Why India? Why Shillong?

This is the second time I’ve applied for a Fulbright. Last year I applied for a 10 month journalism scholarship to go to Japan and study their contribution to the pearl industry which is huge. Pearls and gemstones are another one of my interests and I have a degree in grading and evaluating pearls. Just another of my tangential paths.

I didn’t get it and it’s probably just as well. I’ve been homing into my place here in Susanville and that extra year gave me some much needed nesting time. Besides I really wanted to go to India.

India is one of those countries that has always called me on some level. It’s old and I’ve always loved exploring the past. Great stories come out of India. From One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and Marco Polo to those sanskrit verses we know less well, come tales of serpents, murtis, a valley of diamonds protected by huge birds of prey.

And it’s a good time to apply to India on the Fulbright program. The Fulbright-Nehru scholarship has just made a major expansion and there are some great exchanges, especially in the creative arts, going on between India and the U.S. right now. 

I knew I wanted to go to northern India. A few years ago I was living in southern China. During a trip I took the north, I remember standing at the foothills of the Himalayas and looking up at them. I had travelled throughout southeast Asia–Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand. I had spent a summer in wildly beautiful outer Mongolia. But it was the Himalayas, those still mountains, that sent a shiver down my spine. I wanted to stay longer, but I only had a short time. I told myself I would come back, so now I will be standing on the opposite side of those same mountains. Again, in the foothills, gateway to that high country.

So I applied without a particular college in mind, just the general geography of the place I’d like to go, and they chose Shillong. It will be green and wet. Humid. In altitude it is roughly similar to Susanville, about 4700 feet.


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