This blog was a really good idea. Because it is like keeping a journal that you can all share with me. This past week I have been thinking a lot about the work I have been doing here and feeling anxious about the fact that time is running out. I have about a month and a half left in my work placement and time just keeps moving faster and faster. I never write much about my work because it is less glamorous than the elephants and beggars but my work has been extremely interesting for me and really the core of my experience here.
I am trying to establish a Geographic Information System for public health work in my organization. So I am doing training, as well as trying to acquire basic data (maps), as well as trying to sensitize the organization to the value of GIS, and establish contacts with other GIS users in Bombay. (Apart from that I am helping in other projects, including updating their website).
Last week I had a very important breakthrough, and an exciting accomplishment for me personally. I went to present to the Executive Health Officer of the Bombay Municipal Corporation (city government) on the importance of GIS for Public Health. Without realizing it, I have become Bombay's expert on GIS for Public Health. It makes me laugh every time I think about it. I can still remember my first GIS course. I practically failed, because it seemed so complicated and irrelevant. And now I am advising the health department of one of the biggest cities in the world to adopt it.
When I first arrived to SNEHA I had trouble swallowing this respect and authority I was given. "Who me!? What do I know!?" I couldn't accept that they would actually put so much faith into my expertise or abilities. In university, we take classes, and learn skills, but never think we will one day be advising on these very topics. But our professors sneakily turn us into experts, and then we are put in a position where we have to live up to our expertise.
I am not trying to make myself seem important. In fact, I still think I am the girl in the GIS introduction class... lost and confused. But SNEHA didn't give me a choice. They made me realize that although I may not feel like an expert, my experiences and education have made me into one and it is my duty to share that knowledge and live up to that responsibility.
This is a very Indian attitude, which at first confused me, but now amazes me and excites me. People are not afraid to take chances. If they have a good feeling about you, they will just go with it. Maybe you will fail, but you might succeed, and everything is learnt through trial and error. This is how my friend became responsible for a $30 000 grant at the age of 26. This is how my other friend became head photographer for a marketing agency, with four photographers below her, raising the profits by almost 100%, without ever taking a single photography class. This is how I have been offered positions with 3 different organizations, as well as the Bombay Municipal Corporation, since I got here.
In North America people are so restricted by the "process". There are certain pre-ordained steps one must follow to reach a certain position, a certain job, a certain school. You are only what your C.V. says about you.
Working here has taught me it does not always have to be that way. True, it might take a little longer, but people are always willing to take risks and everyone has this amazing attitude that anything is possible.
And when someone is giving you a chance and believes in you, you work harder because you do not want to disappoint them. Opposed to the people who are simply going through the "steps", the "jobs", the "certification", to get to their ultimate goal.
Obviously that happens here to, but I have witnessed a lot of courage amongst organizations to go with their gut feeling and take risks. And it is very exciting and very inspiring.
Not to scare anyone (namely Mr. and Mrs. Kincler)... But sometimes this fact makes me want to stay here to continue working for some time. I have spearheaded a project that can really make a difference, and have set in motion a trend that can only grow and expand. SNEHA will be the pioneers in Health GIS in Bombay. And there is so much potential for projects and work to be done. Not only with SNEHA but with other organizations as well.
I was offered to go work with an organization in Pune called Shelter Associates. They do poverty mapping which is essentially mapping of slum communities. It is also that the topics and issues organizations are dealing with here are in no way comparable to any local issue I could tackle back home. Slums, poverty, neonatal mortality, resource allocation, garbage, planning... the list goes on and on.
O.k... I am not staying as of yet, but it's just something I have been thinking about. Internships like this are very rewarding, but what happens at the end? All the contacts, all the efforts, all the knowledge gained is packed up and you just leave it and move on. You will use these resources for future work, but it isn't the same. You will have to go somewhere else and rebuild all these networks. It takes time to learn about a place and find your groove. I just sometimes feel it is a waste to just leave now.
Also Bombay is such an exciting place to be... the convergence of technology, and economic expansion, with the still vital issues of poverty and slums and a lack in basic infrastructure, makes for the most amazing laboratory.
Feeling good, feeling excited.
And that is all for my friday afternoon daydreaming.
Have a wonderful weekend :)