There's this Baz Luhrmann song from 1999 called "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)." It's sort of a musical commencement address with words of wisdom for the graduating class. Some of the advice is fairly basic, some is profound. Examples:
"Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone."
"Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements."
And of course,
"If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it."
But in 1999, the most memorable line to a barely pre-teen kid living in San Jose, California, was this one:
"Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft."
I’ve never lived in New York City. But I have lived in Northern California. I’ve lived in Northern California for about 85% of my life, which would (according to Baz) make me pretty soft. I remember 10-year-old me wondering if I’d really end up soft. And what does that even mean, “soft?"
I landed in Chennai at 11 PM, last Saturday night. After 7 days in the heat and humidity of Southern India, “soft” doesn’t really do me justice. I'm more like... a delicate flower.
And the month of September is breezy by comparison. A new Indian friend, Andrew, put it this way: “Cole, pray to God that you are not here during April and May. It is literally worse than being barbecued. It is truly grueling.”
Another friend offered some comfort: "Oh you have a lot of time to adjust. You're like a frog in hot water. It just gets hotter and hotter and you get used to it... I actually think July is worse."
So however you spin it... I'm getting cooked.
But here’s the thing: with the generosity of new friends, the embrace of the IJM family, the delicious (delicious!) food, and the exhilaration of auto-rickshaw rides—with all that—the heat of the sun became just an afterthought. The warmth of these new friends is so much brighter.
In only five days I’ve body-surfed in the Bay of Bengal, negotiated with the rickshaw drivers, joined a pickup game of Cricket, watched an instant torrential downpour come and go in 5 minutes, taken a 3+ hour bus ride to Pondicherry, and acquainted myself with the cinema of Kollywood (Bollywood in Mumbai, Kollywood in Chennai).
It's wild to think that tomorrow is only my first full week in the office. I couldn't be more excited. India is going to be so good.
(But I will wear sunscreen.)