Saturday, February 1, 2014

Week 4: Homesickness, Reflection, and Perspective.

     I've never felt homesickness before. I've been to multiple camps for a week or 2 at a time, I've been to 2 other mission trips in another country, and hell I've spent 3.5 years away from home at college.  But it's not about being away from your family, because you still have friends who you love as family. And its not about being away from almost everyone for a week, because you know you're returning in a few days and life will go back to normal.
I've been away from EVERYTHING I know for a month now. 4 weeks of a complete lack of familiarity. No hugs from the best friends, no silly inside jokes, not going to favorite spots with favorite people.  Yes I have made friends, but this is not my life with the friends i've grown so close to and the boyfriend I was starting to fall pretty hard for. I've been aching for the people I love and the places I know and the job I was working, and the...rightness of everything. But I am only 1/5-20%- done. Home isn't even something to get excited for yet because it is still 4 months away.  In a way it makes things easier, since the logical part of my brain acknowledges most of the time that if I get sad now I will just be miserable. But in a way, it is also a bit overwhelming thinking of how many days are still left.

     Despite that, I don't regret coming. If anything, I regret not applying for 2 different programs and splitting my time so I could live in 2 different countries for a while. I've already learned and discovered and felt so much here.  The culture is very different, and I am still discovering new things the more time passes. Nothing shocked me about the living conditions: I expected an abundance of garbage, mud, dust, and poverty. And I guess nothing particularly shocked me about anything else either, it is just different. The procedure for using the bathroom is different, squat toilets are different, having to pay to use a public toilet is different, being stared at is different, everyone thinking its okay to skip in line is different, women being less important is different, tuk-tuks are different, the food is different, the common religions are different, cows and dogs and pigs roaming around everywhere is different, seeing monkeys is different, and being a minority is different.  Some of the horrible stereotypes are true: since being here, we have seen multiple news stories of gang rapes; it is something way too common for comfort. Little boys have tried touching our butts. If I am with a male and we meet another male, the male we meet will talk to the friend and might not speak to me. But I have met some very nice people and some more "progressive" thinkers that are trying to break the bad stereotypes. We stayed with a family for orientation week where the wife does as she pleases and is working on opening her own business; she said in the past she had to ask the in-laws and her husband to do anything, but now she just hops in the car and goes. I have yet to be groped on the metro or in a crowd-something I was worried about.  I was squished in a tuk-tuk with 7 men (one being another volunteer, who was sitting across and down a little from me) and the man next to me kept asking if the volunteer wanted to switch with him so I would feel more comfortable. We were in Riskikesh and had to meet a taxi at 4am, so the waiter at the restaurant we frequented said he was too worried about us being alone in the dark and would walk us safely to our taxi. This doesnt mean there is nothing wrong with the country and that I shouldnt still be on my guard.  But there is a lot of kindness here. And it does make me feel good that things seem to be changing for the better, at least in the area I am in.

     I wrote in an entry recently about how I feel useless since I dont get to do much.  I still feel useless, but not as pessimistic. Dr. Prabhat had a conversation with us last week about how volunteers in the past have been really terrible and ruined a lot of opportunities for future volunteers with their sense of entitlement, complaining, and not learning from the doctors.  Many of the doctors in the medical facilities IVHQ is partnered with don't make it a point to jump right in and give the volunteers opportunities. Rather, they want the volunteers to prove their willingness to learn by being there and being patient and waiting. So when I had to just sit in gynecology, it was because the gynecologist didnt trust me and wanted to find out if I was really there to learn or not. In contrast, I spent a few days in the eye hospital with an optometrist and he was fantastic from the start about telling us what he was looking for in each of the tests, how he fitted them for glasses, how to tell if they have had cataract surgery, what a cataract looks like, and he even gave us an anatomy lesson for the eye when we had a long break from patients (stuff I knew, but a gesture I appreciated).  So I am trying to look at things different and not mind the waiting as bad. I go back to gynecology for the next few weeks, and I plan on trying to get more involved and show them I am worthy of teaching.

Much love,

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