Two weeks in and I've finally gotten around to writing in our blog! I can't believe we've been here for two weeks. The fact that at this time next Friday I will be in a plane heading back to the U.S.A. is crazy to me. When I first got here I was overwhelmed thinking that I would be away from home in a foreign country, experiencing discomforts that I certainly am not used to for 3 weeks. Two weeks has flown by, however, and I know the next week will too. While it took me longer than I thought to adjust to these crazy weather conditions and food I'm not used to, I'm really starting to embrace Indian culture as best as I can!
I've been working at Prem Dan, the home for women who have mental illnesses as well as terminal illnesses. Working with those women has been an absolute delight. They teach me to be happy no matter what I'm facing. Seeing them be able to smile through everything has really inspired me to not take life so seriously and to really embrace life and the love around me. I will miss those women dearly. Doing laundry by hand each morning there maybe not so much.
Our group has also been working with Brother Xavier's school, a school that puts kids back on their feet in an academic setting and gets them ready for the real world when they are an adult. I've met two very sweet girls. One of them is 8 years old and the other is 9 years old. The first day I walked into the gates of their section of the school, they immediately latched onto my two open hands and commenced to show me around their area. As females, we are called "Auntie" every day no matter where we are working, mostly as identification since there is a little bit of a language barrier. Having these two girls call me Auntie compared to the adults we work with, though, was different. It was very touching and I felt so loved. One of the girls sat me down on her bed and started wiping the sweat from my forehead and told me that I needed to lay down because I was tired. It brought tears to my eyes that someone so small could encompass so much love and compassion for a stranger. It's something I've been striving for and after 21 years, I'm positive this little 8 year old has what I've been in search of. I'm definitely learning a lot from her. It was such an odd change, though, from what I've been working with (doing laundry, caring for the women at Prem Dan, etc.) to actually be cared for myself. Here I am sitting at the foot of this child's bed getting so much love when I came there to be of service to her. It seemed a little backwards but I truly gained a lot from it. I was surprised that when we returned to Brother Xavier's school that those same two girls recognized me and jumped into my arms when I walked through the gates again. I never thought that in a city full of so many people that I would make such a wonderful connection with someone.
It's crazy to see the progression our group has made. We are tackling the heat waves and sweat and truly adapting to a culture that is just about opposite of ours. I'm pretty sure would can now sleep through anything as well! Between car horns, the call to prayer at 4:30 a.m. every morning, and people yelling at all hours of the night, you learn that all you need is a flat place to lay down to allow yourself to drift into peace and quiet.
I'm not sure what this next week has in store for us, but I know that we all will be holding onto our last few days together in this beautiful country. The memories I've gained from interacting with the women at Prem Dan, the volunteers at the Mother House, the guys that work at Blue Sky Cafe (where we eat all of our meals) who are slowly attempting to teach me Bengali, and the various sights and smells we walk through every day are ones that I will cherish forever. I thought that I would be coming to Kolkata to help change the lives of those here, but I really think they all have made much more of an impression on me.