So today Julia and I went to two different homes. First we went by the IJM office briefly where they had just finished quiet time and then they were beginning singing and devotion time. It was really cool to see it be so informal and stuff in that setting. Liz, an intern, who works in the aftercare office of IJM was being our tour guide and we had our driver mr. roy who was taking us everywhere.
So, one that houses 200 girls, but only about 40 of them go to the school that IJM works with. That one is called Liluah. It's hard to explain honestly and I haven't even given it a ton of thought yet to even explain. It was about an hour away from our hotel in Calcutta. It was on a 'compound' of sorts in a few different buildings. We got there and met the two teachers and then began to set up our "craft". Julia brought an entire Michael's store with her essentially. We had the girls paint and decorate frames anyway they wanted and then we took polaroid type pictures of them that tomorrow we are going to paste on paper and put in the frame. They really did a great job. I was highly impressed with their artistic skills. I don't really know what to say about the girls..they were nice. They didn't really speak english, but they loved looking at Julia and I all the time. I assume that's because they don't hardly ever see Westerners. Some of the girls were actually older women and not all the girls were even there because they hadn't shown up for school that day and there are no consequences. It was a decent home and the school part looked nice, but I just can't imagine living there and not being able to leave ever. I would feel very trapped, like in a prison. We were only allowed to take pictures of them from behind because of rules about their pictures being taken. They liked the pictures a lot though and seemed to enjoy our being there and doing something a little different. We left there a little after noon and went and got some lunch at a place on the side of the road, and it had a security guard out front which means it was definitely going to be good! We got some chicken biriyani and butter nan. Ahh...love indian food!!! It was seriously so great!!!
Then we went on to the other home Mahima. This is a home that has been open for about a year and houses 20 girls. It's a christian home and its program director used to intern for IJM (Julia and she are great friends). We were doing the same thing with them with the frames. I don't know what specific variables caused this (probably many) but the girls at this home are just happier. They smile more and seem to be with it, and they are lovingly looked after and get more counseling and are cared for much better (so it seems from an outsiders perspective) The girls wanted to hold hands and hug and they all knew conversation english and wanted to practice saying, "hello, my name is...., how are you?, i'm fine...how are you? it was really cute. There are 2 children at the home. I know one is the result of the previous 'work' the girl did and apparently from what Julia said she didn't want to have the baby but after he was born she was a 'natural mother'. Cannot imagine! One cool thing we did at both homes since we couldn't take pictures of the girls faces was Julia and I did frames where we had the girls each do a thumb print on it and we are going to take them home and put pictures from the trip in there. They thought it was funny, but we loved it. It was getting dark and we needed to head back to the city so we all piled in the car. A lot of the girls were hugging and kissing on us before we left, it was sweet.
Julia and I got back to the hotel and had a brief meeting with Jay and James about our days and swapped stories. It was cool to hear about what they are doing, and they got to to go to one of the red light district's today and saw some Nepali girls "working". Ugh...that's one of the cases IJM is currently working on because they essentially have to prove that the girls are under age and since the majority of children are born at home without birth certificates and there is no national required identification card and the parents are not here and likely can't be found, its certainly an uphill battle. After that Julia and I went to see her friend Kushboo around the corner. Oh my, her families "home" is the size of Ash's bathroom and 5 people sleep there. The mother, father, brother, brother's wife, and kushboo. She was ECSTATIC to see Julia and had presents for here which were precious. And then the mom and dad came home from their store they work at and they brought us a Sprite and some lays chips and insisted we sit down and eat and chat. They don't know much english so chatting was difficult but we got pictures with them and it was so nice, made my heart happy. After we left there, I wanted some coffee so we went to the coffee shop on the block and decided to also have some dessert since we had yet to have dinner and it was 10pm. So we both had coffee and chocolate cake with ice cream for dinner. Only fitting I think, and it was truly delicious!! When we came back to the room we had to work on the crafts for tomorrow, which included glueing their pictures to pieces of paper so they would fit in the frames. We talked a lot about the girls, living here, living in the US, things that make us mad, sad, happy. Nice chat time for sure.
I haven't had an easy time expressing how I've been feeling about this...I was telling Julia about that earlier. I feel like you have standard answers to standard questions and I have yet to come up with one for India to say when I get back to people who ask. I could spill a bunch of word vomit about the mixed feelings I have about it. It's not something that I can definitively say I hate...though there are parts that I hate about it (the corruption, the poverty, the brokenness, the evil, the smog, the smells, the traffic); It's also not something I can say I love....though there are certainly parts that I love (IJM, the children, the sweet Indians I've met, the people from all over working for this cause, the small Christian population, the hope). Those type of answers don't necessarily fit in easy answers, but that's the answer I have for right now about how I feel about India. It's constant stimulation overload!!
Ok...well that was supposed to be a short synopsis cause I don't even feel like I've written all of my feelings about all these things...another time :)