Traveling through many of the must-see tourist locations, we often found ourselves in the company of our fellow countrymen and women, come for a week or two of vacation. It was incredible to observe the differences between they and me, and I wondered if I looked similar when I had been here only as long as they have. By now, I have long since left the shoes of a tourist, though occasionally we walk the same path. Despite my inability to physically fit in, I know that I could never feel like a foreigner in this country ever again. It is true that in many cities we traveled through, while purchasing the various entry tickets for museums and palaces, I paid the rate for resident Indians instead of the significantly higher rate for foreigners.
Knowledge of the national language, Hindi, is by far the easiest way to dive into the heart of the culture, not to mention a guarantee of getting reduced entry fees along the way. I no longer face many difficulties communicating with the non-English speaking population, which still happens to be a large percentage of people. Looking back, I see that my ability to learn the language was another component of “just doing it.” Forget the mistakes that led to laughter, and the sentences that created confusion, but know that the mistakes were necessary for success in the end.
My being here, and all that I have seen and done, is nothing more than the product of some time spent out of my comfort zone. Just think, one can never find the light switch without first groping about the walls in the dark. So, to those looking for the adventure of a lifetime, prepare to leave your fears and “No, thank you’s” behind, for a walk down that dirty lane may reveal a beautiful temple.
Sam Aldridge is a Rotary Exchange student from Milford. To read more from him, visit thebarodasagas.wordpress.com.