My home away from home for the holidays

As Jaipur, the city that has welcomed me since I first arrived, spins with the lights and life of Diwali, I feel myself trying to hang onto a constant, to slow down. I know I just got over the halfway point. I know I still have a month and a half left. I know there is time, but it feels like there is not. For the last month of my study abroad experience, I will be living and working at a special education center in Varanasi.

I am filled with so much excitement. There will be so much to learn, so many friends to make and so much to gain from this next month, but there are times when I can only handle what is in front of me. The lights, the constant cooking and the cleaning all bring me home to my memories of Christmas time. There is a similar buzz in the air and although everything is different, I find comfort in the blurry similarities. As much as I have always appreciated Jaipur, I have just recently started to feel at total ease. My walk to school, my host mom’s cooking and my friends are no longer a part of my separate Indian reality, but big, real parts of my life.

The preparation for Diwali and the ways in which I can tie to my own experiences has brought all of this into clarity. I have found family, and I have found home. I am across the world, and although I think often about the long trail runs, bagels and the Hope College people I miss most, I have found a way to carve comfort into my life here. Yet I signed up for a program that helps you to leap off again as soon as the comfort begins to set in. I know it will be worth it, and I know I need to go. I know I have chosen to chase life on the uncomfortable side for most of my time, and I know I have gained a lot from it.

However, in this moment, when I can smell newly familiar sweets, hear firecrackers on the streets and see the glowing, sparkling lights from outside my bedroom door, I’m not sure I am ready to leap. I will be this weekend when I get on my flight. But for now, I am going to stay put. I am not going to pack or prep, and I am not going to plan or fret. The day when these things need to get done will come, but not today, not right now. Jaipur, I owe you my full attention.

Sophia Vander Kooy ('20) is a political science and international studies major with an unofficial passion for taking creative writing classes. She was the Production Manager at the Anchor during the spring semester of 2020, and previously served as the Editor-in-Chief. She is also a member of the Women's Track and Cross Country teams at Hope, the STEP Community Outreach Student Director and the Co-President of Hope Yoga. Sophia loves writing, being outside, cooking, running and connecting with all kinds of people. She has found the space to be herself at The Anchor and knows that she is not alone in that.

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