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Friday, May 28, 2010

Tourist shock.. 2

How strange is it, for me to feel so different, when being around other travellers? As I sat at the table, I heard a voice inside my head asking: what are you doing, sitting here with people? By trying to avoid Indian sleazy men, I was now attracting English and Irish tourists. But I was also wanting to avoid them! I woke up the next morning, and it felt like “the morning after the night before”. I felt I was going against things that I had started to value.

So what is it I want? Do I want tourists around me or Indians? Or do I want neither? When travelling alone, company can be very welcome because you can get too much inside your own head. This fact doesn’t make me a loser, it doesn’t make me a failure, it just means I’m only human. Hanging out with tourists doesn’t mean I have to befriend them if I don’t want to. But I can simply appreciate and hold that company for as long as I wish. That’s the beauty of travelling alone; having the freedom to leave the dinner table, the guesthouse or even the resort, as soon as the urge comes. Then when I realize it’s not the company I’ve been used to over the past months, I don’t have to stress out about the temptation of what that company presents me with: alcohol and partying.

I know what’s happening: for so many months I’ve been around mainly Indian people. Day-in day-out, they were the only people I’d have face to face contact with. This is what I wanted and it’s what I was getting, even though at times it’s been difficult, frustrating and has made me also feel at a loss and even isolated. The company I’ve been used to, hasn’t been smoking, drinking or cursing. They may sound like saints, but of course that’s not true. They can be just as rude, ignorant and unmannerly as anybody else, and many times even more so than the “standard western person”, but for religious reasons alcohol and cursing would be almost unknown to many.

Wednesday night I felt like I was being taken away from India and I was losing sight of all that I had learnt and began to appreciate more in life. With Byron and Patsy, yes they are also English, but it was totally different. I had a connection with them. I appreciated the conversations we had and I didn’t feel judged for not drinking alcohol. Yesterday and today I actually started longing to be with all the native friends I’ve made, since first arriving in India. I needed to get that connection back.

I’ve realized I see India as something other than the latest Lanzarote or Crete, which is what others may choose to see it as. I see it as a place where I can learn to value other things in life, rather than boozing and partying. It’s a short period in my life where I can live a different lifestyle and where I learn different things. I felt I was undoing all I had done and that’s why I may have overreacted when I was suddenly faced with holding company I haven’t held for quite some time. It doesn’t mean I’ll never party again or never enjoy some drinks. Just at this moment in time, it’s not something I can appreciate or value. It’s not what I came to India or Varkala for. And that’s fine for me to realize! There’s no shame in in doing what I want and not getting distracted and being “misled”. I came here to do as I please and that’s exactly what I did. And it led me to have the most memorable walk along the beach!!

Tourist-shock.. 1

When you’re in a tourist hotspot it can hard to avoid those for who the hotspot was developed: tourists. Western tourists. I chose a guesthouse on the basis of me not being surrounded by tourists. I didn’t want to be distracted, I didn’t want to get “sucked-in” to that scene. I came here to have some peace and quiet and some me-time. Varkala beach is divided into 2 areas, one for the Western tourists, which is busier, cheaper and has café’s, bars, restaurants and shops galore. The other part, which is where I am, is mainly for either elderly tourists or Indian tourists. It’s a little bit more expensive, it’s quieter and there are only a few restaurants and hardly any shops.

Even though I’m not near the busy area, I was drawn to it over the past few days. Mainly because I was trying to avoid certain Indian men who were making advances, in the only eating place near my guesthouse. So to avoid that confrontation, interference and awkwardness, I was hanging out in the touristy area and have been with people I was initially trying to avoid: Wednesday night I found myself sitting, for the first time in ages, with a group of English and Irish youngsters. It almost frustrated me to have attracted a situation I was wanting to avoid. The main reason was actually because I was confronted with something I haven’t been wanting to do since coming to India and that’s to party and to drink. I‘ve only had 1 glass of wine on my birthday which I couldn’t finish. Since then I haven’t wanted alcohol, nor have I been around people who have been drinking, except for Byron and Patsy last weekend.

Many people who travel in India say they automatically stop drinking because there isn‘t much of it around. In the towns there aren’t really any bars and I haven’t noticed any liquor stores either. It’s not a big part of life here. I unintentionally stopped drinking. It wasn’t a plan of mine, it just happened. But then what happens is, that travellers find themselves suddenly surrounded by their “own” people and get sucked-in to the drinking scene again. It can be a bit of an alien feeling and you ask yourself: what to do? Continue to be alcohol-free or go with the crowd? Wednesday I couldn’t resist agreeing to have dinner with these guys. They were lovely people but I soon felt that it wasn’t what I’m here for! I almost felt guilty for agreeing to go along and I was then feeling like bore for not drinking. But soon I copped-on; I wasn’t going to have a drink just to fit in. I didn’t want anything other than a juice. I didn’t care what they thought of me, because I didn’t even know these people. When they asked me to come to a bar, after dinner, I said no to that too! Was it because I wasn’t drinking or was it because I wasn’t having a great time and felt that all they were doing and “dribbling non-sense” and I was simply sick of listening to it? Maybe it was all of these reasons. So I decided to call it a night. I’d had enough. I thanked them and set on my way back to the other end of the beach.

I had to walk back along the beach at 11pm by myself. It was a 15min walk. I was a little wary about it, because I’ve heard a few stories about what has happened to tourists in these places. But it actually was the nicest walk ever! While they were sat in the pub, I was having a mid-night stroll. It was a full moon so the beach was lit up and it was almost like daylight. There was nobody around, except for 2 lost souls I could see far off in the distance. It was so warm and all the natives who, in the daytime, would be sitting around filling their hours with doing nothing except for drinking tea, eating fried food and watching the people coming and going, were all either curled up somewhere on a hard bench or a wooden bed or a stone pavement. And there was little old me, seeing this beautiful place by night, all on my own; walking along a beach in the South of India, by night, with only the sound of the waves in the background and the moon guiding me back to the guesthouse, safe and sound. It was so nice! For that walk alone, I’m happy to have gone for dinner with these Irish and English travellers, because I otherwise I would have missed out! Amazing.

More to come.. ;)

An air-conditioned mind!

An incident on the train: travelling AC, for the first time in India. What an ordeal I made of this. It was ridiculous on my behalf.

I’ll explain: In India, there are so many different classes you can travel on. Me being me, I have always gone with the cheapest class, which is non-ac ( without air conditioning). It’s basically an overloaded carriage, that stinks, that’s hot, that’s male-dominated and can at times feel to be an intimidating environment for women travelling alone. But I would never even consider spending “so much” (on Indian terms) on a seat just so I can sit down and travel in comfort, for a “short 3-hour train journey”. Never. For a number of reasons I wouldn’t consider this. What I could do with for the same amount of money is endless: feed myself for 2 days or book a room for a night or work on the internet for 10 hours in an internet café! That’s the money -side of it, then there’s the other side of it; which is, even if I have the money, how could I feel fine to think of deserving to travel in style? Just because I’m not native? Just because I was earning my wages in dollars, before coming here?

It felt so wrong, at the weekend, to be travelling in a higher class than I usually would be travelling. I actually got into such a mess in my head because of it and wondered: why me and not them? I should be “back there” amongst the heat, the chaos, the smell. But I wasn’t. Why couldn’t I enjoy it and be happy to have such an easy train journey? Why couldn’t I appreciate the fact that Byron and Patsy were offering me something so generous? I couldn’t believe how much “stuff” it brought up for me.

Afterwards, we spoke briefly about it. All I could say on the matter was: why me in an ac-carriage, and not them? Then Byron said something ever so interesting. He said to never let your standards drop, even though you may be surrounded by standards which are far lower than what you have been brought up with. And it’s actually an issue I have been faced with on several different occasions in India.

For instance, when I was in the hostel I felt, the longer I was there, the more I was starting to care less about hygiene. I could see that I was slowly starting to feel fine to wash my clothes in a dirty bucket and to walk on a floor barefoot that hadn’t been cleaned and to eat my rice with a hand that I hadn’t had the chance to wash properly. I could see I was slowly caring less that my roommate would go to the toilet and leave traces on the toilet seat and to smell a smell of sweat in our room from which I had no clue of the source. All these things: I had to see them as normal, only so I could feel comfortable there in the hostel. I had no choice. How else would I have gotten through those weeks feeling all the amazement I was feeling? It wouldn’t have been possible, had I not adjusted and accepted THEIR hygiene standards. So I did.

But now I’ve come to realize how important it can be not to FORGET your own standards, even though you may need to temporarily ADJUST them. This is not only regarding hygiene, but the general standard of living. There’s a difference between forgetting and adjusting and maybe that’s where I got caught “off-guard”. A person can simply adjust their standards, because they have little choice in the matter and otherwise would be “deprived” of the rest of the beauty a certain experience can be giving them. This is what I did in the hostel. A person can however forget that they were raised with certain standards of living and general hygiene and become totally “one” with the world around them and feel they deserve the lowest of the lowest because they find themselves in a world that happens to contain a standard of living that confirms a particular travellers belief that in order to have a positive influence on those less fortunate they also must lower themselves to that level. This is SOOOO not the case! It’s not was I was doing, but it’s what I may thought to have been necessary. How interesting to see this so clearly!

I now see that a person can see themselves as being the same as the other person, regardless of their ”wealth”, their upbringing, their religion, their standard of living. I ask myself: How can an outsider find a balance between the world from which they come and the world in which they have chosen to place themselves? Well, nothing is ever black and white but if a person from a different country can see themselves as being blessed to have their roots in their home country that has wealth and therefore puts that person in a position to travel and make a difference, if that’s what they want to do in life, then standards need not slip but flexibility should be owned. Their land of origin gives them the opportunity to spread whatever it is they want to spread. The wealth only gives options and opens up the world in whatever way that person may want it to open-up. It doesn’t make them snobs, it doesn’t make them feel to be any better than others. It doesn’t define who they are.

Native Indians, most of them, will disagree with this last statement, I reckon. But that’s because they may not have those opportunities or the wealth and envy may play a role. I would like to add though, that most people say India is a 3rd world country, and in parts it is, but there IS money and wealth here, especially in the cities; it’s just the size of the population and the contrasts within the 1 billion different people that cover Indian soil, which make it nearly impossible for the money and wealth that is in the country, to be divided equally.

So I need not feel guilty for sitting in an AC-carriage, I need not feel like a snob for wanting toilet paper when I go to the toilet (something they don’t use in India!! Water is all they need..!!). On the other hand: I need not feel like a pig for eating the Indian traditional way (which is with the hands) and I need not feel disgusting when the heat makes me sweat so much. This is me adjusting my standards but also keeping my own standards in place. I also realize: yes, we are all one, we are all the same.. But we cannot feel guilty for our roots and for the opportunities our place of origin gives us: balance in the world is something that is always needed and realizing this doesn’t make us heartless or snobs, it just makes us even more aware of the options we have and the gratitude we can choose to feel for this.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pressing "pause" in Varkala

On Saturday Byron, Patsy (another English teacher, who I have mentioned before, from the south of England) and I went to a beach resort called Varkala. At first I wasn’t too sure whether to go or not. I was feeling I needed to chill-out, maybe by myself. But I hadn’t been hardly anywhere in Kerala since arriving and this was the perfect opportunity to explore. It was only for a day and a night, initially. And how glad am I that I went along with these open and warm people!! Because, I’m still here now! That’s how much I loved it here. It’s the first beach I’ve spent any length of time at, since Thailand. And this fact instantly reminded me of many magical moments I spent on the Thai beaches. Everything was coming back to me. And I was feeling amazing being here. So I decided to stay, because I was at a loose-end, even though Byron and Patsy had offered me to stay at their apartment in Kottayam (which is 3 hours by train from Varkala). But I needed this time to myself, this week. I had been wanting a little piece of paradise where I’d get the chance to write again, to read some amazing books, to reflect, to connect.. Whatever name you would like to give it. And this was it. This was what I had been wanting and it was all here!

Saturday and Sunday, I had the most lovely time with Byron and Patsy, when they were here. They stayed until Sunday. We had so many great conversations about so many things. It had been so long since I’d spoken so freely. It was brilliant. Patsy is 30 years my senior and an amazing woman. She is a true inspiration to ALL women and through our talks, I learnt so much. I’ll be seeing her at the weekend again because when I leave here I have, again, been offered a bed in their apartment for that night. How amazing it is, when you find such generous, loving and caring people, so unexpectedly. It continues to fascinate me and it will continue to do so, regardless of the amount of times it’s happened before and, hopefully, will happen again.

Right now, I’m sitting on a hilltop, overlooking the beach. The rain is coming and going, the sun is also around, now and then, peaking through the grey clouds. The monsoon is on it’s way and the sky can be very dark at times. The temperature is so refreshing and warm, even in the rain. It’s brilliant and just giving the rain the name: “monsoon“, makes it so much more appreciative and magical, for some reason. It’s low season at the moment, but I was still amazed at all the tourists I was suddenly seeing. The first day it was so strange to see so many Westerners! It’s been 4months since I’ve seen so many. It felt even weirder when, on the first day, I got talking to an Irish guy. I hadn’t met any Irish in India and to hear the Dublin accent so strong and to so quickly pick-up on the Irish mentality of: “you are Irish too, then I’ll happily get to know you!! (which is what most Irish travellers do, wherever you meet them: they give priority to their “own kind”), made me reject his company straight away. I wanted to run, I didn’t want to speak with any Irish, nor was I bothered with “sticking to my own kind”. O no! And I was rejecting of all other tourists at the same time! Once I got used to seeing white skin again, the novelty wore off and I was missing the Indian women, the teachers from school and my special kids. I wanted to re-connect with my Indian friends, so I made a few phone-calls, just to hear their voices and to feel their spirit with me, as I sat in this paradise which is focused only on tourists.

Now though, it’s Niamh on her own. How nice it has been. I’m staying in a guesthouse overlooking the beach. It’s safe and I’m not getting too much hassle from Indian men, who see a female tourist by herself and instantly assume they can take advantage. This was my main concern, when coming to a resort like this. It’s happened before and it ended up being the reason for my leaving a particular tourist spot. But this time around, I’m keeping everybody at a distance. I don’t want hassle or distractions. So I feel I have to be cautious when being friendly to the men, because they instantly jump to conclusions. It’s a shame because I don’t like being rude, but sometimes I have to be, just to keep this week as my “alone time”.

Goodbye Kayamkulam

I have stopped and pressed “pause“, since my last update. It’s Wednesday afternoon, almost a week since finishing my teaching in Kayamkulam. I left there on Friday morning and was shocked by the reaction I got. Really.

It was all a bit much. Some of the women staying at the hostel were in tears, others had taken time off work, to set me on my way and some of these I didn’t even have that much contact with and I wouldn‘t even have classed as friends. It made me realize just how isolated these women live. They felt so close to me - even when I didn’t feel close to them - just by me having stayed in the hostel for 5 weeks; probably because I’m the first Western girl they had ever met. I felt a little bad, for not feeling the same emotions as they were. I asked myself: am I really not effected? Am I sad? And the honest answer was: No. When I was leaving the school I was sad but happy, all at once. But when leaving the hostel I was happy, even though these women were suddenly giving me more love then than they had done before - just when I was leaving.. So typical! To make them feel better, I felt like putting on a sad face too, but that’s just not right. So I didn’t. Instead, I left feeling so touched by their kindness and by their sadness in my leaving. I left with even more contacts here in Kerala than I realized. Indians really can be the most honest and sincere people in the world- even if they don’t have any manners and can come across as being the most rude people on the planet - based on first impressions. But getting past that “front” reveals the warmest of hearts that I will never ever forget.

I made my way to the town of Kottayam, which has turned into a place around which I’m now based. It’s mainly because the next job in near this town and not for the desire to be there. It’s just a big town, with a nice Indian feel to it. Here I met up with Byron - for those who haven’t been “tuned-in”, he an Englishman who got me my next teaching job and his office and apartment are both in Kottayam. He brought me to the school, to check it out. I was pretty impressed. It’s one of the more modern schools in Kerala. I’ve seen my accommodation, which is on campus, and it‘s gorgeous! It was hard to get a proper feel for the place and picking up any vibe was nearly impossible - for the lack of kids, as it‘s still summer holidays here. It was also strange to know that I’d be in such a different school environment so soon after only just leaving Kayamkulam. But it’s what I’ve chosen to do and it will work out fine. School starts on the 1st of June and I’m looking forward to it!

This was last Friday. Everything was set in place and this meant that I had a whole week off, before I was due to move to the school! A week free to do whatever and be wherever I wanted. This felt like the first time to happen to me, since being in India. And it actually was. Even though I’ve only done one short teaching job, I’ve been otherwise on the go, constantly. Even when I was in Chennai, I wasn’t fully “free” because of the search for work. But suddenly this was my week to totally chill-out! How brilliant. Most travellers in India are free on all occasions because they may not need or want to work. I’ve been doing it slightly different however, so I may appreciate a week without worries, even more! This is all so very fine!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The end of temptation..

So, the story continues as I was breaking away from Kayamkulam-teaching and heading to wherever I was taken to: on Thursday afternoon the decision was made for me; after having such an emotional day at school, after feeling to really have made a difference in the short space of time in the small town of Kayamkulam and after realizing that I was apart of an amazing community all along when many moments my focus was led away from this amazing world because of forcing myself to make decisions and also trying to predict the future, I said good-bye with so many more friends in my heart. No matter how much time passes, I’ll always have many homes that will open their doors to me again, here in this little town.

I said goodbye and went to sort out my life - on the internet. And the answer was there waiting for me. All I needed to know, was in that email; it was the most abrupt, rude and snobbish email I’ve ever received, revealing information he (the Greek doctor) could have told me weeks ago, which would have saved me many sleepless nights. Without a greeting he said that he didn’t think I’d meet the requirement of paying 800 pounds as a deposit for a travel allowance and a work permit. There was nothing else, no goodbye, nothing. Just 2 lines saying that he’s assuming I’m a poor traveller without a dime to my name!!! How cheeky. But how happy and relieved I was!! I didn’t need to make up my mind, that email said everything. Of course I don’t have that money to spare but even if I did, I’m not sure I’d want to be apart of their family and work so closely with somebody who is giving me a label just for the lifestyle I’m living.

I felt free again, I felt blissful again, I felt excited again. 5 minutes later I called the contact I have with the other school, who is Byron from England (I’ve mentioned him before), I arranged to meet him and go to the new school the next day (which was Friday, and also when I was due to leave the hostel and Kayamkulam). Byron has an office and apartment in Kottayam, 2 hours away, and he also offered me to stay with him from that Friday night. Within 5 minutes I went from still thinking maybe I’d go to England to knowing that I’d be staying in India until my visa expires and knowing that I’d be having another teaching experience in this amazing place. These 2 options couldn’t have been more different from each other, but I knew acting so fast was what I needed. It all felt so right. I had a short term plan, I was going places, I was doing what I wanted to do and I was on top of the world!

Leaving Kayamkulam and this school feels like the right thing to do for now. If it turns out that it wasn’t the right decision, then I’ll simply change. It can all be so simple! From tomorrow (Friday the 21st) I’ll be on the road again. I’m excited and eager to see what will happen over the next week! How amazing things have, once again, all fallen into place, after being briefly tempted by an offer back on the “home-front”. Just goes to show, you never know what could happen and where things can lead and it’s not a opportunity lost, but it’s proof that the world really does have endless options and they can take you anywhere!

Temptation from England

Well that was the million dollar question: Where to go from Kayamkulam. To give the answer, I'm forced to speak of a different subject. 2 weeks ago I got offered several jobs; one here in another town 2 hours from here and one in…. England..!!! This England-job was the most random offer I’ve ever had in my life. I got an email in my inbox, from a Greek doctor, who is living in England. He found my resume on website that is for English teachers looking for work abroad and he was offering me a position as a private teacher to his wife and 2 children, a full-time position with accommodation, great pay and a 12month contract. Hummm.

I first thought it was a joke, then I got in touch and didn’t know whether or not to take the interview procedure further. I found out that it was a serious job offer and that he’s well-established in Yorkshire as a doctor. For the past 2 weeks I’ve done nothing else, in free time, other than contemplate what to do with this offer. I had a job here that I was loving, I had another offer that could be great. Was I ready to leave India sooner than expected and go back to Europe to earn great money? Was I ready to commit to 12 months of working in the same job? Was I ready to leave the “classroom” and enter a home-environment where the teaching would take place, so soon after only just becoming familiar with teaching in a school-environment? Did I actually WANT to live in England? Everyday I wondered, I changed my mind at least 100 times. I didn’t speak with anybody here or from the school, I kept it to myself and instead wrote some crazy emails to certain special people for some extra advice. But I didn’t want to be influenced by others, I wanted to do what I felt was right for me, at this moment in time. But it’s hard, when everybody was telling me the same thing: “go for it”, “you’d be crazy to let this slip” and “12 months isn’t forever”.

As each day passed I started to hear less and less from the Greek doctor. So I panicked thinking I was losing this chance. I suddenly felt I desperately needed this job and that leaving India would be fine, if it were only to be temporary. But his silence started to make me see other things. I realized so much, as I was eagerly checking my email everyday and hoping for him to answer more of my questions and shed some light on what my chances were. I realized that I don’t want to stop traveling. I realized how miserable I’d be in England. I was thinking ahead and the thoughts of being there, was already making me go back to Australia in my mind. Which is the strangest thing: I haven’t wanted to go back to Oz since I left but thinking of England and pushing me back down-under again, when really there’s nothing there I want at the moment. This made me see that England was indeed feeling to be stepping backwards, no matter how good the job may have been.

Also I heard through facebook about certain people planning their travels over the next year or so, and I was sick to my stomach. I was even checking the calendar to figure out where they would be when I would have half of the contract finished. I was envious of their travel and freedom and was feeling so trapped, even though nothing was definite and I hadn’t even “given-up” my freedom or my travels. I felt at a loss and was already counting down the months as to when I’d be leaving England again. But, I got to a state of mind where I was sure I’d rise to the challenge, if I were to get the chance. I’d be able to stick it out, I’d go to England with a deeper purpose, all so I wouldn’t feel to be driven my money alone. I knew I could do it. So the days passed and I waited. By Thursday people were getting worried: “Niamh..you’re leaving Kayamkulam tomorrow and you don’t know where you’re going! How that can be! Make up your mind!!”. But I wasn’t worried. I had convinced myself I didn’t mind either way. I’m adjustable, I’m responsible, I’m independent and I’ve got my priorities in order. But in my heart I didn’t want England.

Tears at the ceremony...

Thursday I had a ceremony to go to, at school. I knew it was the official closing of the summer vacation classes I had been giving. It was a day full of emotions and happenings. I didn’t realize that it would all be quite so difficult. All the teachers the students, parents and teachers I had been working with over the past 5 weeks were there to attend this gathering and I was one of the main reasons. I sat up in front of more than 150 people and the principle and head mistress spoke of me and gave their thanks. I was then handed the microphone and asked to say some words and was so happy to because I didn’t want to leave without getting the chance to say something in general about my experience. And because emotions were rising, of course what happened?? Niamh gets all soppy towards the end of the speech (that I hadn’t prepared) and couldn’t say all I wanted because I was too chocked-up. No!! I wanted to say my bit, but I cried instead. But I didn’t an ounce of embarrassment!

What I was trying to say through the microphone - and only managed to say half of - was them giving so much thanks to me was totally unnecessary and that I was the one who was supposed to be saying “thank you” to all; to the kids for being so open with me, to the teachers for taking me in, to the other staff for looking out for me and giving me help and concern whenever I needed it. I started speaking of how special this time with the kids has been to me but not once did I say that this was my first proper teaching experience. Everybody at the school, from day 1 has treated as being a professional teacher and they assumed I have years of experience. They never asked so I never explained. The classes just happened as they did and everybody was happy with the whole concept of what I was doing. I wanted to say that, because it’s my first teaching experience, it has therefore been an extra special time for me in India; but I didn’t. I left it as it was; they know I’ll never forget them. The tears had taken over, so I quickly finished it off and handed over the microphone.

I was given presents and gifts and was asked, again, to stay. I was told how much I’d be missed and that I always have a place to return to. I was asked why I wasn’t staying when I love it here so much and I was asked where I was heading to next. Well, nobody on earth knew what I was doing, not even I did. I had 24 hours before leaving the hostel, so time was ticking. What would be happening next?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What guidance is needed??

The spiritual devotees I’ve been in contact with have been wanting me to get more involved in the foundation of the Art of Living. It has led me to start questioning the whole “worshipping of a leader”(which is what would come along with getting more involved), and with that, I’ve been questioning all religions in general. This is what India can do to a person: From one day to the next you can be faced with 2 or 3 different religions, beliefs and rituals.

Why are they following this Guru in particular and devoting their lives to spreading his beliefs and his way of living? A Guru is wise soul, one who knows the eternal knowledge, one who is connected to divine, one who has higher powers, one who has experienced life’s challenges and one who expresses all their wisdom in such a way that others can learn and also experience that same endless supply of knowledge and wisdom we all have within ourselves. A Guru shows the path towards this wisdom, through his writing, his speaking, his way of living. He teaches and people learn. People can experience a blissful awareness, a happy and free soul, they can experience peace and love in all aspects of their lives due to what the Guru teaches and for this reason they follow, they give thanks and they worship. They are also the most joyous, non-judgemental and free spirits you will ever meet.

The more people I met and the more I was being “told” to do the courses his foundation offers, such as meditation and yoga, the more I started to wonder about “clinging” so strongly to a leader, Guru or wise-one. Do I really want to start following his beliefs? Yoga and meditation I would love to follow, when I have the funds to spare. So at some stage, then, yes, it will only be through a particular Guru that I’ll learn. Because they are the ones who “drive” the whole force and lead you towards the deeper encounters that yoga can offer. This is what they spread and therefore it’s what the teachers are taught and this is what they in turn must pass on. Ultimately this is what I would love to experience; to be a yoga teacher. It will happen when the opportunity presents itself. And speaking of opportunities: I know in life we make our own opportunities happen but I also know that we need certain things in order to make them happen. As well, to want too much in life all at once, forces us to loose focus and we end up doing less in the long run. So I reckon simply knowing what I want is enough for it to come to me.

But being a devotee and following a Guru so solemnly? What a Guru gives, we already have, I already have. I’ve experienced it myself and don’t feel the need to worship somebody else for something that I have encountered through things that I’ve been through in the past and therefore already own myself. It can be called many different things: inner strength, higher power, connection to the spirit, awareness of your truth. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I don’t need guidance, of course I do, everybody needs guidance. Nor am I speaking badly of his followers; I’m know that all Guru’s speak wisely and that they are extremely powerful. I truly believe this. But, for me personally, I don’t know why I would choose to worship one Guru and not the other? Why is this Guru different from others? I’ve read many books of such wise-ones and they speak so much truth. But I have never decided to follow just one or to worship the other. I give thanks, yes. But I give thanks to all amazing writers who teach me something, I give thanks to all the people who have guided me in my life.

So, after much questioning, I’ve come to the conclusion that, yes guidance is needed, and in whatever way a person chooses to be guided is their own freedom of choice, as it is my freedom of choice. At this moment in time, I give thanks to people who have guided me in my life, be they wise writers, other professionals or people on a more personal note. And for now, that’s feels to be enough; giving thanks to all. I don’t need to question this any further. The past week has revealed all I need to know for now, in regards to beliefs: I simply believe in me and I know where to turn to for the guidance I need in life.

The nature of this teaching

Since coming to Kayamkulam I have been introduced to many ways of living and many different beliefs. It’s such a spiritual environment; everybody at the hostel is Christian, the school is Hindu and it’s also of the spiritual Art of Living foundation of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Everybody who works at the school worships this Guru. They live by his wisdom, they devote all their time to him. And for many teachers, it’s their main reason for teaching at the school - it’s not for money because the salary is next to nothing, but they see it as a “service of duty”. I’ve been to a few meditation masses, where they sing and praise the Guru. Last week I went to a gathering and it was the most overwhelming experience. There were over 100 devotees there to celebrate the Guru’s birthday. I didn’t expect it to be such a big deal. But what a celebration! Singing, speeches, presents, food, festivities and meditations too. People were crying but also blissful. It was so powerful. I was then unexpectedly asked to come up on stage and give a speech after being appointed the special guest, all the way from Ireland who was “bringing English to the town”. I was blown away by the reaction I got after I rambled some unprepared words down the microphone. I got hugs from people, a massive round of applause and chains of flowers. People were coming up to me telling me how happy they are that I’m here; people who weren’t even related to the school and who I‘ll probably never see again.. So strange! A great experience - but maybe a little overwhelming.

Actually, this is something that is starting to feel a little bit unnecessary: people treating me with so much respect and looking at me with so more admiration than I deserve, when really, I’m just like them. I don’t want to be treated like something more than they are, just because of my skin colour or because I speak English. I could be anybody from any Western country, and I’d get the same reaction. So how can I ever know if they are treating me this way because they genuinely like the person I am or if it’s because I’m white and they can practise their English? I can never know and the only way to find out is if I get close to certain people. But that doesn’t always happen because I’m never around for long enough. I know what I’m describing right now, is all apart of teaching English in such a country and many other Western teachers would say the same thing. It goes with the territory, so I have accept it and I won’t let it get to me. But it doesn’t take away my longing to be seen as equal to them. Wanting this isn’t a crime, but it’s also something that will never happen; not if I want to be in remote places where I can make a difference. So I suppose I AM making a difference in such areas and if the people are aware of this fact then it may only be gratitude and appreciation that they are expressing towards me and instead of feeling overwhelmed and unworthy of this, I will be thankful. Looking at it from this perspective shows me it’s all like one big puzzle, or like a circle almost.. How nice the world can be!!

18-05 One more day..

One more day left and this teaching job is over. 5 weeks after I arrived in Kayamkulam and I’ll be leaving so soon with having gained so much by being here. It’s been a crazy time, I have to say.

Where to start; with the most recent happening: getting sick. Again. I’ve been sick on 2 occasions, when I first arrived in this town and only just 2 days ago. I got a hold of the same virus. Never have I managed to get so sick, 2 times in such a short space of time, since travelling. It made me wonder if my body is starting to reject this country. The thoughts that this country may be damaging my health, made me want to leave and so I’ve had some homesickness to deal with. Such emotional drama I can cause myself! The urge to want to leave India goes just a quickly as it comes. But when it’s there, it’s so ferocious and powerful that India can go from being my best friend to being my worst nightmare. Then the “going gets tough” because there’s nobody I can speak to. There’s nobody to help me see things clearly and I can be overcome with a feeling of desperation. But it has to pass, and it always does.. Eventually. And of course the magic returns and the world is, once again, an amazing place.

How did I end up getting sick again? Well, I’m not going to go into any details but very briefly: I got in contact with a family in a tiny place called Chagganacherry. It’s 2 hours by train from here. I found out about this family through a special person who is in Europe at the moment and who I met in Thailand. He wanted me to meet this family, as he had also stayed with them when he was travelling in India. So I did. The world is such a big place and to be staying so “near” to a family who he has been in close contact with, made the world feel so much smaller all of a sudden. So I went, and spent a day and a night with the family. Such nice people. But I’m not too sure what they were feeding me. All I know it was an enormous amount of a particular type of food I really don’t like - called parotha (even local people can‘t stomach it properly!). I came back to the hostel on Sunday morning and I was struck by symptoms of the flu and a virus again. It passed though after 24 hours and I didn’t miss any days at school, which I was so happy about; seeing as though my days are running out.

My time is nearly done and yesterday I was suddenly offered a position here at the school. I’ve decided against it though. The hostel where I’m staying is making me want to leave. I’m not comfortable here and wouldn’t consider staying in this place for any longer. For these past weeks, it’s been okay, because it’s only been temporary. But now I’m done with just about everything; with the mouse that roams the rooms and was only just paying me and my clothes a visit; with the bathroom being so dirty with grime and grease that I would rather not go to the toilet for 24 hours than walk on the bathroom floor barefoot; with the Indian tv that is always blaring the dining room and forces me to sit in this small and untidy bedroom. I’m done with the bed being so rock-hard that my bones ache in the middle of the night; with not having anywhere to properly wash and dry my clothes; with people walking in and out of the room without knocking. I don’t like to complain, but those are how things are here and I’m not going to miss them! On the other hand I’ll miss a few of the people, my roommate Litty especially. And a few other girls who have made me feel at home, instead of like an alien in a country I feel so blessed to be in. Such a contrast: almost being rejected by the rudeness of some people, yet still loving the nature of this country, and with such a huge population, it’s the people who make the place! How interesting; it just goes to show that I can switch-off to certain vibes people can try to pass my way.

When talking about the hostel like this, it may sound like I’m either living in a run-down squat or I’m extremely spoilt. Well, neither is the truth. I’ve stayed in far worse places than this, but have felt more at ease. It’s a bad vibe I get when I’m here. For this to be my reason for not taking the job, seems to be superficial: Niamh can’t handle some dirt and bad vibes! Well I can, but something else is not quite right. I feel bad for letting this get the better of me and for choosing to leave these precious kids I love so much. I’ve even been told by the head of the school, that I’m needed and that both the teachers and students would all benefit from me being there. This has been my first teaching experience and therefore an experience with a deeper meaning. So I know I must be able to distance myself from it and it will make me stronger. I have to leave. It will be good for me to get out on my own again so I can do as I please without having to answer to anybody. Any important decisions I’m needing to make and any alone-time I may need, I can have as much of it as I want. So I’m leaving and am so grateful for the experience and so full of love for the kids and all they have given me. I’m aware that the love these kids give is something that you don’t come across very often.. It’s what has made this whole experience here in Kayamkulam all the more special - one never to forget. The last day awaits…

Monday, May 10, 2010

An interview revealing so much - concluded

I learnt so much, just from those few hours. Patsy truly is an inspiration. She is 57, and has been travelling for 10 years. She’s an English teacher and uses her profession to keep her in the places she loves the most. She volunteers, she teaches, she‘s living and embracing everything life has to offer. She sees opportunities as they come along and takes action. She goes with the flow of life and is one bubble of enthusiasm, energy and life. Maybe once a year she goes back to England to visit, but it’s always a “truckstop”, as she calls it. She goes back not knowing exactly how she’ll be leaving but knowing that she will be leaving.

This was so interesting. It’s what I’m “struggling” with most at the moment - or it’s not so much a struggle, but I’m in the process of making an adjustment to my mindset: Going back home, doesn’t mean staying there. I’m not stepping backwards. Instead I’m stepping forwards to experience the world at home again, through eyes that have witnessed and felt an extremely different way of living.

Patsy and I spoke about expectations and judgement from those back at home. We spoke about the pull that you can feel from time to time, to fulfill that need to see those amazing people at home, who are hoping to see you soon. We spoke about how easy it can be to get back into the way of living that takes place in your home but that doesn’t fit with what you want from your life - even when you don’t want it. You can, most times, know in your heart that it’s not for you. Being away from home supports that feeling. Being in a place that makes you see magic and mayhem all at once and therefore forces you to seek balance in your life, gives you strength to remain unaffected by potential expectations or judgement. I don’t know if the expectations and judgement happens, but if it does, then I try my best not to let it effect me.

This leads me to a question: do I ignore or switch-off to what the home front or to what society wants? No I don’t. I can be aware of what others have in their lives and what others think about how I live and what they want for me, and still remain unaffected. I’m not running from anything and by returning home and facing the challenge of being surrounded by influences of a different way of living and still remaining true to what I want, will only be confirming what I know I truly want in my life and what always makes me happy. It’s simply putting into practice what I can doubt (now and then) to being able to keep in my life; which is the desire to keep on travelling. By going home, I’ll only become stronger in knowing, maintaining and following that feeling of amazement I instantly get by being the traveller, by being independent, by being and STAYING in-tune with what I want. This alone will change my mind-set.

Instantly voices come into my head, that were once upon a time said to me and influenced my decisions: “You can’t live a life like that! You’ll have to settle down! You can’t keep on putting it off forever! Life is not a dream Niamh and you need to come into the real world!” These are things I’ve heard before. My reaction used to be: “Yes, of course” and it led me away from the magic. But now my reaction is: “who says I can’t have a certain lifestyle for however long I want? Who says that this isn’t reality?” Stability, a house, a regular income: that’s reality? Not mine. Mine is this. I’ve created my own reality and it will be so effortless to keep this real, if I don’t let those voices of “rationality” and of the past, influence my actions and decisions. Having experienced a life so different and knowing that it can remain my reality, makes me question why I should choose to be driven by other forces, which aren’t my own? If I was to stick to my old way of thinking: going back home is stopping the flow and will lead me to getting stuck; is setting myself up for experiencing all the things I don’t want in my life. And that would mean it’s nearly impossible to go back and wholeheartedly embrace the experience.

After speaking to Patsy, everything became so clear. My visa ending, doesn’t mean my travels are ending. It means it’s the beginning of something new, once again. It means other doors will open. My travels will continue, first towards home and then beyond once again. But I’ve also realized that I can be beyond, wherever I am. I spoke with her: A woman 30 years my senior! We were totally on the same level. I could suddenly see that I can do so much of travelling, if that‘s what I want, for however long I want and in whatever way I want. Nothing is stopping me, not even voices from the world that can come to mind telling me I don’t have the means, I don’t have the finances, I don’t have the chance. On and on these voices can go. But I know they are lies. Because, look at me now. Look at where I am. I did this, I made this happen. I got myself here and I’m being given so many options for me to return to the land of magic, if I want. I know this will happen wherever I go. I know I’ll always be led to the right person and the right situation at the right moment in time. It’s already what is happening, and therefore it will continue. This is now my life - driven by something other than the society in which we live. I’m not being rebellious, I’m just being me.

What an amazing afternoon. I got a new lease of life and, once again, I felt like this really is only just the beginning. And I was so excited. I was suddenly properly seeing where I am, on all levels. The opportunities are endless and always will be, no matter where I am. Going to this interview, was obviously the best thing I could have done. I don’t know if I’m going to take the job or not. I have a few days to decide. But, even if I don’t, meeting Patsy was the best! Everything is so clear..

An interview revealing so much

I had the most random meeting, yesterday afternoon. It was a job interview, in a town called Kotayam, which is an hour by train from where I am now. It’s for a teaching position in one of the better schools in Kerala (which is the state I’m in right now), some even say one of the better ones of India.. But that’s a bit of an exaggeration I reckon.

I went there, without any expectations. Not even knowing if I’d still be India, not even knowing if I wanted the job. The job is offered through an agency that takes on teachers and places them in different schools around the state. I had spoken with the man doing the interviews, and he’s from England. So, if I’m to be totally honest, one of my main reasons for going to the interview, was so I would get the chance to have a nice flowing conversation with someone from the same “walk of life”. The fact that it was also for a potential teaching position, was a big bonus! The interview, even though I was unprepared and unexpected of anything to come from it, would at least give me the feeling that I’m making things happen and applying the “process of elimination” when it comes to my options in India. Because, I have to face facts: decisions need to be made - 2 more weeks left in this teaching job.. Time is ticking!

The longing had become so big for me to meet with someone from outside of India over the past few weeks. This meant that meeting a foreigner, a westerner, a person whose mother tongue is also English, was a breath of fresh air. It was really what I needed. I met him - his name is Byron by the way - we chatted and of course we shared our opinions on Indian life and we had a good old moan! I was suddenly able to speak without adjusting the speed at which I talk, I was being understood on more levels than 1! Wouw; What a feeling! The afternoon only got better, when a lady walked in, also from England!! Yay.. Another western girl! We clicked instantly. We started chatting and I got so comfortable being with these 2 people, that I forgot it was an interview. This lady, whose name is Patsy, is absolutely amazing. Really. The 3 of us chatted for a while, as if we were friends, meeting after so long. Afterwards we even went for a drink at a hotel in the town. Byron was wanting a beer, so was Patsy.. And the strangest thing happened: I said “no” to the alcohol! I couldn’t believe it. Even they were shocked! The first beer I have been offered since being in India, and I’m saying “no”! I had one sip for the taste but even that was too much. Wouw. What a new experience that was.

After 2 hours they brought me to my train. It was the first time for me, since being in Doris’s company back in February, to be walking the streets of India, with other Westerners by my side. It was strange, it was different and the stares weren’t only at me. It took a lot of the strain and pressure away and life felt to be so much lighter. What a brilliant afternoon and I discovered so much and it was exactly what I needed, right at that moment. How amazing..

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not enough to go around

Last weekend I was invited to the principals’ house and what this experience made me realize, was amazing. Her name is Latha and she’s a brilliant woman. I was delighted when she invited me into her home. Getting away from this hostel and the 40 women that roam around it, each day and also getting away from the room that can sometimes feel a little too isolated, was a breath of freshair.

She lives outside the town and I got to see proper village life again. She lives in the cutest pink house, surrounded by coconut trees, with an outside toilet, a well for the water and tropical fruit growing on nearly every tree in her garden. I felt like I was in the jungle; there was no town, no noise, no pollution, no honking of the horn; it was heaven. I was seeing sights of India I’ve seen before, but had to be shown again, just to be reminded of where I am; sometimes you simply have become so accustomed to this world and certain things become a part of daily life; like not being able to understand the language and not having daily contact with Western people. It’s all normal. So to appreciate your “current status”, you actually can be in need of a wake-up call saying: Hello!! Don’t forget the country you’re in! And this is what last weekend did for me.

It was such a different experience. Her and her family treated me like royalty; they brought me to dinner, they prepared special food and even slept on the tile floor and gave me their double bed! The hospitality was without end and I felt it was too much. I’m not royalty. I’m just like them and being in their home was more than I could have asked for. But we learnt so much from each other, I learnt about their lifestyle and they learnt what mine is like back home and what it’s been like since I’ve been on the road. They picked my brains about every subject they could think of. It really shocked me to hear some of the thoughts they have when it comes to Ireland. Her husband actually asked if Ireland is the same as India! He asked about our coconut trees and other the tropical fruit that grows there! He was shocked to realize that the wages are so much higher and even more flabbergasted to here about the cost of living. So sweet and so innocent he is. I had to constantly reassess my first initial reaction to these questions and statements, because how are they to know that the differences in the world are so huge? If they haven’t travelled outside of India, then of course this life is all they know. At times it was hard for me to get to their way of looking at the world, so I could have understanding for their amazement. But it was brilliant all the same. For me it was an eye-opener and they felt so much “richer” for having had me there for the weekend (which is their words, not mine). By the end though, I was drained. I felt I had nothing more to give. I felt like I had been in the “hot-seat” for 48 hours. There were only so many smiles I could produce and so much information I could spill, as my need to have some space and a time-out started to take over the appreciation of the experience I was having. I was delighted to have stayed with her, but it made me realize many different things.

I’ve realized that I have placed myself, unknowingly, in both the “spotlight” and the “hot-seat”, by doing what I‘m doing: teaching in a place so “small” (on Indian terms) and being the only foreigner and single female traveller here. It can get a little much that whenever I leave my room, all eyes are on me or whenever I have a conversation with anybody, be it the caretaker at school, the man at the fruit-stall, the lady at the internet café or the tailor, it’s always about me. I never get the chance to hear about them. I never get anybody coming to me for a chat, that doesn’t start with their expression of concern or curiosity regarding anything to do with my situation and my life. I’m always telling them how I’m doing, because that’s all they want to know - except for 2 teachers at school and Latha (thankfully!).

I was beginning to wonder why the hospitality and their concern was getting to be overwhelming at times: it’s only because I feel I need to express so much gratitude for the concern that they show, and it’s sucks the life out of me. Their concern and curiosity is being expressed, every time I have any kind of contact with anybody. So now it’s like this is what my life currently is: an expression of gratitude. When I’m low on resources, it’s not easy going. Having said this though, I know that showing appreciation and gratitude for all that everybody receives, should flow naturally, or else it’s heartless and my “thank you“ holds no meaning. But there really is only so much I can give of myself. The kids give everything back to me and they fill me up and make me again able to give all that I have, to others. They are keeping me sane and my reason for being here.

I am nothing special though and I am un-important. Really I am. I don’t want to be seen as somebody they have to look up to. I’m just me, like everybody else. By the way they give me more attention, I could easily feel different than them. But I don’t and I still walk around the school and don’t feel different. And I continue to ask myself why the parents, students and teachers all want a “piece of me“. I don’t let it make me feel to be more, because I’m not. Instead I’m the one who feels blessed to be in this special place and for this experience, which they cannot comprehend. They try to tell me how precious it is that I’m in their school, which I cannot comprehend. I suppose the expression of gratitude is then working from both ends. But because I’m only 1 person trying to give thanks to the whole entire school, and they are a whole school giving thanks to just 1 person, it causes an imbalance. How can I ever feel to give enough back to the whole school for all that has been given to me? That’s a big pressure on anybody. I’m only 1 person and there’s only so much I can do. I don’t mean to speak badly about their kind hearts, their interest, their concern and their curiosity, but I never realized how much being in a situation like this can take out of me. It takes a lot to stay sane through it all and to still keep giving everything I have, in the classroom. But, as I said earlier, it’s the kids that keep me sane.. Each and every day. They put me in the position to be able to say “thank you” that is heartfelt and that holds all the meaning in the world.

School life

My second week of teaching is over. It’s going so fast and I heard today that the classes I’m giving will only be until the middle of May. The 20th to be exact. That means only a few more weeks! Wouw.. so fast. I’m only just getting settled in and growing more confident but already I’m needing to think of where to head to next. The school wants me to stay. But I’m not too sure. Staying here could give me some great experiences and the kids are amazing. But then there are other options too. The same foundation has schools all over this district and there’s at least one other school, closer to the city, where they have a vacancy for me. And yesterday I got another call from a language institute wanting to meet me and offering me a teaching position to start in June. So there are options, but I don’t quite know what it is that I want.

I’m trying to stay in the “here and now”. Suddenly realizing that I’m half way through this assignment, it’s making me savour each day even more. I’m enjoying it all so much. The kids are the sweetest ever. They speak so much English, the bigger ones especially, and they are so open with me. I get the sweetest poems, letters and gifts nearly everyday and the questions some of the them ask are so innocent. Yesterday one of the girls asked me if I take a flight every morning and afternoon, to and from Ireland! Another girl asked me if I drink lots of milk, because my skin is so white and yet another, who is only 8, asks me everyday if I’m happy or if I’m sad when I go to my “home” after class. She tells me how happy I make her and today she gave me a note saying how proud she is of me!! This is coming from an 8 year old! It makes me melt.

The youngest group, from the age of 5 to 7, are starting to feel more comfortable with me. Because of the language barrier, it was difficult at first, and it still can be as they talk so much of Malayalam (the local language) to me. It’s sweet but not always easy. At some points, they are speaking to me and I’m speaking to them and neither of us is understanding the other. Most days there’s an assistant, Sheela, who translates whenever there’s the language barrier. But today she wasn’t there and so, of course, they totally took advantage of “teachers” lack of language. It doesn’t help matters that I’m not strict and they’re clever enough, with or without English, to know that I’m not strict and today they tried everything! Quite funny when I take a look at the whole situation but actually teaching them new stuff, was a challenge. We do meditation every lesson, to calm them down - which is how this school from this foundation work - and it’s amazing to see the effect it can have on them. How calm they can become and how much they take in, afterwards, it works like magic, usually. But today, it was more like a playschool than anything else. I had some of them crying, and I didn’t know why, I had some of them arguing and I could only guess as to why they were arguing. But smile, smile, smile and befriend them and they will always be fine. Such special kids. I was so tired when it was over.. There was only 30 of them, which isn’t a lot (by Indian standards). But it felt like it. It took so much for me to get back to “normal” afterwards. They had sucked every ounce of energy out of me but I had to get my head into gear for the next class. It was like getting to a totally different place in my mind, because the approach was so different. Suddenly I was in front of kids who understand 99% of what I say. What a turnaround! I didn’t think I’d get through the “change“ of approach in teaching, without them noticing I was low on reserves. But I managed and the energy came out of the sky, or somewhere else.. Haha..

The school lets me do as I wish. Every lesson I can choose the contents. I choose my way and, due to the hours of preparation I do each afternoon, my classes are so much fun. When the lessons start, I don‘t want them to end. If I’m “having a ball” then so are they and that’s all I want. I then know for a fact that they’re learning. I still have spectators every lesson; other teachers taking notes and wanting to “learn” from me (little do they know how in-experienced I am) or new-comers observing my way of teaching or visitors just being curious as to who the new and only foreigner in the town is and what the commotion is all about. Yes, my lessons cause commotion and they are different. But that’s what the head of the school wants. My classes are hectic, full-on and my voice can be heard by everyone around (and this alone draws everyone to come a watch the excitement that’s going on). I don’t use a stick, for “chaos-control“, like the other teachers do. When the kids are acting out of line and I suddenly “put them in their place” they know that I’m serious and they listen and then we all smile again. It’s brilliant.

I learn so much each day about so many different things, and most importantly, about myself, due to these amazing kids. So much flows out of me when I’m in front of them. If I’m tired beforehand, it’s instantly gone, when I’m standing in front of them. I’ve realized how much I love to talk in front of people. Something I’d forgotten. Every lesson, I find myself talking too much and have to force myself to stop. But by what I’m giving, I always want them to come to life in my classes, and they do. Time flies and energy is bouncing off the walls and so much love flows..

I’m only starting to realize this in the past few days, but there really is so much love at this school. I can see in the kids that meditation is apart of their daily lives and lessons in school. The foundation that runs the school is of a spiritual guru (I think I mentioned this before) and the students, their parents, the teachers and everyone linked to this school, is a follower. So their way of being and of teaching, is one of pure freedom and joy. Everyone is humble, equal, grounded and they strive to be a free soul. I notice it in the kids a little more each day. It’s fantastic.

So, when all is going so well, how is it that I don’t know what I’ll do with the job offers I’ve had? Well, it’s mainly because of my visa expiry date; 3 more months I have, but do I cut it short? Do I come back afterwards and take up either of my options? No matter what I choose, when I leave, I’ll have to wait 2 months before re-entering India on a new visa. It’s a new law. So if I really want to return, I’ll first have to go elsewhere; maybe just for refuge or maybe to teach in a different country and gain a new experience and later return to this land of magic. The answers I’ll never know until one decision is made. It’s fine though, in whatever way I decide to go about my travels. It’s all working as it should: In perfect order! I’m just witnessing it all unfolding before my eyes and it’s amazing.