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THE FREEDOM TO CREATE BRINGS US THE FREEDOM TO LIVE



Monday, March 29, 2010

Something said click..

Yesterday was my birthday and what an amazing day it was. I had only planned on contacting my nearest and dearest, maybe writing a little and just enjoying whatever was to come my way. So, when I was treated to an unexpected lunch by Jayanthi and Sheila (another girl from the course who also lives in Chennai) at a 5-star hotel, I couldn't believe my luck. We had the most amazing lunch; fish overload (not really possible, as I love it so much and it had so long since I'd had some), alcohol-buzz (it was my first glass of wine in 8 weeks), sugar-rush (after having to choose from the 20 different desserts, which were all creations of art) to be completed with a spotlight-moment (I was given a chocolate cake saying: Happy Birthday Niamh", with one candle, so I could make my special wish, accompanied by the band playing the all-time favourite birthday song in the background!). What a brilliant time I had!

However, with or without having had such an unexpected treat, I still would have had a brilliant day..

I don't know what was happening, and still am not too sure what's going on, with both myself and the world. Or with myself and my situation, should I say. But something is very much happening, something is brewing. Yesterday and the day before, I felt it. I've dreamt about it too but I can't yet put my finger on it. Saturday afternoon I sat on the bus, I was going around the city, happy as larry, taking in the sights and still seeing amazement, when suddenly I heard myself saying (not outloud, but there was a little voice inside my head): "India is the centre of the universe. It's the centre of the world. This is it. This is where it all happens and so, this is where I must be". I felt this feeling to be so strong and didn't want to even think about having to leave this place. Over the following 2 days, especially yesterday, I felt as if some sort of a "click" had been made. I can't describe it as anything else. A "click" in the sense that, something is going to happen and that something is going to be so so right.

Right now, I don't want to think of being anywhere else. This India is going to teach me so much and it's only just the beginning. The urge is so strong and I have to follow it through. In whatever way I end up "keeping real all that I'm currently seeing and feeling and doing", I have yet got no clue. But it's almost like I'm on a mission. I don't know what it is. It's exciting.

Today I woke up and it was like a new start. It was like the next chapter. But nothing has changed in my situation, since Sunday, Saturday, Friday.. Nothing, except for that "click". I wonder what it was. I wonder what it meant. Time will reveal, as it always does. I could be waiting for this world to present me with what I need, in order to go for this mission. I could be waiting for the next "click", which will lead to the next..and the next..and the next.. Who knows! But until then, I'm feeling settled.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Comfort

Someone once told me that it takes at least a month to become somewhat used to Indian life. Not until then, can you start actually enjoying it. I never really expected this to be so, but now that I'm here 2 months, I'm realizing how much truth was in that statement. Without the tiniest bit of "familiarity" and comfort, you can't actually get the benefits from what you experience. I've had moments of bliss, like never before. How? By simply realizing what it is I'm actually doing and where I am. This can't be felt if there isn't a bit of comfort in a world so unfamiliar. Without comfort, I would be too concerned and preoccupied with coping with what I'm seeing, hearing and smelling. Then dealing with the feelings that would arise from these sensory-impressions, would be all-consuming and so, without a little comfort, actual moments of pleasure and bliss would nowhere “insight”.

Having expressed my comfort, I must say that this is, in many ways, thanks to this family who have taken me in and given me this chance to stay in Chennai. Without Jayanthi I don't really know if I would already be at the stage I'm at. Maybe I'd have been forced far sooner to become independent, which would have given me other lessons and a different level of confidence. Or maybe I wouldn't be even half way to feeling the way I'm feeling today. I can't know, nor do I need to. But being a part of their household at this moment in time, has given me far more than they will ever know. It's given me an insight into Indian life, culture, values and beliefs. It's given me the stability I need, right at this moment and it's almost like a basis I've been creating, with their natural desire to express hospitality at all times, to know that wherever I go in India and no matter what happens, I will always be safe. The way this part of my journey has turned-out, proves that seeing and believing in the good of others, will also attract the good of others.

How grateful I am.

A city of souls

I'm trying not to let the search for work, take me away from the experience of being in India. Sometimes it happens but more often than not this country wouldn't even need to try and remind me of where I am because every time I step outside of the house, I'm faced with the amazing craziness, whether I want it or not. Actually, it feels wrong to use: "faced with", because that's sounds like I'd rather not encounter this world. So instead I'll use "shown". Yes. I'm shown the amazing craziness. Even still, after 2 whole months of being here!

The past 2 weeks or so, I've been getting more familiar with this world. The traffic, the transport, the pace, the awareness. Also the way I'm being perceived, the approach I can take and the approach others can have towards me. It's like I'm becoming accustomed to their way of thinking, which makes life so much easier for me. I can suddenly have an understanding for the way they view me and I can be openminded enough not let it get to me. I can be apart of everything, if I'm in the right frame of mind. As I've been venturing around the city, independently, on a more frequent basis and been loving every minute, I've realized that I never have to doubt that I won't get to where I'm going, even though others might do just that. I can just hop-on and hop-off a bus, like everybody else. I can be stared at and be amusing to others and not care one bit! I can be open to conversation and yet cautious to keep a distance.

Each day I can search for jobs, attend interviews, work on my writing and then come out of my shell, step outside the frontdoor and seek some new inspiration by just sitting on a bus, gazing out the "window" with the hot polluted air blowing in my face. It might not sound too good, but it makes me feel so free! The buzz in the city and the life on every corner, always reveals something new to my eyes. Even roads I've been down many times before, can give me new impressions. These impressions are from the people itself; their work, their behaviour, their driving, their eating, their interaction, their homes. Never is there nobody insight! And never is there nothing to take in! Nowhere is ever empty..

Sometimes, as I sit on the bus and gaze at the city passing by, I try to count the number of people either standing at a busstop, or at a fruitstand, or a teastall, or sleeping on the streets. Just a number is what I'd like to come up with. But it's not possible. There are too many souls to count, all with a different life, from a different background, with a different home and family. They look to be so similar, but every individual has their own tale to tell. But they more than likely will never get the chance to tell it, for how could they? They are one individual amongst the millions and millions that fill this city and land. Nevertheless not unimportant, as they help form the web that makes everything possible.

Thinking and observing so many souls, I then sometimes, as I sit on the bus and gaze at the city passing by, try to picture the streets without any people. I would envision them to be empty. I would see all these souls, for only an instant, to be gone. What would it be like? Would the impressions still be there? Would this India still be the same? Would it still fill me with amazement or would the absence of people also make my amazement disappear? It would certainly change my view. Everything would be different. Because it’s the people that make up this country.

Realizing this, makes me wonder why I should ever become frustrated by those people who can form obstacles along the street, or by those who overcharge me as I'm supposedly "well-off" (or so they have led themselves to believe), or by the thousands of locals who turn their heads to see the western girl on the overcrowded which costs 0,06 cents for a 40 minute journey? Why curse the traffic? Why question the stares? It's pointless! Especially when wanting to go out and be taken into the fast-pace citylife, effortlessly. It gives inspiration and experiences that are only to be encountered right here, due to the amount of lives that somehow can live united in their diversity. By this I mean the different souls, classes of society, religions and beliefs that all pull together and make this world what it is: The inspiration every Westerner should be aware of, when given the chance to witness their world.

I've kept it short for once!!

This is a topic I'm not going to analyze too much. Instead I'm only going to give you a short update on my "position", when it comes to my employment. I've been in Chennai for 3 weeks now, I've had countless interviews and all weren't what I wanted. I've turned down a few, which could have given me the status of being "employed in India". However a title or a status wouldn't have made me happy, not if the job wasn't what I wanted. And they weren't. I was tempted a few times, but realized I'm not going to take the first thing that comes my way, because then I would have been acting out of fear and panic for things not working as I wanted them to. I can safely say that I know what I want from the job I AM going to find. I have my priorities and I'm not going to start doubting all the options that this amazing world has to offer.

Right now, I have 3 opportunities. I'm not going to go into detail. I'm just waiting to hear from 1 in particular. Once I know more from them, I'll be able to decide further. I know with which option my heart lies. I also still have time. Hopefully within the next week things will be clearer. A week in my life, can make so much difference and can bring along so many new lessons. A week seems so short, relatively, but at the same time it can be long enough to bring you to changing direction so unexpectedly. This week for instance, nearly everyday, either one option has come along or another has been dismissed. And it's fine. Sometimes it feels like a process of elimination. Other times it feels like it's a sign trying to push me in the direction of something I never expected I would do, as I ask myself if I'm going against the forces of what I'm meant to be doing in life. But whenever I start thinking like that, I suddenly see that there will definitely come a point in this physical world, which will be next week I'm guessing, when I'll say: This is it! This is what I have to do and I'm going to go for it! My certainty of soon reaching this point, makes me at ease with the unknown of what's to come.

I appreciate so much that, from a distance, everyone is wishing, hoping and supporting my "stability" in India. It means so much! I have patience though and also I know that no matter what happens over the next few weeks, it will all be for a reason. Everything so far that has happened since coming to Chennai, has been for a reason. Every interview, every offer, every meeting, every encounter. I've learnt from the all and I'm not sorry I left Cochin, in Kerala, to come here. Definitely not!

I could keep on analyzing, but I choose not to. This is my position and as I sit here and type, I'm excited by the not-knowing and once I DO know, I'll be it even more so. However; an easiness I must feel in whatever situation I find myself, regardless of my expectations and my intended direction in this beautiful life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blissful-chaos in the Indian world

I feel at ease with everything I see. I’m not bursting at the seams with disbelief of what I’m perceiving. I don’t question and I try so hard to avoid judgment, all with the aim of feeling as one. In regards to the book I’m reading “Holy Cow”, there was a quote which gave me the answer to the question for my capability of being so at ease. This is what she wrote: “I must find peace in the only place possible in India. Within.” I never realized until I read these words, that it’s exactly what I was doing, since arriving here.

How? From day 1, I was doing mantra’s and meditations and almost praying for guidance and support and security, no matter what that “crazy world of Cochin” would throw at me - which is actually not even a big or chaotic city, in comparison to Chennai. At the time I didn’t even know why I was doing these mantra‘s; it was just what I required myself to do. Now I realize why dealing with the impressions of this country has been relatively flowing and easy; I was seeking peace inside. When you DO have it inside, it’s also outside. I knew I wouldn’t find it in the chaos of this amazing city. I didn’t want to. I had it all along inside and I wanted to challenge myself as I’m in this amazing city. I can travel on an overcrowded bus, with my nose in someone’s armpit and be sweating and tired and holding on to the railing as the bus makes its way through rush-hour, and feel happy, content, compassionate and ease towards everything and everybody. Have I achieved what most people come to India for? Have I achieved a state of bliss in a world of chaos? Maybe. But there’s so much more I’ll be attaining from my time here. It doesn’t stop with blissful moments inside and outside of me. This is only just the beginning.

Another moment to balance both worlds: The other night, I lay in bed. I was exhausted as another trip had been taken through this city of Chennai. Getting from A to B, even in the luxury of a car, takes such a long time; it can take up to an hour and half trying to make our way home. It tires me each time and I’m trying to pace myself as well as take on the challenges of a city lifestyle. Stamina is something a person must have enough of, when living a life of health and vitality, in the surroundings of the Indian city. Each time we’ve gone out, I return and can be exhausted. Heat, pollution and noise can try and get the better of me. I’m not annoyed but am satisfied and have enjoyed each encounter. And I look forward to sleep so much after having an amazing Indian dish, which Jayanthi and her mom have prepared with so much time and love.

I lie in bed, so happy and have these thoughts: India is getting into my pours, due to the air and traffic I‘ve just concurred. It’s seeping through my veins, due to what I’ve consumed. It’s getting into my mind, with my focus each day to be finding a job to sustain my magical dream. It’s getting into my heart as I encounter more friendliness, hospitality and culture of which they ought to be so proud. In every fibre of my being, I’m experiencing this country. I hold this amazing book and find a photo that was used as bookmark. A photo of Jayanthi’s relatives. Everything about that moment is so amazing. I made this happen, I got myself to where I am today. India, with the adventures all in right here. I try to savour each moment as I can never know how long it will last. All I know is, I don’t want it to end. Not just yet.

"Holy Cow" Part 2

Is my barrier is coming down?
What if the feeling of being less effected by the impressions I’m getting in India is due to me wanting to be seen as equal? I can see this world and suddenly I don’t feel like an outsider. My spirit is feeling so at home, regardless of what others might see and think as I catch their eye with too much ease. I’m accepting of what’s here and what’s real. I don’t flinch as I’m seeing the men squatting by the seashore to do their “business” each morning as I walk along the beach. I don’t have time to be shocked as I’m seeing a toddler with no clothes on, sitting in the gutter, because 2 minutes later something else catches my eye and the memory of the toddler in the gutter is stored permanently in my mind with no further purpose only to question my lack of sympathy. I’m seeing the crippled beggar who was merely skin and bone making eye contact with me and smiling and I’m not even stopping to give him the equivalent of 0,30cents, as the voice in my head is saying: “what makes you different from the last beggar who pleaded with me for some spare change?”

Do all my reactions make me a bad, heartless and cruel person? Should I feel guilty for having more than they do? Should I regret my reaction in that moment and hope that in the future I will act differently? Should I feel ashamed of my roots? Should I have simply reacted like many tourists would? If I were to convince myself that everything I felt and did in these situations is wrong, then doesn’t that mean I’m looking at myself and the world with only the darkness within myself and the world? If this were to be the case, then I’d never feel good being here. I’d get myself into a vicious circle of negativity: no matter what way I’d react, it wouldn’t be the right way and no matter what I’d see it wouldn’t appeal to my eyes and no matter what I’d do it would never be enough.


Being in India with a negative attitude is something I wasn‘t aiming for and so that’s not what I‘m getting. I came to feel good and that’s what I‘m feeling. If I were to feel so much guilt, sadness and shame each time I’d see something that isn’t seen at home and if I’d have a saddened reaction with every sore-sight, then how would I cope? How would I enjoy and see beauty in all? I wouldn’t, due to these emotions that would be overbearing.

I came to India to be apart 0f their way of life. I came here to make some sort of a difference by means of being a living person and not a “walking wallet”. I know this is how I’m looked at by locals, but that’s their judgment and I choose to ignore it. I didn’t come here to feel bad and annoyed with the unfairness of the world or with the imbalance of the planet or with myself for being the person I am with the luck that I carry with me, wherever I go. So I can’t feel bad for adjusting and accepting what I see and therefore I don’t. This acceptance of “what is” is also the answer to my question I posed earlier: how can I turn a blind eye. This acceptance is also my reason for feeling safe, regardless of what happens.

"Holy Cow" Part 1

A book has triggered something
The book I’m reading at the moment is amazing and so inspiring. It was recommended to me by a very special person, before I came to Chennai. Then when I got here, Jayanthi had a copy of the book and so I’ve been reading it ever since. I’m delighted! It’s called “Holy Cow” and tells of a tale about an Australian girl who moved to India. She writes about so many aspects of her journey, which I have also faced since being here, aiming at different impressions, emotions, lifestyles and adjustments.

I can relate to what she sees and how it makes her feel. However, for her it’s so much more intense. For me, there are many impressions to which I’ve switched-off. These are things that wouldn’t be seen in Ireland, Holland, Australia or even Thailand. I have seen them all, but have turned a blind-eye. The book describes these sights and impressions, in detail, as they have taken her by such surprise. When it comes to me, I haven’t even touched on the sights I’ve seen, in my writing. Because I wouldn’t be shocked, I wouldn’t be appalled. I simply look, I see and I accept. I tell myself it’s the way of life. It doesn’t make me think less of this country. It actually makes me think more of this country and its’ people, as I’m faced with such contrasts.

Why am I not shocked by what I see and how can I turn a blind eye with ease?
Is it because I can’t get my head around it or because I see it as normal? Or I don’t want to talk bad about this amazing country? Perhaps I don’t want to give the impression that India isn’t beautiful? It could be any number of reasons. As I conclude the answer, I can trust that everything around me is making an impression, never ever to be forgotten.

Many books from travel-writers telling about Indian adventures, describe this country in ways that might not motivate people to come. The description is based on the individual experiences and how they perceive this world. It’s also based on their background, their expectations, their openness, their passion. I have my own opinions when it comes to writing and expressing the essence , the lifestyle and the overall picture of a country. No matter how different it is than your “own” country, every single one can still be seen as amazing. There will always be some element you might not be able to relate to. But, on the other hand, there will always be something, no matter how small, which you can class as amazing, unique and inspiring.

However judgment always occurs. When it comes to India, I’ve heard and read people expressing themselves in such a way that the people of this country would be highly insulted. They say the streets are dirty, too crowded, too polluted, too smelly and it’s swamped with illness and disease. These things I’ve just described, I’ve seen them and I’m guilty of thinking the same. I’ve felt bad, judgmental and spoilt for having thought these thoughts.

But these are the first impressions a person can have. It can be the reality you’re faced with and the culture shock. If this judgment is that contributes to your “survival” when first acclimatizing to the country, then that’s obviously what’s needed. When I first embarked on this journey, people said don’t be na├»ve, be cautious, don’t trust anybody and in beware of the devil in everyone! This judgment is for survival on first arriving. But as soon as the ease starts to come, these should be released. Holding that judgment in place, will lead you to always keeping your distance and always remaining the outsider, the tourist, the Western-girl. This means you never will get from the journey all that you set out to experience. Won’t you always feel that barrier? Shouldn’t the barrier be released and shouldn’t the judgment be forgotten as you start to feel safe and secure in your new surroundings?

The story continues...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Plan of action!

What’s to come? What’s right here? Who is to know? I do!! For now! The past 5 days a few jobs had come my way. I had options, things were happening and Chennai was the place. Everyday though, for some reason or another, each one was no longer MY option. Not strictly by choice, but just through certain situations. Luckily I hadn’t made many plans around these options, so there was little disappointment. There weren’t any plans to go up in smoke. I was still in this amazing place, I was still able to do and be as I wish and I still was offered a place to stay. So contrary to feeling disappointment, with each option that was “taken”, I simply smiled to myself and said that it obviously wasn’t meant to be and the what I AM meant to be doing, would soon come to me. The answer was going to reveal itself.

Saturday morning I woke up and it magically appeared. At that moment, the situation I was in, was starting to make me uncomfortable: I was staying with Jayanthi for free, for nearly 2 weeks now, which was unexpected AND I didn’t know what I was doing or how long I’d be staying. I knew I didn’t want to leave this place. So my next step would have to be in aid of me making a contribution of some sort and not to simply hanging around aimlessly. I had to get focused and I had to have some sort of independency and feel to be “standing on my own 2 feet”, even while staying in this beautiful house.

First things first: How would I feel somewhat settled to get the focus I needed, at this moment in time? Simple: I had to start paying my way. They insisted I didn’t need to. But I simply couldn’t feel fine within myself and they’ve done an incredible amount for me. I was getting to the stage where leaving was the only option, if they wouldn’t let me contribute. For my own sanity and peace of mind, I insisted. This step has lead to me attaining a room upstairs! They have such a big house and are happy to rent this room to me. I’m delighted! I’m moving up, will have my own space, my own bathroom, and there’s even a rooftop terrace with the most amazing views! How lucky I am!!

So, with this setup I knew the next thing I had to do, was set myself a deadline in regards to finding a job here in India. I’ve been in contact with a few agencies for teaching, here in Chennai and in Kerala (near to where I did the course). But nothing is certain, when taking starting dates, visa’s and the duration of contracts, into account. In India everything takes time. I so easily can feel like things aren’t happening fast enough. So I need patience. But realistically the chances of me getting a teaching job here in India, aren’t too big, not until June anyhow, when the new school year starts.

So, instead of me hanging around for an uncertain period of time and letting one week roll into the next and slowly letting my funds run-out, I’ve decided to keep applying and searching for a teaching job in India until the end of March. If it hasn’t happened by then, I’ll have to take a different plan of action and start broadening my horizons to countries where the demand for teachers is higher. This is not due to me wanting to leave India. Because I don’t. It’s actually the only place on earth I really want to be right now. So I want to give it a proper chance. But if I want to stay travelling and start putting the motivation I got from the teaching course into action, then I can’t simply sit around and hope for the best. Things in life only happen when we take action. Otherwise time passes by, so unnoticed, the funds run low and we’re led down certain paths we really didn’t intend on heading towards.

Jayanthi has said that, whatever my plans are and whatever happens over the next few weeks, I can stay for as long as I need. I’m so happy, especially now that I’m renting a room. It’s fantastic. And if it turns out that I can get a job here in Chennai, it will be brilliant. If not, then it wasn’t meant to be. If I get a job in another part of India, then I‘ll take it and be delighted. If the job opportunities will lead me away from India, then that will simply be the priority I have in that moment and therefore it will also be fine. So, the next 2 weeks will reveal if this is my time to stay and really get into Indian life, through teaching. I’m excited and relieved and feel focused. I feel lucky, I feel so happy and I feel so safe and secure knowing that it will always work

What is now my reality??

A belated entry: A moment spent questioning EVERYTHING.. 2 weeks after I arrived in India.

This amazing country.
A game is being played. They are in their own world. Walking down the street. But to me: how real is this world? Is everyone playing the game? It’s all seemingly so absurd. It isn’t poor is it? No it’s not. I don’t know what I see or what I believe. Too many contrasts leading to my confusion.

A world in the West. A world in the East. A world like that? A world like this?
A road in India. A road in Ireland. A road in the East. A road in the West.
The traffic reflects the country. Does it reflect this life?
The traffic reflects the wealth. Does it reflect what is real?

They scoot along, it’s all pretend. But it happens in every country. Everyone thinks it’s all so real.
But replace the “o” of so with “u” and add an “r” and it so easily has become “surreal”. People here they feel it be real. The dinky cars and the overloaded buses.

It cannot be, it cannot be. How can this be real?

Is a life of the West, oh so beautiful and clean, the real life? According to who? Who is to answer the truth to this unanswerable question?
Who is to label what’s reality and what’s not? Nobody can. Only through their own perception can they answer this, which is so personal, so unique, so individual, so right. It’s therefore never wrong, what a person calls “real”. If it’s right in their eyes, then nobody can disagree. So why does one question their reality? Why does one question their surroundings? It’s only logic that says when being in their own world the other world will always be questionable.

Placing yourself in somebody else’s reality can feel surreal. And that’s why we start to question. On a more personal note, that why I question. But what if one has felt both realities? Does one then question the 2 realities? Or does one simply accept both worlds to be surreal and therefore magical?

What do I feel? I feel to be invincible. I feel to be on the outside looking in at the world. This is my reason for questioning my reality. I’m looking at myself. At the world. I place myself out in the traffic. I let it be. I don’t get scared, doubtful, fearful, nothing. I’m invincible. Just like all the others walking along. I’m not me. I’m outside. I’m the witness of the person walking down that street.

Strolling along and engaged in where I step. My eyes are looking around, taking in the magic. Yet I’m walking and threading carefully, not getting too distracted. With a sense of being an outsider. I look like I’m an outsider, by the colour of my skin. But look into my eyes and at my manner, is to see I’ve never been anywhere else or walked along any other path. Yet I’m secretly amazed and inspired:
-I pass by a woman balancing a basket of fruit on her head - no hands required.
-I pass by a rat that scurries along the same road as me.
-I pass by a smell of human waste that steals my appetite several times over.
-I pass by an overloaded bus that wants to run me off the road.

My thoughts are being interrupted. Is that horn beeping at me to be smart?
Is that horn beeping at me to move?

I need to catch this thought before it’s interruption due to the beeping horn: When exposed to something over and over, the body becomes unaffected to it, or even immune. That’s what I’ve become or am on the road to becoming. Just like everyone else. To see their lives so basic and the simplicity of just being. But how hard it must be to live. However to them it seems so easy. They unconsciously practise caution, all the times, for what their surroundings could bring upon their health. I wonder: is illness something uninteresting? I wonder: is it something that’s only experienced when forgetting to be cautious? I wonder: is it only experienced when being cautious is too much of an effort, as merely surviving can take up more of their time and energy? I wonder: is surviving enough, be it with or without an illness? I wonder: are they invincible and immune to what the spoilt people of the world are not?

I’m pulled back to their reality, which has now become mine. Their world that feels, sounds and looks like a game, an enactment, a scene from a movie. So it’s fake, is it not?

Hang on!! That beeping brought me back to the real world. So this really is my reality. Where I am and what I see, the sounds I hear and the smells that seep through my pours, are what my sensory impressions are telling me what I must be aware of. And that’s why my thoughts were interrupted by the beeping of the horn from the little rickshaw that looks and sounds like a toy car. To survive and to remain in-tune.

So, I’m back. Their world. My world. But I was in my own world, before the beeping interrupted my own reality.

They see me and ask: “your place?”. With that they mean to ask: “where are you from?”. They have no clue how different they would feel in a place like “mine”. I prefer not to answer. I do, but my “place” is labelling me to be of a certain substance. I’ve questioned the realities of both worlds. It’s not to be answered, which reality is real and which one is not. So: all is ONE to me. I’m apart of every world and I’m delighted to reach this thought.

How can I see it as one? Due to 2 realities: I experience the collision of 2 opposites. When I feel and experience them simultaneously, all there is to be felt is magic, wonder, inspiration and amazement. It all collides and this is all there is: Gratitude for my roots, gratitude for my growth, gratitude for where I am and gratitude for where I’m leading myself to be. I can feel the benefits from it all. It’s happening at the same time and there’s the collision. I feel appreciation to have the opportunity and capability of looking at the world with such awe, such beauty and for taking all it can give me and for using this to grow. How grateful I am for the existence of such extremes.

Is this bliss? I can see it to be so. This simplicity yet the richness of their culture. A different kind of bliss, that brings the previous described appreciation for absolutely everything to my surface. There’s no other way it can be described: bliss, on all levels of being.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big-city-life

There have been days, or certain parts of the day, when the pace of life in this huge city, has taken it’s toll on me. Chennai can be so fast, the pollution can be so thick, the buses can be so full, the streets can be so congested. As I’m still getting used to being in a huge Indian city, I don’t find it easy being “out and about”. I’ve been to many cities in different countries. But I’m convinced that adjusting to being in one of India’s largest cities, is a total different ballgame, than for instance adjusting to life in Sydney, Kuala Lumpur or Amsterdam even.

Travelling through the city and trying to make my way through the hoards of people, can be a challenge. It’s a pressurizing feeling I can sometimes be confronted with. Sometimes I find it difficult to walk and talk as I need to stay focused just to get to where I’m going. I must stay in-tune with the speed of the rickshaws, the scooters and the cars all to avoid missing a step or dodging a car whilst ignoring the stares and the pleading young kids for spare change.

I must admit, the first few days I was really on top of things. I was being shown the city and didn’t have to think too much about how I getting from A to B. Today I went out on my own, for the first time. I had to make my way to the other side of town. I hopped on and off buses, I got spoken to in the local Tamil language, I was helped by many friendly people but also I was told to get off buses when I hadn’t reached my destination and was sent back and forth when searching for a particular street. I had to laugh at the commotion around me. It didn’t get me frustrated, but it instead opened my eyes again and reminded me of where I was and it reminded me of my vulnerability almost. But it didn’t phase me. I simply joked with the rickshaw driver who tried to rip me off, I thanked the shopkeeper who told the begging children to leave me alone and I smiled when the guard of the bus station shouted at me for using the wrong entrance.

After this outing, I gained so much more respect than I already had, for the people of this city and the people of this country. Especially the women. They are amazing. Each and everyday they make their way through the crowds, they take-on the afternoon heat, they carry bags of fruit and vegetables as if they are without weight and with all of this, they still manage to look elegant in their saris, pretty with their make-up and strong in their presence. Invincible and tough, yet kind and gentle are words that come to mind. So impressed I am by how they can seem to live so effortlessly. And when they see me, they must see such a distressed, out of place and “lost” girl who is trying to concur this life, just in the same manner as they are.

What an experience this was. But I’m so glad by how the events turned out. Yes, I was exhausted afterwards and was left with little energy to do anything else, other than read a book by the name of the “Holy Cow ”, which is giving me insights and lessons as to how an Australian girl experienced and fitted into life, in India. Very inspiring by the way! So at the moment, I’m eager to keep on venturing out and learning more as I do so. This is the time and it’s also the place!

Indian generosity

Chennai: it’s still the place for me to be. I’ve been here just over a week now, or 9 days to be exact. Jayanthi and her parents have offered for me to stay, until next week, when I must decide what I’m doing and must have worked out some sort of “concrete” plan.

It’s so strange sometimes to think that I hadn’t planned on staying with her for more than a few days. But somehow, due to the Indian hospitality, I find myself to feel so at home, so at ease and it’s working so effortlessly. I do have panic-attacks now and then with the thoughts that I’m imposing, overstaying my welcome and “taking over their lives”. I’ve spoken to Jayanthi a few times about this and this is simply their way of opening up their home and offering someone the help they need, when the circumstances turn out in such a way that help can be given so gracefully and accepted so gratefully.

So many things which are happening on my journey right now, are down to her. How can I ever express my thanks and gratitude? Will I ever think that the gratitude I feel and try to express, will be enough for all that she’s done? Probably not. This is an issue I’ve encountered in the past. And here it is again. I can feel so bad about not being in the position to do anything in return, right now. I know this is may not even expected of me. But I expect it of myself. Otherwise wouldn’t it seem for me to not appreciate anything? Wouldn’t it seem that I’m not aware of how lucky I am to be here in this loving, safe home with great people, in this amazing country with options popping-up each day? I’m so aware of my good fortune. Really I am. I just hope that receiving what I’m receiving now will soon put me in the position of being able to give back all that I can. It’s all about balance and I know that if I want to and can finally give after receiving, then it will happen.

The past week, as you may have gathered, many things have blown me away. The jobs, the options, the city, the Indian hospitality. Overwhelmed I’ve been by all of it. I’ve been brought to some city-sights by Jayanthi. I’ve been treated to lunch in a 5 star restaurant by her and her friends. I’ve stayed overnight in the city with a different friend. I’ve been brought to the movies, I’ve had my first ride on the back of a scooter (through the bustling traffic. It was amazing by the way! I felt so safe amongst the potential “danger“) and I got to experience a birthday party, where some of the guests are local television celebrities and where no alcohol was served, but instead the food was abundant. As well I’m in this beautiful home where I’m being fed gorgeous Indian cuisine each day, where my laundry is being done and where I can simply be myself. And now walks to the beach to see the sunrise in the mornings is what’s been getting me up and out of bed over the past few days.

So many different things that have come my way; it’s overwhelming and I find it hard to believe how lucky I am. Their eagerness to share parts of their lives with me and the openness they have shown me, has given me such a different insight into living life in India, not as a tourist, but as a local. This experience is all I wanted. So it’s only natural for it to feel so precious and surreal all at once. It will come to an end at some stage, as the job-options unfold and decisions are made. And so, this notion just make me savour each encounter even more.

Vacant once again

Shall I continue where I left off? It feels to be so long, since I last sat and spoke so highly of the German School which had presented me with everything I thought I needed at this moment in my journey. I spoke last about how I was trying to decide what to do: whether to take the job that felt to be too perfect or to whether to wait patiently for a different opportunity to come along. Since then I’ve made decisions, only to realize that they had already been made for me. I shall explain..

The weekend was one where I spent many hours contemplating, thinking, reconsidering my options and asking questions. This takes up so much time and it’s something I seem to spend doing so often. I’ll cut to the chase. I had decided to visit the German school 1 more time so as to speak with both the CEO and the vice principal and, if everything were to suit both myself and them, then I was so eager to give this a go. I wanted to take them up on their offer!

HOWEVER, Monday morning came and things suddenly weren’t as they once seemed to be. I spoke with the vice principal, who told me exactly how things stood regarding my potential employment at the school. Apparently they wouldn’t be needing me until AUGUST, instead of MAY! Last week the CEO told me May, and now they were saying August. What a contradiction and lack of communication between these 2. Hearing this, changed everything, as you would imagine. Along side this bit of news, I was also told that they weren’t even sure about my skills due to my lack of teaching experience. They also weren’t sure of their need for teachers or their need for assistants who aren‘t native to this country. The timeframe for WHEN they would possibly be needing to extend their team of teachers was also one big question mark. So, too much uncertainty. The conclusion of this meeting was that I would keep them posted on my whereabouts over the next months and hopefully update them with my attainment of teaching experience through other job placements. We would take things further if both parties were still interested, when the time comes.

Can I be honest and say how I feel when I walked out of there? I felt brilliant! Why? Hadn’t I just gotten “knocked-back”? Hadn’t the amazing job opportunity I’d been offered last week suddenly been snatched from me? So shouldn’t I feel down and out? I couldn’t pinpoint my actual reason for my light-hearted feeling but it was definitely what I was experiencing. I had a bounce in my step, I had a smile on my face, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. All the visions I had started to create in my head about how amazing things could fall into place if I were to take the job offer of the German school, were gone. I suddenly had no plan anymore. It was all once again very much unknown. And I didn’t care too much. How fantastic! This told me that I obviously wasn’t wanting it as much as I thought I wanted it. I had probably convinced myself I wanted it and believed so strongly that it was meant to be. Now I’m feeling great because I’m believing it actually wasn’t meant to be. It’s such a good thing that I found this out. So this is what Monday morning revealed.

Since then, the search has continued. A few other options have come my way but they haven’t been what I’m looking for. They are either positions which are vague, farfetched or simply dull. Not one position has been for an actual English teacher. So I’m waiting ever so patiently. I have contact with the trainers from the course, who are also “working hard” trying to arrange something for me - how much of that is actually true, I’m not too sure. But I have to trust them, as well as do the searching for myself, just to increase my chances.

What I’ve realized about job hunting in India, is that everything takes time. A number of people have told me this. You need patience when getting things happening and getting the ball to start rolling can take some effort on the jobseekers behalf. Also, when opportunities do arise, it’s important to act fast, depending on how desperate you are to get the job. Or as Jayanthi put it, so wisely: In India it’s a survival of the quickest. The next few weeks will prove if I’m apart of the survivors in India. If I’m meant to stay for the duration of my visa, which is until the middle of July, then decision-making and fast-acting is something I’ll have to do.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The German Encounter

My initial purpose for coming to Chennai, if you recall, was for a possible job opportunity. Last week I shared my dilemma with you: whether or not to come here and check-out the really good job opportunity I got offered, from an International German school (it's also private school). I was debating between 2 possible job opportunities and the events turned-out to be leading me or pushing me almost, to come to Chennai so I could visit the school and meet the people. I felt I had to come, even if it was to find out that the German school wasn't the place I wanted to work.

Wednesday morning me and Jayanthi, who is ALSO the one who got me in touch with this school in the first place (so if it wasn't for her, I'd not be here at all-how amazing!), went to the school. I had no expectations whatsoever. I didn't want to hope for the people, the atmosphere or the surroundings to be a certain way. That way there would be no dreams or imaginings to come crashing down around me. And it served me so well, to have this attitude. It was amazing! I walked in, and was overwhelmed by everything. I was excited by what I saw. I was so happy to see this environment. The amount of students at the moment is very little, as it's a school that has only just opened its doors a few months ago. But I was walking around this small school that felt so homely and clean and fresh and I could envision all the little kids that would start filling the classrooms. I was so happy to think there were going to be little children that would get the chance to be in school like this and that I could possibly be apart of it, started to really make me feel so happy! The area it's in, felt like a dream almost. The sea was just down the road, the road leading to it was so peaceful. I didn’t feel to be in city at all and that’s probably what I loved most about the area. I even got on well with the head of the school, who is from Germany I might add, just like 2 of the other teachers I got to meet. There's also a girl from Belgium working there. How small is this world! What a strange situation I “magically” landed myself in: I was in this school, speaking all of my languages at the same time, ASWELL as savoring the sight of the small number of sweet little Indian children and I was brought to experience this whole set-up through the help and contacts of a great girl, who is a local and whom I now consider to be a special friend. This was too good to be true! Everything! I was overwhelmed. I left, shook Mr. CEO's hand, said I'd be in touch and walked out of there trying to contain my excitement!

This was 4 days ago. When I look back on it now, it feels to be a little surreal. I could have it all!! Everything could work out. All that he's offering, could be just what I'm looking for! I know what I want and need, if I want to stay here for a while. And this could be it. So why am I holding off? Why aren't I jumping at the chance? Why haven’t I given him a definite answer yet? Well, I have some doubts about teaching other subjects along with teaching English (this is an essential requirement) and maybe it's the commitment that's stopping me. Or maybe I'm afraid to hope too much for this to happen and then if something comes along to make it suddenly "impossible", either on their part or mine, then how devastated would I be? But on the other hand, how devastated would I be, if I didn't give this a go? Especially if I then end up having to leave India, before my time, due to visa-issues or financial “complications” I could have avoided, if I had chosen to take the offer of the German school? Wouldn't that be a bigger let-down? If I don't try these things I'll never know and always wonder: What if? Isn’t it better never to regret NOT having tried an amazing opportunity, than to wonder forever what could have come my way, by choosing such an opportunity? Have I found the answer I was looking for?

I've been letting it all sink in. And I've been trying to remind myself how easy this all could be. Things have happened so easily that it feels it couldn’t become real. It’s too good to be true? Does it seem too good and therefore I should choose to not take it, just because opportunities like this are unique? Should I ignore it? But, hang on! It WILL true if I take it! Then it’s as real as life gets, right? And why should it be too good? It can feel too good because it was simply me being in "the right place at the right time"? Everything feels to be handed to me on a silver platter. Things like this never happen to me! Right? Maybe they have always been happening this way, but I've never really seen them so vividly. Could this be what I'm looking for? The next few days or week should reveal some answers. I'm pretty sure they will.

Until then, I'm enjoying what life is presenting me with. I'm taking each day as it comes, with each new experience or encounter in this exciting city accompanied by each new revelation, insight, inspiration or feeling I get whilst doing what I'm doing.

A new wave of impressions

Chennai!! I'm here.. I arrived on Tuesday morning, as planned. Monday evening I said goodbye to the guesthouse I was staying at. I set-off and was expecting my first overnight train journey to be one of the biggest challenges so far. I'll repeat: I was EXPECTING. And when expecting the worst, everything can be so simple. The train journey I had envisioned in my mind, was overcrowded, muggy, unfamiliar, rushed, full of obstacles and potential delays. But the train journey I actually experienced was - instead of all these negative expectations - pleasant, easy, self-explanatory, on-time and very very chilly..

Everything was so logical. I found my carriage, I found my seat, I found my berth and I was sitting around friendly people. I also found some dirty looks and evil eyes along with some warm smiles and friendly gestures. I wasn't too concerned about my luggage or about being "groped" at (which is something fellow-travellers have warned me about, when going on overnight trainjournies alone). It was 12 hours and I didn't sleep much, as it was so so cold. But other than that, it was brilliant! And so cheap - I actually can understand the stories I've read about people who choose to journey on night trains, around the region or country even, to save money. By doing this you don't only get to rest your weary head and have some well-deserved sleep, but you also get transported from A to B AND it's cheaper than staying in a guesthouse!! Niamh is suddenly getting strange ideas into her head; but I'll let them be for now..

I got to the great city of Chennai at 7am on Tuesday. With a very groggy head I made my way to Jayanthi's house - the girl from the course who has been so sweet as to offer me help and a place to stay while I'm here in this brilliant city! It's been so great and I'm feeling amazing since being here.

The first impression I got from Chennai (which is on the south east coast) was the feeling of space. I was in the autorickshaw, and drove for ages, or so it felt. We were still in the city though. It felt so big, so bustling. We passed through so many different areas and I'd loved seeing these new sights. I was still in India, but it was different from where my journey started, some 13 hours beforehand: a different language (even a different alphabet!), different pollution (probably just MORE pollution, however not of a different substance), the food (more vegetables and less coconut), the prices (higher), the weather (less muggy), the pace of life (faster).

The differences can be more subtle to a foreigner, because "India is India", right? Wrong!! India is the known to be the country where moving from one state the next, can feel like moving from one country to another. I was first in the state of Kerala, now I'm in the state of Tamil Nadu. I can tell the differences, even though I'm a foreigner and still so new to this country. Maybe because I was in Cochin for 4 whole weeks and I had gotten "used" to certain things. I had gotten used to the sweat dripping off me as I sat in the guesthouse while I was doing nothing strenuous but sitting on my behind. I had gotten used to paying 0,15 cents for lunch. I had gotten used to being stared at more often than not, as there were so little foreigners there. So, of the differences, I'm aware, either due to my long-stay in Cochin or possibly due to the fact that Chennai is a "metro" and Cochin just a large town or small city. A "metro" simply means it's a huge city - the 4th biggest in India, with millions upon millions of people. This I only realized when I started chatting to some Chennai-locals at the station before leaving Cochin! I should really start doing my research before moving myself around this country. Or, come to think of it, I've never done this before and I'm doing brilliantly so I don't think I'm going to suddenly start changing my ways. It's too fantastic!

Besides all of this, I felt that leaving Cochin I was breaking free. I was being "let-loose". I was starting a new adventure and I could do and go and be as I please. That was probably the biggest relief in leaving there and arriving here. Jayanthi has been amazing. She has opened up her home to me and done everything to make my stay as perfect as can be! But it already was perfect: just the fact that I had a purpose and a reason to come here in the first place, made it perfect! She lives outside of the city, 400m from the beach. It feels fresh, it feels colorful, it feels light. It's peaceful and we're still so relatively close to where all the "action" is. Each day we've been going places, meeting people, taking every kind of transport there is to take. We've gone to several beaches - and one was the 2nd largest beach in the world(!!!)- I've even had a meeting for a possible job, which I might add, is also thanks to Jayanthi!

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The 2 important C's: Chennai and Cow

Right! Niamh has made a decision! All through the help of some dear friends, some advice from others and also through just following signs that she simply could not ignore.

Saturday morning I was faced with the dilemma of either going to Chennai to check out the German school that is offering me quite a good job opportunity with great perks or to simply hang around Cochin and Kerala for a week and a half waiting for the internship, which could last up to 2 months, with the college students to start. I figured I had nothing to loose if I go to Chennai. Checking out the school, will either push in the direction of making that particular job happen or it could push me in the direction of something I might yet have to discover.

Today is Monday. I'm leaving Cochin tonight. And it's time!! I'm so ready to leave, it's not even funny! I've spent 4 weeks here now, and tonight I'm getting the night train, which takes 12 hours and tomorrow morning I'll get to Chennai. I've been offered a place to stay for a few days, with Jayanthi - a girl I did the teaching course with - who lives near the school that is possibly offering me a job. I have no reason NOT to go, at this point in time. It will be good to have a change of scenery and see some more of India too. A little adventure..

I felt so much better on Saturday, once I had made the decision. And really, it wasn't even that big of a deal. It typical of "me", if I'm honest: making things far more complicated than they really are. So I did feel pretty sure I was making the right decision, in going to see the school. But, at this point, I'm not really bothered if it doesn't work out. How bad is that? I don't know where this feeling has come from: Maybe because I wasn't getting great vibes from the various telephone conversations I had with some members of staff, over the past week; maybe it's the fear of committing to something that could be longterm and losing my "freedom"; maybe it's the fact that it's a German school. It's more than likely a combination of all these factors. I'm convinced though that I have to go, even if it's for reasons I'm not yet aware of. It feels great to be going from Cochin. It feels great that I'm following the inevitable signs. But it doesn't feel great thinking that my gut-feeling isn't supporting my actions right now. Or, I re-phrase that: my gut-feeling is telling me to go, but it's not exciting me one bit. It's not making me want to take this job. As I already pointed out: I'm not too bothered what happens when I get there. I just know I must go.

It's probably the best attitude to have. I'm expecting nothing whatsoever, so I'll never be disappointed! That's a nice feeling to have!! So with that, I'm safe and secure. So Chennai here I come, and from there I'll know what to do!

The past weekend, it's been extremely quiet. All I've been doing is researching on the Internet, writing loads, reading books and processing the past "chapter" of my Indian story. I've been quiet. I've met nobody. I've spoken only with the owner of the guesthouse I'm staying at, the guy from the Internet place and the waiters at the restaurant I visit each day. So so quiet. But it's been great.

The highlight of my weekend: Picture this: Niamh is walking along the pavement with 2bags of fruit, happy in her own little world. Suddenly something came into her vision; something was walking along the pavement, she was catching-up to this something that had a massive big butt, a tail, a brownish coat and it was relieving itself of some waste, which was also brown, as it strolled along the pavement on that lazy Sunday, and extremely sunny, afternoon. It was a COW!! I actually was approaching this cow, on the pavement, in the middle of the city. It must have been let loose, on the run or simply bored.. Nobody was shocked. People just did as I did: they passed it by. I wasn't sure whether to be wary of it maybe attacking me for my pineapple and watermelon! I overtook it on the pavement. Then I had to wait to cross the road and it started to catch up with me again. Oh no.. the cow was approaching me and giving me the evil eye. I suddenly got a little flutter and continued to walk; you just never know what could be going on inside the head of a cow that is on the loose! It made me smile and I felt so brilliant just by seeing that cow.

O yeah, now that I'm on the topic of "animals on the loose": just an hour ago, here in the Internet place, there was this squawking noise coming from underneath my chair.. what was it?? A chicken on the loose!! It was tonights' dinner! This place continues to make me laugh and it's little things like the cow and chicken encounter, that remind me of where I am. Sometimes with trying to make certain things happen and making plans and figuring out this journey, I can easily forget my surroundings and loose sight of the country I'm presently in; until I catch sight of a cow walking along the street!