(I wrote this a while back but just getting around to posting it now.)
It’s time for me to say goodbye to my host-family and friends in Kanda. I didn’t expect to get so emotional but I did as I hugged Hema (my host-mom). In her quiet way, he took care of me and made me feel so loved here. I’ve gained a new perspective and made some good friends along the way. Even though some of the people here live without the basic human necessities of life, they’ve freely shared with me their precious resources like food and warm clothing and refused to take any money that I offered in return. They are a testament to the fact that it’s not the external things that makes one a good human being. This village also debunks the myth that poverty breeds crime. It’s so safe here that I’ve seen young school kids fearlessly hitchhike home on the back of cargo trucks, and there are no locks on any of the doors in their homes!
Without the home-stay and full cultural immersion I don’t this trip wouldn’t have been half as much fun. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed eating delicious homemade chapatis and dal harvested from the fields. My guilty pleasure was walking the dogs daily with the kids as I soaked in the beautiful sunsets over the hills. And of course, having girly-girl-talks with Gunja and playing dress-up in saris was just the icing on the cake. I’ve even gotten over my fear and had fun watching my little friends, Miss. Henrietta (spider) and Mr. Bond (scorpion), search for food crumbles in my room. Unfortunately, their short lives came to a tragic end one evening when one of the kids thought it would be fun to squash them with his flip flops. RIP Miss. Henrietta & Mr. Bond.
However, there is one thing I could not get used to – the dreadfully cold bucket showers! I don’t know how anyone can get used to this in ten-degree weather. My body rejected my every mind-over-body attempt in trying to fool myself into thinking I’m no pansy. The shower always feels refreshing after, but the anticipation and the actual shower is the WORST. They say people are the same everywhere. They’re not. What are these people are made of?
On my first week here I assigned myself a list of tasks to complete. I thought would aid me later in measuring my success. I’m such an obedient Western educated girl, aren’t I? I’m happy to say that I leave feeling good about being able to give back. I made good progress on documenting current project progress and figuring out what’s needed for new projects. I’m in the process of setting up a PayPal account. Due to an (un)expected extra layer of Indian bureaucracy, it took three weeks to get the information I needed to start the process. Finally, I was to convert some slideshows into a video to show potential volunteers the living conditions and what to expect (this ain’t no Ritz). But the slow internet access hasn’t let me too far in downloading a Flash application that I need to make the movie. I’ll have to wrap that up when I’m back in HK with faster internet access.
The biggest success though wasn’t even on my original list. Somehow my pleasure of taking photos and ramblings of my experience turned into a monetary help from friends back home! How sweet is that? 🙂
On my last day, Hema, my host-family mother packed a bag of goodies for me to take home. It included a big bag of food for the road, a jar of homemade ghee (clarified butter), and a bag of loose leaf tea. I forgot to tell her that I wasn’t returning home at that point. But how could I refuse such delicious homemade food? So with free food in my bag, I set off on a rightful pilgrimage to the Buddhist town of McLeod Ganj to see the Dalai Lama!