Status Check

Corey writes:

Six weeks in...

As I write this, I am looking out the front door of my new workplace, watching a row of tribal women in brightly colored saris walk to town. They are carrying their lunches in steel containers on their heads. The front doors to my workplace are wood and are hand-carved with little scenes of the daily lives of the adivasi. People are coming in and out of the room I am in, saying "Namaskar", "Good Morning", and "How are you?". And they really mean it. They honestly want to know how I am feeling. And I mean it when I say "Tame kemiti achi?" back to them. I am feeling happy because this morning we found a place to go and run (me in shorts) with minimal stares and no cars. I am feeling happy because there was enough water in the tank on the roof of our house for us to take full showers. I am happy because there was no rat poop on our kitchen counter, no ants in my cereal this morning, and because the milk here tastes really good (probably because of the fat). I am happy because Gina and I have a home of our own for the first time since July. I am happy because we are learning all the knobs and buttons and gauges of making a life here in Koraput.

India is changing me in many ways I am aware of and many more I am not. I'm trying to be present in every minute, but I can already feel the day coming when I look out the front door of SOVA, at the rolling beautiful landscape and think only "what are we having for dinner tonight?".

Gina writes:

Before coming here, I worked hard to accept the day-to-day challenges that I knew would come along with the excitement. So after six weeks in India, when I haven't had any experiences that have really shaken me, when I haven't found any particular way of doing things here that really frustrates me, I'm pleasantly surprised.

Being able to say "we live here" has allowed us to view the country with a different lens from that of a tourist. We've experienced the process of setting up a home, registering with the police, getting acclimated at work, learning to dress to blend in, and socializing with coworkers and neighbors who know we're not just passing through. All of these opportunities have given us glimpses of what it means to truly be a part of this culture. Some of our experiences have made me appreciate the U.S. more; some have made me think about the value of a simple life; some I've just enjoyed for being different or fun or weird.

In our time here, though, I can say without a doubt that I've never once, not for one second, regretted the decision to do this.

That's not to say that there are things I wish were different. For instance, there have been numerous times when I've been reminded that I am living in a VERY patriarchal society. Corey was talking to a woman at SOVA about cooking and without him knowing it, she walked over to me to give me recipes! Jokes about our house being clean now that a woman is living there are plentiful. When our boss was talking to Corey and I about work yesterday, he looked at Corey only.

I have been surprised by the kindness of co-workers. Hours and hours of cultural training led us to expect a fairly long and tenuous road toward a trusting relationship with colleagues, since we're foreigners, since we're coming in as advisors/consultants, since we're young. None of that has turned out to be true; offers of cooking lessons and meals and shopping help, invitations to lunch and tea are constant! I truly do feel accepted.

One thing that helps is that we've been able to have regular communication with our family and friends back home. Yahoo/Facebook chats and emails have helped me to feel connected to people; it doesn't feel like we're halfway around the world. Please keep up the contact!