India can be a confusing and over-whelming country. I should know – I've been here 8 months! Except, those 8 months tend to blind you to some of the country's eccentricities. Things that might have left you gob-smacked at the start of your placement, drift over you with barely a ripple being seen.
So with that in mind, the next week will be especially interesting, as I've just got back from a week back in the UK for a friend's wedding. Obviously the most important part of that was seeing Mike get married and catching up with the family, but I found it interesting how quickly I cast off my recent history and fell back into my previous habits and thought patterns.
Some simple examples:
- having a coffee in a cafe
- going to the pub
- washing your toothbrush with tap water
- plumbing (including “Western” toilets and drains!)
This might seem like a pretty inconsequential list, but this is more of a list of things you notice when you get back to the UK. The heavy-hitting comes when you get back to India. Seeing people selling a handful of vegetables off of some rags in the road. Collecting rain water from tarpaulins to drink. Litter everywhere.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's easy to get “acclimatised” to these things. And that this isn't a good thing. It's important to keep some perspective – and that is difficult to do when this level of poverty is staring you in the face everyday....and you're effectively part of it.
In the UK, Suzie and I spent two days in the country pub/hotel for the wedding and spent £200 on our bill, even though breakfast was included, a lot of the drinks at the wedding were free and we skipped lunch one of those days. £200 in two days. That's two months wages for some of the project managers I work with here - and they are relatively well off. That has to provide a roof for them and their families. Pay for food, school and everything else.
I had an amazing time in Oxford. I saw one of my best friends get married in a fantastic wedding, I saw Suzie. I saw a lot of my family. Funnily enough though, the biggest plus might be the impact it has on me here in India in helping me to keep a sense of perspective and focus on what I'm doing here.