This post is part of a fifteen-day series covering my trip to Kolkata, India in May 2013. Some entries have been slightly edited for length or content, but they are mostly copied directly from my journal.

Chicago, IL
Starbucks on Jackson & Wabash

Ruthie didn’t want to say good-bye to me when I got out of the car in downtown Chicago just a few minutes ago. She knows that this drop off means I’m on my way to India. She knows the trip will be long. She didn’t want to say good-bye because she hates good-byes. The real ones, anyway, when the good-bye means the end of something she enjoys or the beginning of something she doesn’t.

Things she enjoys: playing, her grandmas, her cousins, eating in restaurants, visiting my office, running up and down the rows of empty chairs after church.

Things she doesn’t enjoy: long rides in the car, leaving anyone she loves to go somewhere else without them, being away from me.

So she didn’t want to say good-bye. For twenty-four hours she has been hugging me, holding me, begging to cuddle with me, and saying things like, “I’m gonna miss you while you’re in India! I’m gonna miss you so much! I’m gonna be happy because my presents, but I’m gonna be said ’cause you’re in India.” All that sweetness will have to make up for the fact that when I pulled over to the side of the road here in the city and traded spots with Chalupa so that he can take over driving, Ruthie said, “No! Don’t say good-bye to me!’ No kisses AT ALL!”

It was so hard to respect her kid-sized wishes, but I did. I opened the door and looked at her there in her carseat, her hands full of Fruit Loops from the Holiday Inn, and I told her I loved her.

“I love you, too!” she said, no crying. I closed the door.

Then Chalupa drove away, and I put my fingers in my eyes and tried not to cry on the street.

I don’t cry at good-byes. This is different. Two whole weeks away from my Ruthie, which means I lose out on two weeks of stories, cuddles, kisses, morning grouchiness, poop jokes, art projects, books before bed, cries of, “Mommy, play wif me!” and bedtime pleading: “Just hold me for a lot of minutes until I go to sleep, okay? Just for a lot of minutes, please?”

Last night we stayed in a hotel, and she had a hard time falling asleep in the bed beside ours. She wanted to stay up, to talk, to wave Giraffe around in the air, to stick her little but in the air, to tell jokes. I wanted her to go to sleep. But I also didn’t want to leave her side.

She fell asleep eventually and slept well until we woke her to get ready for today. I’m glad I took the time for those bedtime cuddles and snuggles because they will have to serve as my good-bye from her.

I suspect that in the missing Ruthie category, this is going to be a very long two weeks.

Also: I’m writing this in a TARDIS-themed journal, and I have a beautiful River Song diary Kindle cover right here beside me. And a Gallifreyan language bracelet cuff on my arm. Is it any surprise that on the way from the hotel to downtown, Ruthie asked for a Benji the Butterfly/Doctor Who mash-up story about the Atraxi?

Ruthie doing some pre-bedtime dancing in our hotel room

Ruthie doing some pre-bedtime dancing in our hotel room


the same Starbucks

I am anticipating certain parts of this trip. I feel like I can predict a few things, even as much of it remains unpredictable.

I anticipate:

  • missing Ruthie
  • missing Chalupa
  • reading some books
  • being a little stressed about the managing the budget/money
  • feeling more intensely about the plight of impoverished children in Kolkata than I did as a teenager
  • learning from home during the trip that my Grandpa Joe has died–I don’t feel that I will see him again, and this is painful
  • choosing to sleep instead of some fun or interesting activity that I probably had a hand in planning, because let’s face it, sometimes you just need to sleep
  • taking care of at least one sick teammate, because it’s nearly impossible for a group to visit in India and not have at least one person get sick
  • getting overwhelmed by the heat
  • not knowing how to process certain aspects of poverty
  • having a lot more time than I’ve had in ages to selfishly think about myself, my needs, y emotions, my comfort, my wealth, my Whiteness, my Americanness, my life, my mind
  • eating some phenomenal food
  • making friends with my student team and co-leader tom

There is a lot I can’t know about this trip, but I can’t help trying to plan ahead and think about what I can expect to happen.

Today I just need to figure out what I want to do while I’m in Chicago, hanging out all day until I meet up with a friend for dinner. The Art Institute opens in an hour, and perhaps I’ll find a movie theater and will go see something that’s new.

My tightly packed suitcase for a two week trip to Kolkata

My tightly packed suitcase for a two week trip to Kolkata


Holiday Inn Express
O’Hare Airport

I leave tomorrow morning. My bags are ready, my Kindle is charging, my housekeeping tip is on the desk.

Today was a lot colder than it should have been. I’m packed for India and found myself walking around Chicago in 40-ish degree weather wearing my capris, sandals, and light linen jacket. I spent time indoors, sitting at Starbucks, watching The Great Gatsby, shopping but not really buying anything, and reading Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood in the lounge/bar of the Michigan Ave. Hilton Hotel. Thoughts: it was a cold day, I would have tried on a second pair of paints at Eddie Bauer but the saleswoman never returned after s

he left to get them for me, I don’t understand how Leonardo DiCaprio is so good looking, and damn, Margaret Atwood sure knows how to write about the Apocalypse.

The highlight of the day was dining and chatting with my friend Lauren, who met me downtown at dinnertime. She’s an internet friend I’ve gotten together with three times now, and she’s such a good friend. We had a lot of ground to cover, and our conversation swung wildly from idea to idea. I told her about my team and how excited they all seem to be. And nervous, too. I have gotten any frantic texts from any of them today, so things must be okay. I’ll be heading to the airport at 10 tomorrow morning.

I figured that if I walked far enough, I'd find a movie theater. I was right!

I figured that if I walked far enough, I’d find a movie theater. I was right!