Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thank You India

My last day at Rising Star was last Saturday and my last day in India was Tuesday.I have had so many thoughts and feelings since leaving. It is hard to put all these thoughts and feelings into words, but I am going to attempt it here.

India and Rising Star in particular has changed my perspective on life. One of our coordinators at Rising Star shared this quote and I feel like it sums up my change of perspective perfectly:

“There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor.”
- Keith Bellows

Before this trip I had let my perspective get a little skewed. India has woke me up to the beauty in my life. There is beauty and joy all around in life, and it is just a matter of looking for it. India is dirty, hectic and pungent with smells, horns honking, chaotic driving, spicy food, and lots of poverty. But in the midst of this chaos there is vibrant colorful buildings, green trees, unbelievably green rice paddies, rainbow-colored clothing, and beautiful, kind, loving people.

The people will be what forever stand out to me from this experience. The way they love so quickly and freely amazes me. The past few years I have had some losses that may have led me to become more protective of my heart. I can see now that I have let myself become more guarded.The people I met at Rising Star and in India were the complete opposite of guarded. They have suffered so much more, and have so much less then me and yet they are not afraid to love completely with out hesitation.

The beautiful people that stand out to me are:

The children of Rising Star.The moment they met me(or any volunteer for that matter) they loved me. They asked my name and almost in the same breath said "I love you." They are so affectionate and greeted me with excited cheers every time I would see them.They come from poverty that I can't comprehend. They live in leprosy colonies( in India they are treated as the lowest of the low), and they usually only see their families for one month of the year, when school is out. Often they come from situations where they were taught to beg for money on the streets. Their lives are so much harder than mine and yet they love so quickly, without reservation.I love these children. I want to love people instantly like they do.

The people in the colonies.They are so full of gratitude and love. We could barely communicate with "Hello" and "thank you", but their eyes said so much more. Their eyes said "I love you." They would grab our faces affectionately and kiss their hands and put their hands on our faces and hands. There was a few people that stand out in particular.

I have already wrote about the man who shouted "Hallelujah" and is so full of joy. He is one that forever touched me. But there were several others. One women would just smile and laugh whenever we came to visit her in the old folks home in the colony. She was just so happy that it was contagious. They have a ulcers, and are missing hands, feet, fingers and toes, but they are so much more happy, grateful and loving then me!

The strangers we met on trains or other places in India. One family in particular helped us so much the other day. We were getting into a train station in India pretty late at night and we had no idea how we were getting to our hotel. This cute eleven year old girl with amazing English was so friendly and kind to us. She got her father to help us. He made sure we got a driver for a good price. And the girl told us if we weren't busy the next day we could come visit. They instantly loved us and welcomed us as if we were family, even though we were complete strangers! I want to be more willing to help people like these people.

I am so grateful for this experience. When I said good bye to my girls in my house it was sad. They asked me when I am coming back and it was hard to tell them "I don't know. I hope soon." I would love to go back and spend more time there. I hope to. But if not I will forever hold India in my heart.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

True Love

Today I met Theerthee's mom in the colony Barathala Purim.I actually put oil on her legs and feet. I showed her a photo of her daughter and she got this huge smile and her whole face lit up. Then she took her hands and kissed them and then put her hands on the photo. It was so sweet to see how much she loves her daughter. She doesn't see her daughter very much, because she stays at the school all year besides one month of their break.

Theerthe is the one in blue next to me below. When I told her about seeing her mom and what her mom did, she also seemed so happy. She then wanted to see a photo of her mom. I showed her and she did the same thing where she kissed her hand and then put it on the photo. This is true love.

*Warning: There is a gruesome image below.

Today at the colony we actually washed the leprosy patients feet and I put oil on them. The oil is supposed to help soften their skin and to help keep the bugs away. The flies love to land on their wounds and the oil tastes bitter, so they won't land their anymore.

This couple was just so amazing to watch. The husband was so kind and loving to his wife. He held her hand and made sure her sores were taken care of and her nails cut right. It was so sweet to watch. This is true love.

It broke my heart though, because she had a huge ulcer on her foot and it was painful to remove part of it today. She was crying as her husband comforted her. It broke my heart.

Today was eye-opening for me. The ulcers they have on their feet and the pain they have made me really sad for them. It has to be so hard to deal with this daily. I am grateful that we have a chance to meet them and see how loving and warm they are in spite of all their trials. I feel such love for them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I have mentioned already several times how much I have realized that I take for granted. Even here in India I have so much! I was talking to another volunteer who came to Rising Star a couple years ago and at the time they didn't have the nice hostel we have to stay in now. They had air conditioning but the power would often go out all night long. The power goes out often here, but it doesn't last very long. I'm grateful that we have AC in our rooms and usually in the vans we take.

I love water, but I have always struggled to drink warm water. The filtered water we get at the hostel comes out warm or hot, so this was a struggle for me. But I am grateful for clean drinking water. And a few days after being here we found a source of cold drinking water at the children's dining hall. It makes me happy every time!

We have beds to sleep on and there aren't bugs all over our rooms. The little kids sleep on little straw mats on the floor and there is always tons of bugs in their rooms. I'm grateful for a comfy, clean bed!

We eat some form of vegetarian curry and red rice every night for dinner here. But lately we've had cut up fresh fruits and veggies. I'm so grateful to have food to eat and especially fruits and veggies!

I'm grateful to be able to shower everyday, even in bucket showers. And use the bathroom in doors, even the squatters!

I am grateful for a church to go to! It took about two hours of a bumpy ride to get there on Sunday, but so many do this or go further every week. I admire their dedication and sacrifice. It takes me ten minutes to drive to church when I am home!

I am grateful for my hands, feet, toes and fingers. This is something I don't usually think about, but here I do all of the time. Most of the people with leprosy that I have met are missing parts of hands, feet or sometimes their legs and arms. And yet they are still smiling. They still do beautiful artwork and can get around just fine most of the time. They've adjusted and it may take longer to do certain things, but they still do them. It amazes me.

I am so grateful for what I have. I'm abundantly blessed and I feel like because of this I should be doing more to help those who are lacking. I also feel like I should never complain about my easy life.

Oh and I am grateful for these beautiful little girls that I have been spending my time with the past few weeks. They light up my life!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Today we got to go to three colonies to help measure the people for special shoes. These shoes should help prevent the patients from developing more ulcers and they should be more comfortable for them.

I loved spending so much time with the people in these colonies. In the first colony, Bethel Nagar, I helped the people put on their shoes after they were measured for shoes. I felt so much love for them. It is so hard for them to just get around, so I helped a few walk down the steps.

One of my favorite people from the colonies is the guy I called Nabu (that's not his name) that says "hallelujah" a lot. He was there today and he asked for my help to put in his eye drops because he has no fingers.

This is such an easy task for most people and for him it was such a challenge. But still he was so happy and he danced and sang for us again.

I love just talking to all the people in the colonies. They are so loving and kind to us. They always grab our hands and seem so grateful.

Christine and I danced and sang with this man. He kept talking to Christine in Tamil and he sang to her. I loved this experience today. I just feel so grateful for this opportunity!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Septic Tanks and Parotha!

We did some construction today at Bartala Purim,which is one of the most thriving of the colonies we go to. They fund there own community projects using money from the art school's paintings and other businesses in the colony. We just help with the labor. So today we helped build three septic tanks for some community bathrooms. We filled these holes with the cement cylinders and then filled the space around it with dirt. The filling it with dirt was the hardest part.

But we kept motivated by thinking of the parotha we would be eating afterwards. Parotha is my new favorite Indian food. Its a tortilla like bread that's layered. You dip it in some yummy curry and eat it with a little omelet. Its yummy! It felt really good to work hard today although I was pretty exhausted and dirty after.

This is my new friend Daviraj! He sat and watched us a bit while we worked. He, like all of the people in the colony, is very warm and loving.

We met a snake charmer in the colony. And I held this snake for about a minute and that was enough for me. Everyone else was much more brave and held two at once. I love the new experiences I have each day here!

Tonight during family time I was trying to help the little girls go to sleep. I told the little girls that my mom used to rub my eyebrows to help me go to sleep. Amsa and her sister Ravanthe loved this and kept wanting me to do this again and again.

Then they both wanted to rub my eyebrows. It was so sweet.

They both fell asleep holding my hands. It was the cutest thing ever! I love these kids. It is going to be hard to leave them in a few days.