Friday 28 May 2010

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Reader

For the past three weeks my landlady and her daughter have been away visiting their village for family wedding celebrations. I was looking forward to having the place to myself, except for their uncle who was to come and stay overnight in their house. Uncle here meaning loosely some male relative - I'm not sure whether he is there to watch over me or to watch the house, but they do seem paranoid about leaving the place unattended although I have never seen any sign of break ins or vandalism around here. So the past two weeks have been a respite from having to make polite conversation continuously around the topic of what I am cooking and eating that day. Much as I like them and they are trying to be friendly and sociable, I value my privacy and have relished the uninterrupted time to myself. Insect-crop
On the other hand it has coincided with a slight feeling of how daunting the prospect of being here for the whole two years really is. Various factors have come together to make me feel this way: I have found the high humidity of the hot season hard going and feel really quite tired; my friend Hilary has finished her placement and has gone home; Jen is half way through her one year placement and is planning her final Indian vacation for later this summer; Susie and others leave in June/July at the end of their placements and the Orissa contingent are meeting in Koraput for her in early June; and the past few days it has been raining. I was never looking forward to the upcoming rainy season, and the past few days the Eastern part of Orissa has been pummeled by a storm, giving Fox-cropjust a taster of what the rainy season might be like. Yes it has been cooler, but the humidity levels have rocketed into the 80%s during the day as well as the evenings and night. This morning en route back from chicken seller I could feel the oppression of it on me. Flies were everywhere, having decided to "make hay" after the rains. The lower daytime temperatures have brought out other local wildlife as well - some interesting hopper like insects, very slow moving ones, with long antennae and brightly coloured red and green bodies about 1-1 1/2 inches long, are to be found all over the house perimeter wall; a fox can be seen stalking the waste land around the house; two cranes have made a nest on one of the electricity poles. 
So this past weekend I luxuriated in the cool air and the last days free of neighbour's shouting and trivial conversation. I've been indulging in my special supplies of Body Shop Honey shampoo and conditioner, a present from Hilary; getting extended nights sleep in the cool air and free of early morning noise and cooking smells for next door, and, in an attempt to have a taste of home, tried semi successfully with Indian ata flour to recreate Scottish dropped scones, or pancakes, replete with butter and jam. My last tin of tuna remains intact for another low moment :)
Before I came here I was aware of how other volunteers reported that they went through peaks of enthusiasm, troughs of despair and bouts of homesickness in fairly regular cycles, especially the volunteers in the more remote placements. Some reported bring their hobbies with them, or taking up hobbies eg painting. Well I have never been a hobby person, but did bring with me a very large library of ebooks and audio books, as well as take out a subscription to the Guardian Weekly newspaper to keep me occupied. Well the delivery of the Guardian has been plagued by missing issues, although the subscription department have extended my subscription to compensate for the missing ones, it is not quite the same as more have not arrived than have by a long way. But reading has been my main pastime. I'm reading more now than I have for a great many years. I've been keeping a list and since December I have read/listened to some 45 books! Some of them very good reads, and a few amongst the most memorable I have ever read. I'd have been lost without  them. The Sony Reader I purchased for the trip has been an absolute winner and I am now a total convert to ebooks. Something I have wanted for ages has finally been cracked - highly portable, lightweight reading material - the equivalent eureka moment to dispensing with dozens of CDs, CD player, headphones and batteries I use to cart on transatlantic long haul business trips and their replacement with a compact, full MP3 player. Yes, I suppose I was an early adopter of both technologies, realizing very quickly their benefits to me. Now with my local library back home lending audio and ebooks I can imagine a time when I never buy a paperback ever again. So for my fellow book aficionados here is the list so far  - my best read recommendations for each month are in bold italics . Happy reading!
Month Author Title Format I read
December 09 Alexander McCall Smith SS03 - Love Over Scotland Street ebook
Anthony Capella The Various Flavours of Coffee ebook
Banana Yoshimoto Helix Short Story
Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Burrows The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ebook
Paul Torday The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce ebook
Steinur Bell The Whale Hunter Short Story
T.C. Boyle Rara Avis Short Story
Wells Tower Leopard Short Story
January 2010 Alexander McCall Smith SP02 - Friends, Lovers, Chocolate ebook
Alexander McCall Smith SS04 - The World According to Bertie ebook
Alexander McCall Smith SS05 - The Unbearable Lightness of Scones ebook
Haruki Murakami The Elephant Vanishes Short Story
James Ellroy LA Quartet 01 - The Black Dahlia ebook
Joy Williams The Farm Short Story
Michel Faber 199 Steps ebook
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency ebook
Stieg Larrson 1 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ebook

Stieg Larrson 2 - The Girl who Played with Fire ebook

Stieg Larrson 3 - The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest ebook
February 2010 Alexander McCall Smith SP03  - The Right Attitude to Rain ebook
Alexander McCall Smith The Girl who married a Lion ebook
Amitav Ghosh The Calcutta Chromosome ebook - unfinished
Chris Cleave The Other Hand / Little Bee ebook
Daniel Silva GA01 - The Kill Artist ebook
Kate Mosse Labyrinth ebook
Michael Chabon Two Gentlemen of the Road ebook
Michael Connelly HB01 -The Black Echo ebook
Monica Ali Alentejo Blue ebook
Nikolai Gogol The Nose Short Story
March 2010 Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie Half a Yellow Sun audio
Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon Series GA02-09 ebook
Markus Zusak The Book Thief ebook
April 2010 Eoin Coffler Artemis Fowl Series 1-6 ebook
Guillermo Martinez The Oxford Murders audio
Jane Urquhart The Stone Carvers paperback
Joanne Harris Coastliners paperback
John Le Carre Call for the Dead audio
Alexander McCall Smith SP04  - The Careful Use of Compliments ebook
Kate Atkinson Jackson Brodie Series 03 - When will thereJodi Picoult be good news? paperback
Alexander McCall Smith SP05 -The Comfort of Saturdays ebook
May 2010 Kate Morton The Forgotten Garden ebook
C J Samson Dissolution ebook
Kate Atkinson Jackson Brodie Series 01 -  Case Histories audio
Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus Series 01 - Knots and Crosses audio
Greg Mortenson Three Cups of Tea audio
Sarah Waters The Little Stranger ebook
Malcolm Gladwell Tipping Point paperback
Jodi Picoult Change of Heart audio


  1. Enjoy that cooler air and make the most of the peace while you can.
    Interesting reading list, lots of books on there that I've read over the last few months as well. So the books must be good! The Guardian Weekly arrivals are unpredictable, I think the problems are at the Indian internal travel end. Mine came in batches with big gaps in between too. The weather will change...eventually!

  2. Yes great minds and all that. The worse thing about the lack of consistent delivery of the newspaper was that I was going to take this opportunity to teach myself how to do cryptic crosswords, which I can do a little but no where near well enough to finish one.