Namaskara! My name is Stina and I am here in India for 4 months of volunteering. My project is located in Bangalore at a
care home and school for children living with HIV. As a volunteer I assist with what is needed, everything from administrative work, to teaching English or to just spend time with the children. Although I experience a great time here, it is sometimes emotionally difficult to work with children living with HIV. Sadly, many of the children comes from a social background exposed to a lot of discrimination and stigmatization of HIV. Although HIV awareness is increasing in India, there are still many people that lack knowledge about what HIV is, how it is spread and how to prevent transmission. Luckily I get all the support I need from the staff and other volunteers at my project.
I have already been in India for 3 months! It feels like I came here yesterday. My expectations before coming to India were to learn new things, experience a totally different culture, eat tasty food and meet new people. So far, my stay here has been full of confusing (but yet amusing) cultural clashes, loads of delicious foods (with an exception of Sambar – sorry all Indians, but I just don’t like it), and interesting meetings with different kinds of people. Except for learning many new things, I have noticed that I have started to pick up some “typical” Indian habits. For example, I always pick up food and eat with my right hand. When I accidently eat with my left hand, I feel a shiver through my body saying that it feels wrong. Another habit I have gained is that I end every question with “na”. For example, if I ask someone if he/she thinks my dress looks nice, I would simply say “my dress looks nice, na?”
In contrast to Europe, life in India is very different. Not only the nature the climate and are different, the people have a different way of living and thinking here. Just understanding someone’s facial expression may be challenging in the beginning. But from what I have experienced so far, beyond all cultural differences, Indian people are the most helpful and hospitable people I have ever met. I often meet strangers that wants to give me food, invite me to their home and tell me everything there is to know about India. Sometimes women crosses the street (which can be kind of a struggle in Bangalore) only to tell me that my henna drawing on my hand looks nice. In fact, Indian people are so helpful that it can become a problem. For example, if I ask someone for directions on the street I will never get an “I don’t know”. Even if they don’t know, they still want to do help me so much that they will give me the direction that they vaguely think is the right one (which often turns out to be the wrong direction). But no worries! The solution to “finding-the-way-in-India-problem” is to ask for directions to at least three persons and you will be fine.
So only one month left in my volunteering project. It will be sad to leave the children and all the people have met here. I will definitely miss the colourfulness, the intensity and the love that makes India to the country it is. I hope to come back in the future!