Yesterday, it hit me.
I'm in India — as a Texas ambassador.
We've been here three days now, and each day has challenged me physically, mentally and spiritually.
We're not sleeping more than a few hours each night, and each day is full with meetings and receptions with local Keralites.
Each day, I've watched the sun rise, and gone to bed long after sunset. But in the strangest way, my body is embracing the challenge because I understand the expectations of our team.
This trip is not about attending Rotary meetings and sharing meals with strangers.
It's about building relationships, so that we can partner long term on service projects that may change the world one day.
That's how Rotary managed to end Polio in India, by establishing relationships with Rotary groups worldwide and partnering in a vaccination service project that eliminated the disease nationwide.
Think about the gravity of that statement. India is not a small country.
So I'm realizing, perhaps truly for the first time, the importance of this trip and the relationships we establish.
During lunch at our Trivandrum hotel yesterday, which we shared with a group of honored Rotarians, including Kerala District 3211 Governor, P.G. Muraleedharan, our team was expected to shine.
We each had to introduce ourselves and describe our occupation.
There's always a bit of awkward silence when a group of strangers sits down at a meal together.
But after our introductions, I settled nicely into a conversation with one of the Rotarians across from me.
For the rest of the meal, we discussed philosophy, religion, and the lost years of Jesus in the Bible (and how he may have spent those years in India). We also discussed international commerce and his entrepreneurial successes in the Indian condiment business worldwide.
At left: P.G. Muraleedharan
My teammates alerted me later that I was the only one at the table fully engaged in an easy conversation that lasted the duration of the meal.
"Your reporter hat came on," my team member, Cely, said.
This morning, I was delighted to recieve an email from the Rotarian I was speaking with, as well as a group of students we met a few days ago, thanking me for our conversations and requesting that we stay connected.
It makes me feel like I'm doing something right.
But I know it's not really me at all. It is the spirit and warmth of the people of Kerala.
It's a curious and colorful place with friendly and hospitable residents who genuinely desire to establish lifelong friendships with their foreign brothers and sisters.
And when I speak to them, I know they have the same desire we do: They want us all to become ambassadors of each other's nations. They can tell India about their Texas friends, and we can Texas about our India brothers.
I'm already excited to bring India home with me and tell the world how loving and kind they are.
It's taken less than three days, and I have already been charmed by their land.
I only hope by the end of this trip, my team can leave behind the best of Texas and we fulfil our obligations as ambassadors of one of the best states in the USA.
Until tomorrow, Victoria.
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