The new batch of volunteers has arrived. It makes me wonder what I was like when I first arrived. I met them last night for dinner in a place called Defense Colony. Had a wonderful Thai meal with tofu!
My work colleagues have really warmed up to me and I seem to be one of the group as I’m working with a number of them on numerous projects. We all seem to be able to laugh together, overcoming any cultural differences. I eat lunch as often as possible with a group of 5 or 6 people, mainly women, all of us sharing the food that we brought from home. This makes it possible for me to continue to eat a variety of home cooked Indian food, which I do truly treasure. Onky was visiting this past weekend and so I had a number of home cooked meals at his Aunt and Uncle’s house, which is always awesome!
I know that I’ve become much more assertive in India and I think that this will be beneficial to me wherever I end up next. This is not in any sense a mean assertiveness, but more of a, “I’m not going to be pushed around”. You just have to whether it’s dealing with the drivers or getting out of the metro at Rajiv Chowk, getting onto a bus, walking home from Dabri crossing. You just do it or else you get pushed aside. Now, of course there are times, such as when I get on the metro, when I just wait for the mass of people to come out before I get on. This makes sense to me, as opposed to trying to push my way onto to the metro when masses of people are getting off.
Let me say a few words about the auto rickshaw drivers. Because I don’t look Indian, my general assumption is that the price that I will be quoted will always be at least double. Yes, one can ask to use the meter, but often the meter “is not working”. This, of course, is illegal, but with the number of autos in India, this cannot readily be enforced. I use the autos all of the time because the metro is not as extensive as it will be by the end of 2010. I typically take the metro to a stop called “Central Secretariat” and then find an auto. Now if one is in a tourist location, such as Dellihut, one can be prepared for the price to be even more exorbitant.
I used to bargain very “nicely” and this often worked. But now if I am quoted a very high price I very forcefully look the auto driver in the eye and tell him that I do live here and that his price is way out of line. I also tell them that it is not nice to charge so much. Do they understand what I’m saying? Most likely not, but I think that they get the fact that I am somewhat angry about this. Of course, this is very temporary, maybe a show, because I always laugh to myself after this. Never-the-less, I’m done taking nonsense from these guys. But, of course last night the auto driver told me that he was charging the night fee, because it was 10:30 or. I paid 50% above the meter price and he still wanted more. I’m also coming just to pay the guys and walk away even if they want more.
I continually have to remind myself that I’ve only been here since mid-March in the sense that I expect things to be further developed for me in terms of new friends. It is happening, as I become more assertive. One of my new friends Monique recently brought me to dinner at some of her embassy friends. I literally thought that I wasn’t in India given the house and the dinner menu-lasagna, cheesecake, salad, French bread. Of course one can get all of these things in India but as a volunteer I don’t generally look for or see this stuff. It is a very different life, but we are all doing development work from different perspectives.
It will be quite interesting for me to see more of this as I stay here longer, i.e. the differences between VSO or my own type of development work, and as an example, the American government. I can be very creative in my job, have no real script to attune to as I’m building capacity. There is no real party line except that of helping out the NGOs that we partner with. For example I can ask the people that I will be teaching to “create a universe” in thinking about a case statement for a fundraising plan or ask them to draw “monsters” for the threats to their agency as part of a S(trengths) W(eaknesses) O(pportunities) T(hreats) analysis. It will be fun and hopefully they will learn, building organizational capacity.
I’m guided by a humanness, a wanting to connect to others through work fun. There is also the entire other side, of me learning so much from these people who have opened up their hearts and their head to what I might offer. It is so much fun for me, just to be in this environment and I’m loving each day, as they seem to pass so very quickly, no matter what I’m doing.
Last week I was able to do a workshop for the National Trust staff and they were laughing and really enjoying themselves as they drew rock and fishes and birds and trees. While they were having fun and they were also able to talk about what was going on their work lives, which is what I was trying to get to. I now have a better understanding of what individual employees are doing and some of their concerns.
This next week I’m leading a workshop called, “Building partnerwebs from the ocean and trees”. Oh and don’t forget the “Networking Jungle”, down at the waterhole, of course. What does this all mean-it mean taking dust, rain, cows, swimming pigs, kites, mangoes, lot of flies, more dust, mud, smiling faces, lots of sweat and lots of water, basketballs and lots of fun and creating an entirely different world. It’s not fantasy, it’s India. .