Packing to leave the USA meant more than stuffing clothes, books, and presents into two suitcases carefully weighed against the limit. It meant gathering the ragged edges of myself together and stuffing them back into the places they’d escaped from.

The parts of my personality that don’t fit well in South Asia got an airing while in the USA. More introvert time in five months than I’d seen all year; the chance to play church music; long, deep chats flowing freely with friends in coffee shops and diners. I spent some of the fourteen hours of plane time mentally preparing myself to re-enter the South Asian life, which is like moving from golf to rugby – a little more high-energy, a lot more unpredictable.

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It’s been a long time since people have responded to my attempts at speech with smiles of condescending encouragement. In the USA, I was told I was a good public speaker. Here, people slow down until their sentences stretch like long pats on the head for a sleepy child. They ignore my mangled question and chuckle as they tell me my Hindi is very good (at which I roll my eyes) and ask how long I’ve been here. I’ve got to remember how to not take that personally.

As I leave an interaction, I realize with a pang I was just rude. I walked away after the business was done, but before the relational necessities were fulfilled. I hope for the thousandth time my South Asian friend will extend a little grace, remembering my North American handicap. I’ve got to remember how to slow down and let relationship infuse every matter of business.

I walk down the street, happy to find a shoe repair man on the way to catching public transportation. I love the serendipity of finding the unexpected. Except then I grow antsy at being late until I arrive and find they’re not ready to go either. There was no need to rush. I’ve got to remember that there is always time!

I soak in the sun as I stroll down the street, looking hungrily at the street vendors I have so missed. I listen with delight to the Hindi syllables my brain is beginning to understand again.

But I also squirm into the clothes of this place that have become just a bit too tight with weight put on from the USA. They pinch uncomfortably in a few places and I’m eager to slim back down to the body that belongs here.

Just a few more pieces of myself to tuck away.

How do you see different places or situations making you into a different person?

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