Well, it all began with my first Indian cookery class where I met Cait, a passionate not-for-profit worker, who invited me to see the project she was working on in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Now, if the state were classed as its own country, the malnutrition levels there would be rated worse than Ethiopia. Of all malnourished children in India, 60% live in this state and Cait was running a project for RMF to address the situation. I had to see it.
When I received the invite out west, I had been in the country for just a couple of months. Jack had already been having his own adventures through working in deprived schools and for the charity, and I was craving my own opportunity to explore outside the city walls. But, I have to admit I was unsure. Very,very unsure about going. I had only met Cait a couple of times, and knew nothing of the charity she worked for. I had not yet travelled on the trains, or used the sleeper system and had only a smattering of pigeon Hindi that would not get me by out in the land of over 300 languages. But I had no excuse. Even when I phoned Jack and asked if it would be ok for me to go (I was clutching at straws for excuses by then), he said “go for it!”...when I had been hoping for “why no dear you may not go, the countryside is far too dangerous for my precious Kim”. I knew that if I turned down this opportunity, however scary it may be, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
Looked like I was getting the adventure I wanted!
The whole 3 days was a thrilling ride, pulling me out of my safety box and into the heart of India, full of things I had never done before:
- Travelling on those legendary Indian trains (alone) where everyone was really friendly, one family offered me their chapattis to share. I never did work out how to say “sorry I cannot take your offer of bread as I have coeliac disease”.
- Travelling from the station on the back of a motorbike, bag precariously wedge between me and the driver, over bumpy, dusty dirt roads through crowds of waving kids.
- Eating Indian hospital food – of the most delicious meals ever- and eating rice and dal with my fingers.
- Meeting mothers with their children on the brink of starvation, not knowing what on earth to say or do.
- Making up my own job title - Nutrition expert - for field workers and being sat awkwardly next to the speakers at the front of the meeting.
- Eating communal meals where I had no idea what they were made of.
- Sweating and sticking to the plastic seats of the jeep that we shared with 8 men from the Nutrition Centre, in 50degree heat and no air conditioning for 12 hours of the day.
- Devouring afternoon street food snacks without a care for the roaring spice levels or hygiene having not eaten all day (my hotel breakfast of omelette came sandwiched between 2 slices of toast.. the strangest thing I was presented with on my whole trip!).
- Being guest of honour on the last day of a week-long tribal wedding where dancing with the villagers was obligatory for hours and hours.
How three days were so full of their own challenges, I will never know... but I know it was the making of me. Looking back to that time now from my sofa on a grey London day, I know I was firmly out of my comfort zone. But when I really think about it, I have no idea how I got through it all. I was so very happy, bombing around the Indian countryside, desperately trying to take it all in, all the while knowing that the experience would change me forever...
What challenged you this year...?
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Trip to Malnutrition Project
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