India! What it taught me.

Hey!

I’ve been home just over a week now.

And I’m really coming to terms with it all now and able to look back on the journey and making sense of the things I saw and experienced.

After the 4 weeks were up at the charity  I was joined by Rosie and we got to start really seeing the sights of India. We visited Jaipur, Agra and Delhi.

People ask me how I found it all. ‘I loved it!!’ I say with earnest and hoping they’ll let me explain some of the emotion behind my answer.

India is full of contradictions.

What I have brought home with me is the sense of entitlement that is so profound in the Western world. How often we think we should have more or deserve more or how we never settle with what we have. My friend Racquel put it well the other day. Can you imagine someone saying that they are just happy where they are and how their life is panning out? Here you’d be accused of having no ambition and that’s a totally negative thing.

Now there certainly wasn’t a lack of ambition in India. But wherever each person was along their path, regardless of their pay they seemed happy and accepting of it. I felt that though I’m sure they would accept more, they seemed happy, they made the most and didn’t feel bitter (they didn’t make it obvious like we do in the West anyway) for not having more.

I was mostly around staff of the charity who comparatively to others have a pretty sweet deal. But still, I was told they still struggled to have any money left at the end of the month. There’s no savings, there’s little scope to improve and yet most are happy and come to work everyday happy. It is striking how much happiness and content there is there.

Without writing through rose tinted glasses, there is a huge huge amount of poverty in India. It can’t be overlooked. These are just thoughts that came to my mind while with the people I spent time with  there. People are generally happier, warmer and friendlier than people here but that’s doesn’t mean there lives aren’t full of huge difficulties.

Rosie and I talked about Immigration yesterday morning. We talked about how it is being handled so appallingly in the UK (and all over the world to be fair). Personally, I have no issues whatsoever with immigration. I’m not patriotic on principle. I feel anyone should be able to come and go as they please anywhere in the world. I feel we should be in a world where there are equal opportunities everywhere. This is very idealistic. But as a principle people don’t leave their place of birth without ‘good’ reason/desperation (and those that do it for the experience who have more choice about it).

The British vet at the charity would often talk about the UK with awe and enthusiasm and sometimes it almost sounded like a dig at India which might not have that thing, or doesn’t do it so well as in Britain etc etc. But the staff never seemed peed off by it or jealous or longing for it. They were always so proud to be Indian. I loved that. Just reinforced to me what home means to everyone. We don’t naturally want ‘better’ we want what we know and to feel comfortable and at ease.

I’m proud of what the UK stands for in general, I’m proud that we’re one of the more progressive countries, more tolerant countries and just multicultural. I love it. A long long long way to go before perfection though! But i appreciate that I’m living in one of the safest countries in the world.

There are lots of different cultures and religions and histories intermingling here. Cultures can come together and be beautiful! But it takes work and often there seems to be more collision. Well that’s what makes news anyway. And I think understanding on both sides is a real key to making it work. Something there is no general access to here.

It’s little things but they can create a big division. Some examples I’ve noticed are 1) obviously queuing 2) crossing the road 3) groups of men

  • Queuing is such a British thing and it’s so often you hear tutting or annoyed mutters when people who arrived later get on the tube or bus etc before those that arrived sooner. I feel it often. When people just seem to not notice you and ‘push’ in front. I feel it’s just rudeness, it’s arrogance and done to make me feel small. But having been to India, you realize it isn’t that. Queuing just isn’t done. It’s like you just have to look out for yourself because there are so many people you can’t queue! People are just oblivious that it’s a thing. It’s not rudeness, it’s different. I was at a till in a shop in Jaipur. And people kept putting their groceries on the till before me. And I realized quickly that I would have to put my stuff on the till before the person in front had finished paying. I found it so difficult!! I felt so pushy, so demanding! It was terrible haha! But it was normal! And those who pushed in just saw a free till waiting to be claimed. They didn’t see me waiting, that’s not a thing.
  • Like queuing there’s no structure to crossing the road or indeed driving. You’ve got to suck it in and step out. People will stop for you if you make it obvious and do it confidently. When we got back. A couple night later we got invited to a pub for a catch up with some of Rosie’s friends and I remember totally sober just stepping out into the road. Not really thinking what cars were around, that I was making them slow/stop for me, that there wasn’t any kind of pedestrian crossing. It ended fine but I did have a little skip of a heart beat when I realized what I had done. I think it’s somehow maybe safer in India (maybe!) because everyone is kind of expecting it. Not so much in London! Fortunately both where I was and in India the speed that cars travel at are pretty slow!
  • I have found it difficult talking about how intimidating it can be to see a group of men, anything 2 or more really but often talking 4 or 5. And it’s not really a British thing unless we’re talking teenagers. But there a large number of cultures where this is a common thing. In restaurants and on streets in India we found groups of men. Staying at the charity I saw that and you realize that actually most are minding their own business. Most just can’t/don’t/wont sit in a pub like where you’ll find most of the groups of men in Britain. Their homes are often so small or crowded with women and children (who have no one else to go either! And can’t go really). So the men chill on the streets. When you realize this and you realize most have so little interest in you, you get it. Walking down the road I feel less suspicious of it. It may still be suspicious and I’m still wary but less so, I get why they’re there.

When I talk about happiness and entitlement I realize I am really referring mostly to men. There is definitely a movement for better rights and equality for women in India. But certainly more for those women born into more wealthy liberal families. Like what first happened in Britain. Women with money have increasing choice and a bit more independence. You so rarely see women on the streets. Never alone, rarely in twos. Though Delhi was different. However, I was pretty ill while we were there and couldn’t leave our guesthouse. Fortunately Rosie was well enough and went exploring. Having the metro so accessible it was great for her to go solo around the city. But we agree we’d have felt a lot less comfortable elsewhere.

I remember one evening Rosie was feeling hungry and needed dinner and was preparing to head out alone. I hadn’t be able to stomach much and we knew a place down the road that we liked to eat at. It was dark outside. I can’t describe the emotions when she left the guesthouse. I very nearly ran after her in my pyjamas. I think if anything it was, what if something happens and I did nothing? But I knew I was letting my mind go wild and Rosie was confident and happy to do so and I knew I couldn’t stop her, though I also wanted her to go and wouldn’t have stopped her. I was confused! We just hadn’t been out at night at all really while in the country.  Except together and mostly in taxis.

I was made totally awe-struck by the architecture and buildings of India. I mean the Taj Mahal goes without saying, it’s absolutely incredible. Before we visited the mausoleum, i felt it would be a beautiful place to see but be a little underwhelming because I’ve already seen so many photos of it etc etc. There isn’t much left to surprise me. But I’m so glad I was wrong. There are so many different aspects and views that photos never show. The gates are incredible, I love the red sand stone. The marble is beautiful and even the gardens.

I read about the forts in India and there are so many. I thought we might get fort-ed out by the end of it. But actually each fort was absolutely incredible. Amer fort in Jaipur blew me away. I wasn’t expecting it at all. beautiful rooms just appear out of no where. We wondered how anything could top it but they’re all so different and when you read about the history of them all it really brings each one to it’s individual life.

There were certainly some strange moments in India.  Random men would come and talk to us. Just come up and introduce themselves. Talk about the area and what we should see and shouldn’t bother with. Having read the guide books etc you’re just always on alert for shams and scams and with each chap that came up to us we would hold our bags tighter and try to move on quickly. But often some of the men (and it was never ever women) wouldn’t try to sell us anything, they ‘just wanted to talk’ (some often did). And I’m still abit clueless.  Whether it is a bit of excitement to talk to women, a bit of a novelty or even just being friendly? I don’t know. It’s the same way that I just don’t get why people want our photos, all the time. At attractions everyone wanted a selfie and we always said no on principle, though in some cases i think we could have said yes. We just didn’t want it to backfire.

There’s a certain thing about how India works. And I noticed it often. That a task can often take a lot of men to complete. What I thought was a simple task suddenly involves several men looking very serious and often several phone calls to come to a conclusion. There is a bit of a running joke that India generally runs very smoothly as a country but it completes it’s tasks in such convoluted strange ways. As in, everything gets done but you couldn’t explain or couldn’t understand how and how something didn’t go wrong. It’s hard to explain unless you experience it. For example, my washing was a big one. It wasn’t explained to me how the washing system works. Turns out that a chap turns up on a monday morning to collect all the charities washing. I handed a bag of washing in on sunday evening with some money. Then on wednesday I hadn’t heard anything and went to ask if they knew when it would arrive. I met a lot fo confused faces and then one person asked me to ask another member of staff who I didn’t realise had anything to do with the washing. And he told me they had changed suppliers and my washing was only sent off that day. Which was totally fine, i had plenty of clothes with me. I then asked again the following week and suddenly 5 men were on the case and calling people. I never meant to make such a fuss!

I suppose looking at it now. It’s probably a thing experienced by tourists because of the language barrier. I was never very well communicated with in India, I never really felt like I knew what was going on. One of our trains got cancelled (genuinely cancelled, not a scam!) and I still don’t understand what, why how we the managed to get on another train that left ten minutes later, charged us less for the ticket and wasn’t on any of the boards in the station! But i wont complain, it worked fine! Everything does just seem to work out fine!

I certainly haven’t finished with India! Rosie and I are both keen to visit and spend more time in Delhi. I would love to spend some time in rural India too and see the South! Such a massive country! We got ill this time and it was unsurprising in a way though a real shame. But lessons learned! I feel like now I have been there I can now read more and gain more from having a little insight into the culture. There’s a couple of documentaries on TV at the moment which i have devoured this week. I thought I might have seen enough in Rajasthan but no! there’s so many more beautiful cities and towns to see! Ah! India is so phenomenally huge and diverse.

Rebecca x

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We all have a hunger

I failed my final vet practical exam.

I’ll get that bit out of the way.

I passed everything else and am on track to qualifying in September rather than July now.

Results day was torture. It felt like I was being ripped apart. When you have looked forward to that day for over 6 years, and beyond that, well before university started it’s hard not to. I cried and I cried and I double-checked and I cried and I tried to find answers and I tried to find solutions.

Part of me didn’t mind. Part of me knew the feeling would pass, I would start working in my own time, I would become a vet just a month later than I had planned to. But that lack of choice, the lack of weight off your shoulders, the lack of celebration hurt, because I deserved to celebrate, deserved it all as much as any other student.

The overriding emotion for me was judgement which surprised me. I knew how people would react whether sympathetically or not, with good intentions or not and I didn’t want any of that. I felt well out of control.

People seem to judge a situation based on their opinions/views. I felt more upset because I could feel some of the other students so desperate to start work, to get a mortgage, to progress, to get as much money as possible and settle down would look down at me and my inability to get going, to do what they want to do. I could feel people counting the months I’d have to wait until my first piece of income, my first surgery, my first consult. That upset me most. Fed up of people looking down on me I suppose, not thinking I’m good enough, laughing at my ideas and suggestions. In my head everyone was saying they expected me to fail, the poor gay girl from a shit background and family who went to state school and got crap a-levels. No wonder she failed. It isn’t quite a rife as that at university but there’s an undercurrent of it.  And I’m not of minority race/ethnicity who do have a more visibly difficult time and I had/have to deal with that shit. There’s worse out there than I have had to deal with.

I felt resentful to all those who put me through the grief of telling me how worried they were that they would fail, telling how sick and anxious they felt and I who tried to calm them down and help and ended up absorbing some of their fear as well as my own was in fact the one that didn’t pass.

I went on Facebook for less than a minute. I only had about ten vet school friends all of whom passed and how they were celebrating. It made me choke and I started crying again. Not that I wasn’t happy for them, but I felt I should have been there with them. Maybe not being quite as boasty online but who knows, I’d like to think I woudn’t have lol.

I’ve spent this afternoon thinking about what I’d like, what I’d really really like;

I don’t want a mortgage, I don’t want to settle down. I don’t want to aim for another persons perception of success.

I’d like to be useful and I’d like to help. I’d like to live with Rosie and I’d like us to fumble through life happy but simply. I’d like to save so that we can do things, have some retirement money. I don’t care about things or houses or cars or clothes. I’d like to live the life I should have been living for the past six years but haven’t because of university. I’d like to enjoy the weekends, properly. I’d like to volunteer again, I’d like to meet people, I’d like to travel,I’d like to donate my time, not just money, I’d like to go for walks, I’d like to paint and I’d like to dance, I’d like to have my half finished paintings around our home, I’d like to write I’d like to smell the our fresh baking, I’d like the sound of having friends around for dinner.

I’d like to feel satisfied and happy and comfortable and excited about life again.

I’d like to help others to feel that too.

And I think the main thing I have taken from this is that It doesn’t matter that I didn’t pass in June. It wont matter if I don’t pass in September. There are so many other things I can do.

I’m not quite back to myself yet. It’s only been a couple of days after all. I still get irritated by little things and am still defensive and annoyed at my university. But that’s another story.

We all have a hunger. Each hunger is for something different. There are too many people in this world that are actually hungry.

I began writing the ‘I’d like’ as ‘I want’, but how greedy does it sound for someone in a privileged position saying they don’t want materialistic things, just happiness?  Ha. I will always be privileged even if not as privileged as others. I’ve always had some kind of opportunity.

I’m scared of losing myself. Of becoming someone different. I need a regular reminder of what I actually value and what I feel is success because it isn’t what society thinks and it isn’t what my friends think. I’m easily and subtley led astray by social media especially. For all it’s good points, it has a lot of negative. But I have a little buzzy feeling that once It all falls into place they will see how truly successful we have been, those that don’t stick to what we have been taught success is.

Stay positive,

Rebecca xx

Love, Simon

Hey!

*contains spoilers*

Just been to see ‘Love, Simon’ at the cinema. I didn’t know the film existed until last night. Just another coming out story I thought!

Do hold onto your seat belts. Its a cringey film. But also a very good and very well portrayed coming out film. I definitely recommend it.

The main guy Simon, privileged guy with a perfect life etc. And he’s known for a while that he’s gay but too scared to come out.

I liked in this film that Simon was inspired to come out. If I hadn’t have met anyone special I don’t think I would have told anyone when I did. Because I suppose, I wasn’t sure? Or there wasn’t the motivation? What if it is just a phase. Why go through all the grief?

I also loved how the film made what Simon was going through a massive deal and we could to a degree appreciate the difficulty while also looking on the outside and understanding that actually…. things will probably be fine. A mixture of teenage angst but also actually this is difficult. I liked how they described Simon’s fear of change and being somehow a different person post coming out. And just how he was annoyed that he had to come out, how he wouldn’t have to if he was straight. There were some very good insights on the film. I’m impressed.

It was pretty classic cringe-y teenager film in that it had magically unrealistic love scenes. And Simon’s best friend turned out to fancy him. It all turned out totally fine in the end. obviously.

I had a bit of an incident earlier on. About a month ago. And I think I kinda thought I was done with coming out and hadn’t really done it in a long time.

I had just been offered a job at a vet practice I has really liked and the following weekend Rosie, my cousins and I went to visit the practice. To say I was slightly nervous would be an exaggeration. I hadn’t really slept that week because of the nerves of the vets finding out about Rosie. More the fact that I didn’t want them to know this about me before they know me otherwise. We all ended up at the vet’s house and I simply introduced them all by their names and not who they were. The vet’s wife was also around and in time Rosie and my cousins chatted to her. The vet took me to aside and we talked about things and he told me some bits!

I then drove down two weeks later for a meeting with some of the other vets. During the meeting the vet who I had visited at this house asked me to explain who the guest were. He thought my cousins were my parents. I could feel dread in my stomach and I felt pretty sick. I really wanted the job, i didn’t want this to affect it. But I wouldn’t lie about it, i couldn’t deny it, i’ll just avoid mentioning it. I explained that they were my cousins who I had been staying with. He said, right, and the other was their daughter?

I can’t remember quite what I said. something like, ‘Ah sorry, no, to put another spanner into the works, she is my partner.’

I couldn’t and still can’t believe how badly I came out. How nervous I felt. I suppose two older male vets who live in the countryside,, it’s just very far from the London tolerance I’m used to (in my mind). But he didn’t seem very surprised and I looked at the other guy who did look surprised but not bothered. They shrugged it off and asked me about Rosie.

I’m slightly kicking myself about it now. I hope they don’t think it’s a problem or a big deal in my life. I hope they don’t think it’s something that’s going to affect me in anyway from being a good vet.

I have had it very lucky, mostly the fear has been from within my head rather than on anything I have experienced.

I watched a video a while back from a gay guy who said that he has learned to love coming out to people. I’m not there yet, I still find it usually leads to a moments awkward silence, even if the person really couldn’t care less. It is probably because it takes them by surprise.

I casually came out to one girl at a vets when she asked if I had got up to much with my boyfriend at the weekend. I said, oh it’s girlfriend (in a light hearted way) and she went to apologise but I just said, ah you weren’t to know. I just carried on saying what we had got up to to avoid the awkward silence where the other person is deciding what to say.

It’s a strange world. But I’m very lucky to live in a more tolerant part of it.

Rebecca x

Dunkirk

I wrote this about two weeks ago after I saw the film.

I’m currently in Devon on a university placement. I’m staying with two other girls on my course who I didn’t really know at all before coming here.One of them inspired us to go and watch Dunkirk as she had really enjoyed it the first time she saw it.

The film is intense the whole way through and the way it has been filmed, the dialect and story telling is amazing.

There are some books and films and pieces I come across that make me shudder and get a tiny sense of what the war must have been like and this film has really shaken me. I found Sebastian Barry’s Birdsong to do similar too.

We talked about the film afterwards. Said how the fact it isn’t always throwing body parts around and there isn’t much blood actually for us made it feel more realistic. I think I’m so far removed from any kind of war like environment that too much can be unrealistic. But this seemed to just be right. I felt like I was reliving people’s lives.

And the world we’re living in now.. is this what they were fighting for?

For my position in the world, my life could only be worse. I’m so lucky with everything I have. This film only showed me more. But I’m very privileged. I’m safe in a little bubble for now. But for people in general I don’t think the war was fought for the current state we’re in and going to be facing in the oncoming years.

The world is so volatile at the moment not including in the parts of the world already enduring war… which we have so little knowledge about. Pressures are rising. From the local, country wide to worldwide there is so much unrest. No one is happy with anything.

I still have a daily life that’s progressive and I could easily turn a blind eye to what’s going on. I’m in that fortunate kind of position and a huge number of the people in Britain are. There are many people in many countries that will go on as if the world is fine – just that food prices, petrol prices go up, the weather is unexpected, there are more restrictions put in place but they’re moan to themselves, to their friends and family but leave it at that and carry on. It’s their life that they’re concerned with; that their life isn’t altered too much is what they care about. I try not to be like that but it’s hard. I don’t feel like that’s enough. That we should be doing more to help those we don’t know or see everyday. We shouldn’t just take things for granted or accept them for what they are.

The privileged often have the privilege of getting their voices heard. They just need to see that those that aren’t as privileged at them need help.

Brexit came up. And the people I describe above who voted the leave. They have seen their world change recently – more people moving into the area, schools getting busy, GP appointments practically impossible to get. Their life has been affected and they left the Eu to stop it being affected more in the future.

It’s like they can’t see the bigger picture. They don’t want to or can’t I’m not sure.
But actually have they stopped and realized how much they really do have.

Some do and some don’t and not everyone who voted Brexit will be what I’m describing etc!

But this is the people I know.

I watched a short video from a girl who escaped North Korea and all the books I’ve read and articles.

I just don’t understand it. How have we got to this point?

I probably am just a rambling student who doesn’t know what they’re talking about but I think that life should be simple and can be simplified. Because what ever this is at the moment isn’t what anyone asked for.

Why is so much life being wasted. And not even just that but murdered, mutilated and devastated.

Rebecca x