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Celebrating Diwali On My Gap Year

This week I had the amazing opportunity to celebrate Diwali - the Festival of Lights with a local host family here in India. It was a unique first-hand, authentic Indian experience; moreover, it was the perfect way to kick off my last week of my WorldStamp gap year experience.

At first I was a little hesitant and did not know what to expect, but I knew I had to make the most of it. As soon as I arrived, I was welcomed by my host sister, Anshika. The next few days would feel different because I had gotten used to living in a guesthouse with the same volunteers but she could not have made me feel more at home. There was a slight language barrier between me and my host parents but that did not take away from the feeling of initial camaraderie. On the evening of my arrival, we visited her sister's home for the delivery of gifts and they, too, offered me a warm welcome. My hesitation began to grow into comfort and I was really enjoying the festivities. As I spent the evening with Anshika's family, I was  moved by how much love there was in the room. In fact, by immersing myself, I started to feel like I was celebrating the holidays with my family. I started to miss my family but I also felt so blessed to be welcomed into the lives of this beautiful family. The festivities continued for five days and so I was introduced to more relatives and friends who immediately treated me like family. Anshika and I decorated her home with Rangoli and we ate so many delicious Indian sweets! I also got to participate in the seemly traditional Jainist prayer service with the family.
I can't emphasize this enough: I felt genuinely welcomed; pure hospitality and kindness. In fact, I'll never forget what Anshika's mother in law said to me "now I have four daughters." I was truly touched. All in all, I feel so fortunate to have celebrated the Diwali festival traditionally and with such a loving family. It is a time to count your blessings and give thanks for the prosperity for your family. Although I spent a short time with my host family, we bonded so much and, now, I have an extended family in India!

On another note, as I step into my last week of volunteer work at Ambedkar Nagar, I am finding it so hard to say farewell! Meeting new people is part of the beauty in traveling but it can also be the hard part because there comes a point when your paths must diverge. I have formed powerful friendships with my students and with other travelers/volunteers I have met along the way. I want nothing more than to take all of these incredible people along with me to Vietnam. However, the bonds I have formed here are yet a supplement of enrichment to my life and I will cherish that forever. They have all impacted my journey of self-discovery in a special way and that will be with me wherever I go. Even though I leave them behind, the discoveries and connections I have acquired will continue to shape the way I live my life!