Well.. I’m here. Stateside for 3 months, my break felt like a year while I was back, and seemed to morph into just a week immediately upon returned back here. Having been home with the people most familiar to me, I underestimated and perhaps forgot how familiar this place has become to me, how it has become a home second only to that I have in Vermont.
I almost didn’t make it. In dubious fashion, I arrived at my JFK check-in only an hour before my departure, only to have the Etihad attendants tell me that without an Indian visa, they couldn’t let me get on the flight to re-check-in my bags for my IndiGO flight from Delhi to Kathmandu that BlinkNow had purchased for me. Nor could they do the transfer themselves, because IndiGO is not one of their partner airlines. It all sounds quite boring now, but the moment itself was one of rapidly growing panic, something I’m usually quite deft at suppressing. I had just purchased a bundle of items for Kopila on my debit card, and realized I wouldn’t have enough money in my account for both the new plane ticket I had to purchase, as well as the heavy-luggage charges I would be charged (filled to the brim with tools, my bags were each 20 pounds too heavy). As I called Dad to ask him for his credit card number, I found out they couldn’t accept a credit card number over the phone. That was when I threw up my hands and said “well… I’m just fucked I guess.”
But fate came through for me somehow, and my tardiness ironically worked in my favor. I had just enough cash to pay for my new flight out of Delhi, and in their rush to get me on the flight leaving within 20 minutes, the attendants forwent my un-payable luggage charge and loaded up my bags while I purchased my ticket. I sprinted through the airport, cut the security line with 10 apologies, and was on my way, immediately relishing the unlimited complimentary wine on the overnight flight.
The heavier of my bags didn’t make it out of JFK, though, as the TSA somehow found it necessary to search through a suitcase that probably sent their x-ray scanner into epileptic spasms. And so I was forced to spend an extra night in Kathmandu. When the bag eventually arrived, I was shocked and depressed to find that it was one computer short. Someone, either in NYC, Abu Dhabi, Delhi, or Kathmandu, removed one of the laptops that Tim, a close family friend, had donated for the students at Kopila. I’m working on recovering it, but I’m not hopeful. As Tim said, whoever took it probably wears a badge.
As I approached the orphanage here, I was inflicted with hysterical butterflies. Would it feel like a home? Would I forget the kids’ or aunties’ names? Maybe I’d immediately wish I was still back in Vermont. A rapid insecticide washed these away as soon as we pulled into the gates, though – this place was still a home, and always will be. I could never forget a single one of these children or any aspect of this house. And now that I’ve spent a couple days here, the fact that I was ever really gone seems surreal. The kids have grown an inch or two, yes, and the land has transitioned from a dirty brown to a lively green, but it feels like I never left.
Oh, one unfamiliar aspect: a new baby! Meet Ravi, the now 4-month old who weighs as much as a newborn, and who was less than 5 pounds when he arrived just a month ago. I can tell I’ll learn a lot from him – How to hold a baby, how to feed and burp a baby, how to get a baby to stop crying, and probably how to change a diaper. His smiles are rare and enlightening. The fellows have been working out a schedule for which nights who takes care of him, so I’ll be on Ravi duty at least one night a week.
Up next, something far more exciting than a recap of the tediousness of my travel here: the transformation of the land after 3 months of torrential rains – some good, some… not so much. How did the rammed earth fence weather the storms? The gabion wall, fence, gate, and pergola?