I can't believe that I'll be leaving for French Guiana tomorrow.
I say that with a mix of fear and excitement. I'm actually a little apprehensive to go to French Guiana. It will be my first time living alone in a foreign country with a foreign language. And it feels strange to admit that I'm scared - I had always thought of myself as this tough, fearless girl who isn't afraid of anything. After all, I had left home for boarding school at age 14, and at age 17 I camped alone in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for five days and four nights.
But now, I'm okay with being scared. Yesterday, I read this amazing article on rural women in India moving to the city for economic opportunities. I use the adjective "amazing" because these women are far braver than I am, battling social attitudes and family members who are trying to hold them back. A few lines really resounded with me - they are about a man named Karuna, who defies his village's social expectations to send his two daughters, Prabhati and Shashi, to work in a city factory:
When word spread that he had agreed to send Prabhati and Shashi, the village elders convened emergency meetings to determine whether this violated 'purdah,' or the separation between the sexes, and whether this would damage the marriage prospects of their own daughters. Women stopped by to tease the girl's mother, Radha Rani, who wept inconsolably.
I have enjoyed the month that I've spend in LA, but like Karuna said to his daughters, "Ok - you're scared. That's ok. But now you have to move on."
I'm also glad that I'm taking a year off before graduate school. It's helped me realize that I proactively enjoy academic research, and it's something I'd like to be doing for a while. For example, I find myself reading papers & preparing for conferences even though I don't necessarily have to, now. Being back at USC for a month has also made me realize that I missed the academic environment - I missed the dynamism of a college campus and being friends with people across all age groups and professional levels. I also missed the camaraderie of being part of a lab group & running into others when I come in to work on the weekends. I'm not sure I would have had these insights if I had plunged directly into a PhD program right after undergraduate.
So tomorrow I am leaving on a jet plane... to embark on a two-day journey to French Guiana, mainly through a series of layovers in Brazil. One day I'll have enough money for a more direct flight, but tomorrow is not that day. I'll let you all know how the trip goes, though, and I'll see you all on the other side!