It seems like only yesterday that I went through the process of unpacking.  It took me a long time to admit that this was my new home, and now that I have begun to put down roots in this place, its hard to leave.

I remember the first day coming to Coimbatore, wondering if I would ever be able to feel settled in this place.  I saw exhaust and trash and people sleeping on the sidewalks.  I saw lots of trees and plants lining the walk surrounding racecourse along with lots of businesses filled with people who I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.  I seriously doubted that I would find comfort here, surrounded by so much unfamiliar.  

But now I have come to find serenity in the honking of the buses, of the generator filling our apartment with life and power, of the barn owl outside my window that wakes me up at 4:30 in the morning.  These things have become familiar to me.  I have gotten to know the owners of the different businesses around racecourse and have spent time having tea with them on a lazy afternoon, hearing about their lives.  I now consider my neighbors as family as we have shared so many meals and moments together.  Coimbatore has become familiar to me.  It has become home.

But now my life is back in a suitcase and I am on to the next thing.  Over the past few months I have added things to my suitcase; things that will help me remember India and help me to communicate this experience to others.  I have also gotten rid of things to make room for the new.  I guess life is kinda like that; a continuous process of adding and removing based on the experiences you’ve had and because of who you are from those experiences.  

I recently had a friend ask me what I was most afraid of with coming home, and the more I thought about it the more I realized there are a lot of things that I am fearful of with returning home.  I’m scared of how my relationships with people might change because of the time we have spent apart.  I’m afraid that some relationships will continue to grow apart because of where our lives are headed.  I worry that no one will understand and that I will stop wrestling with the things I have seen here.  But mostly I am afraid that I will return the same as I left, and that no one will notice a change in me because of this experience.

I found fear to be a funny thing.  Sometimes to conquer it you need to work hard and make a plan of how you will tackle it.  Sometimes you need to ride it out.  And sometimes the best thing you can do is admit to a friend the things going on in your head and find peace in the confession.

So tomorrow I begin a journey north.  16 days and about 2,800 miles.  I’m spending hours upon hours on trains and buses and hoping to see glimpses of India’s history in the midst of it.  But along with my journey north I am also journeying out of India and back to the place that I came from.  I know that this exact experience will never be replicated and most of the people I will never see again, but when I was here I was able to experience it all…and it was a heck of a ride. 

Ashley Sider