Sometimes, I get the impression people think we are crazy for moving abroad but we aren't the only ones who have chosen this lifestyle. In fact, there are a lot of us out there and many of us blog about it. Expatriated is a new series I'm starting on this blog to introduce you to other expats.
I had the idea to start this series back before Christmas when I began planning the new blog but as you know, it took a long time to come to fruition. I created the questions and lists of people whom I'd like to feature but it sat aside for months as I waited for From There to Here to launch. From the beginning, I knew I wanted Kisha from Chronicled to be the first featured expat blogger because I was entranced by her journey to India. Funny enough, the week my blog launched and the week I was to contact Kisha she also launched a similar series called Lady Abroad. Great minds think alike!
While Kisha is recently repatriated, her experiences in India are enthralling so, without further ado...
Where are you from and where did you move to?
I’m from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and moved more than halfway around the world to New Delhi, India.
How did you end up there and what inspired you to make the move?
To be 100% honest, India was not a country that was on my “must-visit” list. To make a long story short, volunteering overseas is something I’d wanted to do for a long time and every few years or so I’d look into organizations that sent volunteers abroad but most of them, I felt, were too expensive. I was willing to go abroad and volunteer and they expected me to pay as well? Didn’t make sense. Anyways, in late 2008 I got laid off and over the next year or so the volunteering idea started coming up more and more. I discovered a great organization called VSO that would cover most all of my expenses and decided to apply. After a series of interviews I was accepted and eagerly await word of where I would get a placement offer. I got an offer to Africa that was very tempting but too long (2 years), that I declined. I then declined a 1 year placement in a rural area in India. Finally, my 3rd offer was a placement in Delhi for a year. It just felt right. I accepted. And the rest is kinda history.
What was the best part of living overseas?
Oh my, I could go on and on. India might not have been a country that was on my "to visit" list before but now I can’t wait to go back. The best part? The wonderful friendships I made with like-minded amazing people from all over the world. Really having the opportunity to experience and live in a culture so different than my own; getting to know some of the ins and outs that might not be evident when you just visit a country for a few weeks. Experiencing a country with so much history and diversity - there was always something to do and there is literally something for everyone.
What did you miss the most from home (besides friends, family & Howard?)
**Howard is Kisha's dog.**
I was going to say Howard but you beat me to it! Hmm, you know - I actually didn’t miss the things I thought I would. I didn’t have a tv, a smartphone, or drive for that year and I didn’t really miss any of it at all. I didn’t miss pop culture (like hearing the latest songs, magazines etc) which is something I was hugely into before going abroad. And after a while I just got used to doing things differently than I did at home; I had a new "normal" (like brushing my teeth with bottled water instead of tap water, not having a shower - just a tap...doing my laundry by hand, etc.) After much thought, I guess I’d say the thing I missed the most was...earning a normal salary? I know, superficial right? But I could have done a lot more exploring (and shopping) had I not been on a volunteer budget.
What was the most difficult thing to adjust to in India?
The staring. I got stared at A LOT. It was never in a rude way or an intimidating way - but men and women, young and old, would stare and stare; I’ve never been asked to be in so many pictures in my life! I’d love to see these family photo albums with the one random black girl in them lololol. It's also a very male dominated society so that was difficult to get used to as well. Men are everywhere! Even shops for ladies are staffed by all men...so that was weird for me.
Any funny ‘whoopsies’ while adjusting to your new life?
Hmm, not that I can remember.
Saving graces (ie. things that made life abroad easier?)
Making friends with people who were in the same boat (away from family & friends, in a different culture, new to the country) was definitely a saving grace.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from your time in India?
Oh I can't pick just one! Always listen to your gut, it is possible to make genuine friendships as an adult, it's not always about me, at the end of the day people are more alike than different and just want to be heard, I can do anything I set my mind to.....I actually did a post with 10 lessons I learned here.
If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Oh my gosh, there are so many places I would live - but the top of my list is Egypt. I have a crazy love obsession with that country; such an incredible history! If I got a job offer there, and could bring my dog, I'd move in a heartbeat lol.
Do you have any advice for the newly expatriated?
When I moved abroad my personal motto was "say yes more than I say no." I would give this advice to others. Adhering to this motto made me do things I probably wouldn't have done at home (nothing too crazy!) and enhanced my experience 10-fold. Invitations to parties of friends of friends I didn't know, last minute day trips, dinner invitations, dinner with boys I'd just met ;-), hosting parties, early morning yoga sessions...these are all things that at home I would have said "no" to but with my personal motto I said "yes" and am so thankful I did. When you move abroad it's so easy to get into that same comfortable routine you had at home - don't.
At the same time, I'd say always listen to your gut. If something doesn't feel right it probably isn't. Even if you think you'll look "foolish" (like hopping out of a taxi/rickshaw you feel uncomfortable in or something...) do it. Always listen to your gut.
Bring a few reminders of home for those times when you get homesick - because you will!. I brought a few pictures of family and friends that went up on my wall as well as some easy to pack foods that I knew I'd miss like vanilla oreo cookies and those cheap packs of noodles lol.
Make friends with people around you. It can be really tempting to just skype all evening and keep in touch with your friends & family at home every day with the thought that it'll make it easier for you to adjust to your new surroundings - it doesn't. I think it makes it harder because you're constantly reminding yourself of what you're missing and not living in your new present. Go out and make friends in your new city and keep your skype dates with family to once a week. Or once every two weeks. Trust me on this one. While you're inside skyping you're missing out on a lot. And seriously, what could you have to talk about every day with family & friends if you're not actually having any experiences (because you're always on Skype).....
I could go on and on.....