|Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from the first edition|
Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?
When I went to India in June for my first IVF treatment, a few people remarked how brave I was. Truthfully, it didn't feel brave. At all. Not even a tiny bit. I have been to India twice before and besides family living there and being able to check things out for us, my husband (who is Indian) traveled with me. He's fluent in Hindi, the national language, and knows several other languages. He can tell by listening to someone where they are from in India and of course is familiar with many customs. When I see others take this journey to India, I feel far less brave than them. Even if the illusion from those here at home is something different.
What I realized last trip, is that I used my husband as a crutch - as did many of the locals. Most people preferred speaking to him in Hindi and it seemed an effort (and slightly rude) to constantly interrupt them with "hey there! English please!" (Note: this was never a problem with our doctor, who always spoke in English and spoke equally to both of us.) I'm sure part of it also had to do with the patriarchal society over there that some are more comfortable with (and no that is not a ding against India as we certainly have our fair share of it here in the US).
The funny part is that I have back-packed through Europe with my 9 year old son before - with only a multi-lingual phrase book, rail pass, basic necessities, and a loose plan that wasn't adhered to. I've been to countries all of the world and navigated myself without too much hullaballoo. I'm more inclined to seek different and daring adventures when on my own, then when not. Let's just say that "impulsive" is a much better adjective to describe me than "overly cautious". Incidentally, this makes my husband a great balance for me when I might otherwise do something truly stupid.
Oddly enough, my husband tends to see the more reserved me when we travel. Especially in India where I'm more reserved around him and family lest I make some huge social gaffe that could reflect upon him or make my in-laws question my good sense. Of which, I tend to have very little of at times. His family are relentless teasers, something which I don't wish to arm them with more fodder and something I really didn't have a lot of growing up. (My step-dad is a relentless teaser as well, so I am getting used to it.) What this amounts to is a less daring attitude when I am with my husband abroad. This actually can be a good thing such as the following conversation will allude:
Me: "Oh look! MONKEY!!!!!" (start fiddling in my purse so I can get either piece of fruit to feed it or my camera)
(Large monkey looks at me for a second from 10-12 feet away.)
Hubby: "Walk away NOW"
Me (whining and walking away): "But it's a MONKEY. I hardly ever see monkeys. And never this close." (wistfully look at monkey while still digging in purse.)
Hubby (trying to get me to hustle): "If monkeys make eye contact, they sometimes attack. Many carry rabies. You can't randomly go up to wild things - especially in India."
Me (pouting): "But I like monkeys..."
Hubby: "Yes, I know. Come on."
(Monkey ducks down alleyway with several of his friends.)
The point of this post? My cycle in September means I will be traveling to India alone. My husband will meet me there after 2 weeks, but before that I am on my own. Well, except for the part of family meeting me at the airport to drive me some portion of my trip. For some reason, hubby and family were freaking out about that and I acquiesced. They wanted someone to stay with me the entire time, but I told my husband "no". I love my Indian family, but it would be far more stressful for me to have one of them there at all times than to just be by myself. Being super hormonal and trying to impress in-laws is just too much pressure. I'd rather fumble around and deal with the frustration of being alone in a foreign land. I'm introverted anyway and that is my comfort zone.
Am I scared? No and Yes. My impulsive behavior tends to make me forget about being scared until I am in the moment, or until I deeply think about it: "ummmmm, maybe this wasn't such a great idea.Opps. Too late now." Especially about things like traveling, or jumping off bridges into who-knows-how-deep water, or walking my dogs at 2am because I figure we all need the exercise. More so what scares me is when other people have fears - then it can bleed into my veins. (That and interviews - those things terrify me!)
However, using a crutch over the last few years has made me more into a cowardly lion. Maybe part of it is having someone else speak the problems that I don't consider. Maybe part of it is knowing my impulsive behavior can get me into trouble. Maybe part of it is that I haven't done things alone in the last four years. Somehow I think it is all of this, and much more.
This time, I will be embarking on a real adventure in India. The idea of it makes me feel braver, something which I really need of late. I have great admiration for all of the bloggers who have gone this route alone, and without incessantly whining, they embrace a totally different culture with only a nod or a joke to frustrations they encounter. Hopefully, I will muster the courage and grace that I have seen radiate many before me.
As Dorothy once hinted at to The Cowardly Lion, "You were courageous all along. You just didn't know it." Let us hope so.