10.31.2011

On love that stretches over oceans

The last 3 weeks feel like a dream. I started three Sundays ago by making 20 meals and feeding 20 kids by myself (with a little help from Chetri unexpectedly) and yesterday I fed 50, with the help of my co-workers. But this particular entry isn't about those of us here in Guwahati at all. 

This is about the unbelievable love that has stretched from Corona, California all the way to Guwahati, India. One week ago I received an e-mail from a long time friend Natalie. We've known each other for what feels like forever via mutual friends and growing up going to shows. I've never known her very well, but one thing that has always shone through her is her heart. She is a big supporter of organizations such as Invisible Children and clearly cares for kids in under developed countries. She has helped set-up many benefit art shows and I am certain she has done much more than I even know of. 

I had to read her initial e-mail 3 times over, it was so unexpected. The love and support that poured out of it hit me hard. She said she wanted to give a donation to be used towards feeding the kids and/or sponsoring the slum girls day. It is so wild to me that someone so far away is moved to help here, to help feed the bellies of kids they have never met. Her intent to give so selflessly from over 7,000 miles away moved me to tears. She said she needed a few days to get it together and get the funds to me. In the interest of honesty I was expecting 10 or 20 dollars (which is enough to feed about 40-90 kids alone would be a significant donation.) so imagine my even bigger surprise when she mailed me on Thursday saying she had raised $184 for the kids here!!!!! There are absolutely no words to describe what I was feeling when I found this out. Here is the reality of that donation: 
$184 can:
-Feed 736 mouths
-Sponsor 37 girls
-Or any combination there of ($84 dollars to the weekly meals which will last over 7 weeks and $100 to the girls days which will sponsor 20 girls)

As it turns out, she set up a bake sale at her office and in one day they raised this! I am told they played some fun Hindi music (in honor of Diwali and feeding Indian kids) and she spread the word about my life here. If any of you guys who bought a yummy treat are reading this, I want to thank you! I wish you could each be here to see just how far this will go, to witness personally the undeniable joy that you are helping us to spread. It means more to me than I could ever express. As I handed out each meal, I saw the face of Love in them. A face I could see because of the warmth and support you have shown me from all the way across the ocean. 

Thank you so much. 

Here is how our day went:













10.27.2011

Happy Diwali!

This week has been one huge celebration! It is the Hindu holiday Diwali and true to Indian style, it is over the top! I would love to give you a really great explanation of what Diwali is and its meaning but I know I would never do it justice! There are many great Epics in the Hindu religion and the week of Diwali celebrates one of the biggest Epics. It has mainly to do with the the God Ram returning home after 14 years of being banished and welcoming the Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) into your home. Susie put it best when she described the atmosphere as the perfect melding of Christmas and 4th of July. People exchange gifts, dress in new clothing and decorate their houses with lights. Then all day night firecrackers are lit! It is CRAZY! I knew I was in for an adrenaline/anxiety packed week when I was walking home on Monday having lit firecrackers thrown near my feet. 

No one cares! HUGE crackers and full on fireworks are lit in the streets, yards, balconies (*ahem*) and maybe even in front of the hospital with the plastic surgeons! Traffic just drives through as things are exploding, they are lit in people's hands and as I said, there is no regard to pedestrians walking by. I mean they go off all night and day. There are no rules or regulations, children and adults alike set of what feels and sounds like TNT and machine guns. I have never ever ever ever experienced anything like this!!

People decorate their homes with lights, colored powder and rice and light candles all the way to the door and throughout their homes to make Lakshmi feel welcome and to welcome home Ram. Shopkeepers also start their new financial year during Diwali. They bring their shop books to the temple to be blessed and decorate their shops like crazy! 

On Tuesday night I was invited to a friends' house. I ran home from work, threw on some clothes and headed over for dinner, dancing and my first night of crackers. That night was very tame. We did sparklers, spinners, ones that shoot up sparks. Nothing too wild and about what you might be able to get your hands on in the parts of the U.S. where fireworks are legal. 

Wednesday was the main day to celebrate. I spent most of the day at home relaxing, cleaning and treating the wound of this little street girl. That night I headed over to my coworkers house. She and her husband live in the biggest home I have seen here. They threw a traditional Diwali party for us. We ate a nice meal and ate lots of sweets. In their home they have a room with an alter in it. The family invited us to watch puja and it was very detailed. There were rice, sweets, fruits, flowers and oil for offerings. They blessed one another and then blessed each of us. It was so lovely, I felt honored to have been a part of their night. It was a night I will never forget. 

I thought that puja would be the end of night for us, but I was mistaken! We then went out front and lit fireworks for two hours. I think I almost died of a heart attack the whole time. There was one set of crackers called the 10,000 walla aka a string of 10,000 crackers. They just laid it all down the street and lit her up. It was loud and went on forever. Meanwhile as the crackers were exploding, cars, motorcycles and people on bikes drove through like it was just another Wednesday night. I had a permanent cringe on my face, I can not believe that we all made it home in one piece. It is now Thursday night and there have still been crackers all day/night. I had to yell at some teenagers for throwing one right in front of me as I was walking home!! Total insanity!




















10.23.2011

Living openly

This weekend was an amazing argument for the reason I am trying so hard to live openly. It is crazy how easily I could spend every moment here in the service of the people who need help, and still have more to do. So I told myself to just live with my life open, open to the need of those around me. To know, accept and act on the moments when the opportunity to arises. This weekend was a living test of that!

On Saturday my roommate had set up a "street girls day" with the a Father who runs a few orphanages in the city. None of us knew really what to expect out of the day and I think all of our minds were blown at how awesome it was! Father Lucose went to the slums at the train tracks to pick up 17 girls (and 1 boy!) and brought them to one of the girls' homes he runs. They showed up in a bus around 10am and the madness ensued! We started by giving them all a good brush and trim. One of the smallest girls had her head shaved down close and she was rather upset that she couldn't have her hair cut so we "trimmed it" for her, it was so cute! Meanwhile we played games in the grass, swung on the swings and my patty-cake abilities were put to the test. Next it was time to treat them for lice! Every kid got a good hair washing with lice shampoo and as I scrubbed each one of their heads' the suds on my hands were dark brown, it had been a long time since a real shower for them. As the shampoo took effect we went out in the yard to play red light green light and freeze tag. Soon the nuns arrived with a new outfit for each child so it was bath time! We bathed every child head to toe and each wanted to be washed by one of us personally. The little boy bathed four times, he was so excited! As each one was patted dry we lotioned, oiled, and picked out lice. Remember how nicely your mommy used to rub lotion into your back and on your arms, imagine never having had that in your entire life. After they all got snazzed up in their new outfits I treated a few wounds and sent them off for lunch time! Everyone got a nice warm meal then ended the day with a movie! As they left I couldn't stop the swelling in my chest! It was such an amazing day. You could easily see the joy in their eyes, to be taken care of and loved on for one day! This will be a monthly occurrence and I couldn't look forward to it more. 

Saturday evening I spent preparing to make my big meal for the street kids the following day. I went to the market, bought a pressure cooker, sliced up 30 servings of carrots and cucumbers, treated myself for lice and finally passed out in bed! Sunday morning I woke up bright and shiny and started cooking. I used a pressure cooker to make the dal this time and I am now sure that it was my best purchase of 2011. It made cooking 30 meals a breeze. So easy in fact, that next week I may have to try for 40 or 50 meals. I finished cooking around noon, just in time for my roommate to come home and help me pass them out. We headed down the street in a tuk tuk and got out at the  first street children we saw. It was a bit insane at first but it calmed down. The trouble was that a few children were hiding the meals we had given them and then taking multiple. It makes it so difficult, I know that they would eat five meals if I gave it to them. However, the point of this is to feed as many mouths as I can, not the same mouth over and over all at once. I couldn't stand telling them no and to stop but what would have hurt me even more would have been having to turn away a child that got nothing in front of a child who got three whole meals. 

It was so hectic that we forget to give bananas to the first group of children. We finished passing out the  meals and then headed back to them to give them bananas. As we were handing them out, a girl around the age of 11 tugged on my shirt. I looked down and she pointed at a wound on her ankle. It was pretty big, partially healed but with some open spots. The girl was covered head to toe in filth, the wound was no exception. She asked me for help, and I had nothing to offer her at that moment. So, today I am off to buy some supplied before heading to work. If I can find her I will clean it for her, if not I will try again tomorrow. This is a moment when I wish I could open up my own home to a child like that, to clean her and treat her wound in a clean environment but right now I can't. So that leaves me wondering, as I continue to open myself up, what will be opened to me?
















(No clue who the guy in the back is. Honestly.)

10.21.2011

A bright spot anyone?

I present to you a collection of silly pictures I've accumulated over the last few months. 

I bought this muffin on 26/7. It came to me from the future.

Indian men finding rest and relaxation on my shoulder.

Sri Lankan posters

Go ahead, ponder the pool rules.

Just one Draid Lock

What a creep

Sanitation rules in Rishikesh

Fairly unassuming at first glance.

Bam.


Sidewalk treasures

Chinese adverts

1. It's soap, in the shape of a cake 2. It has naked babies on it.

Thankful for directories

Another nice breeze.