So from initially planning all this and following through the process in October when i last blogged, a lot has changed! Firstly we are now in February which means that i am now living in India rather than just planning the move! I would have continued with my blog in the run up to it all but life became so hectic. I am never one to do just take it easy and i always push myself to the limit and this was no exception. In the five months from August when i came up with this amazing idea, until the end of December when i actually followed through on it, i was house sitting as i didn't really have anywhere to live, then finally found a lovely lady to live with who became a great friend. I got rid of everything i owned that was in storage, it is amazing how little we need. I bought a flat in order to let out as an investment which brought all its own problems too from difficult solicitors, never ending processes and demanding tenants! I closed down a very busy massage practice that i could have happily kept on running and had such lovely clients and finished off everything that needed completing in the UK in order to come out here. It was bloody hard work! It involved days with very little sleep and so much stress....and it is still stressful but it was definitely worth it and not once have i ever questioned my decision!
Despite having now rented my own place out here so i am committed to being here for eleven months and happily so, as well as in the process of setting up my own massage business here, it still feels a little strange to think that i am not going back to the UK anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, i don't want to go back, but I still talk about my 'clients' and then realise they are no longer my clients as i don't have that business anymore. It seems strange to think that i won't just hop in my car and drive to the New Forest where i used to like to go walking or just to pop to the shop for a meal deal....I lived on these! In other ways though it feels i have lived here for some time and i feel more settled than i have in a long time. The plane journey out here was long and dragged on, although i had a lovely lady next to me for company, but when the plane finally touched down i felt a lot more peace because i am where i am meant to be.
For me this is a spiritual quest if you will, it is me fulfilling whatever that drive and intuitive feeling is within me that asks me to do this and because of that it makes it easier to be here. It also leaves people feeling confused about me being here, that i would 'give up' all i had in the UK to move to another country where i am not paid, where i do not have a lot of my previous home comforts and live in a society very different from the one i have come from. My response always tends to be the same, that it depends on what you value in life and where your priorities lie. I have never been materialistic and to me some of the richest people are the people who have no money but have the richest and most generous hearts and i would rather be like those people. Sadly people still look at me somewhat perplexed but i am doing what i believe in, what i love and each day i am rewarded with beautiful moments, whether it is the children from the slums trying to share their sweets with me despite having so little, them dancing for me or running to greet me with such happy faces when i arrive at school or friends spontaneously taking me to temples or surprise trips out. Sometimes though i definitely wish i had picked the easier route, ignored the voice inside and picked the 'safe option', at least then i would have breakfast bars and my comfort zone!
So, two months in India and how has it all gone! I am now in to a routine with the NGO that i work with and work Monday to Friday 9am to 3.30pm with them and we run the classes for the children between 11am till 2pm. The conditions these children live in are true slum conditions where their houses are constructed of bamboo and plastic sheeting, including the school that i work in. Each day we put down sheets to keep off the dust and dirt from the ground underneath. The surface is not flat so it can make it interesting when we play an activity as things can slide! The weather is beginning to warm up now so that's a bit better for them, but during the winter months it was cold for the people as they have no real way of keeping warm, as such they didn't sleep much at night which is sad to think of kids living this way. The children enjoy coming to school but they are wild children, it is the only life they know and for them, playing on the broken down buses and climbing up them is their playground, so you have to expect them to be pretty extreme. Some of the children really want to learn and as soon as you turn it in to a game they all want to play and suddenly the school is full of children.
We tend to have our regular children who come almost every day where as other children drift in and out and even now i am still seeing some children i have not met before. Working with these children is hard work and tiring and they can frustrate you and push all your buttons, but they can also make everything amazing and when you consider the quality of life they have and are likely to have you can't help but be moved. It is sad to think that some of these beautiful children who want to do well and are hard working at school live in a situation that is hard to break out of and provides them with little opportunities. Someone once asked me how i could work with them and did i not find it too overwhelming but when you work with them and see their smiles and the way they interact and just behave as children, you know why you do. I love working with these children they bring a unique happiness to me, not because they live in a slum but because they welcome me in that pure way that children do and even in their wild ways there is an innocence to them and you can't help but connect with and care for them. Having worked in education for eight years with children with special needs really helps though and making educational games has become my speciality. Who knew alphabet snap or shape memory games would be so popular! I have not introduced them to the fishing game yet!
As for life in general in India, after a while it feels like you could be anywhere. I walk to work every day which is a twenty minute walk, stick my music on, day dream and I could be walking to work in any country. I have learned to negotiate the traffic which means crossing the road in front of the cars whenever you want and gageing who will stop and who won't! Walking in to the slum is a normal part of my day and although the people sometimes view me with curiosity they have been welcoming and see me as a regular fixture. Although one lady insists I put cream on my face to get rid of the dark circles under my eyes and they think I should put eye liner on to make my eyes more noticeable! They were very supportive when I got bit by a dog and they will walk me through the slum if there are lots of stray dogs around to make sure I am OK. Despite the fact that my colleague mainly speaks Hindi and I speak English, we work well together and the language barrier does not pose any real problems. I have friends here who I can relate to and places that we like to hang out that could be anywhere in the world, after a while you forget that you are the odd one out. I have only been asked for my photo a few times thankfully and whilst there are plenty of stares I don't notice these too much unless I am laughing whilst someone almost crashes their bikes because they are too busy looking at me!
The next two months should be busy as i try and establish my massage business here or find alternative means of making some money. My intention to be in India is long term and as such i need to find a way to make that viable as i do not intend to leave anytime within the next few years if i can help it. There is still so much i want to do to help people out here and seeing as i feel i am here for several reasons, i don't envisage leaving until my intuition tells me it is time to go....which i sense is not going to happen for quite some time and not while i deeply love India.