So it is finally happening! All the preparation (including but not limited to: several back and forth emails, financial statements, scholarship forms, power of attorney documents, visa applications and fees, last minute shopping, packing, re-packing, and re-re-packing) has finally paid off. I arrived here to DC on a red-eye flight, exhausted and sleep-deprived but also excited and extremely anxious. I stepped off the plane wondering what was in store, what I could expect, and how I would change.
I soon got a small taste of that answer to all of those questions.
I took the Washington Flyer into Downtown DC and was able to navigate “The Metro” to the hostel that all 36 of us were to be staying. It was about 90 degrees, humid, my back was drenched with sweat from my huge backpacker style pack, but I was happy to finally be at the door to the hostel, where I would be getting to know my 35 other travel companions. Although many people hadn’t arrived yet, I scoped out the modest living space. It had a livingroom area, a large, commercial kitchen, three large rooms with several bunkbeds, and 4 bathrooms. Not quite the Ritz-Carlton, but still a decent living area for a two-week stay.
Orientation was where I met all of my fellow “IHPers”. Everyone wore gleaming smiles, excited for what was in store. A lot of introductions took place. I can’t tell you how many times thus far I’ve said my name, where I’m from, where I go to school, and my major. Throughout the orientation, I had to keep reminding myself that everything happening was real, that I was really going to embark on a journey with these people, and that although I didn’t know them very well now, I would probably know them more than I ever wanted to by the end of this semester.
The past few days have been a lot of orientation and community building for the group. The first day we talked about our hopes and fears for the journey. Many people had similar hopes: to challenge themselves, to come back changed, to approach everything with an open mind/heart, try new things, etc. Some of the fears were things like failing to be present and in the moment, not taking advantage of every moment or pushing boundaries. My personal fears weren’t as deep, but equally important: natural disasters! The last thing I want is to be caught in a monsoon or tsunami. I was later reassured that this activity was monitored by the program via national and international systems and organizations and that there were several “back up plans” and evacuation plans to be utilized if this became an issue. I was relieved. As a group, we also put together some principles we wanted to live by throughout the journey, one of which was “Take Chances, make mistakes, get messy”. I’ve decided to fully embrace this philosophy.
A lot of our time in the past week has been about building relationships with and getting to know each other. We’ve done a lot of site seeing, and many of the “touristy” things. Some of my favorites were the MLK memorial, going kayaking on the Potomac River, and eating at some of the most unique eateries in the country. I’ve also taken some opportunities to reflect and spend some time alone. The weather here is warm and humid, we’ve had a couple rain showers since we’ve been here, but all around sunny and nice. Very excited about what is to come and sometimes find it hard to stay in the present and not think too much about what is to come in the next few months! I will post again before India (and hopefully with some pictures). Until next time :)