Being sick in bed one of my last days in Harike is not the best moment to write my leaving blog post. Even so, good memories and experiences overcome the bad ones. How do I start talking about what it has been the most amazing experience I've ever had?
October 16th - I arrive in Delhi and meet two interns with whom I suffer my first frustration: after paying in advance a very expensive bus to Dharamshala, somehow it ends up broken before we get in and we miss our first day of induction. Today and after hearing a lot of stories about scams in Delhi, I think we were lucky to have only that problem!
Induction week - we are in Naddi, where everything is beautiful (except the huge spiders) and peaceful, a nice transition for my first time in India. I meet all these interns from different countries, with different backgrounds, languages and interests. I assist to some workshops, a wedding, a cooking contest, fun club and girls club. I spend time with my homestay's family and realize how lucky I am for being born in Europe, with access to education, health, transports, ... even heating systems! Basically, I am lucky for having options.
Arrival in Harike - In my second week I travel from centre to centre with my housemates because Punjab is dangerous until religious protests finish. Rait and Gajner host us and we are invited to their activities and Saturday meetings, which help us to know how to start with ours. I arrive in Harike and want to leave immediately: terrible bathroom, zero privacy, no beds, no chairs, no table, noisy family and buffalos living next to us, mosquitoes everywhere...! But the team is amazing and we are there for each other when leaving thoughts come to our minds. We start the family tree, find a logo and a slogan (s*** it Gajner!) and set up the identity of the new Harike's centre.
|Harike's family tree|
Quarterlies - EduCARE's reunion in Harike! We develop the house to host around 50 people full of ideas, challenges, knowledge and creativity. We come up with goals by centre and project for the next months and why not to say, we had a great time playing dumb games, getting to know each other and sharing random conversations with people from all around the world.
Community engagement - we walk around the village, talk and take pictures with whoever want to talk to us. I mean... with everybody. We start to identify people: the girl who speaks a bit of English, the stitching girl, the principal's daughter and English teacher, the toilet paper guy, the leader children of the migrant community, etc... Five months later, they all have names and work with EduCARE: Rashvinder and Harsvinder in Girls Club, Janu and Narinder at the school, Amit who works with the SWASH team and still sells us toilet paper, Sansgina and Prince participating every week in ASP... They all make my stay more comfortable, strangers that have become part of my daily life and whom, in one way or another, I'll miss when I leave.
Christmas break - I love travelling, I've doing it my whole life and I keep looking for being paid to travel (any ideas?). 14 interns and two weeks of holidays, 39 hours and two non-sleep nights on a train just to reach the first stop. In the middle, tuc-tucs, boats, sleeper buses, taxis, ricksaws and scooters. Christmas and New Year's Eve far from home but with our EduCARE's family between Mumbai, Goa and Hampi (Oh Hampi!). Western food and meat after 3 months! Obviously, some diseases - we are not immune to diarrhea or pink eye. And in general, one of the best trips I've ever done, surrounded by beautiful places and people. Then we split, interns go back to their centres but I continue my solo-travels to the South. I visit two different NGOs, the city of Bangalore and in my way back, I got lost in the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere...I don't panic though, because the most awesome family is there to adopt and feed me for a night, until it's time to get on the bus and finally reach Harike.
Cold times - It's January and it's freezing in Punjab. Some people say it will only last one week, some other say it will last two months. It lasts too much for me, I miss the beautiful Spanish weather! Days working from bed with all my clothes on, improvised talks in the kitchen because it is the only warm space and races to the bathroom at night to go back under the blanket as soon as possible conform a normal day during Harike's winter.
Finally feeling comfortable - Going out alone is not an issue anymore. The shopkeepers and communities know us and almost every inhabitant of the village has a picture with us, so they don't ask for more. We don't pay excessive prices for daily products (or that's what we think). The guys in the fish shop yell my name and country every time they see me, the cookie shop guy automatically gives me mentos when I show up and Amit wishes us happy International Women's day. We are invited to ceremonies where we taste delicious food and learn Punjabi dance moves while Indians look, record and laugh.
FFRO visits - I could write a whole blog post about them. Six days I spent in that room with the same officer saying: come tomorrow, drink a chai, wait a minute, the boss is not here, we lost your documents bring them again, another chai for special guests? Whether you want it or not, Indian bureaucracy is part of the experience and what you can learn from it is to increase your patience. Maybe learn something else and take a book with you when you have to deal with it.
New interns - We need more manpower, projects start growing and we happily receive five awesome interns in February. The centre is full and we learn how to survive, collaborate, live together, and most important, how to cook for ten hungry young people (the secret: start chopping at 6pm and eat rice and vegetables, let's say, at least 4 days a week)
Goodbyes - It's time to leave for those who arrived in October. We've been around six months together and shared the most beautiful experience. I can't imagine a better closure than spending Holi in Pushkar and a few more days in Jodhpur that I will never forget. I have now friends in so many countries that I'm afraid I won't have time (or money!) to visit them all. I'll do my best though, and if I ever go back to Spain, I'll be waiting for the EduCARE and specially Harike team to visit me.
So, what's next? Right now, I can only think in how hard is realizing that I'm leaving and I won't see the lovely kids of our communities grow up, although I'm looking forward to see the outcomes of the seed we've planted. India has taught me to adapt better to any situation and timing, so even if I still don't know what I'll be doing the next month, I'll figure it out. I know though that I only got to know a tiny part of this country and that I want more. I know, then, that sooner or later I will come back to the amazing India.
María Reyes - Spain
EcoBuilding Project Coordinator and Project Manager in Harike