Friday, November 21, 2008

Host Family

Many of you may know that one of the aspects of the Guatemala site that really drew me to it was that the volunteers live with host families. There’s just something about living in the midst of other people’s lives that offers you a deeper glimpse into who they are. I thought that if there were one thing I would change about the India site, I would have lived with a host family.

What I’ve recently realized is that I do have a host family in PG Hostel. There are only seven of us, me, two first year Chemistry students, and four second year Chemistry students. I do everything with them that I would with a traditional host family: share meals, run errands, see each other off at the railway station, complain, rejoice, say “goodnight,” read (they study), and play.

What’s really special about these six men is that they don’t see me as their token American friend. At least not to the same extent as I feel many other CMS students do. With the hostel guys, my Indian family, I feel like as much of a Malayali as I’m ever going to. I can be honest with them: ask them not to call me saip, tell them when I’m not having a great day, and share that I miss my American family and friends deeply. In return, they listen to me and show genuine concern as if they were my brothers.

I recently found out the four second years are leaving at the end of March and will only return occasionally for their last exams. That only leaves the two first years and me until August. Except I found out this morning that one of the first years is leaving CMS. He has decided that a Masters in Chemistry has absolutely nothing to do with what he wants to do professionally, become a civil servant. I can’t say that I blame him, but this is a rough time for everyone.

Back in September, he was by far the most exhausting person I had met at CMS. He threw a ceaseless volley of questions at me concerning United States and Indian politics and social issues. To illustrate the struggle, I told the other volunteers that he must be the person God is “calling me to love.” I was soon able to appreciate that at least he asked the questions others were afraid to and spending time with him has become a joy, not a struggle.

But now he is leaving us. And to further complicate matters, that would leave only one student in PG Hostel proper (I live in an adjoining room), which leads them to think they may close the hostel after March. I pray this doesn’t happen. Not because I don’t want to move (frankly I don’t have enough things to even make it a hassle), but because I don’t want to lose my host family. I hope that they are able to find more students or some other solution. As long as I don’t lose the family I’ve found, I’ll be content.

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