The sun is setting over the UK at about 10pm and has painted a thick vivid line of pinks, oranges, purples, blues and fading yellow across the sky; this photo doesn’t do justice to the real thing. The effect feels like a beautiful, ceremonious affair, considering I can only see this stunning site so late in the evening because i’m 30,000 foot up on one of Jet airway’s finest crafts heading for Mumbai where i’ll land in 8hrs time and change over for another 1 1/2hr flight to my final destination in Goa
I have been traveling all day from my home in Norwich to Heathrow, to catch this flight, and i’m quite tired but feeling compelled to start this blog now because of the strong and mixed feelings i’m having about the reason for the trip and the value I will give and gain from the experience – i’m going to Goa to gain work experience in a ‘developing country’ (DWE) as part of my university degree. The grand title of this degree is “International Development with Anthropology and Overseas Experience”. So far in this Ba i’ve learnt a bit of theory on what is affectionately called ‘Dev’, I’ve had a theoretical baptism of fire into Anthropology, with the great lecturer ‘Bones’, and enjoyed a few months of practicing the art of anthropology otherwise known as ‘doing ethnography’; which is a social research method however this was all on campus with other student in the UK.
Now armed with a few ideas, theories, a world of choice for context, region and topic and my own lust for challenge and adventure i’m heading out to the south of asia to experience media in development at the local level. However this is not about ‘the media’ in the traditional sense, it also was not my original plan or even 2nd or 3rd plan, but plans change or maybe they don’t really change maybe this was what was supposed to happen, it just took me a while to accept it, as I’d originally hoped to go to Zambia or Malawi.
I guess that’s just one of the many joys of life, learning to read the signs and trying to accept the messages, even when they’re different from our ‘original plans’; then supposedly it’s all about learning to relax, go with the flow, and be open to all the gifts that are abundantly on offer.
However those that know me probably would not describe me as generally laid back, and even though I do have my chilled out moments, planning this trip has not been a calm affair in my mind. I’ve thought about it a lot, and then some more and just for good measure I did some over thinking! There were a few things in particular that concerned me. Primarily I’ve been concerned about doing a good job and figuring out what a good job looks like! The plan (at the moment ofcourse) is that I’ll be working with an organization called Video Volunteers; they facilitate the production and publishing of videos produced by community members, generally from poorer villages, as well as providing training for people to become become citizen journalists / community correspondents (CC’s). These people are trained to use video media and report on issues they feel need to be changed or need awareness for whatever reason. The videos are supposed to help, by bringing the community together to make their own choices regarding societal developments and public events and also to making the local state accountable for its responsibilities – such as making sure the police investigate crimes or getting the government to build and repair roads. The job I’ve signed up for is to speak to the people from these communities who have been involved in or experienced these video projects and find out what they think of using media in this way. Does it work? Or is it just some other western fancy being imposed? How does it compare to more other forms of accountability mechanisms? If it does work… How does it work and what actually changes…?
So i’ve been trying to plan out and imagine how things will be in Goa? how I’ll get on with my work? what the people I’ll be working with will be like? how will they receive me being a white Zimbabwean, from UK, who is also a wheelchair user! That’s a real mix that even I struggle with; I often wonder about the complexity of my story and how I’ve got to where I am today. I also wonder what I’ll think of them? what they will expect of me? how I’ll manage in terms of wheelchair access? and amongst a plethora of other wonderings… there is one of my great loves – FOOD! I really can’t wait to experience it… Aaaah So many questions in my head!!
It is this constant state of curiosity and questioning of everything around me that led me to follow the Anthropology stream in Dev at UEA and the studies have certainly multiplied and deepened my incessant questioning. Hence I relish any opportunity to people watch, so whilst I was checking in, waiting around and leaving Heathrow airport I was looking around trying out my new found anthropological lens. Airports really are a people watchers candy store; as I wheeled around and the 1st thing that really struck me was, just how much technology we have in our lives in the western hemisphere, which may seem like an obvious thing to consider… but how often do we really think about the extent to which we are tech dependent?
This obviously a generalization about people in the west, but apart from the small percentage of people who avoid modern tech and try live like it was ‘back in the good old days’ (when ever those were), desperately trying to hold on to and recreate that mystical ‘la belle epoch’, the rest of us are virtually consumed by it, totally reliant and have practically morphed into breathing, battery operated cyborgs. ‘If’ that is life in the west, how different will it be at my final ‘south eastern’ destination? I mean am I heading back in time to the ‘old ways’? Where people still have to rely on actual face to face conversations and no that does not include webcaming, facetiming or any other interface / device separated communication. I mean the kind where you have to ask for directions to get to a pre-arranged meeting place at a certain time, to have a personal intimate conversation? An event in which the time spent is truly valued because it can’t just be replaced at any moment on email, text, phone, facebook or whatever other bizarre means of human interaction that does not actually directly involve having any human interaction? I’m possibly exaggerating a tad; I know that just because India is a so called ‘developing country’, it certainly does not mean they do not have the full array of the latest gadgets, but I highly doubt that technology is as socially pervasive as it is in the west, that the service provision is as efficient and that the majority of Indian people are as dependent on technology as in the UK.
Took a little break from writing and just watched “A good day to die hard” which was rubbish! Then I started listening to an audiobook called ‘Blink’ – fantastic! Must get it, and the author speaks really well.
India welcomed me with a gorgeous sunrise, it’s a good sign. Seeing the sun peek up over the layer of thick monsoon filled cloud, instantly gave me hope and I started to relax and finally worry a little less. I love sunsets and sunrises
Mumbai & Goa airports
Landing in Mumbai was a real interesting experience! When we finally broke through the turbulent cloud, the view was dominated by 3 main colours which are all connected to the monsoon… Firstly the lush green vegetation, then the swollen brown rivers an finally many of the roofs are a striking royal blue, which i later found out it waterproofing tarpaulin. However this fantastic view soon disappeared from my mind when we hit the runway. The rain was pouring down and the runway was one long deep puddle… I have aquaplaned in a car before when the roads are wet and that’s a bit scary, but aquaplaning in a massive aeroplane doing several hundred Km/h takes the biscuit! Although no one else seemed mildly concerned so either I was just being dramatic (a remote possibility) or everyone else was just dam clueless, a more likely theory in my opinion.
Anyway we drew to a safe holt – the friendly assistants came to hoik me intothe isle chair, carry me down the stairs an then plonk me into my wheelchair; luckily my chair hadn’t gone off to Goa with out me (not an unheard of incident on connecting flights). I’d been assigned a very efficient porter to get me through the airport – I don’t speak any of the Indian languages and he didn’t speak any english – but for love or money he would not let go the handles of my chair and had mild panic attacks every time I even touched the wheels. Mildly frustrating that so many people are still so unaware and fearful of disability in it’s many forms but also the over zealous heart felt concern was very endearing and it is at the very least reassuring to know that even if there is a limited understanding about disability that there is some form of public acceptance.
It takes about 20 mins to get from Mumbai International terminal to the terminal for local flights; we were told there’d be a ‘shuttle’ to transport us… in my naivety I imagined the shuttle would be one of those ‘hop on hop off’ electric trains. Instead the shuttle is a bus that takes passengers between terminals and of course the bus does not have wheelchair access; getting me on and off that bus was our first real challenge, luckily I’d bought a four point sling (a 1 meter sq. canvas sheet with a handle on each corner) in my back pack in anticipation of this kind of situation – poor Nic and 3 baggage handlers somehow managed to lug me through the narrow bus door, up the stairs and on to a seat and then do the whole process in reverse again to get me off!
Eventually Nic and arrived in Goa safe and sound. We were met as arranged by our taxi driver, John, who entertained us with various stories about life in Goa, as he ferried us to our new home. I stared out the window trying desperately to absorb every single new sight, sound and even smell! that my senses could pick out. I was just so amazed at how green everything is and I remember feeling genuinely relaxed in the organized chaos of Goa’s roads. Radhika and Kayo from VV, who I’d been emailing for the past 2 months in preparation for the trip, were waiting for us when we finally reached our apartment in Baga; it was so great to finally meet them and put faces to names! I felt truly welcomed and excited about the next 10 weeks.
The apartment is great, and aside from the 4 steps into the building it is completely wheely friendly, Winner! It’s been a long and interesting journey, which has gone better than I could asked, no doubt this is a sign of more good things to come, Yehaaa!