I’ve always taken a measure of pride in the fact that I’m easy-going and flexible.
Nothing provokes more irritation in me then the need to structure, plan and schedule every minute of life.
I’ve been a spokeswoman for spontaneity, of using intuition instead of a paper map when in doubt. I enjoy a healthy amount of chaos.
I find it mostly humorous that before boarding a train in India, you have to ask at least 5 people whether that train is actually yours. The ridiculousness of the fact that a train can be 14 hours late and no one raises more then a little sigh of protest is unbelievable.
Back home, a half an hour delay means that the next 3 days are absolutely ruined beyond repair. The train company is damned to hell and stories will be shared over coffee breaks about the great ordeal.
Reason and understanding take a leave to make room for temporary insanity. And I find myself annoyed not at the train delay, but at the irrational reaction it causes.
Efficiency, bulletproof plans and organized execution of them has made Finland the well-fare nation it is today. My nation has had to concentrate on working the land, building from the ruins of war, because the other option was death. I understand that. Planning is in our DNA.
But it’s not me. I didn’t grow up in plan-land.
To me it’s like wearing an itchy sweater: I know it’s useful, but it’s just too uncomfortable. Yet here, in Waasta, to my horror I’m finding the finnishness in me.
No matter how different my childhood was, no matter how much perspective it gave me, finnish blood still flows in my veins. The cultural DNA is in me. It only needed a different venue to make its appearance.
I’ve spent the morning hours preparing lessons for the wee ones. Lessons with a clear motive filled with organized fun and spiced with just enough education to make it worthwhile. We’ve written a Christmas play, assigned roles, and devised a weekly rehearsal schedule. Everything makes sense, we have a direction, a goal, I love it! All I need to do is execute the plan and everyone will be happy.
Until reality hits. Until I’m trying to sit 8 little bumps on a carpet to practice “Twinkle twinkle little star “and none of them want to participate. One runs off to get another carpet, the other wants me to hold our cat. One is too busy finding lice in her head to sing and none of them speak more then 15 words of English.
This is when the finnishness in me rises. I just want my plan to work: today’s assignment was to learn the song. We don’t have time to play badminton, or look for lice. My plan..just..please go with the plan. And then the thought hits me; this must be what everyone else feels when the train is late. The day plan is ruined. I don’t have control. I have to climb down from my schedule castle and face the chaos of reality.
So, I hold the cat, a look for lice and I promise we will pay badminton after we practice “twinkle twinkle” for 10 minutes.
In the midst of a heated game of badminton, Smriti, a quiet, big-eyed six year old holds a brochure of Waasta in front of my nose.
” This Tikiapara. I sit here,” she says, pointing to a picture of the ragpicker’s slum.
And there is my lesson: what these children need from me is just to be present.
It’s easy to hide behind a plan. It creates the illusion of control. But it keeps me detached. It suffocates the little voices that want to unveil snippets from their excruciating pasts.
And don’t we all need that from each other? To know that we are not just timeslots in each other’s schedules or add-ons to each other’s social lives.
Don’t we all know that we are loved when someone takes the time to step into our reality? When someone isn’t afraid of the mess we are in, but jumps into the mire and hands us a rope.
So I’m praying for wisdom and guidance to know how to be. Just to be. And love these girls not through my plans but through my presence in their lives.
Hailing from Finland, growing up in Turkey, and now working in West Bengal India–in a girls protection program. 21 soon 22 year old Inka Vappula is one of the two awesome contributors in a private fb group, “Don’t worry, chicken curry–a virtual scrapbook of Indian adventures”. In her own words: “I’ve only discovered this love for writing in the last 6 months or so, and thinking that anyone else would want to read what I write still sounds quite alien to me. But I’m practicing the art of jumping into challenges… and I guess this is a perfect chance to grow.”