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Sunday, June 27, 2010

A foreign touch

Many travellers gallivanting through India, can have a tendency of not wanting to be around people “of their own kind”. The foreigner rejecting contact with the foreigner, is a common phenomenon. It’s something most travellers in India are either currently doing or have done at some stage of their journey. It’s like a phase they pass through but usually end up finding themselves in a certain place or situation where they actually realize they DO need contact with people of “their own kind”. I was going through this particular phase of rejecting “westerners” before coming to Ebenezer.

When I was in Varkala a month ago, I didn’t really want to be around other travellers because of wanting to stay properly “connected” to India. The people I was close to at that time, were only Patsy and Byron and those were the only Westerners or foreign people or “people of my own kind” I wanted contact with. I had convinced myself I didn’t need anybody else. But they left when I started teaching here at this school. I was fending for myself and would have coped by myself too. But I would have paid the high prices of quitting this job and maybe never teaching English again. Up until Pauls’ arrival, I had convinced myself I didn’t need other Westerners to feel more comfortable in India. I wanted to be strong, independent and secure, all by myself even if it meant I had to be miserable because of not having any real chance of venting all the things that were bothering me. To make this experience into an enriching experience I have come to need other travellers and Pauls arrival proved this to me.

With this realization, that only came to me last week, more travellers have been coming into this chapter of my India. Last week Thursday, the 18th of June, a guy from America moved in and has started teaching at the school. His name is Cliff, he’s 50 years old and an experienced traveller in so many Asian countries. He’s been travelling for at least 5 years and is also a yoga teacher and is so wise!!

For 5 days, Paul, Cliff and I became the 3 musketeers. We were eager to set-up the teaching plan, we were eager to learn from each other, we were eager to develop our teaching skills and we had great fun too.. Everyday we’d walk through the jungle roads with banana and coconut trees on either side, to the tea-stall, for an “Indian chai” or we’d walk to the “toddy bar” (which is a “earthy” Indian bar, where they only sell the alcoholic drink made from coconut trees, called “toddy”). The travel stories we’d share along the way, would be amazing. They are both so well-travelled and I became like a sponge- soaking up all the knowledge and depth of what they have attained through their travels. It’s made me see India in a different light, once again. In an even brighter light! Over the past week, in between teaching strictly disciplined but gorgeous kids, I’ve come to realize that this trip to India is only just a taster of what this country has to offer me. It can and will enrich my life so much more than it already has done and I’m partly realizing this due to these 2 well-travelled men who have come into my life.

To have people you can relate to and who listen to you, is like having a vent. Here in India, when you’re an outsider, you need a vent. You need more than just a blog to write about your experiences and a journal to write about your emotional “drama’s”, with every chance you get (which is what I was doing). Having a vent creates the lightness you need. You actually have a deeper conversation with a traveller, instead of simply answering the questions: “how many members are in your family?”, “Where are they?”, “Are you married?”, “How long have been in India and when will you come to my house to have some special Indian food? (which is basically the conversation you’d have with every Indian you meet). To hear other’s experiences of “their India“, gives strength in approaching Indian living and being able to always pass through the frustrations and see the beauty. So I’m grateful for other travellers to have come into my life. I really needed them and they’ve helped me loads.

Since yesterday, Tuesday the 22nd, things have changed once again. Paul has left. The head of the agency we work for, needs him to teach elsewhere in Kerala for the next few weeks. With his departure, another traveller has arrived. A new French teacher from Paris. Her name is Mahaut and she’s also my flatmate, from today onwards! I’m so happy to have a female I can relate to. I instantly felt a connection with her, when we met. She arrived yesterday and was going through the same feelings I had gone through when I first arrived, only the minor version. I felt for her so badly; I could see the panic on her face as she was walking around the school - trying to adjust to the discipline, the attention, the atmosphere, the pressure - she looked so lost and to be drowning. But the “false start” I had when I arrived, nearly 3 weeks ago, helped her, as we got a chance to meet and speak with each other. Now she’s happy and will be staying for the next while! It will be great, I know it will.

All these amazingly courageous people I’m surrounded by, who aren’t Indian, but who are making my experience here at this Indian school to be all the more inspiring, to say the least. And that’s not even taking into consideration what I’m learning about this teaching, about these kids and about myself. It could be endless. So the days and weeks are flying and unfolding and, for now, I’m where I want to be.

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