Today marks the 200th day since I arrived in India last summer. Previous visits have been for over a week to two months, and my past fieldwork experience in East Africa spanned the course of just half a year, making this my longest period away from Canada, away from home. And while, as I write this, I am resting indoors in a weakened state due to a nasty bacterial infection (read: prolonged diarrhea), I do feel a quiet celebratory retrospection is in order to mark this anniversary.
I arrived in the dwindling days of the monsoon season with my parents, who endured for a week to see me off and to briefly familiarize themselves with what would be my home for a year. Their presence in this space now appears to me as the briefest of moments, like butterflies touching down on a flower only to take off upon landing.
That was in August, after defending my thesis proposal, going through the initial drama of discovering my eye condition, selling my apartment and moving out of Toronto, transitioning in Vancouver, returning back to my parents house in the Okanagan, undergoing more drama back and forth with Vancouver and the Indian embassy/visa office on visa issues, spending an incredible summer with my brother and cousin on a road trip down the west coast to California and back, flying immediately thereafter to Indonesia for a post family-reunion held in Singapore for a Indo-reunion, and then gathering myself back in Bangkok for a week before finally making that departure for India. Since then I have been a participant-observer – a funny term, really – here in North-East India – that is, I’ve been participating in life, on most days. I spent my first Christmas away from my family. I’ve witnessed more animal sacrifices than ever before, and have gone to church more regularly than I have in a long time. I’ve been to more weddings and funerals and death anniversaries than I can remember.
August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March; that makes this the 8th month. While I do feel that March has arrived unexpectedly soon, I am dissatisfied with the inconsequential statement, time sure does fly by! The surprise of March and of 7-8 months gone by only speaks to my sense of a lack of accomplishment in so significant a period. But then again, my work profile in the field is exactly the same as my paper-writing process: the initial enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude soon gives way to survival, and it isn’t until the final moments before the allotted period is over that work ethic reaches its pinnacle to get the job done, hopefully.
Just as those winners of reality shows with the muted reactions of joy at the grand announcement tend to say, “it hasn’t sunk in yet,” (I recently watched Adam win MasterChef Australia) I know my experiences in India will continue to grow and to materialize especially as I (force myself to) write more. After all, nothing has really happened until it’s been described, right? I can anticipate sorting through a flurry of scribbles, recordings, pictures and notes upon my return as I attempt to manage, compartmentalize and connect the mess that is life. But for now, I am more focused on daily survival, and filled with enough worries and anxieties to last me at least another 200 more days.
music: Unfortunately the storage site I use to upload music files is no longer functional. I’ll need to find another one. For now this blog feels half-empty.