So…I’m home! As you may have noticed from my previous post, things weren’t exactly going swimmingly with the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme with Restless Development.
The team leader from the other group had decided to call it a day and left, and I and one of the junior volunteers in my team decided to do the same. I’d been torn for a while about what to do – I kept thinking “I’ll just stay a while longer, things might pick up…” – but there’s only so much waiting, trying and hoping you can do.
We thought that once we’d made the decision and informed the appropriate staff members, it’d all be smooth sailing from there – how hard is it to change a flight? – but we should have probably known better by this point…
We never heard from the Indian Programme Manager again (perhaps indicating his level of investment in the “project”), and were pushed from pillar to post when trying to sort out our journey home. Eventually it seemed that someone, somewhere was looking into changing our flights (I think we’d been waiting for nearly a week at this point) – but it was Friday afternoon and they had their weekend to get to! Never mind the fact that we were sitting there going stir crazy, having been there for the best part of 6 weeks with nothing productive to do – they were going to clock off and try and get back to us on Monday. They had previously told us that what would be most convenient for them would be if we were to “sit tight” for another two weeks, which we resolutely refused to do – the crux of the issue was that there was nothing to do, we were wasting our lives there. Asking us to waste two more weeks was a bit much.
When we were told to hang about until Monday, and there was still no sniff of a flight being booked, I decided it was time to call in the big guns and ring my mother. Off she tootled onto the internet and found us a flight for the next day – not for two weeks time, as we’d been told was the next available flight – and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so relieved in my life.
Restless Development said that as we’d not booked the flight through STA travel, they wouldn’t be able to pay for our flight home, but could make a part contribution to the cost of it. I’d given up my job, then 6 weeks of my life, a lot of my patience and hundreds of pounds, but it was finally nearly over.
I rang the Assistant Programme Coordinator to ask her to book us a taxi for the next day (seeing as we couldn’t speak Oriya), as instructed by one of the UK members of staff – she then refused to do so, telling us we weren’t leaving as she didn’t know anything about it. I told her our flights were booked – and then we had a rather ridiculous few phone calls of pantomime-style “Ohhhh no they aren’t”…”Ohhhh yes they are”. Anyway, to cut a very long story very short – we got the heck out of there. It took us over 2 days and 3 flights to get home, but we were home!
Since returning I’ve found out that the rest of the ICS volunteers have left India – whether of their own volition or being sent back, I don’t yet know.
This series of posts (1, 2, 3) has given a bit of an overview of the ICS experience – when I’ve recovered a bit (no, seriously…!) I’ll get to work on some posts about India, development, aid and other related topics – so if you’re interested please stay tuned!