“travel isn’t always pretty”

You know those friends who know to say exactly what you need to hear exactly when you need it? As I was beating myself up for having a hard time here, my friend sent me this:

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it even hurts; it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” -Anthony Bourdain

Although some travel is beautiful, some even breathtaking, a lot of India ‘isn’t always pretty’. Our first trip to the north of India, a small little town at the base of the Himalayas, Gangtok, India, gave me a taste of the beauty of this country. Monsoon season provided these clouds that would linger throughout the hills, through the trees, creating this creeping, magical feel as we drove through the hills past each temple, the waterfalls, and the smiling kids waving at us. I adore our little crew of global fellows, creating the community of like-minded SCU students in the middle of India that I needed. Despite all the beauty, getting to Gangtok I saw some of the deepest poverty I’ve ever seen. People cramming into ‘cargo trains’ where they would sleep all night. The families sleeping on the ground of the train station calling it home.

“Six years after the 15-year-old girl was rescued from a brothel in Kolkata’s largest red-light district, the woman who trafficked her was sentenced to prison for her crimes. The conviction brings closure to a lengthy trial riddled with obstacles”…She told our boss, “My soul and body are gone.”

These are the stories, the tragedies, and the history that we hear at work. The biggest struggle for me each day is realizing that the shining, joyful faces we are greeted by each day at work have seen the worst pain and tragedy that India has. At first, just the sight of the families laying on the street or the little children playing in the filth of the city would make my heart drop. And as this gets no more easy to see, I now realize the biggest pain to understand is these girls we work with had all their freedom taken from them. While I process this, I realize it is really hard to be here for such a short time, not really knowing what difference I am making in the big picture of trafficking. My bosses have made such an impact on these girls’ lives, and while it has been an incredible experience learning how such a company works, how the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of these girls happen, I wish I could do more. Today marks exactly half way through our experience here, and as I write thinking back on the work I have done, the things I have learned, and the passion that has ignited me, I am excited to figure out what more this means for my future. How I can make this discomfort of confronting the suffering into something productive, something I can do to change, or least how I can leave a mark on these women and Destiny as they have on me.

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