Since I haven't posted in such a long time, I've been thinking a lot about what I should write and which stories I should tell. The problem is that if you don't write for so long you collect so many stories you don't even know where to start.
So instead of trying to recount all my stories I want to try to show you a little glimpse into my daily life and questions I have been asking myself lately.
Let me start out by saying that I am becoming happier and happier here. (Obviously there are still a lot of ups and downs but overall I feel at home here)
I was thinking I could write about the four major things in my life right now:
1. my flatmates
2. my work
3. my free time and friends
4. auto and uber drivers (Because it is highly entertaining. We could write a book about all of the funny things drivers will do or say)
Above all what shapes my experience here most are the three other girls I live with. Everything I experience, is shared with these girls that only 6-7 months ago I didn't even know the first thing about. Now we can almost be like siblings, laughing, chatting and also fighting about ridiculous things. Like food.. which we all love very much. There is a great expression for this in German, "Futterneid". The good thing is that we all have it, so everyone ultimately understands and we can laugh about it (as soon as the food is off the table ;P).
The 4 of us are all very different which in the beginning I worried about but I have found that the constant tug-a-war helps all of us have experiences that we usually wouldn't look for. I imagine that the four of us are all gripping a circular rope pulling it in our directions. Sometimes 2 will pull in the same direction, sometimes it is 3 against one and sometimes no one really has an opinion. This tug-a-war can take place for simple decisions like deciding which movie we would like to watch and which items we would like to get at the supermarket. Of course it also goes on when we have big decisions to make like what our travel destinations will be for our North India trip and whether/how we should implement a new idea at the Happy Home.
I am learning a lot about cooperation and at the same time I am learning about my limits. I have come to realize how important independence is to me. So every once in a while when all of the group decisions and actions get too much for me, I have to remind myself to do something for myself. Take a walk, go to a cafe and draw or simply sit on the balcony, listen to music and close the door behind me.
We all have our little escape valves and have learnt to respect them. That is pretty much the most important unofficial rule in our shared flat since we have very little space to retreat when we need solitude. There is one exception to that rule, when the others have noticed that one person is feeling really shitty the space can shortly be invaded to offer a cup of tea. The times that the girls have done that for me have always made me feel warm and fuzzy beneath the other worries I had.
For me, my favorite moments with the girls are when we are discovering something new together or having a nice chat around the table. Thanksgiving and Christmas are right up there on the list of best moments because we all made an effort to accommodate the others traditions.
Making friends here is a little hard because the people you meet in the street/underway, you don't stay in touch with (even if you wanted to), the visitors that come to the orphanage are nice and interested but they aren't necessarily interested in keeping up contact either and the people at work are wonderful people for the most part but our communication is mostly limited to gestures and a few scraps of English or Telugu.
There is one fairly new employee, who is very cool and who is starting to become a friend (we can actually communicate more because she speaks good English) but it is hard to spend time with her outside of work because she never has off. She lives at the Happy Home in the same room as the girls and obviously sometimes tensions build up. I find it very difficult when she tells me about some of the tensions and I constantly have to be proper and keep my real opinions to myself. It is work after all and getting involved without understanding the full situation is really risky. But as a friend I would want to rant with her and help her feel better. On top of that it is almost impossible for her to tell me about her worries and problems without the girls or others listening in and in return I don't feel comfortable telling her my worries. I'm still trying to figure out "friendship at your workplace" it seems there are still quite a few dos and don'ts I need to learn.
Luckily we have some good friends outside of work that we can meet with and explore Hyderabad with. One of the reasons they are so great is that they don't treat us differently, we are just Nina, Karla, Katie and Joana to them, not some white girls that are interesting/foreign/weird/unapproachable/something else. It's these friends that give life here a sense of normality and help us question our stereotypes of India.