Thursday, 5 June 2014

Reflections on India, three months down the road.

The past few weeks I have been saying things like:

I miss India.

I'll be going back sometime soon.

I'll be going back after awhile to see how Pune has changed.

I don't need to go to (name a random holiday destination), I've already been to India this year.

The WAGGGS World Flag
Mostly though I have been saying how much I miss India, which may seem a little silly as I did only spend a week there. But a week felt like a very long time. We were busy almost 24/7 - yes, sleep is included in that. I miss the sights and the sounds and the colour of what is an incredibly diverse country.

And I miss Sangam, which was the real reason I went. Sangam is one of the four World Centres of the Girl Guide Movement. You can read about Sangam on their website. You can also read about why I encountered on my first International Girl Guide trip elsewhere on my blog.

I've been a Girl Guide since I was six, and then had a very long time away from it. When I married Stephen and moved to Kadina, I decided I wanted to still be a Girl Guide. In fact, I wanted to volunteer my time with the girls there and maybe become an Olave member. The great thing about the Movement is that once you're in; you're in. Yes, I remade my Promise again (no toadstools this time), and I am diligently working my way through a Leadership Qualification - much move involved than one would usually expect from a volunteer organisation. I don't mind, it really is much more than that. 10 million girls can't be wrong after all.
Off to buy saris on Laxmi Road. we just had to leave Sangam first.
Guides have something special they learn early on - the Links of Unity/Symbols of the Movement. The right handed salute and the left hand shake are some you will probably more commonly see. Our World Flag, and the World Song were especially important to me while I was at Sangam. But it is more than that. When I am a Girl Guide and with other people from the Movement, I am home. When I am in uniform I am brave. When I'm snuggled up in my bedroll and I listen to the sounds of giggling girls (and in the case of adult residentials also), I am at peace. Standing on the lines of a Brownie Ring, I am both six and twenty eight, all at once.

To me, going to Sangam was like going home. There were aspects I struggled with - communal mealtimes and the lack of privacy were two that I anticipated but coped with better than I expected. Over all I was waking up and going about my day with girls from all around the world who may be incredibly different to me in terms of backgrounds, but essentially had a similar worldview and wanted the very best for their Units of girls, wherever they may meet.

When I left on the last day, the girls sang me a Farewell song and I tried my hardest not to cry. Actually, I cried and composed myself enough to call out "Goodbye" at the gate in my loudest voice. You see, I was actually ready to go back home to Australia and my own family and my own Girls. But seeing as you can have many homes wherever you like, I was leaving one and coming back to another.
Our Peace Ceremony. You can only carry flags of another country, not your own.

Do I miss India, or Sangam, or my time at the Be the Change MDG3 event?

This question has been plaguing me for awhile now, and the simple answer is 'well, probably all three.' Of course, there are plenty of things I don't miss - homesickness, the unexpected nature of India, being bitten by bugs when it rained. But a lot of those things are trivial in comparison to what I experienced. The other thing is - if I can admit it - is that come a few weeks before I was due to fly out I was pretty terrified. Flying on my own two two foreign countries? Check. Midnight til dawn car ride for four hours? Check. Squat toilets? Check. A country where I should be prepared to almost anything, but couldn't anticipate what may happen to me? Check.

Why did I do it?

Because it was all paid for.
Because everyone was so incredibly excited and nervous and happy for me.
Because I said I would, and I meant what I said. But most of all...

Because I'm a Girl Guide and I can do anything.

No, really. If I have learnt anything at all from my time away, I really can do anything. Collectively. I've got 10 million girls by my side.

Sari time! Love these ladies.