Back home, my final blog!
on Jane in India (India), 14/Mar/2012 21:53, 34 days ago
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I'm home!I've been back in Ireland for almost a month now.I wanted to write one final blog post, as I have come full circle and felt the need to look back and reflect on the experience..I left India at the start of January, after ringing in the New Year frolicking in the sea and laughing with friends on Goa beach, underneath a firework-lit sky. From Goa I headed to Mumbai for my flight out of India. It was a very strange feeling to be leaving. I hadn't left the country since arriving as a fresh faced newbie in November 2010, full of anticipation about the year ahead. At Mumbai airport I was feelingnostalgic and a little apprehensive, because I'd become soaccustomed to the craziness of India I wasn't sure how I'd cope somewhere else.But it was time to go, and I was excited about the prospect of seeing new countries and cultures. I spent seven lovely weeks exploring a little of South East Asia. I visited my filipina friends (fellow VSO volunteers and my housemates in Bhubaneswar) in their beautiful paradise islands in the Philippines. From there I hopped over to Indonesia where I learned to dive, did yoga and ate great food. I topped off the trip with shopping and more amazing diving in Thailand. It was so great to have a few months of travel and holiday - a nice break after a hectic year of work and life in India, to prepare myself for "the real world".I was away from home for about a year and 4 months in total but the whole experience feels longer in a way, as there was a whole year between my first application for VSO and the date I flew to Delhi; the months of training, preparation, fundraising and talking about it! And now it's kind of all over!There are a few questions people keep asking me since I've come back, and that I have been asking myself, so I'll sum up my reflections in a kind of interview with myself, is that sad? Well here it is:How does it feel to be back?It's a bit like waking from a really vivid surreal dream. You know the feeling when you are awoken suddenly from a dream, feel disoriented, look around the room and slowly realise, ok this is my bed, my room, I'm home. My time in India is beginning to feel like that - a very long, surreal dream. I had the same feeling while in India - that home was so far away, a different world. When my brother came to visit me in my tenth month I felt relief to see someone in the flesh, just in case I was imagining all those people at home. The two worlds are so different that it's difficult for your mind to comprehend both together. It makes me sad that India is starting to feel so far away, but at least there is email and facebook to keep in touch with Indian colleagues and friends and remind myself that it all really did happen.Are you glad to be back?Yes! I was lucky enough to travel for a few months after my placement, which was amazing and a great transition between working and going home. I felt ready to go home and it's been so nice to see my family and friends after so long and I'mstill lapping up the comforts of home - my mum's home baked bread and soups, washing machines and dishwashers, hot showers, nice glasses of red wine, the novelty of wearing cosy jumpers and boots..As much as I loved India and all the amazing experiences, it's not an easy place to live and being away has made me appreciate things here so much more.As time goes on I know I will get more and more nostalgic about India, remembering the good times, the food, the people, the excitement of living in a different culture. What my mind may choose to forget (and which this blog and my journal can remind me of) are the realities of living in a developing country - the painful summer heat& humidity, power cuts, hand washing everything (the bane of my life - trying to wash bed sheets and towels by hand),constant staring, endless visa sagas andbureaucracy, "eve-teasing", I could go on...So, yes, I am glad to be back and enjoying the luxuries of home, for now, let's see how long it 2 months I might be crying for rice& dal and reminiscing about that familiar visa office..What was India like?Noisy, hot, dirty, intense, shocking, surprising, inspiring, beautiful....It's a country filled with incredible things to see and somewhere I would recommend people to visit - a country like no other. Mountains, beaches, backwaters, beautiful culture and traditions, yoga and spirituality.But it's also a country filled with problems. Living in Odisha, one of the poorest states in India, I saw the poverty millions of people have to live in;the immense challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis;the shocking injustices that Indian girls and women face; and the suffering of animals on the streets, which would break my hearton a daily basis.It can feel overwhelming, where to start? But thankfully there are people out there working to make things better, and I had the chance to meet many of those inspiring people through my year in India.What were you doing there, anyway?I was working as Communications Coordinator with a charity called Aaina who are involved in disability, women's rights and children's rights. Working in their head office, I advised Aaina on how to improve their communications activities. During the year I helped them launch a new website, set up web tracking, improve their visibility onlineand on social networks.I also helped to set up e-newsletters to send to donors and various other stakeholders. And other bits and pieces - writingfunding proposals and reports,generally trying to help with whatever was going on in the office - attending workshops, preparation for the We Care Film Fest etc. When it came to the end of my placement I wished I'd done more - the year really does fly. I felt I should have done more training with the staff from the beginning, but this wasn't always possible as people were overworked and didn't always have time for training and extra workload. So I ploughed on to get the website etc live and now it is up to my lovely fellow Aaina colleagues to carry on the work (I hope you guys are reading this!)What were the best bits?-Having a laugh with my colleagues in Aaina:a great young team, who work really hard and always smile and ask me how I am...and what I've had for breakfast. Who taught me what India is all about.-My daily chats with Tublu:the resident chai-maker in the office. He is deaf and mute and the friendliest, most cheerful person. Through his own sign language he was always telling me the latest gossip from the street. I didn't understand a lot of what he said, but I slowly learned. He always entertained me and inspired me with his constant effort to communicate, even if he couldn't speak, and even if people wouldn't always listen. I learned a little about determination from Tublu.-The Food:masala dosas, chai, samosas, chili gobi, channa masala, pakoras, and the mangoes, oh dear God the mangoes...- The Ex Pats.It made a big difference to have a community of other volunteers and foreigners to have a party with, go on trips with and have a moan about India with. Especially my lovely housemates during the year - Jenn, Terri, Juliet and Kate.-Yoga& Meditation.I'm grateful to India for introducing me to the world of yoga& meditation, which I hope to keeppracticingand exploring forever more..!-Visiting Beautiful Places- especially Hampi, the Himalayas, The Golden Temple and the villages of rural Orissa.What are you going to do now??The big question. I plan to move back to London, itching to get back to the city. I want to continue working in digital marketing, ideally within a charity or organisation working for a cause I believe in. In the meantime I'm at home in Ireland, applying for jobs and making the most of my free time, including doing a 10-day Vipassana (silent meditation) course in the west of Ireland over Easter (to paraphrase Juliet "you can take the girl out of India, but...")Are you glad you did it?YES! Very much so. It was an incredible experience, a year of my life that has given me a new outlook on life and the world I'm living in. I just hope that my work in India had a fraction of the impact that it had on me.Om shanti.“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.Learn as if you were to live forever.”―Mahatma Gandhi