Looking back at our trip there are some things that stand out. Not the least of which are the sights, sounds, and unique smell of India. There is also the food and of course the crazy car rides filled with honking and near collisions (i.e. way more fun than in Seattle). These are all the first things that come to mind when people ask me how the trip was. But there were also some lessons learned that have become evident now that we have returned.
One piece of advice I can offer the next group is to take a moment to appreciate the relationships you are making with the SEWA sisters while you are there. This is a unique opportunity to learn from them and to get to know how they do business. It will also help you once you return and no longer have the daily contact. Inevitably, the relationships slip as time passes between communications, Skype calls are missed, and emails go unanswered. If you have a strong relationship to begin with, the effects of these inconveniences are minimized and your work can still get done. Not to mention how much more rewarding your experience will be.
Another lesson that is clear looking back is that gulab jamun is way better when eaten in conjunction with vanilla ice cream. If someone had told me this prior to my departure, I would have gulabbed every jamun I saw from day one. As it was, it took me half the trip to grasp the wonder of this Indian equivalent to apple pie ala mode and that is time I can never get back. You can all thank me later for this one.
Finally, I’ve come to realize what a great learning experience this whole project has been. From learning to work with other cultures, to developing a rapport with the client, the more I look back the more I realize that I’ll use these skills for the rest of my life. All that while experiencing a new culture and having a great time with an amazing group of people. Not bad. I just wish I would have had one more dish of gulab jamun and ice cream.