It’s my fifth full day of being in India and no matter how you prepare yourself for time spent abroad, let alone in India, it is never quite what you expected. All the advice, tips, and information about India that I was given before hand made me prepare for the worst of conditions. After 42 hours of travel, I think most any condition seems better than you could ever imagine. Is it hot? Yes, but not nearly as bad as I imagined. Does it rain every day? Yes, nothing different about that. Does the electricity and Internet go out regularly? Yes, but it’s a blessing in disguise because we can really live without Facebook for extended periods of time and be just fine. Are there extremely large bugs, mosquitos, lizards and annoying monkeys everywhere? Of course, but you start to not notice it fairly quickly. And let me say as long as you drink clean water and peel your fruits and vegetables, you’ll be just fine here. The hardest part for me is avoiding gluten, although they eat tons of rice here, fried foods and other glutenous treats are a part of the daily diet. So, needless to say any stomach aches I’ve gotten as of yet are because I couldn’t avoid trying the amazing variety of India foods that I should be avoiding at all costs. All of these things that we so often would think of as creating not so great living conditions really simply life, once again making you realize what’s truly important.
The few days that I’ve spent here so far have been filled with meeting many, many different people, all of whom contribute to JOYN’s work in some shape or form. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and while I have a hard time remembering anyone’s names, they can’t say mine to save their life.
JOYN’s base camp is in Rajpur, a small town right up the hill from Dehradun. The little apartment I’ve been staying in is based underneath Chhaya Cafe, one of four restaurants in Rajpur. Chhaya is a cooperative for women coming out of abusive relationships and is run by a family that ministers to these women and helps teach them skills and give them jobs. As well as having the cafe, most of JOYN’s products are sewn at Chhaya. So each morning I wake up to monkey’s scrambling around outside, look out over the foothills of the Himilayas, slowly start my day and eventually go upstairs with Rikki to see what the women have been working on.
Not only will I spend time at Chhaya, but I’ve also spent time at our printing shop and with our street kid ministry, Street Smart. The block printing shop was the only one left in this state until JOYN came to town and helped them train up new printers. Street Smart is a ministry in Dehradun that works with street kids that are old enough to work and teaches them life skills, gives them a job, and helps them finish their education. The street smart kids have been learning to block print and sew products which is an invaluable skill. It’s been wonderful seeing all these different pieces of JOYN and seeing the lives that are impacted through their work.
Once we’ve started our work day I spend my time creating and designing. My task while I’m here is to design several new block prints and products as well as build relationships with the people we work with. Being able to take a step back from the fast paced, hectic lifestyle of SF and have time to be creative and just work on relationships has been a dream. The slowness of life, each day being different than the one before and simply focusing on the needs for that day makes me realize how this trip will not only change me but change my life all together. I can’t tell you what a typical day looks like here because there isn’t a typical day. Each day brings new projects, items of importance, and challenges. You must be flexible and patient when working in India and that is what changes you.
My adventure has only just barely begun. I spent a long ten hours on a plane from San Francisco to London. As is to be expected on any international flight, the minute you sit down in your seat you realize this is going to be the longest ten hours of your life. Yet for the first time in my 28 year long flying career I was proven incorrect. I was pleasantly surprised by Virgin Altantic’s customer service. I was provided with plush blankets, an eye mask, socks, and a toothbrush. Some of you may know that I have a slight obsession with oral hygiene so this was a huge plus. I settled in, ate a fairly decent airplane meal and decided to forgo my gluten intolerance to indulge in tiramisu and tea after dinner, while watching movies on my iPad. After a nice meal I put in my ear plugs, pulled on my eye mask and passed out for the remainder of the flight, perhaps the best sleep I’ve ever gotten on a flight.
I’ve never been more thankful to a great night’s sleep on a flight or for wearing ear plugs while flying. I awoke a mere thirty minutes before landing to discover the toddler sitting behind me, who screamed through most of the flight, had thrown up everywhere. Now the importance of me telling you this is that it was a miracle I slept through this encounter because vomit is my worlds greatest fear and it literally causes me to have panic attacks. Thus my travels to India already has me in a slight fuss over the inevitability of impending sickness, so the fact that I slept through this in counter was the worlds greatest blessing.
Once I departed my plane I had every intention of visiting my old haunts from my time spent at London Fashion Week. This plan was quickly foiled by my need to pick up my boarding pass for my connecting flight to Delhi. Once I entered the terminal, I was stuck. Apparently London Heathrow feels the need to keep their passengers locked into the airport once passing through security. Alas, I’ve now added a nine hour airport experience to my travels rather than visiting the wonderful city of Harry Potter and number twelve Grimmauld Place. So the duration of my time in London will be spent drinking tea, wishing I could buy a trench from the Burberry shop, and eating fine European chocolates. Come five weeks I’ll have an overnight layover in London and you bet I won’t make the same mistake again and I’ll step out onto European soil and spend some time in my home land.
As I prepare to go on the journey of a lifetime I’ve decided to being posting again. In just a few short days I will be heading to Dehradun, India for five weeks to work with JOYN, a small start up, based in the foothills of the Himalayas. They create accessories and work with men and women who normally have trouble finding work. They provide jobs, housing, medical care, and schooling for the families of these men and women, making it possible for them to live a normal life.
Over the next five weeks I will be helping design new textiles prints and products, as well as venturing into new marketing and public relations initiatives for the company. With no set schedule, each day will be a new adventure full of life, color, and possibility. Preparation seems almost fruitless, seeing as there’s no way to prepare for the adventure I’m embarking on. As I spend my days soaking in new beauty I will attempt to keep all of you updated.
And for those of you who want to keep in contact with me through more than just a blog, I will have access to email, Facebook, and Skype or you can text me at: 415-236-7445.
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love the layers.