Friday, September 21, 2012

St. Michael's

It’s amazing how plans have changed.  I went to India expecting to be in the mountains of Mussoorie for most of the six months, expecting to be primarily with John, expecting to not know what to expect.  But for many reasons, we ended up moving to Delhi, and that has opened up so many doors that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.  It’s so cool to see how this was the plan all along, and I’m just finding out what it is as I go along.  So far, I’ve had the opportunity to teach English, make friends in the city, and broaden my experience of international living.

But so far, the most exciting thing I’ve been able to do is be involved with St. Michael’s hostel for girls.  I know I’ve talked about it a lot with some of you, so bear with me as I will undoubtedly repeat myself.  In this home live about 87 little girls from villages.  Most of them aren’t orphans, but their parents or guardians either can’t take care of them or don’t want to.  I go there about 5 days a week for an hour or so a day to spend time with the 7-8 years olds.  They know about as much English as I know of Hindi, so it’s not always easy to communicate. But to me, cuteness is cross-cultural.  We color, learn new games, and embrace the chaos!  I love them more every day.  I’ve taught them how to high-five, play duck duck goose, and say as many English words as their first grade attentions spans can handle.  Nothing compares to the shrieks, hugs, and smiles I get when they see me walk through the door, or the sad faces when I say “Moochko ub chalna chaiaye”.  I have to go now.  Saddest (but cutest) thing ever.

Childhood is a precious thing, and many Indian kids aren’t privileged enough to have one.  Every day I see young children with old eyes, forced to act far beyond their years, many working all day every day as soon as they’re able to walk.  Their lives are hard and painful. But St. Michael’s gives these girls a chance to be a kid.  Their life is nothing like the typical American child, but their eyes still have some of the innocence every little girl should have.   But since St. Michael’s doesn’t officially adopt these girls, they are at high risk for trafficking.  Their parents or guardians could take them home at any time, and because they are usually poverty-stricken, could sell the girls into slavery (or worse), or the girls could be kidnapped.  I used to read stories like this all the time, but now that I know these girls – their names, personalities, quirks, who their friends are, things they love – it’s a whole different story.  Can’t explain how much it would hurt to watch a girl leave, knowing she might never come back.  I can’t focus on that…have to focus on loving these beautiful girls while I can.  November will come so fast.

This past Monday I stayed at the hostel for about 4 hours to celebrate a birthday party.  I took a bazillion pictures and videos and got to spend extra time with some girls I don’t normally see.  But the most impactful thing took place after the party.  I got to sit in with a class for the older girls taught by Vinita Shaw, the president of the hostel.  It was in Hindi, so I caught about one word per sentence, but I got the basic gist (and Vinita would translate for me occasionally).  She was teaching them common sense (not common in Indian street children), truth, God, basic life principles, and love.  It was amazing watching them think through the things she was saying.  For a Hindu, even a simple statement like “Aapkay pas bhi ek life hai” - you only have one life – changes their outlook on everything.  It was awesome.

I just love them.  I wholeheartedly wish I could adopt one of them.  I’m so thankful for this opportunity that I’ve been given to get to know them.  I’ve learned how to say “I love you” in Hindi and I say it all the time.  Mai toomsay pyaar kartay hoon.  I can’t get enough of them.  I apologize if you’re already tired of all the pictures I post of them, but fair warning: there will be more! :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life"

I wish everyone could live overseas for six months.  I have been given so much more than I’ve given up.  This kind of experience does more than broaden horizons and all that – it gives a perspective that I never knew existed but now consider invaluable.  Extended time in another country has allowed me to not only experience, but to adapt to another way of living.  And if nothing else, it has expanded my comfort zone.  I’m now familiar with hearing other languages being spoken to me, around me, and about me on a regular basis, with the slower pace of life, and with the many religious and spiritual rituals of the people here.  I may never get used to the heat or the dirt in this city, but I am definitely feeling more at home in Delhi. 

The past few weeks have seen a change in my outlook, and I’m starting to love it.  Life is simpler here; less complicated, less rushed, less hurried, but no less full.  In my humble opinion, everyone was meant to live like this.  I'm absolutely looking forward to returning to the States, but it'll take me a while to adjust to the quick pace of American life!  The title of this entry is a quote by JRR Tolkien, and I think it fits this country very well. :)

I went to dinner with my English students last night in celebration of our last day of class.  I just love them; they are sweet people and since they’re not from India either (they’re from Afghanistan and Iran), we have our cultural adjustments in common.  Even though I’m done teaching these students, it looks like I’ll still get a chance to spend time with them and hang out with them – praying for opportunities!

I’m meeting with the founder St. Michael’s hostel to nail down days/times when I can help out with the little girls.  So looking forward to getting officially started there!  I’m sure you’ll see a million pictures of them…they always come shouting “Photo! Photo! Photo!”.   I can never refuse them.

The only bad thing that persists is insomnia.  Since I’ve been in India – which over 100 days now – I’ve gotten less than 10 good nights of sleep.  Half of those were with heavy medication.  I’ve tried everything, but until last night nothing seemed to work.  My body and mind are exhausted, but for some reason I just haven’t been able to sleep more than 3 or 4 hours.  I’m learning to function, but I’ll be glad when I can finally have a good night of natural sleep.  I’ve discovered Ambien (didn’t know India had it!), and last night I slept really well.  Forgot what it was like to sleep more than 4 hours – I feel like I can conquer the world now!  Praying that it continues to work, unlike anything else I’ve tried before.

On a final note – the weather is getting better!  The days of 100+ temps, monsoon downpours, and 90% humidity are growing less and less frequent.  By October, it should be cool fall weather here.  I will never complain about cooler temperatures.

Missing you all, but trying not to live these next two months too fast :)  Taking it slow (like Delhi time).  See you soon!