Transitions: Away from MBKG Pannai, Mid-May

Dear Mum and Dad,
You are both so amazing and wonderful and supportive and non-judgmental.  Wow.  Thanks to both of you for your wonderful emails sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences.  After my two weeks in Kalimpong, I’m really seriously thinking about leaving Pannai sooner than previously planned.  I guess part of it is how at home I felt in Kalimpong.  How loved I felt.  For who I am.  I am able to tell people that I am Christian AND attend pujaa (Hindu worship) with my host family.  I am able to speak Nepali AND to be an American foreigner.  And this is my second visit after being there for all of five months two years ago.  I mean I understand that the situation is very different from the situation at Pannai.  But I guess I’ve been feeling less at home and less fulfilled at Pannai as time passes instead of moreso.
And of course, it’s one thing for me to be writing about it here in Kolkata and another for me to be thinking about it at Pannai.
There is a possibility of a job opening with the Pitzer program. I don’t know if you remember when I came back from the program talking to you about it as being my dream job.  The program is going to be split and working in Nepal as well as in India, and the person who was working in Kalimpong has now left and it looks like he is moving on to other things in his life.  Tanya is applying for the job, but if they have two programs it looks (to me) like they’ll need two people.  I talked with the on-site director Margie, and she sounded pretty enthusiastic about having me on board.  I told her that if there is only one position to give preference to Tanya.  So…..  I’m going to write out a list of pros and cons about Pannai as well as about this other job.  I will also make a list of pros and cons about staying at Pannai the full two years or leaving early.
In terms of the job with Pitzer, I’m going to write and send in an application.  I feel like I’ll always wonder if I don’t.  I guess my first choice would be to start that in January as opposed to August.  August seems really soon and would change a lot of things.  And I imagine that if I got the job, I’d end up in Nepal.  But I would still speak the language, and I know the culture, and I would be workign with students studying abroad, which would be pretty exciting.  Anyway, I want to talk with you about it on the phone soon.  I’ll try to get to the internet place in Katpadi sometime in the next few days.
In terms of leaving Pannai early, I think that the reasons why I wouldn’t leave would be mostly for other people as opposed to for me.  It would be because I’m afraid of letting other people down after saying that I would be around for two years – the mission board, people at Pannai, people praying for me and supporting me in the US and around the world.  But to some extent, it’s not about pleasing those people.  It’s about me.  And if people understand that this is what’s next for me and they care about me, then it’ll be okay.
So those are some thoughts.  In terms of seminary….  Well, I think if this Pitzer thing works out, it would be a two year commitment, after which I would see myself going to seminary.  Which like you said, Dad is 3 years.  But I’m sure it’ll go fast as well.  Especially if I like where I am.  So much to think about and so many questions.
This morning I was smart about my 10-hour layover in Kolkata: I took a cab to a hotel and checked into a dorm room and got a chance to use a toilet, wash my face, put my stuff down, walk around and now do internet.  Kolkata is pretty interesting.  The plains are so different from the hills.
Thinking of you visiting: Kalimpong in December – it’ll be cold.  I wore a down vest, multiple socks, hat, scarf and long underwear I think in February.  I know there’s a lot of warm clothing available in Darjeeling and probably Kalimpong as well.  Darjeeling will probably get frost and possible snow but not Kalimpong as the elevation is lower.
Gosh, leaving was so hard once again.  And people were so generous to me!  My aamaa bought me a new khurta to send me off in as did my saano daaju and my bhaauju gave me a khurta of hers to bring back to Vellore with me.  It’s pretty amazing how at home I feel in that community.  My aamaa says that we should stay with her when we come to visit, but if there’s a student in the house, I don’t think we should.  We also have an invitation to stay with the Christian family who helped me with my Independent study project while I was there (they gave me an umbrella for the hot vellore sun before I left).  Then of course, there’s my didi who lives adjacent to the village store that she and her husband run, and they have an extra bedroom.
My aamaa cried as I left.  And she’s not one to show a ton of affection.  I learned so many things this time around.  We talked about how she was 16 when she got married, and her husband was almost 40.  She describes herself as still being a child and playing with her friends and younger siblings.  She had a daughter soon after getting married who was barely 17 years younger than she, like a younger sibling almost.  Her daughter helped her with everything and was a very bright student and then died quite suddenly it sounds like at the age of 20.  My aamaa got really sick after that and then never really got entirely better.  She’s been taking medicine since then and she explains that the medicine has just destroyed her body.
Then there’s the intrigue of the family up the hill – a family with two mothers.  The younger second wife lived down the hill and it sounds like she was married to my aamaa’s brother or cousin.  He died and left her a young widow with two little girls.  His family made her life miserable and the man up the hill offered for her to come and live with him and his wife as his second wife.  She left her two young daughters (who still live down the hill but do not talk with her and who explain that their mother and father are dead) with her inlaws and moved up the hill.  There she met the anger and animosity of the first wife who was furious with her husband for taking a second wife and took it out on the second wife.  Wow. Interesting.  Wait, the plot thickens.  Anyway, up the hill, the father eventually left, just disappeared.  And now the two women live together, not loving each other but needing each other and working together to keep the house functioning.  The first wife is clearly the matriarch of the household, but the second keeps things moving, she does most of the work.
Yeah, so much interrelationship and discussion.  And my bhaauju and aamaa talk with everyone involved.  Smile.  I love my bhaauju. We had this moment where we were in the kitchen doing something and we looked at each other for about 5 seconds and then cracked up.  NOTHING happened, it was just SO funny!  She laughs a lot, works hard, likes to work because it keeps her body healthy and she can do the work, talks with everyone, jokes with people, helps others, and she takes good care of her husband and my aamaa (her mother in law).  They give her a hard time sometimes, but my daaju (her husband) works hard for the family as well.  They make a good team – hard workers, straight, sturdy people.  I’m excited for you to meet them.  Oh!  And did I tell you that my Nepali is still pretty darn good.  That felt great too.  Smile.
Anyway, this has turned into a monster of an email.  Maybe you’ll have read it in two installments.  Part one and part two.  Grin.  Or maybe not.  I love you and am thinking and praying about my future and the decisions that I make.
Be well.
Much love,

About Thandiwe

Hopeful cynic, creative, seriously silly, lover of people and places, hypocrite, third-culture kid, queer, life-long learner, white woman, Christ follower, outdoor enthusiast: I am a seeker of justice and truth who has re-found my spiritual home in progressive Christianity. I serve as the Associate Pastor at a small Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation near the mountains of Colorado where I live with my beloved.
This entry was posted in Darjeeling District, Darjeeling District, India, India, Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu, India and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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