By Timothy Jang, University of Illinois junior majoring in horticulture
This series of posts was written by students in the ACES 298: Postharvest Loss Prevention study abroad program, which introduces participants to postharvest processes of grains and perishables and loss prevention in the Bihar and Punjab areas of India.
We’re flying out of Delhi today. After all the sightseeing and the touring, our trip is leading to the purpose of our trip. I woke up around 7 a.m. so that I could get my morning routine done: wash up, stretch, head to breakfast, and read.
The hotel employees began to usher us out of the building, graciously taking our luggage to the bus.
Then, the airport. Takeoff.
The thoughts that went through my mind throughout the flight were of relief and excitement. I could only take so much of touring and checking out the wonders of India. I was ready to see what we were here to do and meet all the students that were waiting for us.
When we arrived at Patna airport, I was hit with a very familiar sight, reminding me of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; my home for three years. The richness of Delhi could not be seen easily where we arrived.
We all waited for our checked bags to roll out of an outdated conveyor. We were shoulder to shoulder with all the other passengers in a far-too-cramped room in the airport.
Cars were waiting to take us the rest of the way to RAU at Pusa, the university that was hosting us. While the style of driving was not surprising to me, the drive still caught me off guard. Kudos to our driver for being able to weave in and out of the most cramped spaces, dodge the many people walking along the road and maneuver the winding roads without hesitation. People in the U.S. cannot drive with such grace as this man does.
Everything we saw along the way brought me back to earth. There were not fully paved roads, flashing lights, nice suburban houses, shopping centers, etc. Never have I felt so full of privilege until I step into places like this. I own so much, and I live without a daily struggle for survival. Every complaint that I have ever had fell quiet in the loudness of their need.
And yet, something unexpected.
Happiness. Even in their want, these were not broken and miserable people. Their circumstances did not define their capacity for joy. I am reminded that we are not here to save these people from some kind of “doom,” for we are not saviors. We are here to serve them in teaching about postharvest loss and pray that we make a difference.
And this has given me the drive to continue.
Timothy is a participant in the ACES 298: Postharvest Loss Prevention class organized by the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Throughout the 12-day trip, students interact with policy makers and business partners in the agriculture industry, and work with fellow students at Rajendra Agricultural University (RAU).
Read more blogs in this series:
Travelogue 1: Greetings from India
Travelogue 2: Fascinated by Indian culture, architecture
Travelogue 4: Diving into PHL studies with RAU partners
Travelogue 5: To the villages of Bihar, we went
Travelogue 6: Stress in numbers for India rice losses
Travelogue 7: These issues impact all of humanity, we need to learn to work together
Travelogue 8: Like Buddha, seeking enlightenment through partnership
Travelogue 9: Drones, sub-surface irrigation, and other ‘game-changing’ technologies at BISA
Travelogue 10: A fond farewell to India