India

India is the most difficult country I’ve ever traveled.

It is difficult to buy train tickets. Difficult to cross the street. Difficult to find clean public bathrooms, to communicate with taxi drivers, to feel the beads of sweat soak into your conservative outfit. To keep your heart from breaking when experiencing the largest divide between extreme poverty and excessive wealth I’ve ever seen in such close quarters. To know who is exhibiting great kindness when they read confusion on your face and who is grinning as they try to rob you blind.

I sigh, and tell people that this is harder than I like. I like the rows and rows of tourist travel agencies who you can cross examine in Vietnam. I like the street food you can trust in Peru. I like the sellers who bargain easily in Morocco and the 7/11s in Thailand. I like the tried and true backpacker route of Southeast Asia. 

But it’s also difficult for me to stop smiling here. It is difficult for me to turn my brain off as it buzzes with everything new I am learning and every mistake I am making. It is difficult to be angry when those mistakes only cost a few dollars to fix, and I find myself grinning from ear to ear every time we find ourselves in the wrong place and squish into the back of a rickshaw or onto a non-AC bus to get back on track. It is difficult to stop eating, even after a bout of food poisoning gave me my first opportunity to use several of the air sickness bags on one of our flights. It is difficult not to be in awe of the travelers here who embrace the difficulty in order to stay and do good work. It is difficult not to trust these people who smile and gawk and waggle their heads.

It is difficult to feel ready to go back to where it will be easy, when I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this place.

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