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Jacquie Day: Blog 4 - The Privilege of Place and the Experience of Placelessness

Jacquie Day: Blog 4 - The Privilege of Place and the Experience of Placelessness

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Reflecting on the last 5 months, I have had some profound learning experiences in Kerala, India. Though, not in the way I had expected. I learned so much about my own social position of privilege, and continued to navigate my way through what India was teaching me. Close to the end of my internship, I ask myself-what has been my most profound learning- and what will I take home with me?

I knew I would think about my own social class and privilege before coming to India, and I asked myself what my place would be when I arrived. The greatest perspective I have come to know has been a very humbling one. In fact, India did not really have a place for me, and it was a significant learning for me. In Canada, I am so used to trying to take up space, have my voice be heard, and live a life that leaves some kind of impact. To make or create change, to influence, to be influenced, etc. It is not that this wasn’t the case in India it is that the way I took up space looked so much different. I did not come to India having the experience of knowing the culture, language, geography or people. I came only knowing my own and what I discovered is that the sphere of influence looked much different. It was not my work at MFI, in Trivandrum, or in India in general to ‘create change’, the rhetoric I have become so familiar with especially in my university career. It was so much more my role to observe, remain curious, ask questions, don’t ask questions, accept, understand, and be influenced. My presence remained symbolic in many ways. Being a temporary employee and having quite significant language barriers, added to the atmosphere of placelessness. I am here to show more what I represent, than what I actually do. In a strange way, I ‘contribute’ simply be being here. It is a strong belief of mine in past job and volunteer experiences in Canada that my role is to create impact and be of service as much as possible. I am never there to simply be there, but to learn how to be productive, outgoing, and helpful. This seems to be a profound cultural difference in my experience of work in Canada, and work in India.

Even though there was a great impact on me personally, in almost all other ways- I wondered if my time here really ‘made a difference’. I then wondered does it need to? The difference had already been made on me, and was that not enough? It has been such a strong value for me, I realized, to have my voice be heard and represent myself as an individual. My experience in India has really had nothing to do with that. It has been my time to be shown how other people, half way across the world, live their lives and through this gain a perspective much broader than I arrived with. Greatly humbled, I will return home and focus less on how to ‘make a difference’ for others, and rather on how the difference is being made for me; to be impacted greatly by the lives of the people around me, and by what my environment has to offer me. It has been a challenge at times to be so influenced by my environment without being able to offer back in the same way. I know that the spirit of India has changed me, and for that I am grateful. I leave with an ability to surrender to my circumstances and know that the work will continue. India taught me to focus so much less on what to do, and so much more on how to be.