"I am grounded, I am humble, I am one with everything". The lyrics of Kimya Dawsons 'i like giants' replays in my head as I sit on my pack, near a toilet on a train that I could be stuck on for 14 hours. Blinking back tears, and murderous thoughts towards the 4 people that misdirected us when we asked where our carriage was, I look at the rows of feet piled 3 levels up on bunk beds, I look at the locked roller door blocking us from 2AC, which could only be a second class heaven in comparison and I look at my upset girlfriend. Then i look at the door beside me and I decide to jump off the train... When it stops.
The train pulls into a station and after fumbling with yet another Locked door we run up the platform (not a graceful one with the weight of our packs) and are told to get back on the train as it was leaving. They weren't kidding! No such thing as "stay behind the yellow line"! Kell jumps on and as the train starts to move I pull myself on to our real carriage. James Bond eat ya heart out! One more struggle up a corridor and then to our room ( a curtain with 2 bunks behind it) and in that moment it was the most luxurious thing I've ever seen. "I am grounded, I am humble, I am one with everything".
We get on our bunks and I am terrified of the two men sleeping next to us. (who both ended up being not a problem! One in particular is really nice!) I sleep with one eye open and keep a watch over Kelly who is trying to nap sitting up as she is too polite to put her pack on the ground and set her bed up properly. The not so gentle clunking sends me to sleep.
"chai.. Tea, tea, tea " wakes us up at around 6am, one man next to us helps Kelly with her bed, feeling sorry for her I think. Then we scramble up the corridor to the toilet. I have never been so happy to see a western toilet. I am not the best on the squat toilets at the best of times and had images of myself unable to balance on the rocky train! Bless the inventor of the loo!! Again "grounded and humble!"
Breakfast is served, curry is a bit rough at 8am so plan bread it is! Exhausted at the thought of starvation I try to sleep again!
I have around 2.5 hours left to reflect on my time in Goa, especially on the idex camp. I have been challenged, forced to learn things about myself and inspired by the people I have met. The world seems smaller and bigger at the same time when you can connect with people who don't speak your language, or meet people from the other side of the world that aren't so different to you. We had a great group of volunteers with us, and by the end of the 2 weeks it seemed a little sad to not have more time! Two weeks filled with yoga lessons, riding a scooter (sorry mum!), beaches, elephant rides, spice plantation excursion, camp shenanigans etc! Learning and hearing about what women go through within their culture makes me so thankful to have the privilege of choice. So many educated women, including our camp manager will not pursue careers in their studied area as they will have an arranged marriage and stay home doing the house work. These are women that would be extremely respected in Australia! When we were telling the manager who studied psychology the average wage in Australia she nearly fell off the hammock. Girls as young as 12 are taken out of school to learn the house duties, and in some communities are married by 15. (the legal age in India is 18 for girls and 22 for boys). The culture is a very old one, based on class and respect for the family. There is a lot of pressure to not bring shame upon your family and there are SO many ways you can do that. When we asked the manager what she would want for her daughter if she had one, she said she would want her to be educated and marry who she wanted.. So there is hope for change! Working with the women at Monte Hill was so rewarding, even small things like a class we held on female health and a lady going to the doctor after our advice was such a good feeling. These ladies are tough, but there is a lot of shame in going to doctors for things we just wouldn't think about in Australia. Communities will kick women out for certain illnesses which to me seems crazy! Another 16 year old girl said she would return to school after our class on Maths, which was awesome! She only stopped attending on her brothers advice who thought she would be "spoilt" at school. Again seems crazy! The ladies all did henna art and made us cards on our last day "grounded and humbled!"
I loved every minute of working with the women, but I can't help but worry about what will happen to the younger ones. Their life seems already planned out for them, even the ones with so much talent and drive. They asked me not to forget them and I know I won't!
Not long left on our train ride now! I am ready to start the next bit of our adventure and get off this wood plank bed! We will spend a night in Kochi then head off for a night on the backwaters. After Kerela we head to Pondicherry and start working our way back up north! Let the real backpacking begin!