Lost Luggage in India This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 9, 2010
It was one in the morning when I stepped off the plane in Delhi, India, nearly 18 hours after I had left my family in Jerusalem. I had thrown myself headlong into an experience completely out of my comfort zone. I knew that I would soon meet my group of fellow Iowan, Taiwanese, Indian, and Russian students, but until then I was alone in the Delhi airport.

I had read about India in school and researched the country, but I knew that researching and experiencing a country were two entirely different things.

My India experience began soon after I passed through customs. I stood by the baggage carousel watching as each of my fellow passengers scooped up their luggage and headed out into the breath-stealing humidity of the Delhi night. I had packed just a small backpack for my month-long trip, and I waited … but my bag never came.

I headed to the lost luggage counter to file a claim and asked one of the men behind the counter if he could help me. He gave me a noncommittal head bob (a cross between a shake and a nod) in response. I came to learn that this is the Indian equivalent of an American “sure” shrug.

I wouldn't get my bag for a week. While I was in Mumbai, it came tightly wrapped in plastic, secured by industrial-strength zipties, looking like it had done battle with a HAZMAT team.

Losing my luggage and coping without a single change of clothing or any personal items was the first of many learning experiences I would have in India. One of the things I was most nervous about was my host family. I didn't know what to expect. Luckily though, I shared a host family with one of the Russian students, and we became good friends.

Most households are multigenerational, as was the case with ours. I bonded quickly with my host grandmother, and although the endeavor wasn't very successful, she spent much time trying to teach me Hindi.

I had difficulty reconciling the fact that my host family had servants. I am an extremely independent person, especially when it comes to household chores, and having someone do things for me that I would normally do was somewhat unnerving. As I became more accustomed to the culture, I found it easier to accept. There was also a language barrier with the servants that made everything a bit awkward, but by the end of my stay, we had developed a strange nonverbal communication that worked surprisingly well and I even spent time hanging out with them, which is somewhat taboo.

While in India I also overcame my picky eating habits. Before the trip I had eaten very little Indian food, and was worried that I wouldn't like any of the food. Many of us were never really sure what we were actually eating, but we learned to have everyone at the table pick a dish and then share.

India was the most amazing experience I could have asked for. I learned more about myself and the world in those three weeks than I could have in a year in school. I have realized that it is better to take a risk and try something new than go the safe route and never have the experience, because whether an experience is good or bad, something can always be learned from it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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