Tanushree's handiwork -- I could never have wrapped up a sari
My volunteer assignment has come to an end, so itâ€™s time to say goodbye to Bhubaneswar. I had a rough beginning, but overall itâ€™s been a positive experience. Iâ€™ve especially enjoyed getting to know my colleagues Sabita, Tanushree, Bharati, Nihar, Pushpa, and Bijay. Iâ€™m not so sure, though, that my work has made much of an impact. Mostly I did heavy editing of reports and wrote copy for a new brochure and the annual report. The editing was pretty satisfying, since I think having a native English speaker fix the grammar and usage errors makes a huge difference in how documents read, and therefore how theyâ€™re perceived. (At least I think so.) I arrived at an exceptionally busy time at my NGO, so when I handed in drafts of documents Iâ€™d edited or written, feedback was slow in coming or non-existent.
I did get the opportunity to edit the NGOâ€™s website content, which will definitely come to fruition when their new website goes live quite soon. Overall, I think I got more out of being a volunteer than the organization got out of hosting me.
Do I look Indian yet? (Not!)
Beyond the work, I do think I made an impact as an ambassador of sorts. Most people in the office have never met an American or a Jew before, so I now constitute their entire experience of both groups. One co-worker told me he was struck by my humility, respect for cultural norms/behaving appropriately, and that I donâ€™t talk super loudly.
The custom in the office when anyone leaves is to gather the whole staff in a room, sit in a circle, have some food, and whoever wants to say something about or to the person chimes in when the mood strikes.
They did this for me a couple of days ago, which was a most pleasant and unexpected surprise. Unfortunately most of the people Iâ€™ve come to know werenâ€™t in the office that day, but my supervisor, the director of the NGO, and a couple of other people spoke, and I had an opportunity to share some of my own impressions about my experience and the organization. And they gave me presents. Woo hoo!
Some people from the office bidding me farewell
During my last six weeks in Bhubaneswar, I lived with my co-worker Tanushree. We didnâ€™t know each other at all when I moved in. She made me feel welcome and at ease right away, calling the apartment â€śourâ€ť home and answering the zillion questions I had. Living with an Indian woman in her late 20s was a very different experience than having a room in a hostel full of giggly 22-year old girls, most of whom spoke no English.
So even though Tanushreeâ€™s apartment was a bit far from the office, too hot, and had an Indian-style toilet, I was very happy to be there. I got to cook my own food, Tanushree showed me parts of Bhubaneswar I hadnâ€™t seen, and most importantly, I got to know her and formed a new friendship.
Me, Tanushree, and Bharati at the office
Originally I planned to go back to the US right after my assignment, but Iâ€™ve decided instead to extend my stay in India for a bit. My time here just doesnâ€™t feel complete yet. More soon...