14-22 October 2010
There are always periods of high and low in almost every aspect of life. This is true for one's mood, health, work and so many other things. One of my friend was complaining two months back about feeling low. I had not properly understood at that time what she was telling about.
In the last week however I could realize that I was also feeling low. They were not very big problems but they were not allowing me to feel very healthy and energetic. I had a strong feeling of inertia. There was this pain in the muscle of one of the arm which was recurring and made me stop my daily exercise routine. It was followed by cold which continued for one week and then low fevers which caught me for three consecutive days. There was a feeling of loneliness and feeling of having nobody around who could understand me whenever I wanted to express something. Sometimes there were thoughts which flashed in the mind and questioned me whether my decision about coming to this part of the world and spending an year in my life was right.
Such period of feeling low is what makes one really introspective. I realized that I had been very much extrospective right from the moment I set my foot inside Mumbai International Airport. I was taking on the experiences with different kinds of feelings. It was eagerness, enthusiasm, enjoyment, learning, movement and also impatience, fear and hatred, which were driving me to go ahead. I had little time and interest to do real introspection about the things happening to me and my surroundings. These very moments of inertia made me lie down on bed doing nothing sometimes, not even sleeping. It was like having a relook at the personal accounts, what have I gained and what have I lost.
I laughed at myself because first thing which came to my mind that I had lost 6.5 kg of weight within three and half months. That was not my objective of coming here as I was not overweight while in India. But nonetheless I feel that I am more healthy and energetic than I was at home. I had an interesting discussion with my friend Jason once. Till that moment I had spent almost a month in Bongo and he was asking me whether I felt weak or whether I had lost weight. I had not believed him at that time but now I realize that his question was relevant. He was telling about his observation that most of the men after coming here lose weight and most of the women remain unchanged. It has proved true in my case. All of my trousers are now fitting loosely and I have to fasten my belt tight these days.
My next question to myself was, "have I became really strong and adventurous enough to tackle the unknown situations in this part of the world which is still little known to me?'. Then came the answer from inside, "This is the process of learning. The first step of taking the decision to travel outside the country was new for me. My situation can't be compared with other volunteers with the same or lesser age as mine and having already travelled in many parts of the world. I don't have any strong support from the government back in my home country. They made me suffer even while issuing basic document like passport. There is no social security system except the informal bonds in the family and circle of friends. Is not that a big enough challenge which I have taken?" "Yes, I have changed and more adventurous than I was in India. I am seriously thinking of visiting a French speaking neighbouring countries like Togo and Benin while I don't know French at all." answered I.
Almost everywhere people around me are really friendly and they also expect me to be always smiling and to greet them as and when I see them. I do not do that regularly but I do it more often than I was doing it in India. I was not at all serious about keeping my face smiling and greeting people back at home. Only the people whom I knew well could get that privilege from me. Nowadays sometimes anybody on the street can get that smile and greeting from me. I think that is the very big change though I have not been able to do that in my own town of placement, Bongo. This is because of bad experiences of people I have been getting here. I have come across people seeing hungrily at the pack of food I am carrying, children and old women asking for money, insane people on the street, drunken people wandering on the road behind my house. I know that I am really living in an area which is distressed by its economic poverty but I can't keep that smile on my face while looking at such people almost every day.
I have discovered that I had a real interest in cooking and tasting food. I did not seriously think about it before, as living in a typically traditional Indian family where women are supposed to cook and do all the household chores and men are just supposed to sit and eat. Fortunately my mother was strict enough to make us take part in all the household work so that we won't face any problem anywhere. I was just ignorant about it as being traditional Indian women my wife and my mother have always done those jobs for me. Now reading through the recipe book which I have brought with me, experimenting with various recipes has become my favourite pastime. I could make a dinner for six people once. People who have tasted food cooked by me say that I am a good cook. Yes that's a big change. I am sure I am going to carry this hobby of mine back in India and it is going to permanently remain with me.
I truly miss my family back. I have been missing them since coming here but the feeling was never very strong. Now I realize that for my remaining period of placement in Ghana, I would have missed my very good moments with them. My son has started talking a lot but I can't talk with him for long because I am always on the expensive long distance international call and he is not the only one to talk to when I call home. I have lost those moments and have been very unhappy about it.
Liquor was one of the things from which I had always kept some distance. I had tasted only red wine once before coming here. I have now tasted some alcohol and can say for sure that self control is the best solution to not to become alcoholic. I have seem some people, who are not alcoholic but are in the habit of taking it once in a while, expressing the need to get a small booze because they are feeling unhappy. Getting a first hand experience in how alcohol works has now strengthened the premise of self control in me. That is a big change.