4.18.2012

365 (Three Hundred and Sixty Five) Days


One year ago on this day I felt completely broken and even totally lost. I had chosen to head a new direction but I wasn't armed with a map or a guide or anything of the sort. I felt my heart was open though it was raw with the pain of a lost love, the uncertainty of leaving behind the life I had known for 25 years, worrying about family fallen with illness and simply the act of moving half way around the world... Never did I imagine what wonderful things were in store....

I remember when I finally announced that I would be making this move in order to work full time at the cleft care center. A decision that had been heavy in my heart since before I left from my short term mission to Guwahati. Oh little did I know just how long I would be here!


Just a few weeks later my heart was crushed by an unexpected break up which in retrospect I am so thankful for as it allowed me to completely give my life to service here.

Soon after moving I realized that my patients would fill me with a lot of questions, what would it feel like to be born and live with an unrepaired cleft lip? How does surgery change you? I weeped for the first time over the humbling realization that nothing I had faced in my life compared to what our many patients endure on a daily basis.



I got to visit Sri Lanka in May. 


In June I almost died in Cherapunjee but ended up making it safely and loving it.


July and August helped me analyze and heal from my relationship that ended just two weeks before my move. I felt weightless and clear headed for the first time in some while.

In September I realized that my life is no longer mine and that is when things really started to change. Sitting at my kitchen table in that moment is absolutely when I decided to give of myself in every way possible... not knowing what would come of it.


I continued to relfect on how my patients at the surgical center felt about receiving life changing surgery. And my heart just kept growing for them.


I visited Hong Kong at the start of October. My friend Katy really encouraged me to listen to what was weighing heavily in my heart so...


I came back from Hong Kong and decided to start making food for the street kids... by myself! I asked God for help and he sent me Chetri. Thus the project Asha Guwahati was born.



I learned to live openly and that life is best lived on your feet. Friends and coworkers like Kelly, Deborah and Rosie became consistent help and supported the project from its very beginnings. 




In November the kids we had been feeding on the street disappeared so I went back to where Chetri had led me that first week. The train track slums of Lakhtokia.



I experienced agape love for the first time in December. A constant stream of volunteers at the surgical center also generated help, ideas and donations for the children of Lakhtokia. From one side of the world to the other, that agape love stretched.



I became close friends with a little girl named Sima in January.



Asha Guwahati made the local news in March.

Patients and their families continued to push me emotionally and remind me of one of the biggest reasons I decided to stay in India for another six months.

We realized that every single act here, big or small matters to these children. We saw their hearts start growing with ours.



Honestly, today I ache with different pains because there is this brokeness that comes with the humility I have learned to submit myself fully to here.  April  is coming to a close and I continue on with my work at the surgical center. Over 5,000 patients have received free surgery in Guwahati. Twenty five local nurses have expanded and challenged their careers. Eighty children receive free meals every Sunday in the slums of Lakhtokia and more importantly, they have become some of our best friends. The change in them is the most real form of love I have experienced in my life. Three hundred and sixty five days later I realize that, in fact, many small acts have already led to tangible difference in North East India. Here is to another three hundred and sixty five days full of love, brokenesss, service, humbleness and full hearts...

4.17.2012

Happy Rongali Bihu!

This past weekend was a celebration called Rongali Bihu! It is essentially an Assamese culture celebration and occurs three different times a year. April marks the Assamese new year and of course Spring begins! Women dress in traditional wear, there are cultural showcases all over and Bihu music abounds. Different villages and tribes have their own way of dress and their specific Bihu dances so I walked around a bit on Saturday to catch some of the dance but was mostly unsuccessful with my timing. I did manage to stop by the temple down the road and pray, get some cold coffee, lunch and in the evening on Saturday I caught a few dances. Did I mention that we all put on sarees for work on Friday?


I don't have the traditional wear but threw on one of my sarees anyhow :)

On Sunday afternoon myself and two coworkers took a scooter ride to one of the nurses' homes for lunch! It was quite a long ride but well worth it. The three of us were a scooter gang! We got out to Lakhy's home and enjoyed Bihu related sweets, a yummy lunch and sat around sharing nursing stories while grossing out her husband! Oh nurses!



The cloth over my shoulder is the gamose I wrote about here, the handwoven traditional cloth which is handed out during Bihu! It was a nice to have three days off of work to finally see Bihu (I have been out of town during the other two) but this week is busy leading up to me heading to the states in just a few days! 

4.09.2012



I want you guys to meet Sultan, one of the boys living in Lakhtokia. I have to admit that when I first came to know him, I thought it was probably too late to change his course in life. He was so rough after fourteen years of living in the slums. Loud, quick to anger, and always with a petrol soaked hankie in his hand. Quickly we realized how much potential was inside this hard exterior. He is silly, protective, hard working and is learning every week how to serve. He keeps us accountable, makes us laugh and most of all loves jumping in to help every week. Having friends like Sultan led us to be comfortable in making a very big change this week.

 One of the goals I have had for a long time is to find a more environmentally friendly way to serve the food. Up until this point we have been using two foil containers for each child, and we all cringe weekly when we picture in our heads all of the waste being created. Last week I was discussing with two visitors the dilemma and we were tossing back and forth solutions when they mentioned leaf plates often used at temples. It was like a light bulb went off! I went out on Saturday to the wholesale market and sure enough found the leaf plates! They are made 100% of leaves, pressed together with bits of stem woven through to create a better hold. Totally natural, totally biodegradable! Also, it cuts the cost of the serving vessels in half!

By deciding to use the plates we also were making the decision to completely change how we give out the food. Instead of arriving with it all pre-packaged, we now were going to have to serve it in the slum itself. I imagined the chaos and then remembered Sultan and took comfort in knowing that he would surely be there to help! We arrived and sure enough, he treated the situation like this is how it has been for the last six months. He jumped right up, grabbed a stack of plates, helped get the kids in line and the serving began. It was definitely the most chaotic it has been in some time but watching him in the midst of all of us, taking joy in literally serving makes up for any hiccup in the process. Another huge advantage of serving this way is that instead of running home with the food, most of the kids sat down and ate it right away with us. After all was said and done, Sultan set aside his own plate, washed down the temple we served from, loaded the equipment in the tuk tuk and called it a day. I almost can't believe that I once worried he was a 'lost cause.' I look at that picture of him over and over and all I see is a type of determination that can only come from living a hard life. Every day is a fight just to survive, but when given the opportunity to thrive kids with determination like Sultan's show that nothing is lost on them....