By: Tanner St. Louis
Expansion seems to be a common theme throughout this trip for me. Growing up in rural America gave me a very specific way of seeing how the world works, and how the world should be. Middlesex County has about 3 stoplights, and many people grow up there and continue to live out their lives there. So, their views of the world can be somewhat narrow, which is one of the reasons I switched to attend Christchurch school, and also decided to attend this trip.
My time in India has been a total expansion of my understanding of the way the world works. It has also been a change. We experienced all different ways of life in India – Pancheswar, the village about to be sucked away by the dam; Rishikesh, the holy city overrun by tourists; and now Agora, the small village way up in the mountains far from any city. They’re all expanding what I used to think of as life. Pancheswar taught me faith and trust, as I tried to understand how their god won’t let this dam be built. Rishekesh taught me entrepreneurship and hustle, as people built a city and a culture around this holy river. And finally, Agora taught me tolerance and acceptance, with people accepting us into their homes and feeding us and laughing with us despite the language barrier. All three places pushed me to expand what I formally thought was life, and changed my perspective on how the world works. I used to think narrowly, a very western view of how to grow up and live life – go to school, to college, to work and so on. But looking at these people living without these goals so happily and peacefully has helped me see that there is more than one journey in life, that there are many ways to live happily and successfully.
The word expansion really struck me this morning, when Mr. Alter talked about Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. Mr. Alter said that when he was a kid, Dehradun was a small town with maybe two or three restraunts and I instantly thought of home. But, he said now it is the capital of Uttarkhand, with an airport, bowling alleys, and a huge bustling town. Agora specifically faces expansion as well – the new road put in, and the floods wiping out towns in the valley ten years ago has forced changes among these people. I wonder whether they’ve expanded beyond what those small town villagers thought possible. It made me think of what my town could be like when I return home in many years. Could it too be a city that is unrecognizable to me? Is it even possible to not expand? Can expansion happen without changing a culture?