The transition from Satoli to Bahraich was difficult for me. I miss my host family in Satoli; I miss looking out to the mountains and drinking chai in the living room; I miss tiptoeing across the bedroom floor and I miss struggling to walk up our steep stairs every morning.
It’s different in Bahraich. It feels strange to be in the plain again, where the roads are not windy and steep anymore. It feels strange to be sharing a bedroom with 16 other people and not just one. I think the biggest difference is we are not living with local families anymore, and perhaps it’s been harder because of how much I’ve bonded with my family in Satoli.
However, my second evening in Bahraich changed everything. We were divided into groups of three and had dinner with host families from different areas of town, and I was assigned to Dr. Azim’s brother’s house. I was greeted by Abdullah and Atif, who were 13 and 20 years old. At first, the conversation was about the usual things: school, school subjects, where we come from, etc. But as we talked more and more, it became about the American Dream, wealth, Asian families, religion, cultures across India, exotic foods in China, traveling in Vietnam, etc. What made my night, however, was Sadia, Abdullah’s four-year-old little sister. She was very shy at first, clinging to Abdullah and wouldn’t shake my hand or say hi. During our conversation with Atif, I saw Sadia watching and so I started waving at her. I made all kinds of funny faces, animal sounds, and tried my best to imitate her every motion. It took a good ten minutes for Sadia to come close and touch my fingers, but when she finally did, she wouldn’t let me rest. Although we had only 4 hours together in total, I could happily say Sadia and I have formed a strong bond. She has taught me her special handshake, taught me how to make air roti, and seen all of my family photos. We went from looking at each other across the room to rolling on Abdullah’s bed in laughter. The night ended at 9, and Sadia was falling as sleep on the guest lounge’s chair when we left to return to GSL. It was bittersweet leaving her, because unlike in Satoli, I didn’t have another 10 days to bond with Sadia.
Spending the evening with a family in Bahraich has made me step outside of my usual comfort zone. I had only a few hours to connect with people who I’d never met, and it took everything I had. Body language, silly faces, and opening myself up fully to strangers. I’ve always been more on the reserved side when it comes to meeting new people, but being in Bahraich has taught me a lot about what I’m capable of doing if I put my heart to it. To be a leader, understanding and connecting to other people is essential, and being here in Bahraich, I’m learning how.