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June 30, 2010:
In preparing to come to Jodhpur with FSD, I made a concerted effort not to have any expectations.
I wanted to come here with open, fresh, and unbiased eyes, ready to take on everything and anything the city had to offer. I wanted my experience to emerge naturally and organically, to see the life here as it really was. Whatever that happened to mean. I’ve since learned that being open minded is not synonymous with having no expectations, and further, having no expectations is probably the worst way to prepare for anything.
Having expectations is the way that our mind begins to build the bridge between the present and the future; further, it helps us to process what we see once we cross that bridge. When we open the fridge, we naturally expect to find food inside. If we instead find a pair of shoes, we are able to process that this is not what we expected and begin to problem solve and seek to understand.
This analogy stresses two things that have been important lessons for me since I’ve been here.
Firstly, rather than seek to have no expectations, it is both healthier and more helpful to seek to have realistic expectations. This is an easy confusion to make in preparing to go to a distant foreign place filled with unknowns that can make developing expectations difficult. But this is only if you are assuming that you are expecting what the place you are going to will be like. Rather, in a new and foreign situation it becomes important to choose realistic expectations that are abstractly transferrable to a number of places. This may include expecting to meet a lot of people, expecting to learn, expecting to embrace different ways of living, etc. The bottom line here is that having expectations is a necessary component in developing a framework to process and understand the experience.
The second point is that having expectations does not necessarily entail demanding that reality be as you expected it to be. When you open the fridge and see shoes instead of food, it is obviously ridiculous to become disappointed and fruitlessly stand around demanding why there is not food in the fridge. This is why it is important to be open-minded in addition to having expectations. When you see that there is no food, an open mind is able to understand that this is somehow different that what you expected and can progressively begin to pursue understanding of not only why you expected what you did, but also why the situation is as it is.
I say all this because I found that in coming here with no expectations, I was in reality suppressing and denying the expectations I actually had. This left me without a way to process the experiences I was having, and no lens to look at the world. I struggled with feeling disconnected and aloof. I had no idea how to characterize or describe Jodhpur because it simply….was. I had no sense of place because I simply felt…..here. I had no way of understanding the people because they simply….were. In setting myself up to not be disappointed or upset by anything, I also prevented myself from being able to appreciate or enjoy.
After about two weeks of this, I sat down one day determined that something needed to change. I consequently decided that it was important to me to expect to learn what life is like here for those that live here. And thus became my mission and my lens. I had a reason to ask questions, to observe daily activities and attempt to understand not only what people were doing, but why. I began to find joy in things that brought people here joy, and understand more the things they saw as struggles. Riding the bus, which had previously been stressful and confusing for me because I was merely using it as a mode of transportation, became a fascinating opportunity to watch how people interact and communicate. The heat was still exhausting and the work slow from time to time, but I had a purpose and a reason for being here that extended beyond any one particular daily event and helped me to look at certain negative experiences as positive learning experiences and thus has kept me afloat overall.