Sara here. We arrived in Tezpur yesterday. It is so, so much warmer here than in Shillong - probably 75 F and sunny right now. The first two hours of the drive was a big change in elevation (we were on our way down). Our hosts have been so gracious to spend so much time driving us and we learn a lot on the way -- so much information is exchanged in informal settings! I'm learning about different tribes and states and relationships with the government, getting this sense of what it is like to be in a very old civilization which is also a relatively new country, and it is hard for me to imagine what it would be like if the US had been occupied the way India was by the British. We regularly hear about freedom fighters and yesterday on a day trip to Dispur saw a monument to a freedom fighter who was then hung in the town square. He made a prediction that if his head turned to the east when he died that India would win freedom within a hundred years but if it turned to the west it would be occupied forever. It turned to the east. There were also Germans and Irish who came here, and Baptist missionaries.
My new host family is wonderful, as the others have been! I am staying with a woman named Bimla, with the B pronounced as we would a V, her daughter in law and son who have a family business, and her daughter in law's brother who they asked to come work with them (which is unusual because usually here a woman joins the family she marries into and would not ordinarily invite another of her family members to live with them). They have an amazing store with everything, groceries, local food and imported, and lots of neat things. They also bake bread, process rice (100 pounds of what they buy from the farmers yields 40 pounds of white rice), and process mustard seed into mustard oil. I toured part of the operation today but there was not time to see all of it yet! And there is a bakery where they make pastries, and a restaurant where we are all meeting for lunch in a few minutes. I was so, so excited to arrive yesterday and learn that my new host family had a restaurant (the joke on this trip is that Don and I are the big eaters, I am loving the food and have an embarrassingly high appetite), and then I was more excited to learn that Bimla is also a meditator. So she led me in a meditation this morning which felt really good.
It is challenging to describe what I'm learning. We've seen lots of vocational sites and I've been fascinated by everything. The culture is so different and is incredibly different from place to place; it is like another country from one town to the next in some ways. The biggest thing I've been struck by is how quickly we all seem to connect with our hosts -- host families but also the Rotarians who are taking us around and taking care of us, and the people they introduce us to as we learn about business and government and education here... I did not realize that people would be so very warm and welcoming or that I would really feel like I was making friends so quickly. I was so sad to leave Guwahati, and again to leave Shillong, and I can feel that I will not want to leave Tezpur or this family either! In an earlier entry, Nate said that people are people and that we all want the same things and value the same things... that is feeling so true and I'm so struck that as we describe very different lives and cultures to each other, we also seem to understand each other so well. The roles of women have also varied in the different places we've been and although some have very different lives than me, some are also very very similar in terms of lifestyle -- yet I've felt like I connected with all of them and feel equal warmth. I had thought I might run into things that are so different that I would not be able to conceive of it, or able to connect, and that has not been true at all. We've also had conversations about arranged marriages and "love marriages" in each town. It is so interesting and I feel so much more comfortable than I thought I might. I feel like I'm among friends all the time.
Thanks for reading! It's time for our teams and hosts to meet for lunch and continue our day.