An Unexpected Journey

This semester I will be studying, traveling and doing service projects abroad in Qatar and India along with a handful of other students from Carnegie Mellon and two professors (husband and wife).  We will study at CMU’s Qatar campus in Doha for a month and then head to Wardha (central India) to stay at Gandhi’s ashram.  After roughly the same amount of time, the group will then head south to Chennai.  Another month or so will then take us to the end of April and a final trip north to Delhi and Agra.  At that point, my official semester will be over but I’m hoping that my adventure will not be quite done.  I haven’t bought my return flight and I’m planning on doing some extra traveling while I still have the freedom of youth.

For the next couple months I will be writing about my experiences here at The Orange Sky.  When I went to Malawi in the summer of 2009, I kept a blog with the same name, its namesake one of my favorite songs by Alexi Murdoch. (I wrote a short piece about another one of his songs - he is a fantastic artist.) An excerpt from my first post that explains the name:

The song always struck a chord with me.  The singer expresses his dream of an orange sky, with his brother and sister standing by.  Family has always been important and influential to me. In the case of my adventure to Malawi, they are the reason why I am going.  Years ago my sister went to Malawi with my mother, and the following years my brother took a trip.  From their own experiences in Africa, my brother and sister have set their minds to impacting the world for the better using their outstanding education (brother recently graduated from Stanford and sister will be a junior at Rice University next fall).  They are an inspiration to me and no matter where they are on the globe, listening to the song connects me to them.

Not only that, but Murdoch sings that “my salvation lies in your love.  I’m a strong believer that the well being of every person lies in the compassion and empathy of others.  I think our capacity to connect with others while we live our short time in this world is fundamental to our existence. While Alexi Murdoch enchants his listeners to imagine an orange sky, I hope my own experiences in Malawi open my eyes to the discovery of my very own orange sky.

I want to have some continuity with my experiences abroad and the philosophy that guided me through my first trip.  Those posts were probably some of the best writing I’ve ever done because I focused on telling good stories about what I was doing and the people I met.  My promise to you as a reader is that I will only tell good stories.  Hopefully my creative juices will be flowing as well and I will keep writing more for my personal blog.

I decided to not bring a real camera (besides my trusty iPhone) and with it comes a challenge to myself.  I don’t want to be searching for moments to take pictures, I want to seek out the moments intrinsically.  As a writer, I have laid down the gauntlet to be able to describe my experiences well enough that I won’t need pictures looking back.  Of course, I will definitely use my phone’s camera but I wanted to focus more on the experiences and the resulting writing.

I can’t help but think of The Hobbit as I set out on my own unexpected journey.  I had always planned on studying abroad somewhere Spanish-speaking to utilize my (now awful) proficiency in the language.  However, last year the professor organizing the trip emailed me about the opportunity, saying he thought I might be a good fit.  Like Bilbo, I’m setting out on a journey that I didn’t quite plan for, traveling with wizard of sorts - the Professor Slates - and a motley crew, hoping to do some sort of good and packing light bags to leave room for adventure.

Here’s to discovering the next orange sky.