Monday, 31 October 2016

Two Sides

There is always two sides when we are doing an internship for EduCARE India. 
The two sides when you are a project manager or project coordinator, where outside the intern’s house we behave (or we try) like locals. As a woman I cover myself, no smoking or drinking allowed of course, we put our bigger smile in our face and carry on the workshops, meeting or whatever we have to do. 

And then is the other side, our little oasis in the middle of India, our houses, where we can wear crop tops, shorts, treat our fellow male interns as equals and there is (almost never) language barrier.  But even inside the house there are two sides, the professional and the personal one. We live and work together and usually in the same place, some of the centres have an office and can separate those two lives but when that doesn’t happen the two sides usually merge and confront each other. We have to be able to have a serious meeting over the same table we will eat later, play cards or relax. We have to be able to keep focus and active while we work from our beds and houses. We have to be able to challenge our fellow interns and explain our ideas or why we think that theirs are wrong without becoming personal. We have to be able to take critics from the same person we will cook later with. 

Personally I love the chance to work in pyjamas but for some people the ability of separate professional and personal life is not that easy. 

Cool Office in Gajner

We also have the two sides when we travel. When we are out of our villages we are tourists but we already feel ourselves at home in India. You feel like a local, not freaking out anymore by the bumpy buses, lack of privacy, toilets standards in the stations or cheap guest houses, you know what are the prices and you know how to bargain, you know how to deal with trains, buses and any other transport in India but...but still you are not a local, your Hindi is below “tora tora” (little, little) and your face shows you are from the West so you are not treated as a local. Some rickshaw’s driver will want to charge you more, the fruit seller will try to charge you more, the stares remain and no matter how much you cover yourself you feel the attention. Also there are good things to this; Indians are usually extremely nice and helpful and they will try to make your stay and experience in India as best as they can, you will be offered the best food, drinks, blessings and usually having the best treatment as guests.

Enjoying the Punjabi hospitality

And then we have the two sides of any experience, while my experience in EduCARE India has been beyond good and I have learned an endless list of things and skills there is always a darker side in any experience. I have been a really positive person all my life and I was not thinking about being any different in India but sometimes I have been overwhelmed by the situations around me. The delays, the heat, the monsoon, the animals, the bugs, the internet, water and electricity cuts, the few Indian or tourists that tried to take advantage of us in many different senses, the lack of commitment of some interns, the lack of response in certain cases from the community, the wanting of some privacy or some time alone, the small things that bring you comfort and that are impossible to find here... Those things some days and just some days make you see things in darker colours that they actually are (and I could continue but as I said positivity is a must for me).  
But if you focus in the other side like, the extremely and unbelievable beauty of India, the hospitality of its families, the amazing sleeper beds in buses and trains, the peer-to peer learning from other interns and staff of the NGO, the possibility of being your own boss, the smiles of the children, the feeling of the wind while you are in a rickshaw, the happiness when you meet again other interns from other centres, the successful projects, the laughs and nice nights around candles because electricity was not working (but everything is more poetic with a candle right?), the walks to the public taps for getting some water that lead to nice conversation with the neighbours and women, the amazing trips, the things you thought would never see (like me in Pushkar, I saw a cow with a chicken leg in her back!!), all the religions, culture, customs, landscapes present in India that are completely unique, and the list could continue for thousands of words...etc. 

Making friends around India

I have learnt to not be selfish here, to be conscious with what I advocate for and what I do, to behave ethically and to take in account the environment. I learnt what is to be a woman in a country where being a woman is a dangerous thing and I met some very strong women that are making the change in this country happen. I learnt how to deal with a different range of people, I met compulsive complainers here seeing everything as problems and not challenges but I also met fighters who will do their best and work hard to achieve what they want to. I learnt how to put away my ego and listen to the criticism of others about my work and the most important to learnt from it! 

As Communications Coordinator I have been working in front of my computer or having meetings with other fellow interns mostly of the time but I also tried to help in some projects of the centres so I could witness the grass-root action and be a part of it. I hope that communications is consider with the importance that it has in any organization and that is a respected field from now on in EduCARE India. When you don’t communicate, when you don’t participate and contribute in an organization you are taking a big step towards failure. 

For working in EduCARE India, we have to leave behind our preconceptions, our western minds are so conditioned that we forget that our way of living is not the only one and for sure not the best in many aspects. Ethnocentrism is not allowed if you come here. Open your mind, go with the flow, make an effort in understanding what and why are certain things happening around you. It is hard to leave behind the pre-conception that “the way we do it” is more acceptable because this way is only valid where we come from. Cultural sensitivity has to be present and patronizing the communities around you is not an option neither, here life has been different for thousands of years and while we are working towards the global needs through local action it is important to understand that the definition we have in our mind of some words it not the same and can`t be the same in India. 

All this time in India has been a gift, it helped me grow and change to a better myself. I could never forget all the moments I lived during this 7 months and I am really curious in seeing what EduCARE India is bringing on during the next months and years. I am very thankful for my internship with EduCARE India, all the learning that it brought to me and discover of a new world and a new way of seeing myself within that world.

I already miss my time there and all the people and places I got to know. I am already looking forward for my next time in India and who knows, maybe my next time with EduCARE India! 

Breathtaking landscape in Ladakh 

Mercedes Milán - Spain 
Communications Coordinator 

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