Woodstock prides itself on its sense of community – it is a major factor for the school on a recruitment level as well as an aspect of sustaining its staff, employees, and students. There are always variations in this community, and various smaller communities within the larger one. I have always felt that I have struggled with becoming part of that community – it is unfortunate but acknowledged that sometimes the non-working staff spouses do struggle, and Woodstock is seeing more non-working staff spouses than they have previously and just aren’t quite sure how to handle it. Adam departed last Monday morning (the 19th) for a week in Dehradun with the Grade 7’s, leaving me – for the first time since we got to India – home alone for nearly a week. We’ve had one-night or two-night separations, mostly when he has Coming Up duty or chaperones a RE retreat, but six days was pushing it. 😉 It showed me one thing, though: the Woodstock community shines.
While the foreign/expat staffers have certainly not been terrible, I can tell there is a marked cultural difference – my students/friends have been checking in on me. One friend who works in HR told me last week “you should stay with us!” while Adam was gone, but I declined… and since, I’ve had friends calling to make sure I’m okay, not afraid of being alone, did I want to come over for (coffee/tea/dinner/lunch), making certain that I even locked my doors at night! I’ve never had anything like that happen, even in the US – and for an acknowledged introvert who forces herself into interaction with the outside world – the welcoming into the circles of the community, particularly the Indian community, has been amazing.
Adam and I have observed in the past that most of our close friends here are Indian nationals, and I’m very pleased with that and the experiences it has given us. It’s not that we haven’t any expatriate friends… but when my phone rings, it’s usually an Indian friend ringing. This friendship network also makes me feel that I am not only part of the Woodstock community, but have developed a wider variety of friends, and were welcomed – even if only just a bit! – into the local Indian community as well. There are some of the cultural differences clearly made visible in this particular circumstance – extended families live together so the idea of a woman living alone is absolutely surprising – and that these friends wanted to make sure I’m okay and feel the community support, that I feel that I’m not truly alone, while I’m all by myself.
It also has pushed me to really want to do more intercultural work – I’m going to push back to trying to do the aborted blog about unsupported expats and relocation, after the experiences coming out here compared to the level of support I used to provide with the international relocation company I worked for. It’s hard to be an expat who is partially unsupported, and in some cases, feels fully unsupported; I’ve already started some conversations with HR and others at the school because as much as an inner-focused person as I am, I recognise it’s my responsibility and obligation to do what I can to help others when I’m capable of it, even if it makes me uncomfortable at times. The community has given a lot to me, I’ve given some things back (the staff spouse ESL classes), but I can do more – and I should do more.
(Adam is back from Activity Week intact, a little darker from sun tanning, and said it was mostly good. Only a couple of students needed chastising, and the rest behaved as grade 7 students are wont to, but it was interesting to see all the things Dehradun has to offer.)