“India has a lesson for you, whether you want to accept it or not is your decision”-Sarah Davitt, ProWorld coordinator
This quote was prominently in my mind while I was preparing for India. It stuck out to me while I was talking with Sarah about basic preparation for coming to Udaipur. Now, after being in India for about a week and a half, I’m beginning to realize how difficult this will be. It’s not a quiet, safe learning environment where your participation is optional, and the teacher doesn’t care if you show up or not. You are pushed beyond your comfort zone constantly, and the only way to learn from the experience is to accept and adjust. Also, avoiding this type of education isn’t an option because the car horns start going around 6:30 or 7:00 AM.
Living in a new country isn’t easy. You have all of the normal issues of moving to a new city. Physical orientation, social norms, food, acceptable traffic behavior etc.. All of these will change whether you are moving from the Midwest to the South or if you are going from Fulton, Missouri, USA to Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. However, when you add centuries-old issues, the role religion plays in Indian society, the lasting impact of the caste system, and a new language that is far from Latin-based, it starts to feel a bit overwhelming.
Western-mentality and dress may still be working to continue colonization in India, but Udaipur at least, remains a rich environment of Eastern beliefs, traditions, and practices. I’m currently in the process of learning, understanding, and remaining flexible to it all. Luckily, I’ve got a great support system here that is always giving providing advice about Udaipur’s food, Indian Standard Time, how to get better when you get sick (shout out to Sarah for rushing me meds!), and always giving chai with a smile, a tradition I’m hoping the West starts to incorporate.
In only a week and half, I’ve managed to see and do some incredible things already. I’ve taken a boat on Fateh Sagar (one of Udaipur’s lakes), saw traditional folk dancing in the village of Vali, visited Shri Manshapurna Karni Mata (a temple that overlooks all of Udaipur), learned some basic Hindi, and saw a Hindi movie. I’ve been chasing after any type of culture I am able to experience. This has happened while simultaneously going to my internship 6 days a week at Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti (you can call it JJVS or Jagran as you like).
JJVS has been functioning as an organization since 1985, and they are involved with a variety of projects including: traditional medicine, education, microfinance, watershed preservation, and various other empowerment programs for villagers. Everyone in the organization is truly dedicated to their work and has been very supportive of me as I try to solidify a project. Also, the massive knowledge base they have is incredible and is one of the reasons they have been able to help nearly 1.5 million people throughout the life of the organization. Currently, I have been researching potential funding resources for Jagran, but I am hoping to also include some involvement with project implementation. Fingers crossed that I’ll have more direction next post.
Ultimately, I believe one of the greatest challenges while living abroad is being able to look past the superficial differences in a country and learning to understand the culture as a whole, not allowing yourself to stare wide-eyed while thinking to yourself “How weird is that?” Through this process of adaption and assimilation, you are able to grow personally, mentally, and professionally. This is one of my optimistic outcomes I hope to achieve by the end of my 3.5 months here. For now, I’m going to continue being a sponge and absorbing as much as possible and discovering what I can along the way.