Just before getting into the car to be driven to my new home, they told me it was the same place… OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it! How had this happened?! My face probably dropped a few inches when they told me. But I wasn’t going to get on my ‘high horse’ and demand some place else. Nope. They said that the management had changed, the food had changed, and I’d get a single room.
Hummm… I was sceptical, but willing to see if there really was any change. I’d know within a day if I’d be comfortable to stay. So I was brought to my room, the door opened, and I had a déjà vu… I'd already played a part in this scene - 18 months ago! A wooden frame for a bed, without any ‘dressing’ or mattrass’ and a dinky little childrens desk in the corner, grubby walls that hadn’t seen a coat of paint for… 20 years? barricaded Windows and an ‘en-suite’ bathroom with 5 years of grime gathered on the nicely yellow stained tiles that were actually blue underneath. I can only describe the dirt as the accumulation of human flith, fungus, dust and grime that grows and expands so easily in a damp and hot climate, creating the perfect breathing-zone for any kind of bacteria to live and get into the pours of the person who is sleeping and living only 1 meter away. The toilet was blue ceramic, but that also had turned yellow… it was of course good old fashioned dirt, both inside and outside the bowl… Such complaints I have… sorry, But adding some exaggerations is probably painting a clearer picture.
What happened after the déjà vu ended? Niamh smiled and said: ‘it’s fine’. The housewife (who is also the manager) was happy to hear, but not happy to give me a mattress, a pillow, a bedsheet… Nothing. So the staff at school managed to arrange something. But if I’d have been Pinocchio, my nose would’ve been so long! Because, of course I wasn’t happy! I wasn’t happy at all! I was standing there on the only thing that was clean in the whole building – the floor (I suppose that’s something big in itself) – and saying outloud to myself, appearing to be a mad woman: ‘It’s happening again, I’ve been here before…how is this possible?'
The déjà vu wasn’t only a vision. But it brought the exact same feelings with it too! I was overcome with the same wave, on Saturday afternoon, as the wave I was overcome by, 18 months before… It was the wave of… imprisonment and desperation to flee. I was left in the room alone. And really I couldn’t believe how this had happened… When I left India last year, I promised myself that if If I ever landed myself in a living situation that didn't feel right from the start, then I wasn't going to force myself to stay and suffer – just for fear of failing in the eyes of others or for fear of showing weakness. I told myself I wouldn’t do this again. I also gave my request to the school, before coming to Kayamkulam, that I wasn't going to stay in the same hostel, but I've learnt the hard way that good communication isn't an easy thing to come by, when arranging anything, either on a personal level or professional level… so, there I was; Saturday afternoon, literally the 'victim of bad communication!'
So, now, I’m sitting on the wooden bedframe (that thankfully does have a mattress on it and some nice new sheets), with my back against a wall that used to be a lovely soft pink, but sadly has turned many different shades of… brown. I spent last night in despair. Almost depressed… lying on the bed, in need of sleep, but not able to get any, because I was trying to figure out: how on earth this had happened? A place I said I would NEVER return to… Did I go wrong somewhere and why such punishment? All night I was awake… tormenting myself.
At times I've felt as though the past 4 months of my travels have been so high-flying that the tiniest ‘bump’ will feel huge and I’ll see myself falling back down to earth and landing with a bang in a place that my mind will class as a prison and therefore - with this powerful thought – my spirit will feel that thought: trapped and unable to escape… I felt so lost last night. It was like apart of me wasn’t here and only my body needed to be here in this hostel as some kind of a test… But I’m not too sure what it could be. Maybe for me to see if I'm strong enough to speak up and tell the management at school how awful I feel here… OR maybe it’s for me to challenge myself again, grin and bare what I've been given? I know I can do both. I can choose either option. But I don’t know which one is the best. Who would I be letting down, if I leave Kayamkulam because of the accommodation? If it’s myself, then I’ll have to grin and bare. If it’s only the school I'm letting down, then I can leave. If I’m letting myself down by staying… then I can leave… right?
Only after speaking-up about the fact that a change needs to be made, and so taking action and acting maturely instead of running away without even trying to solve anything, then I can make a decision. So I won’t jump the gun and flee nor will I bury my misery and pretend I’m happy with the living situation. I can do this, without sounding like a ‘spoilt foreign girl’ who is too demanding and massively high maintenance - which is often, and unfortunately inevitably, how people can label foreigners, as soon as they ask for change.
If I were to leave though, I wouldn’t instantly know where to go. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’ve not had the time! To be totally honest, a larger part of me wants to leave and apart of me does want this experience at the school. I’m just wondering, what could all of this be in aid of? From heaven to … hell??? Can I say that, without offending anybody? Hummmm… Sasthavattom feels like a lifetime ago. It's only 36 hours since I left! Oh god… tomorrow I’ll be talking with management… and most like also teaching with a smile - I hope. Keep you informed!