The time has come to close out the blog. We want to thank all of you who read about, and shared in, our adventures. We are all safely back in South Dakota, re-immersed in our old routines – so much so that the experiences we had in India and Nepal feel somewhat unreal, like a very vivid dream but not quite all the way to a solid memory. Yet when I think back on the trip, one thing really does stand out in my memory – how fantastic the students were. I can’t imagine going out of the country for the first time to a place as difficult and exotic as India. One should start traveling by visiting England, then perhaps venturing to France or Germany, and taking the big step to someplace like Greece or Turkey before plunging into a trip to India. But the guys jumped in with both feet and were superb. My husband and I had three young men with us. We would say “they are our students” and people would look confused thinking they had misunderstood, or look suspicious thinking we were making a joke or some obtuse reference (making them students of the world). Everyone was much more comfortable when they thought the students were our sons. So we got in the habit of simply calling them “the boys” which people found acceptable, understandable, and comfortable. We were proud to claim them as our “family”. I can’t imagine how much more proud their real parents must be of these amazing young men. They took problems in stride and were gracious visitors who were unfailingly polite, culturally considerate, and were adored everywhere we went. Not least of all by us.
I also want to take this opportunity to express my thanks once again to all the people who made this trip possible. Thank you to the administration at SDSM&T, from the President, Dr. Wharton to the Provost, Dr. Hrncir to Dr. Kyle Riley, the head of the Math and Computer Science Department – we couldn’t have done this without you. To all our new friends at the India Design Center – thank you, we miss you. You were the best part of our trip. And finally, to the folks at Rockwell-Collins, especially Arlen, Roger French, NN, and Param a special thank you for having the vision to dream up this experiment and the courage to make it happen.
Travel changes you. No matter how much or how little you have traveled in the past, each new journey leaves an indelible mark. How have I been changed by this trip? I have a renewed sense of how fortunate I am and what a privileged life I lead. But I also see that people with what looks like very little to me are capable of finding joy in the world – they don’t need to be constantly entertained by electronic gizmos or to engage in “retail therapy” to be happy. They have each other and it is enough. Don’t misunderstand me – I suspect any one of the people I met would trade their life for mine, but I am impressed by the capacity of the Indian people to be happy with what they do have. I gained an appreciation for the rising Indian spirit of nationalism. India has been a nation of fiercely independent states tenuously held together by a fragile central government. But there is a spreading sense of national identity and pride – a feeling that the good times are just around the corner. I contrast that to what feels like a cloud of gloom hanging over the US, to our shared vision that the future is not all that bright. And I wonder why. We have everything, and perhaps that’s the problem. We are in the position of holding on to what we have rather than reaching for something we want. The latter is an exciting quest, the former creates a constant state of worry. And I was reminded once again how much I enjoy traveling to other countries with students. I get to see the world through their young, optimistic eyes. I get to experience their sense of wonder, their delight in the strange and exotic. It’s addictive. I want to do it again, with new students and new locations. I don’t know where, why, how, who, or when I will have the chance to do this again but I do know that when you want something, opportunities have a way of appearing. I will be watching for them. Namaste.