Tuesday, May 18, 2010
There's things I want. There's things I think I want. There's things I've had. There's things I wanna have.
6 Month Reflection
May 10th marked my six month anniversary of being here in India. Passing this point has been great for my mental health. I feel as though I'm on the home stretch. In my short time in this incredible country I have learned so much about myself and about life in a developing country. Getting the chance to live “inside” another culture has been frustrating, rewarding, confusing and fun! I have learned a lot about different religions, politics, family relations, music, dancing, and art. AND the food is amazing!
There is not a day that goes by that I am not truly reminded of why I'm here and why I chose to be a volunteer. Everyday I see hungry people, people with leprosy, uneducated people, unclean streets, dirty drinking water, and shoeless children roaming the city picking up trash. Persons with disabilities are treated as second class citizens. Girls and women are passed over for opportunities that are given to boys and men simply because of their gender. These issues and more are faced by the majority of people in the world. Most people do not live like we live in the west. Most live like people in India. Despite all this I feel hopeful that these things will change. That's why I'm here after all. I'm hoping that my small contribution to this one NGO will make life better for some and inspire others to continue with this movement of change.
In Canada I sometimes felt alone with my concerns about those who are struggling and suffering in the developing world. I was kept awake at night thinking about hunger, child labour, female infanticide, people dying of diseases for which we have a cure... and the list goes on. (All this on top of my usual concerns for animal rights. :P) I got tired of all this thinking, philosophizing and worrying and decided that I would be active about it. Hence my interest in volunteering.
Thinking about life at home I understand why it is so easy to ignore this suffering. We don't see it... or if we do happen to catch a glimpse of it on tv we think to ourselves 'isn't that too bad' and then carry on without responsibility and without conviction. If one person suffers then we all suffer. In this mindset I am not a woman, a Canadian, a software developer, a marathon runner or a vegan. I am a citizen of the world. I am trying to find that human connection that goes beyond our the superficial way in which we often define ourselves. It was not my choice to be born in Canada. However, through my random luck I have the privilege and opportunity to be able to improve life for a small few and in doing so I hope to inspire others to do the same.
All that being said. I am not without gain from this experience. No one is that altruistic. (Nietzsche would say that ALL of my actions and thoughts are self-serving). Getting involved with VSO has allowed me to meet some pretty spectacular people. Volunteers that are willing change their lives in the hopes that it brings about something positive for someone else. So, I no longer feel alone in the way that I think. I have met some wonderful employees at the OAB who are truly inspiring and really think outside of the box. I have made connections with people that I hope are life long and I already dread having to say goodbye when the time comes. For the first time in my life when I come home from work at the end of the day I feel good about what I am doing. I get to serve and advise people that are truly deserving and I feel really appreciated by them.
This experience has also allowed me to examine the relationships with my friends and family back home. It's very humbling to have unwavering support from those I love. I am constantly getting words of encouragement and I want to say that every letter, card, drawing, email, chat message and skype call are appreciated. Without this I would not be as successful as I have been. Thank you to all that read this.
Here's to another fabulous six months!
Song from title: Just Looking by Stereophonics
Monday, May 10, 2010
Somethin's shakin' early in the mornin'. People movin', tryin' to be free. If you listen you can hear them. Don't they sound like you and me?
Getting back to work
Heading back to the office after vacation is always difficult. Knowing that my time here is finite and going by faster than I had imagined made me feel anxious to get back to work and see my co-workers. I found that it was best to throw myself back into my normal routine right away which meant going back to the gym after two weeks off. I'm happy to report I survived parting with Shea (again!) and everything feels back to normal.
Work has picked up since I got back. I was able to set up a file share for the office on an old computer that was not in use. I also plan to use this computer as my server for the internal web application that I am writing. I hope to be done writing code within a month. Testing to follow that. I hope to start training staff on how to use the software and have them help out with the testing. So far I feel that I have been able to be very productive with my work, possibly because until this point I have not had to rely on others to get things done. I'm really hoping that the OAB will be able to dedicate time to learning how to use this software along with other computing basics. The training phase of the work will make or break my placement... if the software is never used then my placement objectives will not have been met. However, I have passed on a wealth of information outside of my goals on paper that I feel good about.
Tidbit of everyday life: laundry
Ok, some of you may or may not know that most people in India do laundry by hand... and I am one of them. So, for the last six months I have learned to soak, scrub, rinse, hang and repeat every couple of days. Never again will I complain about having to run to the basement to “throw a load in”. I now have to spend hours of my week getting my clothes, towels and sheets clean. Here's how I do it:
Supplies: bucket, soap and a scrub brush. (I happen to use 3-4 buckets and separate my colours.)
Soak clothes overnight and remove water.
Scrub clothes vigorously paying special attention to armpits, pant cuffs, etc. and rinse thoroughly.
Proceed with clothes to the roof for drying.
Scan neighbouring balcony for the creepy guy that watches me hang my clothes. For once he is not there!
To save on clothes pins be sure to overlap adjacent items.
Wait 2-3 hours for the sun to do it's magic and then collect. Voila!
Next time you do your laundry give your washing machine a little hug for me. Let it know it is appreciated.
Song from title: Somethin's Shakin' by David Wilcox