I don’t know what happened, or why, but somehow things just got a little easier. The world slowed down a little for me. I feel less dizzy at the thought of being here for so long.
OK, so there are a few things that have happened that could make me feel this way. Let’s put them all together.
First – the roommate story.
I was told about a week ago that I would be getting a roommate. At first, I internally freaked out. NO WAY I said (in my head). I am 26 years old, making me too old for this…situation. But then I realized I was kind of lonely and maybe it’d be nice to have one. A few days later seven Canadian students (Clarke, Ceinwen, Esaba, Jane, Marie, Christina (I know…) and Cheryl) from McMaster University in Toronto arrived to spend three months here working on women’s health issues. With Helen (from Scotland and totally baller) and me, that makes 9 volunteers, which might be a record for Jagori. There’s also another girl from Switzerland joining us on Friday, and another volunteer from Germany who is coming in October. It’s starting to get a little crazy over here!
Because of last minute planning on both the parts of the Canadians and Jagori, I took on TWO of the Canadians (Jane and Marie) who are staying in the other bedroom in my apartment. They have been quite a sweet pair – they cooked me dinner the first two nights and because they eat rice for at least two meals of the day (both are Korean) I am never without it! Often we’ll have the same work schedule and will walk to work. I also tend to worry about them like the mom that I am, like if they’re eating enough veggies and stuff…:)
Part of the reason I think I am over the first hump of culture shock is that I have finally realized, through pathetically comparing myself to people who have been here for less time than I have, that I am beginning to know my way around here. Somehow, imparting the little of what I know (how to walk to work from our house, where to find yoghurt, how to take the bus) to the new kids makes me feel more competent than I have been feeling ever since I got here. I have also realized that I have had to figure things out A LOT by myself, which has made that knowledge stick that much better and makes me feel like I’ve earned it more. Also, my experiences in Indonesia have been helping me A TON (how to turn on and light a gas stove, tips for avoiding ants in the kitchen, how to keep your bathroom floor clean and dry).
Second – my work!
I haven’t gotten my schedule completely figured out, but here’s what I do at Jagori, at least for now:
Sunday: FREE! (unless something fun at work comes up in which case I take a free day some other time)
Monday: teach All-Level English Conversation Class (available to all kids of all ages) from 4pm-5pm at the Khanyara Knowledge center (30-40 minutes walking from me/10ish minutes by bus)
Tuesday: FREE or field work*
Wednesday: teach Advanced/Blog Building English Class to more advanced level English speaking kids in the community from 4pm-5pm**
Thursday: field work*
Friday: field work*
Saturday: FREE or field work*
NOTE: I generally will have 2 days free per week – they may be different days every week but I do need to take breaks!
*Field work has included one of any number of things so far:
a) going to make connections in new communities, i.e. visiting a new panchayat (like a city or town council) to tell them who Jagori is and to ask them if they have any domestic violence cases the need help handling (which Jagori does);
b) doing health check-ups on women who have been given medicine or supplements via Jagori and seeing if it is helping or not:
c) going to women’s courts and hearing different cases, often having to do with domestic violence:
d) attending youth meetings to educate mostly girls about their bodies, sexuality, being a woman, etc.
Generally what I do in the field: after getting a sense of what’s going on that day, during the meeting/event I write down everything I can understand in Hindi (which ends up being anywhere from 10-30% of what is going on), then ask questions to my fellow team members about what has happened in the meeting, and then writing reports based on my experience. The listening in Hindi part is exhausting but really good for me, like broccoli. My understanding of spoken Hindi is rapidly improving. Also, by asking clarifying questions in English to Jagori team members, I am helping to improve their English and forcing us to communicate in detailed ways. This work is also exposing me to what the team I’m working on does, and will help me as an outsider to get to know the communities that will be participating in the 16-day women’s campaign that I’m supposed to help plan in late November-mid-December, as well as the One Billion Rising campaign in February.
**I have an idea for a class that combines cross-cultural communication, computer skills and English speaking. Hopefully, I will be teaching the students in my advanced class a) how to make a blog, b) have them write blog posts about various topics together, and c) have my sister Casey’s middle-school class in the States write back to us! I think it’ll be interesting to me and the students, and will combine a lot of the skills they’ll be using in a creative way.
Field work pictures:
I am incredibly excited about my work here. It’s hard not to feel like a burden on the AWAJ team because they’re taking a huge risk by having me along on these site visits. On more than one occasion I’ve had to question whether my presence as a foreigner/outsider helps or hurts the work they are doing. However, in most circumstances, they are incredibly happy to have me along. Apparently my broken Hindi is enough to set the people we see in the field with at ease. I have made someone who was previously crying while dealing with her court case laugh at my broken Hindi, so at least in some way I am helping! The connections I’m making with the team members of AWAJ seem already to be pretty strong, even if there are significant miscommunications because of language barriers.
It’s hard to be patient when things seem disorganized, or when the team seems to get off their regular schedule because an important workshop is going on. Slowly I am getting the hang of things though. I try to picture my experience of this organization and living here as a giant, brilliant, intimidating and foreign machine that I have two years to figure out how to operate. Every day, I push a different button to see what happens. So far it’s functioning fine. There may come a day when I push a button that causes some mayhem and chaos, but then I’ll find a different button that will make it mostly better, if not erase my mistake in the first place. Sometimes I want to push more than one button in one day, but that causes pressure to build up and parts to fall off. It just doesn’t work to rush things here. One button at a time, largely through trial and error, I’ll figure out my path in this strange, new and beautiful place.
The title of this post refers to what one of the girls in my English class said to me upon hearing I was the one that was going to be teaching her English for the next two years. Initially, I was lackluster in my attitude towards teaching English – however, with the low amount of classes (2) + the adorableness of my students + the ability to shape these classes in seemingly any way I want, I think it’s going to be a good year. “When you walked in the door I was so happy you were here!”, she added. This made me feel like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes 🙂