Friday, August 26, 2011

Highs and Lows

At dinner each night at Rising Star, we review our "highs and lows" from that day. Some of mine from the two weeks...(kicking myself for not writing them down each day)

High: Watching Mandy and Kim kick butt at construction
Low: The stereotypes Indian men have about female capabilities

High: spending time in the colony and watching the patients serve one another
Low: having so much going on in my personal life that I'm having a hard time staying "in the moment"

High: figuring out that shouting "left, left, left, right, left" is insanely helpful when carrying huge concrete rings
Low: watching the Indians laugh at us while we paraded down the streets of the colony shouting "left, left, left, right, left"

High: watching my student finally start to get the hang of multiplication tables
Low: being exhausted from not sleeping on our Delhi trip and almost falling asleep during tutoring

Other things I've been super grateful for during this trip:
- air conditioning
- canned chicken
- ice water
- diet coke
-wheat thins
- wifi (and Skype!)
-Amanda and lex, the India pros
-zit cream (somewhat prevented a repeat SA forehead disaster)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Week 2 at Rising Star

We spent our second week at Rising Star in the same rotation as week one. Education on Monday and Friday, Construction on Tuesday and Thursday, and Medical on Wednesday.

Education was better this week than last week; the kids and I got into a rhythm and I made an effort to have more patience, but it was still really hard. I have such respect for parents and teachers, especially after this!! We spent a few periods reading with students, and a few periods working on math. It's important not to distract the kids any more than they already are, so we don't take many pictures during education.

Construction continues to be crazy hard but oh so rewarding. It's funny, Amanda says that each session seems to have a focus and ours is definitely construction. We spent last week carrying the roofs for outhouses but this week we were building septic tanks. And by building septic tanks, I mean carrying 6-8 200lb cement rings over to the holes that were dug by each hut, lowering them into the holes and then filling the spaces between with dirt. We did this about 6 times total. The cherry on top was the last day when we were informed that we would be carrying the concrete rings all the way from one end of the village to another. Because we were physically carrying the rings, it takes about 6 people per ring to lift and we had to take several breaks along the way. By the last few rings though, we had devised a system of carrying them by sticks that we had wrapped around with rope, while shouting "left, left, left, right left" to keep in synch. Don't be surprised that I was the one leading the shout.

We had some issues with the local men - like them insisting we carry the rings in the most complicated, inefficient way possible and trying to force the girls in the groups into "woman work" of digging in the dirt rather than hauling concrete slabs (we stubborn americans are not accepting of the limiting stereotypes in other countries) and so we put up a fight and proved them wrong. While I wasn't the strongest gal there (by far, Mandy and Kim were crazy tough) it was still so rewarding to look back and see all that we had accomplished in a week of busting our butts. I'm sure every group was impressive, but I'd like to think my group was especially so.

Because of our group's schedule, we only made it out to the leprosy colonies once this week, but what an experience it was. When we had gone before, it was either just Amanda, Patrick and me or a teeny colony so it was awesome to see our group rally together to provide such loving service to those in need. An especially sweet moment was watching a grandfather parade his grand-baby around to all the volunteers to admire.

I also loved observing the selflessness that exists, even in a community where almost everyone is suffering. One man, for example was the first one at the clinic, and yet he spent the time assisting all the others before finally, at the end, unwrapping his bandages and allowing us to help him. I see so many examples of impatience in India that it's especially touching when you have moments like this.

Play time is fun, but SO hot. I usually don't make it the full two hours because I'm a wimp.

Each night, after play time and dinner, we spend time with our assigned "family".

The littlest girls, getting ready for bed.

My family, Saraswathi's family, is by far the cutest group of girls you've ever seen in your life.

I'm especially partial to one girl, Mariambee

who shares my love for reading. We've spent the past week reading The BFG to one another (each reading one page and then swapping). We didn't quite finish before inlet, but hopefully she will finish on her own and continue reading with other volunteers. It is incredible to see how good she is at reading in English, especially compared to her classmates.

There are so many amazing girls in our house; like Monica, with her gorgeous eyes and fabulous cropped hair (I want to copy her!)

Vandamala with her kooky sense of humor

Nadia with her shy smile

and Prianka with her loving devotion to the family

I'm so lucky to have met these girls, who have shown me how to love unconditionally, quickly and fiercely. They don't guard their hearts here; they throw their love at you so strongly, it's almost shocking, until you realize you've done the same to them.

Saraswati, the house mother, is so so sweet.

She and Amanda became close in the two months Amanda was there, and it's easy to see why. I loved watching her interact with the girls, who live so far away from their families, they really treat her as a mother and love her like one. She's leaving to be married soon, and you can tell that she is so heartbroken to be leaving her little family.

I don't have as much to gush about Patricks fam, but the grin on his face pretty much sums up his feelings about this place.