We’re almost heading to Sri Lanka, so I thought I’d quickly update you guys on life here in India. Life’s been hectic, the past few days have been filled with lots of monsoon storms, indoor games, cemetery walks, English classes, meeting Canadian grandma’s and packing. Honestly, I kind of lost track of time, so I’ll try to go through this chronologically, but I might horribly fail in this. Read along hehe… 🙂
The monsoon rain season has started, which means lotsss of rain, thunder and lightning… and also less sun. I’m trying not to complain here, I know you guys have 8 degree Celcius weather in the Netherlands, while the temperatures here never drop below 25. However, it’s kinda been a struggle. Streets change into rivers, schools are closed because of the horrible weather conditions, we often lose power and service which means sitting in the dark with candles and there is no way we could go into town with this extreme rain. This means we spend all our days on the project, preparing English classes, giving English classes, helping the 10th graders with history by blurting out all my WW2 facts, cleaning, playing an Indian game called Carrom, playing Chess, playing cards and learning how to play a Harmonium by Sunder Raj. Some of those days were fun, but doing this day in and out and being trapped by the rain, could get a little boring sometimes.
This is basically how all our days went, however, a few things happened that are worth
First of all, we celebrated All Souls day on the 2nd of November, which was quite an experience. We all know ‘Allerzielen’ in the Netherlands, but personally that’s something I’ve never celebrated. However, everything has its first time, and mine was in India. We starting the morning with a double mass in Tamil, it ended up taking 2 hours, with 2 communions, 10 times of kneeling, 2 times of kissing the bible and lots of songs. Afterwards, we walked, with all the boys, to the closest cemetery. This was only a 5 minute walk, so I thought we’d be back soon. Well, that was something I underestimated. There were hundreds, if not, thousands of people. There was a huge queue to get in the cemetery, there were beggars, people crying, people asking for selfies in front of their wives’ grave, people singing and an endless amount of flowers, candles and incense. We shuffled through the crowd, I got an elbow poked in my back and people stood on my feet, but I couldn’t even feel it. I was just trying to take it all in. It was all quite insane.
After this crazy visit, we brought the 6th and 7th graders home and continued our cemetery walk with the older boys. We walked 10 kilometers through the cowpats, mud houses, busy streets and quiet, green fields. Once we arrived, we visited the grave of one of the orphan boys who used to live in the boarder and we had a 30 minute rosary prayer. Then, we walked all the way back. It was one of those days that’ll easily remember. Next year, on the 2nd of November, I’ll be walking through the university hallways with my study books, thinking about this day, walking through the cowpats in the heat in India and I’ll smile about it. Thinking how much life can change.
Another experience that was less fun but worth mentioning is my first (and hopefully last) visit to the Indian hospital. Last week, all of the sudden, I lost almost my complete sight in my left eye. Some of you guys might know that I’m 60% blind in my right eye, which means my left eye is crucial and nothing can happen to it. However, something happened, everything became a blur, I was scared, scared that this happened with my only ‘good’ eye, scared that this happened in India. Lots of anxiety and a panic attack while we rushed to the hospital, where I got the best doctor and care. ❤ The issue was lack of oxygen in my eye, which caused an infection. This infection had to be treated immediately, my right eye was already 60% blind, and my left eye now seemed to be 80/90% blind. Luckily, this wasn’t permanent, I got antibiotics that I have to use for one month and I have to be extremely careful. Karlijn stayed up with me as I had to take my antibiotics every 15 minutes till 1 am (friend goals hehe.) It got my sight back on the next day. Later that week, I had another checkup which took about 3 hours, it was quite a horrible experience, but luckily with a good ending. One of those less fun, but unforgettable moments which makes you realize how precious life is.
On another note. A few days ago, about 20 Canadian grandma’s visited our project. We showed them around and talked about life. Their stories were amazing, the most impressive one was of a lady, 71 years old and a recent survivor from cancer, she and her husband decided they wanted to do volunteer work in India. I got in an interesting conversation with another woman, I talked about our fundraising project and all of the sudden she said she wanted to help and could perhaps contact the old school she used to work for as a teacher, they donate about a 1000-2000 (!) Canadian dollars to a good charity every year, and she would love for it to be invested in here. I’m not sure if it will actually happen, but that would be the most amazing thing ever, and something the boys definitely deserve. After a fun and interesting morning, we waved all the old ladies goodbye and wished them a good trip through India.
Anyway, for now, Karlijn and I want to invest our sponsor money in tables and benches. Currently, the boys eat on the floor, which isn’t only unhygienic and bad for their posture but it also creates this huge ‘unworhty-complexion.’ You can tell it’s there and it’s horrible. The actors in the movies tell they won’t sit and sleep on the floor, that’s for the poor. The school rector tells them they are uneducated and the poor. Their parents are uneducated and teach them about classes and some people being more worthy than others. It’s in their culture and that’s very hard to change. Whenever I come to the boys and sit next to them on the floor, one of them stands up and runs to find a chair for me to sit on, I’m not supposed to sit on the floor. Sometimes, I’ll join the boys when they’re drinking tea, I want to get one of their rusty cups to drink out, but one of the boys will stand up and run to find a crystal clear glass from the staff. I shouldn’t drink out of a rusty cup. Sometimes I meet the boy’s parents, I shake their hands and tell them it’s nice to meet them. They’ll respond by thanking me 5 times for shaking their hand. No matter how often you tell them you’re fine with sitting on the floor, drinking out of a rusty cup or them not having to thank you for shaking their hand, it’s in their culture and it won’t be easy to change that. All we can do is be humble. But investing in tables and benches, telling them they’re worthy of that, would be an amazing, small change.
(Disclaimer: ‘their culture’ is the culture of the uneducated, poor people living in small villages outside the city. Their traditions are hold strong, and many of them truly live by the Indian classes and believe foreigners, fathers and anyone else from a higher class are more worthy. This is not necessarily ‘Indian culture’. First of all ‘Indian culture’ doesn’t exist, there are many cultures within. While the traditional village people thank us for shaking our hands, many people from the city view ‘us’, ‘foreigners’, ‘people from the West’ as way too open-minded people, who drink, do drugs, expose their bodies and are easy to get into bed with before marriage. The views on foreigners can be very different in India, from very worthy to very un-worthy. The example I just used isn’t the standard in India.)
Unfortunately, the current price of the benches and tables is higher than our sponsor money, but we’re still raising money, by social media and by the news papers. Some exciting news: you can read my piece in the Heusdense Courant this Wednesday or check their FB page. I’ve never had a big piece of my writing in the newspaper and this is a big opportunity to raise more money for the boys. Are you interested in sponsoring some money for the boys? Please check my ‘fundraising’ blog with information and payment methods. We can use all the help for the tables and benches, so please consider donating.
The last few days were lots of preparations for Sri Lanka, downloading music, packing our backpacks, washing all our clothes by hand, cleaning our rooms, booking youth hostels, etc. Our flight is tomorrow night! I’m seriously already dreading to say goodbye to the boys for just these 10 days (don’t even get me started on saying goodbye to them forever in 2 months… crying already), but I’m beyond excited to see my parents, get a tan on the beach, sip cocktails, join beach parties with other backpackers, have a safari tour to find leopards, get on the most beautiful train ride in the world and to see the elephants bathe in the river. Next blog will be a fun one! (And not as chaotic and all over the place as this one, promise! x)