Hello again everyone!
I have been silent on this blog for several months, and I apologize for that for anyone who was following my adventures! Most of you already know that once we reached Varkala, Kerala in the last month of our trip, Chris and I embarked on a mission to rescue a little street puppy we named Boo. The process of figuring this out completely consumed me. Coupled with dwindling internet access, sleepless, tearful nights, and mountains of stress, the international adoption process took over all of my time, and blogging was the last thing on my mind. But Boo’s story is a story for another day!
I’ve been home for about a month and a half now, and I’m having trouble adjusting. Not to my normal life, because it picked up pretty much where it left off. But adjusting to the simple fact that I am home, rather than on the other side of the world, has been difficult for me. I’m home, I’m a different person than when I left, and life here just went on as usual in my absence. And I’m expected to just fit back in again, to assume my normal adult responsibilities, to do my job at work, come home and make dinner, go out on weekends. I’m myself but I’m not myself, and a piece of my heart is on the other side of the earth. It’s a weird and difficult to explain problem. I dream about India every single night, and wake with renewed happiness. And then sleep fades away and I am left with the reality that I’m in my own bed in my own city on my own continent. And it’s not that that’s a bad feeling, because it’s not. I love my family and friends and missed them dearly when I was gone. I love my country and my home town and the city I live in now. I don’t know if I could ever choose to live anywhere but Canada. Being away from everything I know and love for such a lengthy period of time was very hard on me, and Chris as well. But I still find myself heartsick for India. Heartsick is the only way I can think to describe this odd feeling. I’m not homesick, because, though I love India, it is not my true home. But my heart aches for the country I called home for three and a half months. Having Boo and the other puppy we brought home, Choco, beside me as the ultimate souvenir of our time in India does help sooth the strange displacement I feel, but also serves as a reminder that I’m not in their home country helping other animals and people in need.
Sometimes I feel sorry for taking Boo away from her beautiful beach-front home. It saddens me to remember that in a place of such beauty, Boo and her family endured unimaginable cruelty at the hands of humans. I know that Boo was basically dying of infection and malnutrition when we found her, and that taking her away from her home was the only way to save her, but her birthplace is absolutely stunningly beautiful, and I wish that she and her family could have been safe to grow and thrive there. Unfortunately, humans have created a hostile environment for dogs in Kerala, and Boo was doomed to a life of struggle the moment she was born. The fact that she survived her early puppyhood is pretty much a miracle in itself. There was a small litter of puppies, only a week old, at the resort where we found Boo. The mother had died under nefarious circumstances, leaving the litter helpless. Some employees of the resort had taken to bottle feeding the tiny puppies four times per day, to keep them alive. I still think about those poor babies, and pray that they were able to survive. Sometimes I wonder if anyone stepped up to save them after we left. If they had been old enough to move, I would have taken them all to Delhi with us, to Dr. Choudhary’s rescue. I know that this was not possible at the time, but when I think about them I can’t shake the feeling that I could have done more. That’s the problem in India: You help one person, or animal, and when you’ve done what you can do, you turn around and there are ten others. You’re not a miracle worker. You can’t save them all. You can’t even help them all. But there’s a small voice at the back of your mind, constantly calling you to do more, and telling you that you haven’t done enough yet.
And I think that’s part of the reason I’m having trouble adjusting. That small voice in my mind is telling me that I didn’t do enough, and that I have more work to do. By the end of our trip in India I was angry. I was angry that the country and people that had welcomed us with such amazing warmth and kindness could show such cruelty to its animal population. I was infuriated every time I heard someone become outraged at the presence of a dog. My blood boiled when I saw people threaten dogs with rocks, bamboo sticks, or their feet. I was so sick of having to hold my tongue (for my own safety) in the presence of such ridiculous hatred. I began to glare at people or mouth them off, yelling back at them even though I knew that they, for the most part, couldn’t understand what I was saying. At least they could understand my tone, I thought. I couldn’t, and still can’t, understand how such loving people could be so cruel. I needed to come home to regroup and calm down. I needed to get Boo out of there. My blood curdles when I think of the life Boo would have had if we didn’t fight so hard to bring her home. But there’s still that small voice whispering, “You haven’t done enough. You could have done more.”
And the rest of it is just that I truly enjoyed my time in India. I loved every second of it. I loved the foreign landscape, the bird songs I had never heard before. I loved being surrounded by people speaking a language I didn’t understand. And I loved when, after a few weeks, I could pick up on some of the words used in common conversation and decipher what they meant. I loved being immersed in such an ancient culture with grand, carved monuments built hundreds, even thousands of years before Canada had a written history. I loved being able to touch those monuments. I felt connected to the the artists and architects who built them and the people who lived, worked, studied, and prayed in and around them. I loved seeing Hinduism practiced in real life, with people crowded into its grand and ancient temples. I loved being in some of the biggest cities on earth, and also in small, backward villages. I love the people I met, and the people I saw smiling and laughing even in the slums of Delhi. Now, being home, I find that experiences I had in India randomly pop into my mind. The most mundane things I do here remind me of “this one time, in India…” I could go on and on about all the things I love about the country!
I would also like to make clear that not all Indians are hostile towards animals. Through the process of adopting Boo and our time spent volunteering with NGOs, Chris and I met many amazing and compassionate people who stand up and fight for the rights of animals and people. They helped us selflessly and showed us such kindness that it is sometimes hard for me to believe they are real people.
Yes, India has its dangers and its problems, but is that not true of all nations? There are a few ground rules for staying safe, like not going out at night, dressing appropriately, and not going to certain areas of towns or cities. But despite all this, I felt so welcomed by almost every person I met while there. Our hosts were amazing, and I don’t think I have ever known people to go to such extraordinary lengths to make guests feel at home. I could never sing enough praise for the amazing people we had the privilege of meeting on our journey. We were fed and housed, free of charge, by even people who had no obligation to help us. We were treated like dear friends and close relatives by people we had only known for a day. One Indian friend still refers to me as his daughter and Chris as his son-in-law. And this amazing, warm, loving and open kindness was not an anomaly. We experienced it daily. We exhausted all the ways we could think of to say “Thank you.” Of course we had bad experiences, like arguing with jackass tuk tuk drivers who saw our skin colour and instantly imagined all the ways they could rip us off for a few extra rupees. But it was all part-in-parcel of the journey we were on. The love that we felt greatly outweighs the hostility. Even though I was so angry by the end of our time in India, I was also absolutely overwhelmed by kindness and a feeling of immense gratitude. I am so grateful to all of the people we met in India, and to the country itself for giving me the most amazing experience of my life thus far. I’m thankful for it bringing me Boo and Choco, these two beautiful souls I now have the privilege of sharing my life with. I’m grateful to India for bringing Chris and I closer to each other than we ever thought possible. I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of because of my time in India. I learned that if I set my mind to something, I can and will accomplish it, even if it means spending entire days and nights crying, not sleeping, and feeling my heart breaking. I refuse to give up. I have scarcely felt such intense sadness and immense joy as I did while on this trip. My emotions overwhelmed me. I find myself getting teary-eyed sometimes just looking at Boo, or thinking about an experience we had in India. I learned to let myself feel things. To truly and deeply allow myself to experience the world for all its sadness and beauty. To let events, songs, people, everything around me affect me. I discovered that I am an extremely emotional person and have spent most of my life trying to act tough and hide how profoundly I feel things. It truly changed the way I view myself, the way I view others, and the way I perceive the world.
Anyway, I’m rambling and getting all emotional. My point in writing this was to say that I plan on writing about the rest of our Indian adventures from where I left off. Though I am home now, I think it will help me process what I’ve seen and done and will also be fun to write! If you’ve made it this far in this posting, I hope you continue to read the rest of my upcoming posts, because I want to share them with you! I also ask that you excuse any typos you found while reading this, as it is now almost four in the morning and any editing skills I possess have vacated my body. Tally-ho until next time!