Friday, July 29, 2011

Socrates (day 5)

"True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us."

All of the younger kids were laying down on their bamboo mats ready to go to sleep. "Goodnight!" I said as I turned off the lights. "Goodnight Auntie!" They echoed back. I turned to walk out of the room and I felt a tug on the back of my Salwar, as I turned to see who was tugging on my shirt I looked behind me to find a little boy who's big brown eyes grabbed mine. "Auntie..." he said timidly. "Yea?" I crouched down to get to his level and his hands grasped the back of my neck and he brought his face closer to mine. "You coming back tomorrow?" he whispered in choppy english. His giant brown eyes were embarrassed and sad as he glanced at the floor, "Yes, Im coming back tomorrow," was all it took for him to throw a huge smile on his face and wrap his arms around my neck. Ten seconds. Thats all it took for my life to change.

Every day, all day long, I am changing. The ways I think, the ways that I act, the ways I react. When I had originally planned this 5 month travel, things were simply a plan. India, Indonesia, Thailand. I never even contemplated how much my life would change. In less than a week I am a completely new person and I am eternally grateful for everything that has happened to me. My heart is heavy for the people of India and my love for them is unmeasurable. I am excited every morning when I wake up to see what is in store for me that day! 
The past couple of days have been incredible. Two days ago my group went to the hospital in Chennai with four of the leprosy afflicted patients who had an appointment to go for a checkup. I was assigned a lady named Roni, who spoke not a lick of english. The language barrier is probably the most frustrating thing about being here. I want so badly to communicate with everyone and sometimes, charades just does not cut it! There was one point at the hospital where Roni came storming out into the waiting area yelling at me. Of course I didn't understand a word she said. Until the last word she screamed at me, "Bill!" I was frozen. I was caught off guard and then broke into sheer panic realizing that I had to find the bill that I had given to Kim earlier that Roni needed to have in order to get her test results. I started to scramble around this ginormous hospital searching for Kim and found her on the second level. If I didn't stick out before, I did then. I was the only white person RUNNING around this hospital and the Indian people are not shy to stare. They are so blunt and thats also what I love about them! 
Yesterday was tutoring. Although going back to elementary school math, long division to be exact, is harder for me than it was for the kids I was tutoring, it made me so happy when you tell that little boy or girl that you are helping that they did it right and that they are so smart and have them be so proud of themselves. I am learning how smart these kids really are and even though many of their attention spans are limiting, it is so rewarding to watch someone grow right in front of your eyes. 
Today at construction, there were four of us again. It was so fun how upbeat everyone was. We were doing things that usually a group of ten or eleven would do. While we are building these bathrooms in these colonies there have to be septic tanks, made with huge rings that are lowered into the ground, one by one. Six or seven rings, then a slab on top. We moved seven rings today and about 10 slabs. It is an art, thats for sure. At one point Kim was on the ground pushing the slab with her feet to get it perfectly even on the top ring, and one of the locals didn't think it was perfect yet and he stepped right in front of her and sure enough, bent right on over! HIs butt was right in her face and we all got a good kick out of that because as he kept trying to push his butt went directly up and down in front of her. Super funny moment today.

And during free time I played soccer which made my day even better! It was fun to play again here. We play barefoot on this really bumpy field, generally with no rules. Usually four or five of us volunteers play and ten or so kids from school join. We have to be in our chudidars around the kids, so soccer today was played in long cotton pants and a long shirt. After and hour of that, its takes some serious time to stop sweating! I took some pretty rough falls, baseball slide type falls, so great!  family time tonight was so much more personal.

 I sat and talked with our house mother on the floor for over an hour. When I say talk.. I mean listen to her talk the whole time. I don't think she has many people to talk to so I just let her go on and on. Its fun to hear that people all over the world have some of the same problems that we do. The kids were easy tonight and its obvious they are warming up to us. When we were walking home it starting to rain really hard. Warm, heavy rain. It was so nice just to stop and enjoy being in India for a second. It was a great way to end today, especially because tomorrow gets even better. We go to the beach! and.. Shopping!!
Random lessons learned: 
*Make sure the string to your pants is tied before moving in front of large groups (may result in pants falling down to ankles while telling a story)
*Try to avoid a local burping in your face, its nasty!
*Don't ask whats in the food... just don't.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

James L. Brooks (Day 2)

"I took some time out for life."

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is not even possible for me to take enough pictures to tell you how my life has changed. Its the initial things that began my "culture shock" that are now becoming normal. The smells are becoming familiar, the staring becoming customary, the love is becoming stronger, and food.. well the food will always, more or less be my least favorite part of traveling. I have conformed into this picky eater over the past year or so that I am not familiar with. In result of that, I have been a little bit hungry. It doesn't help that when I am back at home I am an avid eater, all day long!

Today was my first full day of the schedule we are going by. I was up early, around 6:30 and didn't end up going back to sleep. We have morning conclave at 830, then at 9 we all leave to go to our various projects for the day. We are split into three groups with five people and a leader in each group. Today I was assigned to construction. On one of the colonies is currently building four bathrooms. Our job today ( Three of us and leader. The other two had not arrived yet) was to move cinderblocks from one pile to these four bathrooms. 65 cinderblocks per bathroom. Good, hard, hot labor. I enjoyed it. We got done early though because, the construction manager, Victory had a family member die and had to go into Chennai. So we went and visited with the carpenter in this community, who was also the snake charmer. So we were highly entertained for the next half hour. There was a cobra and three "rat snakes." I held all three of the rat snakes at once, and I was completely fine until one of them started to coil around my neck. Thats never a good feeling. We took the 45 minute drive home and when we got back I took my first shower, well I took my first rinse. I actually enjoyed the bucket shower very much. Much more than the "squatters." Then we have our own time until 430 which when walk over and play with the kids until they have prayer time at 6. Then dinner on the roof of the Elephant house ( which is where all the volunteers stay) and then back to the kids at 730. All of the kids sleep here and are divided into families. Each has a house mother and two volunteers. We all go to our families and help the kids finish their homework and put them to sleep. Its adorable when the younger kids go to sleep. The house mom sets out a 5 gallon bucket and the younger group of our family strips down to their underwear and all go into one room and fall asleep on bamboo mats. If you ever though it was difficult to put a couple kids to sleep, try 20! They are pretty obedient, but there are always the couple rambunctious kids that make everything so much more difficult. We leave at nine when the rest of the kids go to sleep. By the time you get ready for bed and finally lay down, you realize how tired you are and nearly pass out. Thats the point I am at right now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Henry Miller (Pre-Departure)

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

The most common question I get is, "Are you nervous?" And when I think about it, I haven't gotten nervous yet. I am sure it is bound to come, and I DO worry about the food a little (I don't like spicy food) but as of yet, I am just anxious to go! I will be gone for five months. The closer time comes for me to leave the more I have come to realize the length of five months. It is a long way to be away from anyone I know but in retrospect, I am sure it will seem like a small fraction of my life! For those of you who don't know anything about what I'm doing I will give you a brief update.
*Trip 1: I will be spending three weeks in India. It is mostly a humanitarian trip with a couple days of traveling. We will be working in the leprosy colonies in southwest India. Working directly with those effected by leprosy, cleaning and bandaging up their wounds), teaching english to the kids of those effected by leprosy, and also there is a focus on construction projects around the leprosy communities. 
*Trip 2: I fly directly from India to Indonesia for a week. This is completely a pleasure trip with no responsibilities. Mainly to fill the gap between the two major trips I had planned. My cousin and her family live in Balikpapan so I will be staying with them and I am thrilled! 
*Trip 3: I then fly from Indonesia to Thailand. I will be spending four months living in Phichit, Thailand. My main focus there is to be teaching english. We will be traveling throughout Thailand the whole time we are there and I will be able to work on my Thai. Two of my greater passions in life, traveling and languages! 

I have so many people to be grateful for. If you helped in any way towards me getting here, I cannot thank you enough!