Monday, March 9, 2009

A World of Contrasts

Days 1, 2, and 3 exhausted my emotions, but days 4 and 5 exhausted my entire soul. In a good way though, don't you fret....

Day 4 and Day 5 were complete contrasts, but both were nothing short of amazing, astounding, spectacular, miraculous, and eye-opening.

*I made a mistake in the last blog- the visit was called "Child Labor in Rural India" and the one I will describe in *this* blog is the Disabled Children's Home.

But let me start with the day I met Nupur. Nupur and I took a class together, though Nupur took it via correspondence. Our class all worked together on group projects, and each day we exchange gratitude lists, now that the class is over. Quite ironically, Nupur also did Semester at Sea!!! She was a student on a voyage in 2000, so we also had another cool connection. On Sunday I met Nupur face-to-face.

First we met for "Sunday brunch" at Murugun Idli. I love Sunday brunch Indian style! There are no mimosas, but there is complete deliciousness. Food in India is always served on a green banana leaf and you eat the food with your hands! Even the rice! Even the sauces! My friend Mary was telling me about her young toddler eating and he is at the age where he doesn't want to be fed, so he feeds himself and has it EVERYWHERE! This is what that reminds me of. It looks something like this (a lot more food arrived on that banana leaf though!)
Nupur's family came to lunch as well, and I brought five friends from the ship. (Nupur is in the back on the right). Nupur's father bought all of us brunch, which was an unexpected treat! Thank you so much Mr. Goenka if you're are very generous. My friends/colleagues from the ship and I took two Rickshaws (tuk-tuks) to get there. This was kind of a cool shot that Becca took. Here is my reflection in the rearview mirror:
After lunch, Nupur and her family went back home. Nupur had been at a wedding in Sri Lanka and had just returned that morning, so my poor friend was exhausted. But she gave us a list of cool places to go and invited us back to her home for "tea and biscuits" at 6 PM.

My friends (John the photographer, Becca the Field Office Coordinator, Mark the Communications Coordinator and Sarah- another LLC and her husband Nate) and I went to an outdoor market and then to Elliots Beach, where there is a sacred Hindu temple on the beach. People were going in and getting their red dots. The red forehead dot reminded me of Ash Wednesday. I don't think I posted this- but on Ash Wednesday on the ship the Catholic students and staff received ashes from the ship's incinerator. (It's all about being creative here!) Desmond Tutu's assistant Levinia who is on this voyage had received Rev. Tutu's blessing via email and shared that with us.

....but that is just an aside....this post is about India.

There are my friends walking....Mark, what the heck do you have in that huge back pack???
Last time I checked "tea and biscuits" was a small snack. Nupur had a whole MEAL for us when we got back to her home! Indian deliciousness! There was bread, there were chutneys, there were sweets. There was wine. There was tea. She has staff in her home who served us and her home looks like an art gallery. She has gorgeous paintings and her home is decorated so tastefully. There are large windows overlooking banana trees and cozy furniture, and each room has beautiful lighting. So of course before leaving, we took lots of photos! The first one is Sarah, Becca, Nupur and me in front of a painting in her living room.
Here is Nupur, her sister-in-law and me:
And here is our whole group (sans Mark, because he had to return back to the ship).
After our "tea and biscuits" (I laugh when I say that!) Nupur's driver took us back to the ship. He could only get us to the gate and after the gate it is about a 1K walk to the pier. I was on duty and I was already about a half hour late (oops! Hope the Deans aren't reading this!) Well, lo and behold there was this HUGE semi truck going to the pier and the driver told us to hop in! So we climbed about 6 feet into the cab of the semi. It was so bouncy and so dirty in there. And the driver spoke no English. I couldn't stop giggling the whole time. And the funniest part is the fact that my chest was resting on the gear shift because it was so crowded and I had nowhere else to go. So more or less, I got groped by the driver. He saw this as an invitation to try to kiss me, when we got out, so I practically PUSHED Becca out of the truck and she almost fell 6 feet! I was still laughing hysterically, but so happy to get out of there!

Hilarious way to end the day.
Okay, this is where the post becomes more serious. So if you're laughing at my anecdote above, start crying instead.

I am very grateful that I didn't go to the Taj Mahal with 75% of the others on the ship, but instead chose to do service visits and to see my friend.

On my last day in India I went to a disabled children's home. Oh my gosh, I totally understand now why Mother Theresa was given Saint status. (This was not her orphanage by the way, but I'm sure it is quite similar).

The floors and walls were filthy. In one room I saw blood splattered on the wall. (It is also a hospital). There was a "playground" outside which just consisted of a field with some dirty sand and there was litter and plastic all over the ground. I even saw a random goat wandering around. The children take classes and there were some very scant and basic classrooms that had seen years of wear and tear.

We broke into small groups and my group of students and I went off to play with the ADHD class. Oh my gosh, these kids had everything from ADHD to Autism to Aspberger's to Klinefelter's syndrome. Many of them were non-verbal and then on TOP of that there was the language barrier.

There was one little girl who had Polio and could barely move, but she kept crawling across the floor and reaching out her arms so I could pick her up. She was heavy and covered in sand. And the food she ate for lunch was all over her hands, but I kept picking her up, because she kept reaching out.

I had to keep reminding myself, these children are happy at this home. If this home didn't exist, they would be on the streets and their parents would be exploiting them for charity hand-outs in the train stations.

I'm getting choked up trying to describe this, so I'll just post some pictures now. I didn't take many this time, because I was trying to be "in the moment" with the children. But I did take a few.

Okay, Laurie. Breathe. Inhale.....2.....3.....4....5....Exhale. 2....3......4....5.....6....7......


Kat said...


that is all.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is amazing! I am so happy that you are having this experience. Tears*

PS: you are looking FAB!!!!