Friday, August 9, 2013

Half year update

      So I have now been in the country of India for 6 months with 5 months left to go. I have done a poor job of keeping large groups of people up to date with the goings on with IJM and my work in India. I feel as though I never had a sound understanding of the situation (job, life, culture, city) and therefore was overwhelmed by my own lack of corresponding. I have since left the country three times since being here ( one unexpected and two planned) and I now think I have some perspective and understanding of my role here in the work, as well as feeling competent to speak on life in India and my experience thus far.

      As anyone who knows me can attest to, I think and contemplate things a lot. I have given probably too thought to my time here and what all of this really means for my life and future within the scope of Gods work through me for his kingdom.
      The work that IJM does is astonishing and an absolute privilege to witness and be a part of firsthand. I could not possibly say it enough. I'm consistently humbled by the work that the national staff here in Kolkata do on a year to year basis in restoring lives and securing freedom and justice for the girls and women oppressed and exploited in this city. I've never thought of myself as particularly spiritual but I've never once been in a place as oppressive and spiritually dark as Kolkata. The Lord called me here and has me here for a purpose but I would never have chosen the city of my own accord. At the same time, I have developed the kind of relationship with the city that is analogous to not letting others talk bad about your dysfunctional family, while I have free reign to speak on such matters.
       I've never felt such a combination of affection and utter distaste for a place in my life. It's not a pretty city and just about every building is falling apart in one way or another and yet I find beauty here in the most unusual places.
       I have also been incredibly fortunate to have made friends through work at IJM whom I know I will stay friends with even in the US. This fact is the most I could ask for. It's really a remarkable experience how such different people from all over the States choose and are chosen to come to Kolkata and work with IJM. I love hearing people's stories and how we all came to one place by way of so many different circumstances. I never went to summer camp but I liken it to that and sharing a once in a lifetime experience with a group of people and knowing you could always relate to something because of that shared experience.
      My work has been varied and recently changed in the middle of June. From February to June I was doing a variety of things from logistics of our aftercare team to trip planning to managing schedules and doing trainings. While I am good at structure and schedules, I am really glad to not be doing those things anymore. In June the aftercare department got an intern from Texas and she now does all of the administrative duties that I used to. I now focus my time on a few key things. Helping our caseworkers with writing and revising treatment plans for our clients and working on CTMS (case tracking management system). While those two things likely don't seem to take up a lot of time, I somehow find myself busy with supporting the team in many other ways at any spare moment. Due to the caseworkers not having a lot of experience or education with direct care service, I have taken on the responsibility of helping them, which I find really fun and I like it a lot. I love the idea of mentoring and walking alongside them as they work with our clients. I have had the chance to go to aftercare homes with them numerous times and to observe what they do with the girls and what sort of interventions and responses the girls give. I usually work from 10am-7/8 at night. However, I try to get to work by 830 every morning so I can check emails before work and get my coffee/get settled before the day gets started. At 9am we do 30 minutes of stillness/prayer time followed by 30 minutes of worship and corporate devotion as an entire office. At 10am our public work hours start. Our work day technically ends at 6pm but I can count on one hand how many times I've left in the 6 o'clock hour. People in our office work a lot, and it's the norm to be there until at least 7 every night.
      For the remainder of my time here, I hope to continue doing these sort of things as well as doing trainings.
      I think I have moved through the stages of culture shock and acceptance of where I am in an almost clockwork way. I went through the honeymoon period where there was a wide eyed wonder of discovering things in the city. This came with the addition of being tired and fatigued all the time and not understanding the ways in which the city takes a toll on me mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I have been through many days where I hated everything about where I was and why I had to 'suffer' through another 7-8 months in such a place. This time was accompanied with two good friends leaving, 3 trips from headquarters to our office, and some serious issues I was having to deal with in the office. The month of May also brought two good friends from the states who were a welcome relief but also made me miss home all the more.
      Thankfully at the beginning of June, when I was in the middle of all this, I was able to go on my visa run to Greece to meet my mom, brother and Daryn. That trip came at the best time and I am beyond grateful for the chance to leave Asia and experience a new place with people who really know me. It was just western enough that I felt at home and yet I would not have been able to go back to the States and have it be a good thing. My 12 days away were exactly the right mix of rest and activity that I needed to be able to go back to India with a renewed attitude. I didn't miss India while I was away but I really missed the people I work with.
      I think I was able to gain quite a bit of perspective in my leaving and I definitely have a new and reframed attitude in which I'm focusing on working from for the remainder of my time in Kolkata.
I also had the opportunity to do a trip with some of my favorite people in the office to another friends surprise wedding in the south of India in the state of Kerala. Following that trip I then went with two other expats from the office to the Maldives for a short weekend vacation, because when you're an hour away from the Maldives, it is best to go!
      I look forward to continuing to work in the last 5 months I have in the country! There will be more visitors from HQ, some people from home visiting, and new interns coming as well. Being in the field office keeps one thing constant, and that is that things change all the time. This is a good exercise for me to live out my attempt to love change.
      I want to extend a HUGE level of gratitude for the support and prayers that come from home! I would not be here or be able to do a single bit of this without it. I realize what a remarkable and unusual opportunity I have in being allowed to be here. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, and even when I was going through a difficult time, God was very faithful and clear on the fact that I am meant to be here and be doing this work. God continues to keep his promises and I am thankful for the growing and learning that I am able to do while I am still here.

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