So I left Canada on September 18, 2011… and I’ve just booked my flight back to Canada from India on September 27, 2012. Apart from 7 very short weeks visiting Canada in the summer, about a year away from home. It’s flown by in some ways, and in other ways it feels like a lifetime. Though it’s been very tough at some points, all in all I’m very happy I made the decision to take on this job and take a year of working and travelling abroad.
Some things I have realized this year…
- I barely scratched the surface of India as a country and a culture, but I feel incredibly lucky just to have had some exposure. One thing that has really stood out for me is just how frank and straightforward Indian folks tend to be – read, brutally honest. Case in point: while colleagues were visiting Delhi from offices in different parts of India, I was asked whether I`d gained 5 kilograms, how much I was paid, and whether and why I was not married. In the latter example, I was also told asked whether I was aware that boyfriends are not really allowed in India and whether I knew that I was quite old not to be married. My polite Canadian sensibilities have been quite shocked at first, but I am frankly also enjoying the flipside. Like how the Indian culture seems to be less messed up when it comes to weight issues – it seems like most women would rather be thin, but there seems to be less judgment involved with being bigger. Indian clothes – saris, kurtas, etc – are all rich and colourful and look beautiful on every body type. Even better, I`ve been told that it`s expected that when a couple gets together, the woman should gain some weight because she`s all happy and celebratory. Maybe this is why the man had this big smile on his face while telling me I looked fatter than last time I saw him. Similarly, the flipside of being told I was an old maid was that I felt completely within my rights to ask when she was married, and her own opinion of arranged marriages. I`ve also had some great conversations with work colleagues involving an honesty about religious and spiritual beliefs that you would probably never hear in Canada.
- Capacity building is hard. I kind of assumed I`d be brilliant at it, and have spent a lot of time being humbled. Not that I`m bad, but I certainly have a lot still to learn. I`m still at a stage that I`m figuring out the best way to do evaluation, so trying to guide others is challenging. One has to be pretty self-aware to figure out what advice to give, how much to push, which battles to choose. My colleagues, lord love them, are smart, often busy with other work, and very clear on some parts of research and evaluation and very new to others. They are also as stubborn as hell and notorious for interrupting while you are trying to share nuggets of wisdom that should be blowing their mind. I`m very slowly learning to listen as much as I can before giving advice, to offer as much support as I can, and then to listen some more.
- I don`t really like travelling. Ha ha, ridiculous, right? Not that I don’t like seeing the world, I actually love that. But I’m no longer interested in running around for weeks on end with a backpack on my back unsure of where I’m staying that night. A few weeks, sure. A few more weeks with places and plans pre-booked, that’s okay too. But I if I reflect back over the parts of this year that I’ve had the most every day contentment, it’s been really settling into my flat in Delhi… the last few weeks have been all about mornings with a good cup of strong assam tea and breakfast with my roommate on our lush garden patio. Spending weekends popping out and seeing this amazing megacity, then popping right back to a calm and air-conditioned home to sip some beer and watch movies. I think I’m getting old. That being said, I recently had an absolutely brilliant trip to Leh, which is in the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu Kashmir. Check out my facebook album:
- More than anything, I love the people in my life. I’ve missed so many people from home and ached for a feeling of community. In fact, I’ve come to realize that’s what it’s all about. When I feel like I’m searching, it’s usually for that. Very much looking forward to being at home for a while and enjoying my friends, my family – and my band!! I also truly cherish the new friends I’ve made this year, many from here in India and many from the UK or elsewhere and hope to stay in touch with everyone once I return home.