December 8, 2009

Final preparations

What a way to hail in the new year. On Jan. 1, the District 6900 Group Study Exchange (GSE) team will depart for Gujarat, India.

Since August, our five-member group has met to prepare for a 30-day adventure in the northwestern state that borders Pakistan. Each month we have learned of Rotary's expectations and our respective responsibilities.

At the meetings we were graciously joined by guest speakers — former District Governor Robert Hall, past GSE team member Jennifer Myers, and Gujarat natives Keyuri Joshi and her father Bipin Bhatt — who shared their knowledge of Rotary’s charitable endeavors or spoke upon the Indian culture. We were welcomed into the home of Holly Sims and feasted on beyond-delicious cuisine (like watermelon gazpacho) from chefs Kate Barney and David Bies, formerly of Restaurant Eugene.We thank all for their generosity and kindness.

We also extend whole-hearted appreciation to the Rotary clubs of Buckhead and Sandy Springs from where our members hail; District Governor Roy Strickland and all the region’s clubs for sponsoring our trip; GSE District Chair George Siggins for his insightful leadership; and the club members of District 3060 in Gujarat who have shown us great hospitality, albeit mostly through electronic mail.

I can say it's already been an extraordinary experience, as well as a challenge (only the best adventures are both). Along with securing Indian visas and enduring sore arms from multiple vaccines, each team member has been individually studying and preparing for what fast approaches them.

With less than a month before departure, the GSE team now must tie up loose ends and take a deep breath, as soon they fly far from the familiar to land in the unknown.