Friday, January 12, 2007

New Beginnings

Sometimes I have the strange feeling that I am a character in a story and just when I think I have the plot all figured out, it changes without any warning. Once again my life is moving in a completely unexpected direction and I have the incredibly strong feeling that it will never be the same again. I feel like I standing at the intersection of my past and my future wanting to hold onto one yet driving quickly toward the other.

I have been asked to work abroad on a project for the next few months. The initial request came very unexpectedly last Monday evening while I was out having a few drinks in Paris. Less than 48 hours later, it was a done deal. I have been so busy coordinating and organising everything that it took another 48 hours for it to actually start sinking in that I am about to walk through the door of major change. At this time next week I will be on a flight heading for Delhi, India.

It is a great opportunity and one that I am incredibly excited about. As I was taking the train yesterday from Amsterdam to Brussels to spend the rest of my little break from work, I realized that I am in my last days of anonymity. I have been in India before, and when you are blonde and have fair skin, it makes you something of an attraction. Unless I was in my room or tucked away in a restaurant, the attention was non-stop. People want to touch my hair and feel my skin. No more sitting in the park, reading a book in peace. That means attracting an audience, people who will just sit around and watch to see what you do. Then there are the people trying to make a living. Offers to have the ears cleaned, have a shave, get a haircut, massage the feet, watch the cobra, pet the monkey, and of course the endless parade of people begging for money. A simple walk down the street means attracting a crowd and everyone you make eye contact with and even those you don't are all giving advice about where the tourist office is, where the taxi is, where the hotel is and it just goes on and on. I have been walking around Brussels last night and today just enjoying the solitude, the quiet of a normal city. Delhi is a flood of traffic, rickshaws, busses, taxis all combating each other for space on the road and there is the never-ending honking of horns.

Last time I was in India, it took me a couple of weeks to adjust, I simply had no idea what to expect. I left with a different attitude than when I arrived. The little things in life didn't matter anymore. A train or place with a little delay, no worries. A dirty tablecloth doesn't even warrant a comment. And after seeing all the poverty and extreme conditions in which some people live, I felt somewhat ashamed at the indulgence of my own life and the times when I get upset for something that really and truly doesn't matter. I have my friends. I have my heath. I have a great job. I have a nice life that has seen me around the world twice and travelling almost as long as I have been alive, and more extensively the past 12 years. This time in India will be different. For starters, I know exactly what to expect and I will be there longer than just a few short weeks. I am there until at least April 1 and I will be staying almost exclusively in Delhi, which will allow me to really get to know the city and hopefully make a few friends.

I do find myself also feeling sad. My friends are very important to me and while I know they will only be a phone call away, they won't be there. This will be the first time I am truly 100% on my own. I have 6 days left and not enough time to see everyone I want to see. I know I won't be gone long, but something tells me that this is just the beginning of something much bigger than I can imagine right now.

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