Wednesday, November 11, 2009

49% homesick, 51% loving it.

recently, a friend saw a shirt advertising a 49% / 51% split similar to the one in my subject line; we have been relating it to everything since. a totally random tidbit from my everyday, yes, but also a useful one to try and catch y'all up on my life here (has it really been six months since my last post? woooow). and i hope to keep the updates coming hereonin!

the honest truth of the matter is that i have fallen extremely out of touch. any phone calls and emails i have been sending in the last few months have been focusing on my family, which has been going through some extreme changes as of late. to give you an extremely brief review, since my move to India:
-my sister got engaged, quit her job, started her MBA and therefore restarted life as a student, moved from one coast to the other, to now balance graduate school, planning a wedding, a long distance relationship and life thereafter;
-my mother quit her job of nearly 20 years, accepted a position in a different area and city (but one that is much more suitable for her skills!), and is joining my sister in her long distance relationship;
-my father underwent / is undergoing a massive merger, where his baby of a private practice is merging to become one of the largest firms, while also joining the rest of my family in long distance relationships;
-yeah. that just about covers it.

needless to say, it has been extremely difficult to be so far away through SO many life changes. i had anticipated missing a thing or two; i had not anticipated missing some of the biggest milestones to date. my sister and i can barely find common time to chat on the phone anymore, with my hectic work schedule and her hectic school schedule. my parents actually started asking me every detail they could think of every time we had the chance to talk, because we're all so busy it's hard to know when the next time might be. and that is an AWFUL feeling.

i also had my favourite bunny, MichiB, come visit for 3 weeks. it was AMAZING! we went trekking in the Himalayas, rented a minibus to Goa with close friends for my birthday, and lay around my flat in Bangalore for the 3 seconds we had in between before she was off. the best part of Michi's visit, besides getting oodles of time with her, was getting some perspective. Michi is one of the best ppl i know at giving impartial advice, and amidst mocking me for giving up a cushy job / career / life at home to struggle from paycheque to paycheque in a developing country (hahahaha), her advice was simple: if you want to be a part of people's lives at home, you have to be at home. sounds pretty obvious, right? except it hasn't been. not even a little bit. i spend so much of my time aching for the people at home, and yet i am finding it exceedingly difficult to maintain the ties i've been building for years now. at some point i crossed that threshold where most ppl barely know even the basics of my life here. i never thought that _i_ of all people would ever be capable of that.

the people and lifechanges at home are not the only contributing factor to the homesickness. India is one of those places that likes to kick us in the ass multiple times a day, just to make sure we're still paying attention. one of my colleagues heard me in an exasperated yelling session on my phone the other day -- it may have been for a gas connection for our flat, it may have been for internet, it may have even been to ask where the couch we ordered 3 months ago might be -- and asked if i needed some help. i needed SO much help that i just started laughing in response, and said that India likes to keep me on my toes. he laughed as well and said that everyone has a hard time here, but India seems to want to make sure i have "the hardest time of all". on the hardest days, i remember his words and laugh... because they just seem so TRUE! because of my accent, because of who knows what else, every.single.thing is a battle here. it can be exhausting! and sometimes i just want to crawl into bed, and wake up in Canada where we order something ... and it comes. when it says it will. and doesn't charge us extra as soon as it hears our accent or sees our white flatmate. and doesn't require us to make empty threats that make us feel like a horrible human being JUST to get the service we're paying for in the first place.

deep breath.

are you wondering why 8 months later, i'm still here instead of getting ready for the Canadian winter? let me share some of those details too. for starters, i absolutely love my flat. that bears repeating: I.LOVE.MY.FLAT. it is gorgeous and spacious and the coziest nook that can be! so cozy, in fact, that it has been a little bit of a hostel when it comes to visitors and sleepovers... which as most of you know, i adore :) it also houses two of the most fun, loving and affectionate flatmates a girl could ask for! the three of us have been having a BLAST in that flat doing absolutely nothing. you might think i'm exaggerating, but i'm really not.... our best times so far have been lying about (mostly on mattresses, since we basically have no furniture) giggling and being silly, or chatting about life. you know you love your living situation when you're making NO attempts to buy more furniture! coming home to such a warm, loving, accepting place is hands down the reason why i love my life in Bangalore now. i know, hard to believe... especially after all my bitching and comparisons to Delhi. let's keep it real; Bangalore will never be Delhi. but it is still special. and it has definitely won me over.

i have also been lucky enough to be working for a truly honourable organization. there have been many, many challenges, and i am still learning how to move projects forward in the Indian context. but the organization itself does amazing work. the things i have seen, the places i have visited, the individuals i have had a chance to interact with -- i'm not sure i can provide an accurate summary. i have never felt more obsessed with sex work or providing health care and other basic goods for the marginalized. on some days it feels too daunting to make a difference, and on others it seems that perhaps positively affecting the lives of even 10 individuals might make it worth it. cheesy i know, but i'm writing this from the field, and after a particularly rough day i need the reminder.

family ranks pretty highly on my list of reasons why i love it here as well. i have had a couple of opportunities to consider relocating within India, and i can say with absolution that i cannot imagine being away from my grandparents at this point. they have fully become a part of my life here; i sometimes even get updates about MY parents from them! like i said, we all seem to be busy bees flying about :)

maybe the reason i'm happiest here is because of the perspective. many of you will have heard me rant and rave about the concept of travelling to "find yourself". it's bullshit, actually. travelling is wonderful for escapism, trying new things, meeting new ppl... but whatever is haunting us is coming right with us, whether we acknowledge that or not. that said, living in India has been offering me perspective i struggle to find at home. i don't know how to explain that, really. as much as the lifestyle here can be a challenge, it also is more honest and less subtle than it may be at home. i was on my way to work the other day, and stuck in a traffic jam. i saw a family sitting in a cobbler stall on the roadside eating their breakfast. the child among them scarfed down his breakfast, and when his mother saw the bowl empty, she emptied her own bowl into his without a second glance. this probably happens all over the world, right?! except in india, it smacks us in the face numerous times a day to make sure we know it. there is something about that honesty that makes it a lot easier for me to prioritize.

on most days, anyway. when i first moved here, within a few months i was spiralling. i had no idea why i was here or what i wanted to accomplish before i left, or even if i wanted to leave. and some days, i still question those things mercilessly. for the most part, however, i have levelled out and found my plateau. i have started to figure out which of my goals are actually just wishes. i have started to understand what i feel committed to, and what i am willing to let go just to make sure i can return home one day. i have started to shed wee bits of my cancer baggage, and instead feel extremely thankful for being healthy and loved, and having healthy, loving people surrounding me both here and afar. it requires staying in the moment to feel thankful for such obvious things, and india is exceptionally good at keeping us in the moment. at home, we end up scheduling even social coffee dates to gab with friends at least a few days in advance. india keeps us in the moment.

and in this moment, i am 51% loving it :)