Two Snickers and a Vegetable Samosa
Have you ever had a gut feeling that things were about to go wrong? As if something just wasn’t lining up? Take that instinct, add 7,719 miles and a two-plane airport at the base of the Himalayas and you have my Spring Break.
My spring 2018 off-campus program was based in Thailand, a centralized starting point for Southeast Asia travel. Elsa Coughlin ’19 was another student who would be going abroad with me and had reached out and asked if I was interested in joining her on a travel grant proposal. These grants are an opportunity for student to receive funding from St. Lawrence and other institutions in order to enrich an abroad experience and have opportunities that might not have been included in the usual program. Her proposal was for an excursion to India during our two-week spring break where we would hike, visit major cities, and experience historical sites we had learned about in one of our classes, Icons of Islamic Architecture. I said yes without hesitation, and was ecstatic about experiencing another Asian culture and improving my cultural competency and appreciation. And, with my college budget, I might not have had the opportunity to visit a new country without the grant.
After a few amazing months at Chiang Mai University, Elsa and I set off to Delhi to start our week-long trek to the Har Ki Dun Valley. After a half-day flight, we landed in Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand. The next day we were to meet our trek group and head to base camp. This is where that uneasy feeling, the one I mentioned earlier, started. As we waited for the small plane to unload, passengers grabbed their luggage and headed out. We waited. Then waited some more. And then a little longer, but there was no bag in sight. A concierge came up, sensing a steadily growing aura of panic, and led us to the service desk. Our trek duffle was still in Delhi and would stay there until a power bank, a portable phone charger, had been removed as they were not allowed in checked baggage for safety reasons. They assured us it would be removed and on the next available flight to Dehradun. We left them with contact information and headed to our hostel to rest, waiting for any update on our bag, but none came through.
The next day, after missing our trek groups’ send-off to base camp, we spent more time at the airport, checking in with the Jet Airways luggage counter many times. I had been in constant contact with my parents, both St. Lawrence alumni, and they shared my concerns and frustration, but reassured me that Elsa and I could figure it out and needed to be patient. By chance, my parents were on vacation in Zion National Park with some college friends, and one of them, Sarah Johnson ’82, overheard my parents talking with me and inquired about the dilemma. Turns out that she had done some outdoor excursions which connected her to a trekking guide named Pradit. Pradit was well-versed in navigating the airports and luggage services and reached out to the security chief at the Delhi Airport. Pradit had them clear our bag, and it was finally on the way to Dehradun, all by the grace of a kind trek guide and a fellow Laurentian.
There are a few things you could take from this story. Maybe you got that happenstance, good karma or cosmic powers are legit. Or, perhaps you recognize that it is a privilege to attend a university in the first place, but even more so one when the university has an alumni network like we do. When the motto “Laurentian for Life” is used so frequently on campus and in marketing for the University, it can become dull to the ears. While traveling abroad, I realized what that motto really means; you are not just a Laurentian in your own life, but also in other people’s lives. I believe people who choose St. Lawrence are kind by nature; they are people who cannot help their sympathetic agency and want to grow the real-world contexts that they can exercise it in. Laurentians manifest this kindness in their lives every day a million and one ways. That day, Sarah chose to exercise her Laurentian nature and assist Elsa and me in what was, for her, a small way, but for us made a life-changing trek possible. I am positive all alumni, friends and current students make choices that St. Lawrence has encouraged the values behind and it is just considered second nature. Two years down and two to go, I am planning on continuing my junior year with a new perspective on what it genuinely and truly means to be part of this family and network. I know what kind of Laurentian I want to be; do you?