Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First few days...

For those reading, I am Brian Meloche. We arrived here in Kolkata in the wee hours of the morning a few days ago (not really sure how many, 2 or 3) by taxi from the airport. The taxi ride was pretty crazy since no one seems to follow any sort of traffic laws at all. It's pretty much a free for all, all the time.
Once here at our hotel we got settled in and trie to get some sleep. It was tough due to the jet lag and being on a plane for so long, but I think some of us go a little sleep, I know I did. The next day we all went to Mother House which is the main place/organization that is in charge of all our different service sites. It is he place where Mother Teresa lived, worked, and died. We got to see her tomb which was an amazing experience. It is a beautiful convent. From there, we all got split up to different sites for the day. I went to (I'm going to butcher the name but please cu me some slack) Diadon. It's a home for physically and mentally handicapped Bo's and girls. I was paired up with a boy named Justice who had some severe mental handicaps. I got some one on one classroom/reaching time with him, but I think I was mostly unsuccessful in teaching him anything. I don't think that site was really for me, so I'm glad I did not get permanently placed there.

Fast forward to today.

Our first real day of service. I was lucky enough to get my first choice on whee I wants to serve, Kaligaht, the home for the sick and the dying. The weather today was 104F and apparently the heat index, with the humidity, was somewhere around 120F. With that said, I found myself on the roof of this place all day hanging and taking down laundry. It was brutally hot, but I had some good company with other volunteers to help male it more manageable. I was able to get a little time with some of the residents though. I helped them lean their Hans after they ate (many of them ate only with their hands, and also physically carried a few into bed. I was/am a little dissappointed that that was my only interaction with them, but it was only day one....we still have 3 more weeks of this.

To be honest, I am a little concerned about how I will react when i finally do get a chance to work directly with the residents. I witnessed a man soil himself today and one of the volunteers, who was also on his firt day vouleneteerng, and no older than me, help him into the shower room and wipe him off and help him clean himself. I'm nervouse because I've never been in a situation like that before and am not sure how I will react. I think/hope that once I find myself confronted with a situation like that that I will be able to handle it. Im sure it will be tough, but nothing about India has been easy so far...

To get to our work site, and even Mother House, we have to walk through some extremely poor neighborhoods. Nhe street, which is directly off the street we are staying on, is so impoverished. Now, I'm not talking about American poverty, I'm talking about men, women, and children living in conditions worse than I ever could have imagined. Yesterday, for example, I saw children playing in large piles of trash, naked and barefoot. The smell alone is enough to make you choke on the air as you walk by...

I want to take pictures of everything I see and experience, but I feel really weird, guity and perverted for doing so. Is tough to explain unless you see it, but it feels very voyeuristic. This is these people's lives on a daily basis and it just seems wrong to take pictures of them...I don't know if I'm explaining it very well but I'm confused about it myself. Even if I could get a picture, it wouldn't be a true depiction of what it's really like, you cannot apt urge the sounds, the smells, the heat, or the constant bustle that is everywhere you.

We are baeky half way through our first week and clearly a lot is going on. I am excited to continue doing service and experiencing Kolkata in every way. This is truly a remarkable and strange place, and will undoublty be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

I hope everyone is well state-side and not worrying about us to much. We are all safe and in very good spirits. As a final note, I am not writing on behalf of the group...these are my thoughts. Hopefully other people will also write and share their own.

Sending love and support to everyone back home.

--Brian Meloche


  1. Brian, you are all in my thoughts and prayers everyday. So glad to read that you are already immersed in the culture and I know the days ahead will be unforgettable. They say a picture speaks a thousand words...you do want to remember this - in all its glory and despair. Sending you much love and support from home! Love, Mom

  2. Love that you updated! I've been checking back and wondering how everything has been going for you. I'm glad you're getting such valuable experience. Love you!

  3. Brian, the picture taking thing is such a conundrum, i remember having similar thoughts when i was in Kolkata two years ago. On the one hand you want to capture everything, so you'll never forget (like you could), but also to show people back home so they can truly see and understand... At the same time these people have little to no private space so it feels like taking a picture of a strangers kids over there backyard fence or even through their livingroom window. Thanks for sharing!

    Keep soaking in every experience, before long things will start to feel more normal/familiar.


  4. Thanks you for this honest, thoughtful post! You have captured so much about the immersion experience, the dichotomies and challenges -- I can't wait to read more about your days and how your thoughts wrap around where you are. You are making a difference to all who see you.

    Anne (Kolkata 2010, 2011)