As of today, we've been in India for six months! A good time for reflection. I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head about our experience and how it's affected us personally, as a couple, professionally, etc. In today's entry, though, I'll just share some thoughts about how we're doing personally.

1. One of the reasons we chose to do this was that we wanted to be able to reflect on this experience later in life. We wanted this experience to keep up from becoming complacent and having a narrow view of the world. We wanted to be able to remember the poor people of India when we we took on a mortgage, and kids, and careers, when we live in a place that makes it easy to forget that most of the world doesn't have CHOICE. We have to keep reminding ourselves of that, because sometimes the benefits of the experience aren't so great RIGHT NOW.

2. A lot of the way that we evaluate our experiences is about perspective. Now that we're leading a relatively stable and predictable life, there's not so much that's exciting or special. My friend Caroline, working in Cameroon for VSO, put this feeling so beautifully in her blog:

It is only in the perception of one’s environment that true excitement can be found. This is not location dependent. I notice more things around me. I am more mindful, perhaps. I pay attention to the little detail of my surroundings. What’s different? What’s unusual? What’s exactly the same and would otherwise go unnoticed? And with this, I choose to see the wonder at the beauty, the nuances of life. I chose to look at the layer of dust with fascination at just how fast it accumulates. I do not focus on the true frustration of having to sweep everyday. It is a conscious choice to believe that your life IS exciting. I, for instance, can tell you a story about going down the block to the banana vendor. I can turn it into an expedition filled with trepidation – will there be good ones today or will they be all black and dried up? I might even turn it into a cultural lesson about how to bargain. I could explain the voyage the banana made to get to me. But is it really that exciting? They are, after all, just bananas...We can’t have an exciting life 100% of the time. But we have the power to choose to siphon off as much excitement as possible from every moment. Make your life interesting. And tell others about it. After all, our lives are all boring unless we choose to make them otherwise...If you had to blog about your life, what would you have to say?

3. After the shininess wears off, India is just...home. We do the same things day to day, things have become "normal", there's not that much that's new anymore. And that's okay, as long as we don't continue to define our experience by how many new things we've seen or done. At this point, we need to start thinking more about how this experience is changing us as people, about how it's helping us to define our identities, and most importantly, we need to just enjoy the monotony of day to day life and our time with each other, just like in the U.S. What will sustain us is not the new, but the familiar.

4. Before coming to India, I don't think I understood what it meant to live in another culture. I remember times when I traveled to other countries and even when I lived in Honduras for 4 months, and enjoying observing and comparing the cultural norms to what I was used to. The difference this time is that we're here for 2 years, which is too long to sustain the act of observing and tolerating and not judging. Our training and our personalities have led us to withhold judgment from even the strangest or more frustrating situations, so we've had some trouble recently allowing ourselves to say, "we don't like this, we don't like him/her". We're working on finding the balance.

5. One of the difficult parts of working/living in India is the lack of control. I thought this was just one of the things that we had to accept. Now I realize that it's something that we have to embrace. One of the benefits of being here is learning about yourself, about what really drives you and what really drives you crazy, something which can more easily be done when you're tested.

6. When the choice and affluence of the U.S. and the over-stimulation of India are stripped away, there's not much excitement left. There's an opportunity, then, to take time and just think, to become introspective and ask, "what sustains us from day to day?" "what is the purpose of my days?" "what am I really made of?" "how much can I endure without becoming negative?"

It's not clear whether India is changing us as people or we are just gaining more insight into who we are. In any case, these opportunities to mull over our personal development are unexpected, but welcome. Let's see what the next 75% of our placement has for us!