I wasn’t afraid. Not when I was a high school senior applying to colleges, not when I moved to Georgetown, not even a mere two hours later when I lost my wallet on move-in day. Looking back, I didn’t have the good sense to be afraid. I survived moving to the East Coast in the middle of high school, albeit with a lot of teenage angst, but I thought the transition to college would be more of the same. As I leave Georgetown now, I have never felt more afraid of what lies ahead. It's a comforting thing to look back with gratitude on what has made my college experience the best (yet) years of my life.
Des Rangila. Colorful land. Ever since I learned them, these are the words that I have associated most with India. Though I was born in the heartland of Kansas, India has always felt as much a part of me as the red, white, and blue that supposedly flows through my veins. As a kid, I grew up dreaming of this beautiful place where women floated through the streets in the beautiful saris collecting dust in my mother’s closet. I arrived in India for the first time as a tiny three-year-old hiding in my mother’s skirts, suffering from motion sickness the entire plane ride over. I barely remember the blur of relatives I met throughout that visit. But I clearly remember the feeling of being inundated by the colors – seemingly everywhere in every detail. The bright pastels of the balloons my uncle gave me against the bright, imposing façade of the Narasimha temple we visited in Tirupati. The comforting hum of chit chatting family members in Telugu over chai on the veranda. The striking combination of colors in the dupattas and churidars that women wore in the street. These fleeting glimpses of India would stay with me.
"Your skin has gotten darker in the sun already, no? You want face lightening treatment done? I can do it." We were in a beauty parlor in a smaller town when I heard these words addressed to me. Instantly, I felt the white-hot sting of embarrassment bubbling up inside me. I immediately blamed myself for not taking better care of my skin. I have never consciously bought into the stereotypes about skin color, but my reaction was there nonetheless. The implicit comparison to my fair-skinned, half white and half Filipino friend had found me lacking. For a moment, I felt caught in my own, admittedly-darker skin.
When I was in Florence last fall, I encountered the Italian tradition of the pausa for the first time. Strictly speaking, it is the lunch break of the day. I see the pausa as being emblematic of the Italian lifestyle. The idea that people should work to live instead of live to work. The belief that mealtimes are sacred and meant to be shared with family instead of work. At the Villa, we had an hour long pranzo or lunch. After observing a moment of silence, the entire community of staff members, professors, and students would enjoy a primo, secondo, and dolce with a glass of wine in hand. When I ate dinner with my host family, we would begin by discussing the day and finish with a discussion of current events. The pausa became a peaceful ritual, a time to stop and reflect on this ever crazy, madly spinning world.