each. Just imagine. No luggage compartment, approximately 24 seats. You get the picture. We managed to cram every bag onto the bus.

As you enter you are greeted by the driver. I took a glance and I noticed that he had a gun strapped to his back. This gun was unique. Unique in a way that you could tell it had been used numerous times.

This was Indian Security.

In my eyes, it was an awkward first impression. As they always say, first impressions are everything—this was mine.

I stood there holding onto nothing, trying to get a glimpse of what India looked like. I looked out the window and all I could see was concrete walls, patches of discolored grass and men carrying guns. I felt like I was on a military base.

The bus kept going, hurdling over bumps, potholes and tossing us around. As I looked from side to side, the locals seemed so calm. This adventure was an everyday experience to them.

What seemed like forever could have been 15-minutes and then the adventure ended. I walked off the bus with a new outlook.

Life in India is not easy. It is rough, dirty, insecure and fearful, very similar to the bus we just departed from. It took me a while to accept such a first impression. But I knew that not all impressions were going to be good or even easy to accept.

After spending 10 days in Kolkata and experiencing true poverty, I have learned that not every trip is one to love. I felt guilty for not falling in love with the country, but I knew that I had come back with a true appreciation of the life I lead.

Walking along the Kyamandi Township in South Africa a year ago was my definition of poverty; however, returning from India, nothing quite compares to the mental images I have captured. The meaning of the word poverty has changed in my vocabulary and will forever lead a new definition in my worldview. The images I carry everyday will guide me to making a difference that needs to happen.

Allison Farole, a senior communications major, is Web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at afarole@ulv.edu.