One Year Left

Corey writes:

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of our arrival in India. Here's some random musings on this occasion.

Tourist vs. Resident
After a year, we're realizing the difference between being a tourist and being a resident. Tourists get their kicks from experiencing the new and different, and they usually have no work and a limited amount of time. We have jobs and a house here. We take pleasure in walking down the street and exchanging "hello"s with friends, shopkeepers, and colleagues. I can quote you the standard price for everything from a packet of milk to a kilo of chicken to a rickshaw from the hospital to the rail station. This also means that we've settled into some ruts, which we have to force ourselves to break periodically.

Over the last year, I've had a lot happen and not happen in the realm of work. I've built many information systems for various purposes and watched them all be neglected or misused. I've trained and hand-held and nagged with little interest or effect. I've been undermined behind my back (never to my face) by the senior staff. But I still show up every day. I'm still there. There are (a couple) people whose lives will be different because I've taught them something. There are people who defend me (behind my back). I've turned virus-filled neglected computers into clean, useful machines. After seven months, people seem to finally understand the value of the server computer and are using it. Whether SOVA likes it or not, they're going to have to keep that thing going after I leave. That may be the only guarantee of sustainability.

In our home life, some things have changed and some things have stayed the same. We're still kind of homebodies, we still like cooking new things at home, and eating out once a week. We still consume a lot of media (movies, TV, games, books, audiobooks). We still like finding new activities in our city. However, some of our consumer instincts have been toned down. There is definitely a culture of fixing up things and making do with things that was probably last seen in the US by our grandparents. Only rich people and suckers buy new when they don't have to. That's the attitude here. Austerity and saving are admirable traits. We are starting to admire these traits also.

What's changed
At work and in the market, I feel changed. I've learned to be an asshole sometimes. I've learned that here, ambiguity and indecision are weak. There is not a lot of room for exploring the subtleties of an issue or solution. People only listen when I'm strong, clear, and I believe 100% in what I am saying. Speed of speech is more important than depth of thought. Everyone's a hustler. Only fools trust easily. I've learned to just accept and embrace the rigid pecking order: that some people will always call me "sir" and some people will never listen to me. Many of these skills will stay with me the rest of my life.

What we miss
One year in, we're safely beyond any fleeting pangs of homesickness and can safely identify the things that we actually miss. I miss high-speed Internet access more than any other non-human thing. I haven't been able to watch a whole YouTube video in a year.

I miss driving. I don't know why but I do. I miss good beer, but not as much as I thought I would. Gina misses easy access to generic cheddar cheese and the library. And the craft store. I miss real bread. I miss salads and pizza and good wine. I miss happy hour. I miss online shopping.

I miss substantive conversations with people other than Gina. That's something I wasn't prepared for: it's really hard to have beyond a superficial relationship with people from another culture and/or language. Especially when you factor in the lack of trust that everyone has by default here in Koraput.

I miss my family, especially at holidays. I miss my grandparents. I miss being in their homes. I miss my niece. I miss technology and business conversations with Chris Scott. I miss having dinner or drinks with all my other friends.

But in exchange for missing these things, we've found a lot to love here. We love the trains: they're cheap, everywhere, and totally unique. We are surrounded by lush scenery and interesting vistas everywhere, it's easy to take it for granted. Nature is everywhere, from the moment we step out our door: cows, dogs, pigs, sheep, flowers, etc. I love that sometimes people surprise me in a good way, by saying something really thoughtful and nice.

All in all, we've been really surprised by how comfortable and happy we are in our lives here. It doesn't feel like we're sacrificing very much, other than missing our friends and family. We're going to keep our chins up at SOVA and SPREAD and try to make some changes before this next year passes us by.