Saturday, 4 June 2016

Living on the Road

One random day meanwhile I was working in Greece I decided that I wanted to move to another place and do something else. Once I made the decision one thing linked to another and after a series of lucky has by unsuspected events I ended up in India doing an internship with EduCARE India. 

Before coming I was a bit sceptic of what I will find in this country, in the organization, the people around me...when I arrived to Delhi that feeling was fading out slowly (I felt super confident after ruining a taxi driver scam) and during my Induction it went away definitely. 

Soon I learnt that my internship will be characterized by one thing, I will “live on the road”. As my internship is as Communications coordinator and during 2016 the COM Team (Collaborative Operations Management Team) will be travelling between the centres to be more helpful and support better the teams. I loved the idea from the very first moment and since then I have been discovering EduCARE India centres and India at the same time.

My first home in India was Gajner (Rajasthan) and it will always be a place I will remember with special affection. I loved how I felt part of the community really soon, how every child will greet me with a big smile, how beautiful were the sunsets at the lake, the amazing dinners that the interns prepared, all the chais and kachoris I had at Manoj’s shop (one of the places I miss the most!) and the weekend trips we did always preceded and followed by some hours in Bikaner, I city I got to know well (partly because of my multiple visits to the FRRO office) and I like for some inexplicable reason. Whoever has been in Bikaner knows that is a crazy and noisy city, but when you get to know it becomes...let’s say familiar.

ASP in Modiya Mansar (Gajner)

Lovely dinners in the intern's house rooftop

Peacocks acting as my morning alarms in Gajner

But the time to moved came and with a lot of sadness but some excitement for keep discovering India and EduCARE I left Gajner behind and I spent two weeks in Harike’s centre. During the train trip I already noticed how different everything will be from my previous life in India, the desert was not there anymore instead I will find green plains, the wetlands and humidity, a lot of humidity! Even the people were different Punjabis were undoubtedly taller and bigger than my previous Rajasthani neighbours. 

I still remember vively the buffalos and their crazy eyes, the Sikhs’ culture all around, my first noodle burger and how surprised I felt at first by Harike. I was used to my calm village life in Gajner where not many (or none) shops or food options are available and suddenly I found myself in a little town where they even had fabric shops and my beloved paranthas (a dish that if you didn’t try yet, believe me you are missing something!) I definitely took advantage of all the options that were around me, noodles, noodles burgers, paranthas, real ice creams, lassis, Chocos, milkshakes by Armand and more! I was awakening the food monster I have inside every single day.  

View behind the intern's house at sunset

In the temple community, one of the places where the interns in Harike work

Nevertheless soon it was time to keep moving.

After a long night driving where I found myself stuck in the back of a car surrounded by backpacks, household stuff and the belongings of my team members, we finally arrived to Naddi, Himachal Pradesh. It was six in the morning and it was so cold compare to my previous locations!! My body had a complete shock but even though I was shivering and I had a big lack of sleep, I could not believe how beautiful everything was around me, the mountains, the clean air and the view itself. As soon as I step out of the car and I got my first chai things started fitted in. 

Stunning view from Naddi

These four months have been a great learning experience so far and one thing I have learnt is that when you “live on the road” your house is your backpack and that means going through many housing situations. I loved the place I stayed in Gajner it was calm, fresh, I had shelves and we got a fridge just a week after I arrive (cheers for that!). Harike was good, I liked the open spaces, the big table, the size of the rooms and the pressure of the water was great compare to Gajner! Naddi was a bit rough in the beginning (even though the fridge came after only four days!) but once we started to clean, built shelves everywhere (thanks to Faik and Emma, they literally changed our lives!) and taking advantage of the balcony to enjoy the view, it became slowly slowly my third home in India (still having freezing showers though) 

Building shelves with Atul's help

Of course this incessant movement has sad sides, when you know all the shopkeepers, your neighbours, how the buses and trains work, who has the best paneer in town, who sells the best lassi and people treats you as part of the family, as part of the community you live in you have to move and start from scratch. But it has a lot of good things also, I got to know all the centres and all the interns (I am really happy about that, many beautiful and inspiring personalities in EduCARE!) I have experimented and lived in three different Indian states that couldn’t be more different from each other and the most important thing is that everywhere I felt at home.

Another lesson I am learning is about me, I considered myself a really easy going and flexible person before coming to India, but now I definitely can say that I am both even more (mostly like everybody in EduCARE, we left behind almost all our comforts and food pleasures, believe me) I can sleep on the floor of a train station without blinking (or literally sleep anywhere), I can cook tasty dinners with three ingredients, survive to power cuts or water cuts that last two days and I proved myself that I can survived without cheese! Everything takes longer here and everything can go wrong but once you accepted it life can be surprisingly good. I can also say that this way of moving around is making me realize how little I need to live and how many useless stuff we use that just take space and money away (cliché alert!). 

Getting to know all the communities and living among them, sharing time with all the teams and participating in some of the women’s empowerment projects I also find myself even more convinced about my ideals and principles regarding feminism, environment, education, gender issues and inequalities among people. I discovered really soon how unsustainable I was and how little I thought of the consequences of some of my daily habits. Before coming to India I also considered myself a feminist but now after seeing how Indian women feel and struggle daily and how many times I had to control and repress myself for not reacting against certain behaviours towards them, I can say that I am a convinced feminist seeking for equality among all human beings with a renewed motivation. 

I find myself sometimes thinking how lucky I am that I got to live this experience and how much I have learnt so far, I already see how I am changing and how much India, EduCARE India and its interns have opened my eyes and showed me how much still needs to be done. 

India can be too much sometimes, some days are a bit overwhelming but if you have the right attitude in the end everything works out and something good can always came up, all depends in how you face the situations!

I am looking forward to seeing what more India has to teach me! 

Enjoying Himachal Pradesh sceneries.

Mercedes Milán - Spain
Communications Coordinator in EduCARE India

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