My first impressions of the school itself weren‘t all too uplifting; the corridors, the benches, the discipline.. I could feel it within the walls and was sent back to my childhood, when I was in St. Micheals’ Primary School in Arklow, up until the age of 9. I had visions of nuns walking through the halls and of students being put in the corner, facing the wall, if they were misbehaving. This was not good! Had I landed myself in a prison all of a sudden? It felt wrong. But I had to put on a brave face, smile and be happy to meet all these new faces; as each one started looking like the next - it happens so easily in India, when there are 60 dark-skinned people in front of you, all wearing the bright-coloured sarees.
For most of the day, until around 3pm, I managed to keep that smiling face on. Then, when it came to saying goodbye to Byron, I thought I was going to breakdown. I got so emotional, which so unlike me, when I’m saying goodbye to people. I can usually be sad, but to actually want to cry, when saying goodbye!! Niamh! Get a grip! Then I had no choice in the matter. I had to hang on to my emotions for a little while longer, as I unexpectedly had to attend a staff meeting straight away. The first one. This was all so strange. I sat there in the staffroom surrounded by 65 teachers and I listened to the headmistress talking about programmes, discipline, timetables, chairmen, assemblies, prayers, camera observation and more meetings and I started to feel like I was drowning. I had just lost my lifeline, with Byrons departure 2 minutes before this meeting. There was nothing for me to hang on to! I understood little of her terminology. I understood little of what was going on and I had no clue what was expected of me over the next few days or weeks. I felt so lost in this huge school (well, bigger than what I was used to). I felt so alone. Was I able to run? I could have done. But hang on: Where was my luggage?
I had dropped my luggage that same morning, in the teachers hostel (an apartment block where around 25 teachers are staying, including me), but hadn’t seen my room and didn’t know who I’d sharing with. I knew nothing! I went in search of my “new home“ and luggage, and sure enough, just in the nick of time, I found my luggage in a new apartment. I was about to explode with emotion-overload. I locked myself in my clean bathroom, and finally was able to cry my eyes out. I can’t remember how long I was there for. I just sat on the floor and felt absolutely awful. I felt to be in a prison. I had no clue of nothing but had to obey so much. Everything was so vague and the day had been one where I felt I’d made a bad impression on the teachers, I felt they were judging me, I felt like I was in the wrong place. I felt like a fake. I was surrounded by teachers with proper experience, with academic knowledge, with the assurance that they were good teachers. And there was me, sitting on the bathroom floor, in a very clean hostel I might add, crying my eyes out, feeling such pain in my heart and trying to tell myself I’m a teacher, when I‘m nothing of the kind.
What was I going to do? I contemplated escaping. I thought about how I could myself out of here. In my moments or minutes or hours of despair (I lost track of time) I couldn’t see how on earth I was going to get a grip on what was going on around me. It was too much. Getting accustomed here on this campus, felt it would take forever. But I don’t have forever; my visa runs out in the middle of July! How was I going to get used to the way things are run, from mealtimes, to schedules, to tutoring, to assisting, to planning my lessons and to, most importantly, staying sane, happy and embracing each child and each day that I encounter during my last chapter of this particular Indian adventure? It was beyond me! I felt this was going to be the biggest challenge I’ll be facing so far, since first arriving in this country.
Was I capable of being the teacher they need? Was I able to live up to their standards? I had no clue. But I had to close myself off and get back to being me again. Because, as I sat on the bathroom floor, I was temporarily somebody else. I was out of my body and I needed to return home - not to Ireland or Holland (not just yet)- but to myself. And I did. I soon settled myself and realized I had to push myself into becoming familiar with this set-up. And sure enough it started to happen a little while later when I met lots of the other teachers and 3 amazing girls in particular - Dolly, Ria and Anjana - who also live in this apartment block/hostel. We hit it off instantly and I was so happy to have met them on that Manic Monday. They saved my day, and didn‘t even realize.. How the next days plan out, will be revealing either way. No matter what happens I’ll continue to tell myself: I can rise to any challenge, nothing is forever and this chapter at Ebenezer school will be another experience, never to be classed as “bad“.