US-India Global Review

-APEX, N.C. A lexis Renee was 20 years old when she first met Chittibabu Golla. The couple met in Andhra Pradesh, India, 8,000 miles away from her home in Apex, North Carolina. Five weeks after meet- ing him, they were engaged. Renee visited India before on short-term service trips. “The first day I spent in India started with me and a bunch of girls walking down this tiny alley- way with cows and chickens heads cut off and beggars grab- bing my arms,” Renee said. She understood none of the babble of languages shouted around her. She was not used to being surrounded by so many people, feeling smothered by the 120-degree heat. The smells of animal feces steaming in the street blending with curry powder street vendors overwhelmed her senses. “I got to my hotel and cried that night,” she said. “I don’t think I can survive the next 3 weeks here. This is too much.” Day by day, Renee began to adjust, falling in love with the hos- pitality of the people. Shortly after she returned to the U.S., she found herself longing to go back. It became a distraction in her high school classes -- her 4.1 GPA plummeted that semester to a 2.7. When the acceptance letter from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington arrived, she struggled with the idea of going to college at all. She deferred enrollment so she could go back to India – one last time. She moved to a poor, rural part of India and began volunteering. “I didn’t fall in love with India, I fell in love with the people there,” she said. In just a few months, she would fall in love for good. “For me, it is ok.” Renee had come and gone from India a few times since her first visit and was feeling more confused than ever. India is a tough place for a sin- Apex woman moves to India for love PEOPLE TO PEOPLE By Anne Marie Hagerty 37 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JANUARY-MARCH 2018