When I arrived here in India and in Mumbai, I knew no one. I was a stranger in a sea of 1.3 billion people. After a few days, I’ve gotten to know some of my colleagues. After a few weeks, I was feeling comfortable with the new people and the new set-up. I even got to know some of my colleagues’ friends. Even their families. But again, it still feels different. There is something missing.
And then, it hit me. I know even before I left Philippines that I will not get to replace the circle of friends I had back home. And I don’t want to. But, that does not mean I can’t make new ones. And, as much as I adore and enjoy the company of most of my colleagues, I knew I needed to be with people who share the same interests, do the same activities, and enjoy the same pace of life. And, in this side of the world, far from the life I used to live, I found solace and sanity with CouchSurfing.
In just a little more than a month, I have met tens of people with varied interests and diverse personalities. What started as a simple “come by if you are free” message from Milan, as he and other trekking CSers stopped over in Kharghar before returning to Mumbai, has now gone to full-blown partying, coffee conversations, nature drives, and cooking lessons.
I must have exchanged dozens of email messages, sent out hundreds of SMS, and talked for hours on the phone with the different CSers I met throughout the different CS activities I joined. I was telling Sandeep, when we went for a nature drive in Lonavala, that I’m so glad I got reconnected through CouchSurfing.
You see, as per the trend in the reports of current and previous volunteers, we were advised that the volunteering cycle will basically be in four stages, divided into three months each. And, in each stage, I am hoping that CS and CSers would help keep me sane and allow me to survive and thrive in this volunteering journey!
Q1 (or the Honeymoon Period) will be the most exciting time of the process as everything is new to us. For the first three months, everything is supposed to be going great (this has been recently disproved by the early return of some India volunteers as of late but maybe this is worldwide statistics). With only minor hiccups along the way, mostly it has been going great. Especially after I got actively involved in CouchSurfing again!
Q2 (or the Plummeting Period) is the most depressing of all the quarters as this is the time when the reality kicks in–you’re far away from home, you miss your family, you barely understand what’s happening around you, you’re getting frustrated about the pace of your work or even the people you work with, you find every reason to despise your living conditions, and many more similar situations that make you wonder why you ever left home. Today marks my third month since arriving in India, which also means I am now about to enter Q2. And, though I try to avoid it, I’m afraid I’d be showing signs and symptoms real soon. And this is where CouchSurfing, I believe, would really and truly come through for me.
Q3 (or the Plateau Period) is, as it’s called, a time when everything becomes stable. After plummeting to your lowest of lows and surviving the second three months of placement, you would slowly return to a state of normalcy–either because you have found a way to survive and thrive or you have accepted the fact that there are things which are out of your hands and that you should live life as it comes. Or maybe your epiphany was for both. I hope that through being more involved with CouchSurfing, I would get through Q2 and move forward to Q3 in a more seamless (aka less depressing) manner than the volunteer statistics!
Q4 (or the Anxiety Period) represents the time in a volunteer’s placement cycle when three things can happen: one, stressing about the tasks still to be completed; two, thinking of what awaits upon returning to home country; and three, saying goodbye to the people with whom they have shared lives with in the past months. I think all three will happen to me. I would, of course, prefer not to say a total goodbye to CSers I met/will meet throughout my stay in India as I am sending an open invitation for you guys to surf my couch when you visit my country. As the Department of Tourism says: “It’s More Fun in the Philippines!” So, yeah, this goes out to y’all!