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Saturday, February 27, 2010


This is my week and how my “plans” came about:

Monday afternoon: I had no clue of what I was doing or where I was planning on going. In the evening I realized I had to leave my apartment the next day. So I made some phone calls and reserved a room at a guesthouse in the city. I had to pack-up and leave the following morning and I felt great. It was definitely time to move, even if it was only to the other side of the city. I was such a sight for sore eyes though: I was traipsing along the roadside, in search of a rickshaw (=small 3-wheeled taxi‘s, for those who don’t know this already) and I was loaded up to the max with my luggage. I could hardly walk! I got laughed at, stared at, pitied and probably so much more of which I wasn’t aware, as I was too busy trying to stay on my legs and move ever so cautiously and slowly down the street to the nearest rickshaw. Hot and bothered, frustrated and ultimately challenged, is what I felt. But I got to my destination. And how happy I was! I felt great to be in a new place. It was so central and the area felt so much nicer. There were supermarkets to shop in, pavements to walk on, different eating-joints to choose from and fruit stalls just down the road. This was great!

Ever since Tuesday, something “big” has happened. “Big” in the sense that an opportunity has either arisen or I’ve made some sort of decision. As always, I find myself faced with having to make drastic choices. These are always choices between certain opportunities that come out of nowhere. They pop up and can turn my life upside down and, just as quickly as they arise, they also disappear. And the disappearing of the opportunities is usually down to my rash decision making.

I’ll cut straight to the case and tell you all: My priority right now, is to get a job. So Monday I heard that there was an internship I could take-up just outside of the city, in a college, for 1 or 2 months. I would be teaching college students. How cool!! I was excited. Then, Tuesday, I got a phone call from a German school in Chennai (which is a city around 12 hours from here, by train), saying they had a job for me if I wanted. The head of school, who I had only spoken to for the first time in my life, was putting so much pressure on me to take the job. I hadn’t even been interviewed yet! If I were to take the job, it would be a long-term position and I’d be teaching both English and German, or so I was told. I’d be starting “immediately” (which would probably mean within a month or so) and the perks were extremely good.

So, all day Tuesday the head of the school was on the phone to me, trying to persuade me to take the job. Wow! What’s with all the pressure dude!! Anyhow, I told him I had to meet with my trainer from the course, because he also had a job opportunity for me (teaching the college students), and once I’d spoken with him, I’d let the German school know my decision. The following day I had decided that maybe I could try do the internship with the college students for a month and then start the contract with the German school. My trainer was totally supportive of my decision and I felt that would work out perfectly!! This way, I’d gain more teaching experience before starting a steady long-term position, I’d brush-up on my German during my spare-time and my working visa would be processed in the meantime! How amazing things were falling into place. Or so it seemed, on Wednesday afternoon.

HOWEVER, Thursday I had an interview on Skype with the head of teaching from the German school and over the past 2 days it suddenly became clear that wires had gotten crossed. The conditions of the teaching position were different than what I had been told over the phone. I was expected to eventually start teaching Maths, geography, history.. Along side English and German.. Huuummmm. Suddenly Niamh wasn’t too sure if that’s what she wanted. To make matters worse, the interview was in German. Huummm.. Niamh hadn’t spoken German in 3 years so was very rusty.. Huuummmm. Could Niamh pull it off? She suddenly found herself trying to express all that she knew and felt and had discovered, in a language that wasn’t as familiar as it once was. This was so difficult and the relief that was felt once the interview was over, was enormous!

The interview felt to be disastrous. I only understood 70% of what she was saying. I was going to propose switching to English, but I didn’t want to admit my “incompetence”. I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted. I felt my confidence was being snatched. I was shrinking behind the computer screen, the webcam and the headset. And even though I felt all of this so strongly, they still wanted me to come to Chennai and meet them in person. I couldn’t believe it!! It’s okay for them to want that, BUT, did I want to? It’s all very well for them to expect me to come down and go with whatever they want, but what about what I want? I wasn’t sure if this position was for me. There were so many doubts at that point: the communication, the German, my ability to teach more than just languages, the lack of experience, the LONG-TERM contract, the stability I wasn’t sure was for me. And just the overall feeling I had when I was taking the interview.

This was Thursday evening. I had to sleep on it, before deciding anything rash. But on Friday I couldn’t stop myself from thinking quickly – that’s just what I do and could very well be my downfall. But heyho!! On Friday I thought to forget about the whole thing and just go for the short-term teaching positions - which can be anything for 2 or 3 months to 6 months. At this point in my travels, I’ve “created” a phobia towards committing to anything that could potentially stop me in my tracks. With short-term contracts there is of course less commitment, more freedom and the jobs which are solely focused on teaching English and not 5 other different subjects (which makes the stress way less too!!). I spent Friday alone. I was weighing-up my options. At the same time, I was eagerly waiting to hear from my trainer to discuss when the internship with the college students could be starting. That opportunity was feeling far better than the German school. I heard nothing, all day. From nobody. Suddenly, after days of negotiating and ringing people; all had gone quiet. Thankfully the German school was leaving me alone for now. But what about my trainer? Luckily last night, I got the phone call. It was 9pm. My trainer was saying: “Niamh, the starting date for the internship would be within 14 days. In the meantime you could go to Chennai and have the interview, see how you feel and if you decide to take up the German school and their offer, then you can drop this internship. If you decide not to go for the German school, the position is yours.”

My first reaction: I don’t want to go for the interview. But, hold your horses Niamh, there will be less “rash decision-making!” So I asked myself: do I want to go for this interview? Is my heart in it? Would it not be a waste of time, when I secretly had already decided not to go for it? Would I not just be leading them on by coming to their school? Huummm.. What do to, what to do!! That’s now the question. I haven’t gotten any further than this for now. I have to live a little more, for the story to unfold. It’s now Saturday morning, I’m still in the same guesthouse in Cochin and I’ve been awake since 4am. I was unable to sleep properly, because of 1 big fat noisy mosquito accompanied by my “distress” while figuring out what to do and where to go from here.

Time will tell and you will be the first to know.. or 2nd!!

All Aboard!!

A week since the course has ended. Where am I? Right now, I’m still in Cochin where I took the course. I had no initial plans, a week ago. I knew I had a few days left in the apartment I was staying at. So I chilled-out for a few days.

Me and Doris did some trips, got away from the polluted city and explored some of the sights. It was so cool. I had my first train ride in India. It was an experience that I so glad I had, with someone who knew what to expect-Doris has been in India since December and has used public transport a lot, so she knew the “drill”. I had some lessons I needed to learn, when it came to public transport in India and also I had some sights I’ve have to get used to seeing. What I realized first of all was to never expect the timings, which are listed on the Internet, to be corresponding with the timings in reality. Always expect to be late and give yourself as much time as possible. Secondly, I realized how extremely cheap it was. Wouw! Cheaper than food, accommodation, water and even a cup of specially brewed Marsala chai!!! I paid for a 2-hour train journey, only 10 rupees, which is around 0,14 cents! And soon I would realize why: The amount of people they are able to squeeze onto these trains and the length of the trains, as well as the platforms, makes them able to keep the trains running at such a fare cheaper than a bottle of water!

The sights I’d seen in the movies and on television, I was suddenly seeing for real. There were old men, so tiny, frail and vulnerable, curled up in little balls, trying to sleep but lying in the passage ways and being stepped on by other passengers who were more keen to get on the train instead of not hurting those poor old men. Then there were the passengers who were NOT willing to pay the 10 rupees, so would be standing along the train tracks in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the train to pass-by, which would be going at a snails-pace more often than not and with the doors to the carriages ALWAYS open, they were able to run and jump on board, and hitch a free ride to wherever the train was going! This is something you would only see in action movies or in those movies which are set back in the early 1900‘s, or something you would only witness in India.. Then the stench of stale urine would be seeping from the toilet (or the hole in the floor of the carriage, which could be found behind a screen, which was serving the purpose of a wall) and making its way through the carriage. The windows didn’t have any glass; steel barriers were enough to ensure the lower hanging palm-trees that would sweep by the outside of the train, wouldn‘t cause the passengers any harm or poke them in the eye or whack them in the head. The tea-man was the entertainment onboard! He was walking up and down, shouting: kape, kape, kape, kape! chai, chai, chai chai! over and over again, in the same voice with the same tone, as if he’s recorded himself and was replaying the tape whilst walking through the carriages and hoping to earn a few rupees. My first train ride! Wouw.. I was adjusting and turning a blind eye to all of this. Or, I LOOKED to be turning a blind eye. Nobody could tell I had never experienced anything like this before, nobody knew what I was thinking and nobody sensed that I was shocked by everything. I just smiled, laughed, chatted, had fun and let the amazement settle until this the moment I’d get to share it with others, which is now..

We made our way to jungle, we visited the “backwaters of Kerala” and some small, cute and very colorful villages. We went to waterfalls, we swam in the river where the locals bathe and wash their clothes (and we weren’t “allowed” to wear a bathing-suite (inappropriate) but we were fully dressed instead, which felt so suppressed I might add). Swimming in such a river, I know might have been unwise, but it was flowing water, with a strong current and very clean to the eye so I had to experience it!

After spending some amazing days together, since completing the course, Doris and I both tried to start planning our “escape” from Cochin. Doris’ escape happened way faster than mine. She managed to leave Cochin and has gone to an Ayurveda village to undergo a detox-programme. So, at this moment in time, her body is being cleansed from all the toxins she’s been eagerly building-up in her body, caused by overindulging in the amazing Indian cuisine. We said goodbye on Wednesday evening. It was sad but inevitable. I was just so glad I got to spend my first chapter here in India with a girl so amazing!! As for me and escaping Cochin: at that point in time, I still didn’t know how long I’d be staying here for, but I was patiently waiting and planning. So stay tuned! There’s more coming right up!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The "painful procedure" of posting parcels..

This is just some fun..

2 days ago. Wednesday afternoon, I had decided to do something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. The simplest thing, I thought it would be, which was to post some of my journals home. I had been carrying these with me for months and they were really started to weigh me down, so I figured it best to post them home. My luggage would be 2,5 kg’s lighter and that was such a welcome prospect at this stage, because I realized the other day that I can’t hardly carry my luggage anymore.. Or I can carry it, but walking is a little tricky, if the distance is further than 500 meters.

So Wednesday afternoon I had the time and I went out on a mission. And it was the biggest mission I’ve been faced with, since getting to this country. First of all, I couldn’t find the post office. I asked everyone, or almost everyone (seeing the amount of people living in this city, it would be a bit too big of a task to ask 1,2 million Indians!!). When I finally found someone who knew, I was on my way. I found the tiniest little shack in an alleyway. All the workers were ignoring me, supposedly they were all “too busy” to help the foreigner who doesn’t speak the language. Finally somebody acknowledged me, but she told me that I had to get a taxi to the main post office, and there they would help me further. Right. I got a rickshaw (which are the tiny little 3-wheeled vans, that scoot all over the city), and took a 15 minute ride to the post office. When it came to paying the driver, I was short of 5 rupees change. Now, 5 rupees is something like 0,07 cents..(to them it’s a lot, to us, not too much, so I can’t really blame the poor guy). I to go in search of a shop, where I could break my note of 500 rupees. I found a medical store and the driver actually walked with me, stood next to be, as if I was going to do a “runner” and try to avoid paying him 0.07 cents. I mean, come on! Anyhow, the “chemist-man” wouldn’t change my note.. So I had to buy some toiletries, just to get 5 rupees change for the driver. Well, I did. Most people would have done a runner.. They would never come running after you, because then they have to leave their rickshaw. But I was honest and didn’t want to cheat him.

This was only just the beginning of a few challenges I was to face. I went into the post office. Again, nobody wanted to help the foreigner who doesn’t speak the local language. How annoying!! I persevered though and finally a girl took notice of me and tried to explain the “procedure”. The procedure??? Excuse me? All I want is a box to put my books in and post it home! Is it really that big of a deal? Apparently it was and I was soon to find out just how big of a mission this was going to be. She sent me to flower-shop, around the corner. Why? I still don’t know. I think she said that they would have a box for me. Because this place didn’t. Of all places, in a big city like this, wouldn’t you think that at least the post office would have cardboard boxes? No.. they didn’t. So, off I went. In search of the flower-shop. I got there, no boxes. The girl thought I was probably the weirdest thing ever; expecting a flower-shop to give me a cardboard box??!! Then I remembered the post office-girl to have said something about the tailor-shop. So I thought maybe they would have boxes..? I know a tailor makes dresses.. but you just never know! I got there, and by this stage I was getting hot and bothered, frustrated and annoyed with the world - it didn’t help that it was the hottest part of the day and walking through these streets without having any shade or any water, was exhausting. The poor tailor man. He didn’t know what I was trying to find. He looked at me as if to have 10 heads (just like the flower-shop girl).. He sent me to a photocopy-place. Again, I received a look that suggested I had come from outer space. I was really getting so annoyed! Nobody was understanding me!!! Okay, Niamh, remember to breath. It’s okay, these are all nice people and they simply don’t understand you.. It’s not the end of the world.

I had come to realize by this stage that I could just go in anywhere and ask for a small cardboard box. So I did. I went into an office, with men in formal suits and with airconditioning that gave me some amazing relief for all of 3 minutes. I was such a sight by this stage. Covered in sweat, frustrated to the max, in walks a girl with the most random question: do you have a cardboard box??!! The guy was so nice, he was back within 2 minutes and hallelujah.. He had a box! BUT, it was too small.. I thanked him so much, took the box as if it was golden, and left. I knew I wouldn’t use it, but I wasn’t going to tell the kind man who had helped me. So I went into a sport-shop where the guy behind the counter saved my day! He had a box! The perfect size! He even taped it up for me! Okay, I was now onto a winner. This would all work out! I was feeling better already just knowing that there were people willing and able to help me! But I spoke way too soon.

I got back to the post office, again nobody wanted to help. Then I started to express my impatience and I made my presence felt, and suddenly things started to happen! One of the guys behind the counter, told me that I wouldn’t be able to send it like that.. Apparently I had to bring it to the tailor-shop where they would wrap it in white material and sow it all nice and neatly! But even if I was to do that, I still wouldn’t be able to post it today. First he said that the counter was closed for international parcels and I would have to come back the following morning. I said I was leaving Cochin and that I wasn’t able to come back. Then he claimed the computer wasn’t working so they wouldn’t be able to process it. But I wasn’t having any of it! He sensed it, much to my advantage! And after a group of them behind the counter had been standing around for quite a while, speaking about me in their local language and discussing probably how freckly my skin was and how inappropriate my clothes were, I was told to go to the tailor-shop and by the time I’d be back, the computer should be working again and they would hopefully be able to register my parcel and send it off.

Okay Niamh, keep breathing, really it’s okay. Just go with the flow. And I did. I made my way back to the tailor-shop and passed by the same men who were standing around watching the world go by, for the 3rd or 4th time that afternoon. They must have been seeing my every step unfold, as I so desperately tried to fulfil this mission of posting my journals home. I really had to laugh at myself by this stage. There was nothing else I could do. Laugh it off Niamh. What an adventure this was. So I got to the tailor-shop and he was happy to help. I apologized for being so rude earlier on, not that he understood a word of what I was saying. But it didn’t matter, it made me feel better. So hung around outside the shop, for half an hour, while the tailor wrapped this precious cardboard box in material and sewed it with so much love. No haste at all. He even sipped his chai tea and enjoyed every minute of what he was creating. I had to see the funny side. Patience is a virtue Niamh. This is what I was repeating over and over again.

When I got my parcel, beautifully wrapped in white material, I had to get the address from the guesthouse I’m currently staying at. Well, another mission. It wasn’t impossible though. I was outside on the street and couldn’t find a quiet place where I could ring the owner, so through the noise and the traffic we could hardly speak to each other. It took forever: both of us roaring down the phone at each other. It even came to the point where he was SPELLING out each number of the 6-digit postcode! Why is nothing ever easy??!! But I sorted it. So, back to the post office. Third time lucky? I hoped so..

At the counter, the same guy was helping me. And, unbelievably, the computer was working!! He was able to send my package off that same day! I didn’t need to come from the other side of this hectic city the following day and be overcharged again by the driver! I felt so relieved and so did he! Probably because of not wanting to deal with anymore fuss and commotion this young girl would cause if she were made to come back the following day, due to some lazy excuse on their behalf. I got it posted! I was relieved from 2,5 kg’s worth of journals. And do you know how long it took, from the moment I decided to search for the post office, to actually handing over that parcel in the white material with addresses and registration? 3 whole hours!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it. But was so chuffed though that I actually accomplished this mission that I had told myself could be impossible. I was exhausted afterwards. What an adventure. Nothing is ever easy here. Every step was painful almost. At home, this same mission would have taken probably no more than 15 minutes!!?? My patience were tested to the max. At the beginning of the afternoon I didn’t even consider how I could benefit from even “having patience” when posting a parcel. But little did I know!

I really wanted to share this crazy afternoon with you, just because it shows how easy life can be in countries that are well-developed and therefore work so efficiently without any effort. It also shows how much we should appreciate, be it here in India or back at home, whenever the simplest daily errands are actually “doable” in this world, wherever we may be! What an experience!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Friday afternoon, I suddenly felt like I was being let-loose in this big country of India or let-loose in the big wide world even, as I received my certificate so proudly. We had a great afternoon with our group, we had a special lunch, we had a small ceremony, had a photo session and then there were the “goodbyes”. I felt like it was our graduation. And I was feeling a lot of different things.. I had this certificate that I’d seen so many times over the past 2or 3 years on the Internet. The certificate that I wanted so passionately to have. The “passport” to be able to work anywhere in the world, the “ticket” that would give me an ocean of opportunities. So many people I used to envy in the past. Now I was one of those people. I had it in my hands.. This was it!

To sum up this week: It’s been amazing and never had I expected it to feel so good. I never thought I’d pull it off. I wasn’t even sure if I’d get through my classes. I suppose my feelings towards the teaching still could go either way, as it‘s only very early days and giving lessons that are apart of completing a course are of course different than actually having a full-time job as a teacher. But the trainers from the course are certain this is the start of something big for me. I personally don’t know. All I know for now, is that being in the school environment has awoken something within me and I want more of it. I don’t know if I’ll be so lucky as to get myself a job here in India, because the opportunities at the moment aren’t too many. The majority of the schools in India starting their Summer holidays now and don’t need English teachers until June. So it might mean that I won’t get a job until then. I’ve been in contact with a few schools already and if I’m very lucky then things might start moving in the direction of a job, but I don’t want to hope too much for that to happen. I’m expecting nothing, then everything will be a bonus. I had the same attitude towards this week of teaching: I expected nothing and so everything is a bonus. And this could be the reason for it to be feeling so good and for this feeling of goodness to also take me by such surprise and fill me with so much love and excitement, after each hour of teaching.

So, after I received the certificate on Friday afternoon, I suddenly felt like I needed to get the trainers from the course to take me seriously, when it came to assisting me with finding a job. I wanted them to know how eager I was to work, even if it were to be in Thailand (the company through which I did this course also can get us work in a number of other different countries). So the trainers DO provide assistance when it comes to job placements, but because of the 3month break, I felt like I was being brushed-off. I felt blessed to have this certificate, but at the same time, I felt almost “cheated” because they had led me to believe that they would assist me in getting a job as soon as possible. However it wasn‘t working out like that for me. So, for probably one of the first times in my life, I went and spoke with one of the trainers and told him exactly how I felt. It was almost like a “cry of desperation”. I said that I’m willing to go anywhere if I know there’s a job waiting for me. Even if I do have to temporarily leave this amazing country. Because not having any work for 3 full months, will get me into financial difficultly. And that is something that I’m am never going to let happen. I managed to get through to them. They listened, they started making phone-calls to colleges and to the head-office in Calcutta. They said that I would definitely get a job, they would get me the contacts and I needn’t worry. So I then, once again, started to feel okay with all this uncertainty. I’m putting it all to one side for now and am certain that everything will fall into place as it should do.

So I’m trying to take each day as it comes. This past week has been something I never thought I’d get to experience. I’ve dreamt of it for so long. I’ve wanted it for so long. And it has actually happened, or more to the point, it is actually STILL happening. Wherever I’ll want to work, I can. The feelings I’ve had this week, reassure me that I didn’t only do this course to travel the world. A person can love to travel and use a particular profession as an aid to do so, but if the job isn’t done with any kind of passion, then, when it comes to teaching, the kids will suffer, all because the job is being “used” just to get to see the world. This was my doubt, from the beginning. I thought that maybe I was doing this course with the wrong intentions. But I needn’t have doubted, because I now know my incentives are far deeper than just “seeing this wonderful world”. My incentives, or intentions, or whatever word you can give it, are to be able to have some kind of input or influence on these children’s lives, even if it is for a short time. It’s also to see their faces light up, when they see me and to get all of those deep brown eyes to twinkle and sparkle and glow, all at once. Yes, the travelling is a bonus, but teaching English in countries like this, is so much more. I see that now and I’ve felt it first-hand. I’m just wanting so badly for me to get the opportunity to continue it and to see where it will lead me and what I can offer as well as what they can offer me.

The course is over and I’m now winding down, my mind is settling a little more. This was my introduction to India. I’ve made some amazing friends- Doris for one - I’ve got contacts, I’ve been invited to their cities, to their homes and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It sometimes even feels too much. I’m going to miss going to class and going to the schools so much. I’m going to miss my “colleagues” and my trainers. The next few days I’ll be adjusting to being alone again. It will be me and “my-way” once again. For the first time, since being here. How strange this all is.. 12 days ago, I wished so much for this to happen, and now it suddenly is and I don’t want it? Of course I do!!! More than ever.. This is only just the beginning, it’s the start of something new and I’m so excited!


As I prepared for my first class, my second wish was coming true! The teacher training course was about to be taken to another level. Up to Monday we’d had our 2 weeks of theory, study and preparation for the real thing. Last Monday we were “let loose”, or maybe “forced” to undergo the change. We were no longer the students in the benches, instead we were the teachers with a class full of eager students wanting to learn English.

The past week of the course, we’ve had to give one lesson everyday in a different primary school. The first time for me to ever stand in front of a classroom of children and be looked up to, as being the teacher, was on Monday morning. It was an overwhelming experience to say the very least. I was wearing my new traditional “chudar” dress (I think I spelt that wrong..oops!), that I had to get made by the tailor down the road. I walked into the school, with all of the others from the course. We all had our own appointed class for a certain amount of time, all in the same school, so we were able to “support” each other, which was a big bonus. Walking into that school, felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe what was happening. From the outside it looked very much like a detention-centre, or a jail even. We walked through these massive gates and the kids were all in front of the windows, shouting down at us, waving, and totally shocked at the sight of a few Westerners. I was so overwhelmed. The first time to be in an Indian school, the first time to be teaching.. All at once. Was I able for this? Could I take to being treated like a celebrity, when really all I wanted was to be there to teach them and all I wanted was for the kids to be happy to see me, because it’s me, and not because I have a different skin colour? For a few minutes I really did ask myself if this wasn’t too much. But then, once I sat in the teacher’s room, with everyone, having tea, I took it all in. I knew my moment would be coming soon and that the lesson would be starting. Someone asked me: “Niamh, are you nervous?” and I honestly answered, “no”. I expected to be, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was so excited. I wanted to be the teacher, so suddenly. I wanted to be in this environment. I wanted to meet the kids I’d be teaching. I was so eager!

So my first lesson, was definitely a challenge. The kids were around 4 and 5 years old. They were beautiful, amazing, sweet, hyper, active, eager and so much more. It was such a great experience. Everything I did and said, had an effect - the right one, that is. I somehow knew how to handle them, I knew what to do and it all came naturally. But when I walked out of the class, I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I was shaking, I had a headache, I felt so emotional and I suddenly could relate to how every teacher I’ve ever had since the age of . I could relate to how they must have felt when they’d had a difficult class to teach. I felt an instant sense of respect for them all, because it’s definitely NOT easy and the job they do, when it‘s a GOOD one, is something to never take for granted. What a challenge it was, but I loved every minute!

Tuesday was a totally different experience. The kids were around 11 to 13 years old. The school was of a different kind. I couldn’t quite believe how primitive it was. The classrooms weren’t proper classrooms. It was one big hall, with wooden dividers serving as “walls”, making “room” for 7 “classrooms”. The set-up was like something from 30 or 40 years ago (I’m guessing, as I wasn’t alive then.. but I can only try to imagine). The noise of 7 teachers, and 40 students x 7 classes = nearly 300 people all at once, was unreal. I had an amazing class though. The kids were beautiful, excited, happy.. All 50 of them!! I didn’t even realize until afterwards that the class was so big. And it went so well.. Again, I didn’t want it to end. But it did, far too soon. I then walked out of there and felt like I would so easily fall in love with these kids. I didn’t want to leave that school. I wanted to stay. I felt like I could do so much more for them, than just give them 1 hour of my attention.

Wednesday, was totally different again. This school was far more “resourceful” as the locals would call it. But I call it: far more “wealthy”. There were individual classrooms (with walls) and the kids were wearing brightly coloured uniforms and I only had 30 students this time. It was a walk in the park! I loved it again, but I could feel that they were more spoilt maybe than the kids I had on Tuesday. I’m not too sure why the vibe was so different. It could have been that they were far more disciplined too, which showed by the salute they gave me when I left the classroom..

Thursday turned out to be amazing. The highlight of the week, by far! It was amazing. Me and 2 others from the course, were brought back to the same school as Tuesday, where I had the class with 50 students. And as I walked into the class I was taking, they started shouting my name. It was the same class as I had on Tuesday!!! It was so cool! They remembered me and were delighted! What a lesson it was. It was manic. The lesson I was giving them, was one where they were playing a game, so they got so noisy, disruptive and excited. I would never have imagined I’d have been able to control a class like that, but I did! I pulled it off, and it was amazing. I loved them to bits!

After class, they all came running up to me, wanting to hug me and asking for me autograph. It was again, overwhelming. What do you do in a situation like that? 50 kids bombarding you with their copies and their pens, treating you like a celebrity. All they wanted was my name on their copies and their day would have been made. Should I have walked away? Probably. So I did, when a guy who worked in the school came in, with a wooden stick in his hand and shouted something in Malayalam (the local language) at them and they all ran to their seats. I left feeling 101different things: hot and bothered, sweaty, tired, happy, inspired, sorry for not giving them the needed attention, eager to come again, fulfilled and energized and so blessed for that hour I managed to spend with them. One thing that a little boy said, which stuck in my mind, was: “teacher, are you coming back?”. He said it with so much hope in his eyes and voice that I couldn’t possibly say no, so I said I wasn’t sure…

Friday everything was winding down. The school was the same school we went to on Monday. The students were older, around the age of 15. It took a lot for all of us from the course to still bring the energy level up to where it was supposed to be. It was our last day and the week had been so busy and overwhelming, that it had taken its toll on all of us. But I managed, again, effortlessly and it was a brilliant class. Afterwards I felt amazing and it was like something fell off of me. The pressure was gone, a weight had been lifted and I was already going to miss not coming to these schools. But it was over. I sat in the van with the others from the course, we made our way back to our office, and I was about to close the first and most amazing chapter of my Indian adventure so far..

After a long silence

3 weeks of being in India. It’s Sunday the 21st of Feb. The weeks have been so busy and this morning I woke up for the first time with having absolutely nothing to do, only to sit here and report to the home-front what I’ve been up to. I can’t believe that I’ve only been here 3 weeks, but at the same time, it feels like so much longer. So much has happened that Australia feels like a lifetime ago. Yet, when I got here first, I never considered how fast 3 weeks would go and therefore I didn’t think too much about what I was going to do, once the course was to come to an end; which it has done!!

That’s the first thing to report: I finished the course! I got my certificate!
And now I’m faced with the decision once again: what to do??!! But before jumping ahead, I must continue where I left off. So I’ll back track to 2 weeks ago..

12 days ago, around the 8th. I started to feel stuck. After only a week and half of being in the same place, it already started to feel too long. I started to wonder what India was going to offer me. I wanted to know what was beyond this city of Cochin, that had been my first destination and had given me the first impressions of this amazing country. It started to feel too small and life had taken on a routine, so quickly. I was feeling trapped, even though I knew how temporary it was. So I was wishing for the next step. Be it the step of “stepping out of this city and into new territory” or be it the step of “taking the teaching-course to another level”. And, sure enough, my wish came true.. both of them, all with a few days.

I branched out of the city and into nature, for the first time on Indian soil, last weekend. I was invited by Doris, the Canadian girl from my course, and her “host family” to the mountains, or I should actually say to the “hill-station” called Munnar. The family was so nice. It was my first encounter with an Indian family and it was amazing. We stayed in a guesthouse overnight, after a 6 hour drive up through the mountains. I saw so much on that drive, things that I only have seen on tv or heard about from other travellers. There were monkeys just sitting along the sides of the roads and watching the traffic go by.. There were elephants in the fields, there village people and hill tribes living in shacks without anything to call their own but still managing to sell tea just to make a few rupees. It was amazing the different sights that past by and leaving the city for a few days, opened my eyes to what India has in store for me. The scenery was fantastic and I finally got to see the famous tea plantations with my own eyes.. The women were walking through the beautiful green fields, with massive baskets on their backs, picking the leaves. It was so cool!

So for 2 amazing days there was no more tooting of the horns, no more pollution, no more rushing and no more fog created by fumes. There was only fresh air, beautiful surroundings and Indian hospitality where generosity was abundant. So much so that it started to feel as being too much and giving thanks for their kindness could have been without end and still it wouldn’t have felt to be enough. It was a different side of India, a taste of what is to come, a preview, an insight, a flutter of excitement or eagerness to soon maybe get on the road and head to wherever the wind takes me. I got so inspired and after being swept away by the countryside, it suddenly was Sunday evening and I was back in Cochin in my room, preparing for my first English class I was going to be giving in a real Indian primary school!! How exciting!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stares will be stares..

It's exactly a week since I got here. Yesterday was the first day I felt some what low. I reckon I had a wee batch of homesickness. I felt so strange. I felt as if, everything I'm doing, is happening to someone else. It's like I'm witnessing this from the outside. It can't possibly be me? Is it really? I even looked at my blog, through different eyes, when I logged on just the other day. I got a little bit of a shock and thought to myself: Wouw, who is this? Who wrote all of this? But, of course, I knew it was me.

It was my first day off yesterday, it was Saturday. I had been going non-stop since I got here, up until Friday evening, when me and some classmates went to a few sari-shops where they do all the traditional dressmaking..(which was absolutely beautiful to see by the way..). I was so happy, really I was. We went for some great local food, I ate with my hands, I had chai tea, we got a ride in an "auto" (which are like the Thai Tuc-tuc's; the little vans on 3 wheels that whizz around the cities bringing people from a to b). I was having a ball! I sat on the sofa afterwards, so content. I said it to Anjana..I'm so lucky how great things have been, since getting here. I felt tired but satisfied and excited and happy. Yesterday morning, I was going to go to a temple near the city, a Hindu temple, again with the same group I went out with on Friday night. But I wasn't "allowed" to go, because I wasn't a Hindu. If I went, I'd have had to wait outside alone, for 3 hours, by myself. And apparently the area wasn't a safe one to hang around, especially not a white girl, on her own. So, I was fine with that. I stayed at home and explored our neighbourhood and was chilling out all day by myself. I was eager to get out in to the world..

So I started the day off with a search for a bottle of drinking water. Well, that was a mission! So many street-stalls, with no one behind them. I was asking several people where I could buy water, and everyone was sending me all over the place. Nobody knew or nobody was bothered to give me a straight answer. I ended up walking around a market, which really brought some sights to me which could have scarred the eyes for life: Crippled people were sitting along the sides of the roads, in the mud and dirt and waste. Smells of fresh "stools" were mixed with smells of rotten fish and urine. Beggars were on their hands and knees gathering the gone-off fish which had been thrown to one side by the men working on the stalls. These are sights I've seen before, but it was only in the midst of huge bustling cities.. not 5 minutes down the road from where I live. But, this is India, and this is their reality. I walked along, and finally found somewhere to fetch myself some water!! I felt so primitive, but amazing. My day was made!

Then, the rest of the day, I was feeling somewhat "stuck". It was like I was wanting to apart of their world, but couldn't. I felt disconnected from everything. From this world, from the people here, from people at home. It was like everyone is "out there", but where was I? It's hard to explain. I just wanted so badly to not be an outsider. Couldn't I just blend into their way of living, without any fuss or feelings of being different? Of course I could, eventually. But it's a step that I have to take. I realized it's not something that just comes falling out of the sky. Okay, the plane I came in on, landed me here, but that's not all that's needed. That's only just the start. And now it's up to me to get over that barrier that I could have mentally been holding onto. If I take down that barrier, then won't I not feel like the outsider? Won't I be "in" with their way of living? Won't I feel comfortable and won't I not care how people look either down or up at me, when I walk along the street? Won't their stares be meaningless and not phase me one bit? If I choose, then of course I can do all of this. I don't need to worry about how it will happen, because if I want, it will simply be natural and continue along the same path as it has done, so far.

I have all these wonderful people around me. I have these amazing opportunities. And last night, once I settled down,after feeling a little lost, I started to realize that being a girl, here alone, I must do what is needed to be done, to make myself blend in and feel as comfortable as possible. Sometimes we love to be different. But here in India, being a white girl alone, is already "different" enough. So I need to avoid drawing more attention to myself than is necessary. For instance, I walked around this sari-shop on Friday night, and felt so uncomfortable, because I was had a knee-length skirt on. I wanted to cover my legs, down to my ankles. I felt like I was being disrespectful by showing "so much" skin. (I haven't once worn a singlet by the way..the shoulders are ALWAYS covered) Just the simplest thing like that and comfort will be mine. Or, not making eye-contact with anybody, but still remaining confident, without showing arrogance. O yeah, and not using a spoon to eat, but learning to eat rice with my fingers, properly. The list goes on, but these little things will all become natural. Just like when getting on the bus, remembering to sit at the front; as women and men have to sit separate.

I felt so much better last night and this morning. I'm on my way now to a book exhibition! So excited I am. I'm going with Doris, the Canadian girl from the course. She's an amazing girl. It's so special that I'm getting to spend my first weeks here in India and having her company. We talk so alike and think so alike. After a few days we were able to hug each other and say how special our "meeting" is.

Today, I'm using all methods of transport, for the first time, by myself. I making my way around the city, going from here to there, and I don't care about the stares. I simply can't start caring. I read somewhere that the people only stare because they are fascinated as they don't see a white person everyday. So it's just the way it is. So far, I've been feeling like they would be looking down at me, instead of looking at me with fascination.. But hey ho.. I can't care no more. I am who I am. And that's all fine!

I shall sign-off for now. Tomorrow I'm hitting the books again, doing the studying that's required, and I can't wait!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Thursday evening. Since Wednesday morning, which was only yesterday but feels like forever ago, everything has been hunky-dory. And today is probably the first day I feel settled. Or not so much settled, but maybe totally sure of where I am... if that makes any sense.

I changed location 2 days ago. First I was staying at a hotel, which I thought was the "bomb". When I was told me and the trainer, Anjana, were going to be moved, I had geared myself up for it be "squaller". But I couldn't have been more wrong. Wouw.. It's a villa they call it, in Indian terms. But really it's an apartment and more than I could even have asked for. I have my own room, en-suite, tv, kitchen, sitting room.. So so great! Me and Anjana, who teaches us each day, will be staying there for the remainder of the course. She's from Calcutta, and, even though she's never been to Cochin before either, has almost taking me under my wing. It's so sweet. We're like a pair.. Each night we walk down these crazy streets amongst the tooting cars, the overloaded buses, the shabby scooters, the barreling trucks.. We walk but cannot talk..it's too loud, too dangerous almost to forget about the traffic and to stop paying attention, even if it's only for a few seconds. It's something I really have to get used to: crossing the roads! Not an easy task I can tell you!

There are so many little things that amaze me.. They are all so minor but added up they can be a lot, but not overwhelming either.. This is my day:

I wake up in the morning and have a massive big smile on my face. It's usually around 6 am and already the tooting has started and the trucks are barreling and that's all so fine.. I smell of mosquito-repellent as I've smothered myself with it the night before. The fan is blowing and it's muggy but still I sleep with long sleeves, just to protect myself from bites. And it's all so fine. The bed is so short, as the average person in India is small. I fit in so well. I then do yoga and some affirmations. As I still adjust to this crazy life, I find strength and stability within, as it will set me up for a fantastic day and lets doubts or fears so far from my mind. And my day continues to be fantastic. I get picked up by Shareef to go to the course. I feel like I'm being chauffeured. I feel privileged as suddenly I'm in the middle of the tooting, shouting, chaos. There are women knocking on the window of the car begging for money. But I ignore and sit on the backseat and observe the world that I once only knew from the movies and from television. I was now in that world and as I'm observing them, this world is also observing me, as I'm the only white person in sight. We are both slightly shocked by the sight of each other..

Class starts and me and my peers are all like children again. All adults but so eager to learn and to find out more about the world of teaching English. For hours I forget where I am. Until a truck rushes past and makes the building we're sitting in, shake..constantly! Then I remember.. wouw this is India. I sit amongst these 7 women who are dressed in these beautiful traditional clothes, with their Hindi's between their eyes. So beautiful. And the tea-lady who comes in every hour, asks me: "What happened to your skin? Why like this?" She wants to know why I am fair and have freckles. I say it's normal and smile at her innocence. I speak with people and they agree with whatever it is I ask or say and they bob from side to side to give approval. It's not nodding, but it's different. Again it makes me smile. The English they speak with their crazy accents, reminds me of characters from Eastenders (those who are familiar..remember Sanjay and Geeta??!!) and I feel all fuzzy inside each time - and that's not because it reminds me of Eastenders by the way, but because it's India!!

For hours I forget what's outside. And that's fine. It makes the process of adjusting to India, all the more easy. I sit and am amazed I made it here and am doing this. I tell myself I am in the middle of creating so much. And I'm not alone. I have this country at my feet; If that's what I want..
I'm only here 4 full days, and already I can feel a change. I feel like I've grown, just by getting myself to this place. So no matter how I feel or whatever happens, it's already amazing.. For now, I'm speechless again - it's not the first time it's happened since I've been here.. I'll leave on that note!

And then she slipped...

My second day in this amazing country, and I couldn't believe what happened. Really. I went to class. I was probably still a little blown away by being here, still hyped, still geared-up and obviously I had some culture shock going on. I hadn't settled yet and was still adjusting to so many things. So, taking all this into account, what I'm going to say next, wasn't initially all too fantastic, but it turned out to be what I needed.. The best..

What it was that happened, inspired me to write this poem, about the whole thing.. So I thought I'd share it.

I played, I interacted, I ran and I fell,
Smack said the tail bone and I couldn't even yell,
The room left my mind and people gathered near,
But I could do nothing, only contain that tear,
I sat, I focused, I felt and I ached,
I admitted it was too much, for my own sake,
My head was frazzled as I was lost in the shock,
Both teacher and peers knew this was no mock,
I lay, I despaired, I cringed and I worried,
Why had this happened, all because I hurried?
It was only day 2 of this amazing time
What was the reason that led me to write this rhyme?
With eyes closed, hands healing, mother-some gestures-all so appealing,
I thought to myself: with what am I dealing?
The pain was in my tail bone but the emotions were rising,
As I lay on this bench, I didn't care to start hiding,
With a bad feeling in my chest, causing my head to spin,
The lesson continued and I was looking pretty dim,
Questions were floating, asking: is this a sign?
Shouldn't I be here in India, is this not my time?
Over and over I tried to get back in with the game,
But something was stopping inside as I felt no flame,
I could no longer be there, I needed to leave,
What a let down it was to witness this Niamh,
I cried and felt awful, but didn't know why,
All I know was to get away from that lie,
It was telling me things that weren't even true,
And Doris know straight away why I was so blue,
"Nothing is trying to tell you what you're made yourself believe,
It was just an accident and nothing pushing you away from what you want to achieve".
She was so right, But it was hard to see,
As the emotions were so intense and wouldn't let me simply be,
The pain in my back was still very much there,
But I knew something else stirred, something for which I needed to care,
I was brought to my room after the kindest concern,
So not once did I feel alone nor did I yearn,
No yearning for another place, people or situation,
And once in my room I felt gratitude and appreciation,
All the doubts of thinking this was all wrong,
Had left me, once solitude made me feel strong,
No more wondering as to why I had endured,
It just made me see that this experience is so pure,
It's pure as gold and as precious as can be,
It's also so vulnerable and could end so easily,
So with a fall on the floor and an ache in my chest,
I've realized how much I love being here and how I'm blessed,
I'm the luckiest person I am to be here, so safe,
And appreciation for that fall is most definitely the case,
The haziness, the daze, the sentiments and floatation,
Didn't manage to harm or stop this adventure; this creation.

What it came down was: I was in class, we were practicing a game to play with the children.. It was almost like musical chairs. Everyone was excited, hyped and eager. As was I. The floor was slippy, I was wearing sandals without any grip.. I got up to change chairs, ran a little too fast, bumped into another guy, and crashed to the floor. Hit my lower back and tail bone on the tiles and was suddenly in agony. I couldn't move, wanted to faint. Then wanted to cry, then I wanted to be sick. My ass and lower back were numb, all within a split second of being bashed into. I couldn't believe it.

This happened on Tuesday. As the poem describes, it led to a lot of things. But it all worked out amazingly in the end. Within 20 hours of the fall, I was back in class, with hardly any pain at all. It had gone. And with that pain having been dealt with, I found a new light or manner in which to approach this India. I'm here, only now. For how long? Nobody knows. What could come it? That's the mystery. So there is no more haste, no more rushing, no more doubts. Instead I can just stop and simply look around and appreciate where I am. I am where I aimed to be.. Right here, amidst the craziness.. It's amazing.

So just one day, I was set off my course. And that was fine. Wednesday morning I was reborn almost. The world looked like a different place. Or maybe my eyes had only realized what they failed to see, since getting of the plane on Sunday and having that fall on the Tuesday, as I hadn't properly landed my head, as well as my eyes, here in India. But now everything had been switched-on. And what I'm doing right now, really is the dream and the reality all rolled into one. I'm so so lucky and I love it here so much..

I was in a lot of doubt, when it came to deciding whether or not to share this little incident. Do I make people worry by saying this? Should I just keep it to myself? But I figured, it's what I was going through and it struck me hard, emotionally, when it first happened. But eventually led me to feel amazing. So, yes, I can share it. It can also been seen as reassurance for those at home: how amazingly caring the people are, which gives me confidence for when mishaps come about and it also shows that I'm not easily put-off when dealing with so much all at once. It is all proving to serve me so well. And I'm not letting anything get the better of me..

Monday, February 1, 2010

A shining city - missing the shine

It's crazy and normal, it's amazing and chaotic, it's beautiful and messy, it's warm and sticky.. the contrasts are out of this world, and guess what?? I'm loving every minute of it!

I'm here only 24 hours, and already I feel so safe.This city of Cochin is big, hectic and as you walk along the streets, the smells differ from one moment to the next. The people stop and stare, I give them a smile, especially the women, they smile back and I couldn't be self conscious, even if I tried.

Getting off the plane yesterday, was probably the biggest step. I didn't want the flight to end. I wanted to stay up high in the sky. I was pretty happy, but from KL to Cochin was only 4 hours! At customs I was spoken to by many people, wondering if I was traveling alone. They were officials, they were passengers, they were security guards. Once they knew I was alone, I heard the comment: God, you're a brave young girl! I brushed it off and tried not to let that scare me. At arrivals everything fell into place. There was a cabdriver with a piece of pape with my name written on it! Thank the lord! It was all falling into place. I then had the most insane drive of my life to the hotel and I was loving it so much. I sat there with this stupid grin on my face.. so much so that my cheeks started to hurt.. I couldn't speak, as I was so amazed by everything..

I couldn't believe that I had made it. I thought to myself: Now, THIS is the life!! I'm not talking about that wild cab-ride, which by the way made me suddenly so happy that I don't know the rules of the road, because otherwise I'd have really been freaking out (you see, there are always upsides to not having a licence!!!), instead I'm talking about everything that was surrounding me.

I got to the hotel, at around dinnertime and I had envisioned me to be in a place that would be dirty, old, derelict, with bugs, mould, and anything else that would seem not too hygienic. Well, having had that attitude really paid off; the attitude of: expect nothing and everything is a bonus! That's exactly what happened! I've the best room in the world! Tv, en-suite bathroom, double bed, clean sheets, and even space to do yoga in the morning! But this hotel I'll only be staying at until tomorrow. I don't know what the next place will be like. I only know that it's a room in an apartment. So, to still be realistic and to still feel okay with whatever comes along, I'm, again, expecting nothing, so everything will be a big big plus! How exciting is this!

This morning the course started. 9am, I walked into the classroom, and instantly I was at home. 8 Indians, a Finnish guy and a Canadian girl, Doris. And each and every one of them is so so nice! Within minutes we were a bunch of classmates, all with different stories to tell and different reasons for being there but with the same passion to pursue a careerr (what a laugh..Niamh..a career???!!!huumm have to see how that plans out..)Anyhow, so cool to be in the classroom again, taking notes, learning and in the breaks having amazing conversations of great depth with these inspiring people, especially the Canadian girl. She's so so inspiring and we're very like-minded.

I sat in the classroom today and knew that this would be great. This course will be intense, but it will give me amazing opportunities. To be suddenly learning how I'll be teaching English to young kids, hopefully, was the strangest feeling, yet so normal at the same time. I know I can do this course and today I felt so blessed for having this opportunity. Because to know that I could stay in India, through doing a job like that, was indescribable..

I have no guidebook, I have no nothing and I feel so great. However I am still aware of what others could see and maybe think, as I walk along these streets of madness, giving off the impression that I've been here for so long. The doctor I went to see in Australia for my vaccines, was Indian and he told me to be aware of the devil that sits in every person. He said everyone can be and act so friendly but being a girl alone, I have to ALWAYS keep in the back of my mind, that in all good people there can still be some bad. Good advice I'd say. A little daunting maybe, but I took it on board..

For now, I'm still savouring what I'm seeing, hearing, feeling and even smelling.. I made it, I'm here and if the past 24 hours are anything to go by, then every other hour should offer something knew, revealing, inspiring and eye-opening.. be that in the good or the not so good way. This morning before leaving to go to school (!!!), I told myself to know that whatever happens "out there", as I was sat in the comfort of that hotel room, "nice" and isolated from the world, it's all happening for a reason. Be it for me to learn, to grow, to cop-on, to get motivated or even to maybe realize that this isn't for me. It's all fine, whatever happens. It's all leading me to where I'm supposed to go. Any fears would only stop those certain things from coming to me; be they good or bad. I don't want those things to NOT come to me, they must. It's the only way to live.

All the contrasts that can be felt and experienced in this amazingly beautiful city, that has nothing that sparkles or shines, which makes THAT in actual fact the reason for it to be beautiful, will show me the way. For now that's all I can say. I'm excited to be here and for now, it's more than I could have ever hoped for.. How blessed I am!