In January, I'm going to go to India for ten days.
Some of you reading this may say 'So what? Loads of people go to India. Nothing unusual, given how small the world is with air travel now.'
But for me, it's an awfully BIG deal. I've always wanted to go to India - have been envious of others who've been - but somehow I've never had the time or the money... Actually, scrub that. If I'm totally honest, *whispers* I never had the courage to go. Y'see, the only places I've ever travelled to have been 'Westernised'. (Apart from a 24 hour stopover in Bali on both legs of a journey to New Zealand many years ago - and what we experienced there was a sanitised Balinese culture due to time restraints). I have never experienced a culture that is vastly different to my own. And I've never travelled anywhere without Mr Squidge or my kids, so to volunteer to go to Tamil Nadu in South India as a representative of my church with two priests instead of my family is a mahoosive deal.
It all started when I was asked to go on a diocesan conference last September, where I met clergy from our link dioceses in India, Tanzania and the US. Our curate at the time - who was also on the conference - suggested we link with a church in India, to encourage one another in our spiritual life and to offer practical support if and where we could.
I sort of felt drawn to this idea, and after several meetings with a few like-minded people who proposed a scouting trip to see how such a link might work for mutual benefit, I really felt that God was telling me I ought to be going on it. (And when God wants you to do something, it's my experience that he keeps nudgig you until you say yes, regardless of the excuses you come up with to try and get out of it. *see above for mine!*) Anyway, we recently got the go-ahead from our Parish Council to send three folk from church to Tamil Nadu where the possible link church is based - and I said I'd be one of them.
Fortunately, the two gents I'm going with have both been to India before and at least one has travelled rather widely, so I am thankful that I am in good company. (Although they might get fed up with all my questions...)
The preparations are in hand; so far, I've had my Hep A/B Combo, tetanus and typhoid/diptheria/polio jabs. The flights are booked. I FINALLY got a photo that ticked all the boxes for my visa, and submitted the application yesterday.
|My visa pic. This was the best of them, honest...|
I've bought some rather fetching walking sandals, several bottles of hand cleanser and three pairs of harem trousers.
I have read up the Rough Guide to South India, and have been practising Tamil so I can at least say hello and please and thank you. I've also been reading up about how the Dalits are treated in India, particularly the women. (Here's a blog I wrote during last year's conference, about just one of the issues)
Next on the list is insurance, a new memory card for the camera, notebooks and pens for the writing I'm bound to do, and research into bus times to Heathrow...
I'll keep you posted.