Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone" - Neal Donald Walsch

As soon as I finished my last post on the ten most challenging things so far, I immediately thought of several more to add to the list! It has been exactly one week since we have lived in our apartment, and it was a very rough start. I have spent a great deal of time this week being uncomfortable. This is a feeling that is very difficult to adapt to. However, I believe that this exact feeling is what will allow me to be open minded and learn.

I have been uncomfortable in both the physical and mental sense. Physically, the environment is very hard to adjust to. The heat and humidity can make me very tired, as well as the constant blaring car horns - I feel sweaty and dirty all day. I spent much of the week running errands with Ajay (best driver ever!) Sitting in the backseat of the car with car/tuk-tuk/moped horns surrounding is a sure way to get a headache. The horn honking is used for at least eight different things, such as that you want to pass a car, you're turning, you're changing lanes, warning a pedestrian, etc. The ridiculous frequency of horn honking is to make up for the lack of road infrastructure. Stop signs do not exist, and stop lights are rare. Sometimes when we make a right turn (remember, in India they drive on the left side), I hold my breathe! 

The other uncomfortable aspects come from the vast differences in lifestyles, and the amount of unfamiliar things surrounding me. From signs I can't read, to people I struggle to understand, to situations that may make me scared, nervous, or frustrated, I am spending my days always trying to adjust my expectations. EVERYTHING is different. 

To simplify everything, I will continue my list from last week:
Top Challenges (so far)

11. I have no privacy! Our doorbell rings a minimum of 5 times a day. People are here constantly in and out of our apartment fixing all the broken things (#12) or lingering outside our front door because they are so curious about Matt and I.  I have never been stared at so much in my entire life.  I think I can count the Caucasian people I have seen on one hand, so we are a rare sight to see.  I get stared at everywhere I go, and people get so close to me.  A young gentleman who I believe cleans apartments here, literally stood in our hallway ten minutes standing over my shoulder while Matt and I were arranging the new plants we bought.  I know we are just settling in, but I am really looking forward to being able to say that our apartment is a place where I can have privacy and some personal space.

12. Nothing works the way it is supposed to.
*The lights keep burning out
*The fridge is broken
*No water comes out of the shower head
*There is a short in the stove and I get shocked every time I touch it
*The blender I bought is a piece of junk, and instead of successfully making an ice coffee, it exploded all over the kitchen
*One of the outlets is broken in the kitchen, so I have to unplug the fridge to use the toaster oven
This list could go on and on, but everything is just a lower quality than what I am used to. Nothing does what it's supposed to do or works how it should.

13. Internet! I thought that getting a cell phone plan was annoying, this was the worst! It took five people, nine days, and four trips the the house to get it installed. After it was installed, they said it would take four more days to activate! I wasn't here when this happened, but Matt said that was about all he could take. After being on the phone for some time, I think the company was sick of having an argument where neither one understood what was being said, so he just turned it on. :)

Despite all these things that are annoying, frustrating, or uncomfortable, I am so glad Matt and I have each other. At some point, we learned to just laugh it off. If I didn't laugh, I think I'd cry, so it's been helpful to try and find the amusement in all these situations. Being able to let things go allowed me to finally start to enjoy myself during all my shopping and errands. I have gone to a store called HomeStop too many times this week.  I like to call it the Crate and Barrel of India. They have many modern, Western house furnishings. I bought curtains there to replace the ones that were here, holding 20 years of a funky smell. That alone really helped. Nothing in our apartment matches, but I am learning to let that go.

Here are our two new mattresses being delivered by rickshaw. The ones that were here smelled and were covered with stains of too many colors. 

This is our kitchen. The counter tops are not made for people as tall as Matt and I, so I have to hunch over to cook.  This is also why Matt is sitting down to was the dishes. :)

This is our bedroom. We have closed off the first floor bedroom so that the AC will cool the living room better. The other upstairs bedroom has become storage for the gross mattresses, and Matt's "office". We also closed off that extra bathroom upstairs because the pigeons love to sit on the exhaust fan outside the window. If it gets turned on, feathers and germs get sucked right in.

We bought this new couch in our living room, as well as these two cubes to work as an ottoman. 

After getting the apartment together at the beginning of the week, and endless trips to the store, I was able to get out into the city and try to find what will be keeping me busy here. I went to visit a private international school, as well as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). The school houses the top 1% of wealthy children in Jaipur (NOT a fact, just my observation.) The facilities were outstanding, and it would be a great opportunity for my career. However, I just didn't feel right being there. It would be a safe and clean place for me to escape to, and would allow me to work with all English speaking staff and students, but it didn't feel like the right place for me. I couldn't justify it knowing I pass hundreds of hungry and displaced children everyday.

This is how I have landed at an NGO called Vatsayla. A very intelligent couple run this NGO and offer many great services for the community. They help women earn wages by making beautiful jewelry, scarves, blankets etc. This is an important job because they can work from home, while taking care of their children at the same time. They help facilitate trucks set up as stations within slum communities. These stations offer medical care, showers, and supplies for basic health. The spot I will be volunteering at is their school/orphanage called Vatsalya Udayan. The school is home to about 40 children, while twice as many are bused in daily for school only. So far I have only visited, but will be volunteering to teach English on Mondays and Wednesdays to start. The location of this school is about as rural as it gets. Matt and I will share a ride on these days, because the school is just past his work, about ten minutes. We follow a dirt road off the highway for about 2km, and in the middle of a rural farm community there is this great gem! I am really looking forward to spending time with all these sweet kids.

Youngest class at Vatsalya Udayan

This little one sat and finished writing the days of the week, while everyone else ran off to lunch at the first sound of the bell.

On the way back from the school, Ajay took the road through the Pink City, instead of taking the highways. I saw some great sights I am looking forward to going back to explore.

Ajmer Fort

Pigeons, pigeons, everywhere!

Yesterday, Matt and I took a break from errands, and went to the City Palace. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside reading, and swatting flies with the electric swatter. Matt thinks the flies are getting smarter and adapting, because it is so hard to catch them!

In the evening, our landlord Integer, and his cousin brought us over dinner that Integer's wife had made. There was sweet rice, mutton, and a chicken and pepper with rice dish. It was really delicious. They were very excited to feed us their traditional food. I made Masala tea afterwards, which people suck down like its water all day. It is interesting to talk with these two. They are from the Middle East, and we are able to learn more about the Muslim religion too. 

This week has been filled with many different emotions. I am glad that the happier feelings are finally beginning to outweigh the negative ones. I know this will be a roller coaster of emotion over the next two years, but after such a difficult start, I feel prepared to continue to embrace any uncomfortableness or frustration as an opportunity to learn. I wouldn't have been able to complete a lot of tasks this week without the help of Ajay. He has helped me barter, translate, and find things I thought were impossible to locate. I truly appreciate having him work for us.

I am excited to volunteer tomorrow, and to buy potting sand so I can plant all the dozens of plants and flowers I have bought! More photos next post. 

Also, thanks to everyone who reads my blog! It is being read in several different countries across the world! Please feel free to comment and share with others. I appreciate your interest. 


  1. I am envious of all that you are experiencing. I can't wait to visit! Your place looks lovely in the pictures. I look forward to all your posts. What's the best way to contact you? Email? I have questions regarding sending you a package. Can you shoot me a quick email if your email address has changed? Praying everyday for your safety and good health. Love you both!

    ~ Lisa

  2. I love hearing about your new outlook on things. You are going to learn so much about yourself and Matt - it will all be for the best! Thinking of you two everyday.