Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reflecting on my time in Nagpur

Since I have returned home I cannot stop thinking about my time in Nagpur. Yes it feels wonderful to be back in New Jersey in my comfy bed, with my family and friends, and eating American food but it is also very bittersweet. I have never had to say good bye to people that I had become so close to but that I also knew I would most likely never see again. In the course of four weeks I formed really connections with the the boys, which made it extremely difficult and emotional to say good bye to them. The day we left the boys prepared for us a short song for us and then a few of the boys got up and said what they enjoyed most about their stay (they spoke in Hindi but Father was able to translate for us). We were playing with the boys when Father came out and told us it was time to go. We shook all the boys hands and gave them hugs and thanked them for welcoming us into their home and told them that we would miss them very much. It was a lot harder than I imagined. The boys were really so wonderful and I really miss them. Everyday I think about the memories I shared with them. I laugh when I think about the last day when a geico got stuck in the fan and his tail was cut off. One of the boys put the tail on the stick and was chasing me and Mary around with it saying I got you a present because you are leaving. I smile whenever I watch videos of the boys dancing or show my family and friends pictures of all the boys and tell them stories about them. I love telling everyone about how a family in Delhi asked Mary and I to take a picture with each of them shaking hands with us. 

My trip to India was the most interesting experience of my life. I learned so much about the way Indians live and the issues that they face on a day to day basis. I learned so much about myself and what I want to do in my future. I learned that there is so much to learn about this world and about other people. Witnessing the poverty the is so prevalent in India was truly eye opening and incredibly sad. I realized how blessed I am but it is really difficult being back here and knowing the challenges that so many people face in India. 

I am so grateful that I was able to embark on this journey and I look forward to keep sharing my experiences in Nagpur! Thank you so much to the Fr. Smith Fellowship for making this amazing and life change experience possible for me. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

This week I have been truly amazed by two things. First of all, their hospitality. Today Mary and I visited the other centers run by ICID. The first one we visited was a kindergarten. The children were absolutely adorable!  The center also was a place where women in the neighborhood could come and learn to sew and tailor their clothes. Everyone was very excited to have us there and even though they could speak very little English they tried very hard to communicate with us. The women teaching at the center were so kind and brought us tea immediately when we got there. They also gave us some food and water and were constantly asking if we wanted anything else. The second center school for women wanting to learn how to sew and it was also a school where young boys and girls from the area could go to learn Hindi and some English. Two of the girls put on a dance for us and then two boys followed them. All the women showed us the clothes they had been working on and they were so proud of their work. They sang us a song and some of them introduced themselves. After we visited the center, we went to the home of one of the staff members from YuvaJyothi. We were able to meet her husband and we got to see their engagement photos (they recently got married). People from the neighborhood kept entering their tiny home and brought us cookies, chips, and cold drinks. We then went to her mother’s house which was only a couple of feet away and she made us tea.

 Everyone is so friendly and welcoming it has been truly wonderful.They bring us food and make us tea even though they barely have enough for themselves. It is rare to see such kindness from strangers.

I have also been so amazed by how happy people are here. The second center we went to was located in the slums. It was right between a railroad track and a dumping ground and the smell was unbearable. Almost all of the houses were one or two very tiny rooms. The homes we went into had the bedroom, living room, and kitchen all in one room. Witnessing such extreme poverty was overwhelming but also eye opening. I felt like I was in a movie and it still has not fully hit me that people live in those conditions every day of their lives. But despite having so little, everyone I came in contact with today had permanent smiles on their faces and were so genuinely happy. The woman from YuvaJyothi showed us a picture of her dad and of her brother and told us how they both passed away. But even though she has faced so much loss, she still always has a smile on her face. Despite poverty and so many hardships, these people still love so greatly.

This month in India has taught me that happiness really does not come from money or material goods but rather from spending time with family, friends, and even sometimes complete strangers. Happiness is walking out of my room on my birthday and seeing that Mary and the boys made me a poster and put streamers in front of my door. Happiness is watching the boys dance and seeing pure joy and excitement on their faces because they are doing something they love. Happiness comes in the moments you realize that life truly is beautiful when it is spent with family, friends, and people who love you and that you love back. There are so many reasons to be happy and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel half way around the world to help me realize all the wonderful things in my life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More adventures!

Since coming back from our trip, we have been enjoying spending our last week at the center. We are coming home a bit early because of a scheduling issue but we are still so thankful for the time we have been able to spend with the boys at the center.cWe have continued to help decorate the counseling room, which prior to our arrival was a storage room with plain white walls. The room it is covered with arts and crafts work made by the boys and it looks great. We still have a little more to do before the room is completely done but it is really coming along nicely.

On Saturday, Mary and I attended the inaugural mass at the Dominican priory in Nagpur. The mass was held to celebrate the beginning of the school year for the brothers. The mass was in English, which was awesome for us and overall it was a really great ceremony. The only think that was different was the music. They played most of the music on an electric piano and sang half the songs in Hindi and the other half in English. They also take their shoes off before they go into the Church. Afterwards tea, coffee, and some pastries were served and we had the chance to talk to some of the priests and brothers. Everyone was so friendly and eager to know us. I really enjoyed talking to one of the fathers who recently got back from Germany. He told us about how he is fluent in German and has also had the opportunity to study in Rome, Switzerland, and America. His sister currently lives in Washington D.C. and he lived in California for a few years. After the mass, we went to the tailor to pick up our finished saris, which we tried on when we got back to the center. Once we put on our saris we were encouraged to practice our dance in them. The dance is already tough enough for me and Mary so doing it in our saris was almost impossible. The staff at the center loved taking pictures of us in them and kept telling us how beautiful we were, which was so nice.

On Sunday, two of the girls who were staying at the center until they started school (which was yesterday) knocked on our door at 6:30 to help us get ready for mass. They helped us put on our saris, did our hair, and gave us some jewelry. It was like we were playing dress up. We went to 7:30 mass at a local church and the mass was spoken in Hindi. Even though I could not understand what Fr. Herald was saying, I was able to follow bits and pieces of what was going on. After the mass, all the sisters kept telling us they loved the saris and looked beautiful. They were so kind even though we were complete strangers. After mass we ate at the convent where the mass was held. Sunday is a slower day at the center so we mostly hung out and watched t.v. with the boys. We watched the Indian version of So You Think You Can Dance and some Bollywood films, which Mary and I cant get enough of. Most of the movies the boys watch are action films but they always include a little bit of romance. Sunday night, Fr. George and Fr. Lesley took us to the priory for dinner. Prior to dinner we said prayers for about a half an hour. One of the priests was nice enough to share his prayer book with us so we could follow along. The morning prayers at the priory are said in Hindi and the evening prayers are said in English so we got pretty lucky. After we went to a meal prepared by the brothers and priests. They do not have a cook on Sunday so they cook their own meals. The food was great and the conversation was also. Like on Saturday, all the priests and brothers were interested to hear about our trip so far and about America. We also learned a lot about them, which was great. We met one priest from Ireland who had been in Nagpur for the past 45 years. We also learned that a lot of priests from India are sent abroad to study and work because there is a shortage of priests in countries such as Germany and Switzerland. They also told us a little bit about the floods that are going on in the North.

Yesterday Fr. George took us, along with three students and another Friar, Fr. Albert, to Gandhi’s ashram, which was about an hour and a half away from the center. We had an absolutely wonderful time and it was so cool being able to see where Gandhi lived. Everything was so simple and most of it was in its original state. We then went to the museum across the street to learn more about Gandhi. Fr. George was the ultimate tourist (even though this wasn’t the first time he had been) and took pictures in front of everything. He was such a riot and we couldn’t stop laughing at his antics the entire time. After we visited the ashram, we went to lunch at the students’ house. Their mother and grandmother prepared us a delicious meal and were so happy to have us join them. The boy was a wonderful singer and guitar player and after many requests he sang and played us a song in Hindi. Afterwards the two girls showed us a video of them dancing at a Christmas recital. The family was so welcoming and we really had a wonderful time. Check out Mary’s blog to see some of the photos we took!

On Saturday two new boys came to the center. It has been really interesting seeing them adjust to the new environment. I will never forget the sadness on the youngest boy, Adity’s, face the first day he was here. We were taking pictures of each boy to hang in the counseling room and when I told him to smile he couldn’t force one. You can see the sadness in his eyes in the picture we took. Today I was watching him spend time with the boys and he was laughing. The boys here are each others best friends and family. There are about five older boys who act as the boys caretakers and they are their older brothers. They care so much about the younger boys and do everything to make them happy. Even though they are constantly wrestling or fighting over a book, their love for one another is evident. The boys have really welcomed Mary and I into their family. Every morning they greet us with a “Good morning Didi! How are you?” They hold our hands and whenever we are leaving the center to go somewhere they chase our car down the driveway yelling “Bye Didi!” I do not know what most of these boys went through before they got to the center but I know that they have gone through more hardships than I can even imagine. Despite whatever they have experienced, they are such loving, caring, and wonderful boys and most of that is because of YuvaJyothi. The other day Fr. Herald was hanging out with the boys and when he left one of the boys Saket said “Didi that’s my father!” YuvaJyothi is so much more than a place for them to live. It is truly their home. When I saw Adity today, I knew that he was going to be okay and that living here will bring him happiness like it has for all the other boys.

I have to go because there is a Michael Jackson special on VH1. The boys think that Michael Jackson was the greatest man ever so they are insisting on us to come and watch. Check out a video I took of the boys! And yes they are that energetic all the time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Elephant Rides, The Taj Mahal, and Too Much Shopping

Sorry its been a week since I have posted. Mary and I just got back from an absolutely wonderful excursion to Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi. Fr. Herald was able to hire us a travel agent for our trip which was awesome because we would have been completely lost if we were by ourselves. The cities were all so big and filled with so many people it would have been impossible to navigate by ourselves. Also it is obvious that we are foreigners so without our tour guides helping us along the way we would have been scammed multiple times. 

On Monday we woke up at 5:45am because our car was picking us up at 6:00am. We drove to Jaipur from Delhi (where we flew into because we were unable to book a train). The trip was about 5 hours and when we got there we met up with our tour guide Raj. He was really awesome and showed us the best sites in the "Pink City." All the buildings on the main street of Jaipur are pink which is why it is named the "Pink City." It is also the hottest city in India. I love elephants and it has been my dream ever since I found out I was coming to India to ride an elephant. I told Raj that at the beginning of the day and he said that elephant rides are only from 8 to 11 each morning because of the heat but he said he would try to figure out something for us. After we visited Amber Fort I thought our day was over but he said we had one more stop. I was so excited and I couldn't stop smiling the rest of the day. It was everything I imagined and more. Our ride was through a smaller town. All the kids in the town saw us riding by and would come out of their homes and start waving and yelling hello. I felt like I was in a movie it was truly amazing. 

On Tuesday we left at the same time for Agra. Our first stop in Agra was the Taj Mahal which was the most beautiful site I have ever seen. It looked like a painting. We even went inside which seemed like a dream. Our tour guide even informed us that he was in the scene from Slumdog Millionaire at the Taj Mahal which is so so cool. After the Taj Mahal we went to Agra Fort which was stunning as well. 

On our last day, we returned to Delhi which is basically the Washington D.C. of India. We got to learn a lot about Indian politics and government which I loved because I am a political science major. We got to tour the house of Indira Ghandi, the former prime minister of India. Her and her family were basically the Indian version of the Kennedys so I was super excited to learn all about them. We also drove by the parliament building and the Indian Gate. In addition we visited three temples. The first one we went to was the Lotus Temple which was so interesting and beautiful. We were able to go inside and pray for a little which was great. We then went to two Hindu temples which was fascinating. Indian culture and tradition is centered around religion and I really enjoyed seeing how passionate people were about their faith. 

Everyday our tour guide brought us shopping, which was great the first day but by the third day we were a bit sick of it. The tour guides have the same shops they take all the tourists too and right when you walk in the door you are bombarded by salesmen trying to make you buy saris, jewelry, tapestry, wooden elephants, and so much more and they do not take no for an answer. The shopping was pretty overwhelming but we were both able to get some great souvenirs to bring home for our family and friends. 

The weirdest part of our trip was definitely being asked by at least 50 people to take pictures with us. Most of the tourists at the sites were Indian so we were definitely a site to see. People would constantly come up to us and be like one picture and we could never turn them down because we could tell they we were so excited. One family took a picture of each of them shaking our hands. It was so funny. We felt like celebrities. Even when we were sitting down for a quick break during the day people would run over to us and ask for pictures. 

Mary and I are sad that our excursion is over but excited to be back at the center! Here are some pictures of the trip even though they don't do the sites justice!




More Jaipur.

Amber Fort.

The beautiful view from Amber Fort.

Amber Fort mirrors.

More Jaipur.

Mary and I at the Taj Majal!

Dorky tourist pic.

View of the temple next to the Taj Mahal from inside the Taj Mahal.

Agra Fort.

Lotus Temple.

Ghandi's memorial.

A view of Delhi.

Agra Fort. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More pictures

I was trying to upload some pictures and videos I have taken this week with yesterdays post but we were having a lot of technology issues yesterday so here they are!

Our New Roommates

Since our day of relaxation on Sunday, we have had quite the interesting week. We have continued spending all of our time hanging out with the boys and there is never a dull moment with them.

The boys wake up at 5:30 each morning and Mary and I are woken up by them playing outside around 7:30. From 8:00 to lunch at 1:00 the boys have different activities that usually consists of calligraphy class, math lessons, typing class, games both inside and outside, and dance. We try and spend as much time with them as we an in the morning. This morning I was able to sit in on their typing class and me and my friend Vikrant practiced typing in English. I would type a sentence such as My favorite food is ice cream. Then he would type My favorite food is but fill in his answer. We made a table where one column was Vikrant's answers and one column was mine. He was able to learn more English and improve on his typing while I was able to learn more about Vikrant. For instance, his favorite hobby is studying which is not the typical answer you get from a 14 year old boy. I also learned today that he is an incredible drawer. Mary and I were trying to create a craft for the boys to do in the afternoon so we decided to draw pictures and have them rip up tiny pieces of paper which they glued to the drawing to make it colorful. Mary is a fantastic artist and I have zero artistic ability so Vikrant saw I was struggling and helped me out. He drew a beautiful picture of a peacock on a tree with a butterfly in the top corner. Our craft project went very well and we actually got the boys to sit and help us out for almost an hour! We hung the finished products in a room at the center with empty walls. I will take a picture when the wall is all covered. Here is a picture of a few drawing Vikrant gave to me and Mary.

It is a picture of the Taj Mahal and Tinker Bell.

We also had so new roommates this week. Monday morning we woke up to a gecko hanging out on our wall and the next day Mary walked into the room and found another one sitting on her pillow. Today after we finished our craft we came into the room to get water and were welcomed by a bird running back and forth into the wall. I am petrified of most animals so I sprinted out of the room but luckily Mary was the brave soul who kept going in and checking to see if it was gone. Two of the boys also helped us by telling us to turn off the lights and helping us check the room over and over again to make sure it was gone.

The boys continue to put a smile on my face every day. They are so happy playing with legos or kicking around a soccer ball for endless hours. They love flipping through books about dragons and princesses that were donated to the center even though they cannot read a word of the books because they are in English. It is amazing to see them so happy to be doing things so simple. It is such a different way of life than I am used to and it has been really great to be able to step away from the technology and the businesses of life back home and just enjoy spending time with great people.

Tomorrow one of the teachers is going to teach us a traditional Indian dance in the morning which Mary and I are both nervous and very excited for.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

End of the First Week

I cannot believe our first week here is already over. On Wednesday we were able to go to the Nagpur bazaar with one of the woman who works at the school. On our way there we stopped for some gas and people were taking pictures of us at the station. Not many tourists come to Nagpur so we were definitely a site to see! The bazaar at first was overwhelming. There were so many shops and so many people. Thank goodness Angelique was with us because if not Mary and I would not have had any idea where to begin. She was also able to barter with the shop owners to reduce the pricing on some of our clothes. We each got a few traditional indian shirts that we still need to be tailored. In India they match every part of the outfit perfectly. The leggings, scarf, and shirt all have to be color coordinated and each part of the outfit was sold at a different shop. We were also able to each get a sari while we were there. Most of you know that purple is my absolute favorite color so I had to get a purple sari. We are not sure when we will have the chance to wear them but we were both thinking we could to Mass next Sunday (if we figure out how to properly wear them). I also picked up some beautiful earrings and bangles. When we got back from shopping the boys were playing soccer outside so we joined them until dinner time.

Friday, Mary taught another music class and I did an arts and crafts lesson with the kids. We made flowers and although I lost their attention in a few minutes most of the boys made a flower and had a fun time doing so. I spoke to Angelique about other arts and crafts we could do and she wants us to decorate a room upstairs that has plain white walls. Tomorrow we are going to go into the city and get some styrofoam balls to make planets that we can hang up in the room. I am going to make pinwheels with them tomorrow which we will attach to the walls and I have some other fun and easy drawings that they can make. They love playing outside so it is really hard to keep their attention inside for a while so I am trying to come up with interesting and fun activities that they could do.

Fr. Harry has been away since Wednesday and returned last night. It was great to hear about his trip and talk to him about our time thus far. The brothers who were staying here while he was gone left this morning for a retreat but it was so wonderful to spend time with them and learn more about the Indian culture from them. Today is a rest day for the boys. They watched tv most of the morning. We watched an action film with them in Hindi but it was pretty easy to get the gist of what was happening. They were so excited to show us their favorite characters and favorite parts of the movie. We also watched a show similar to So You Think You Can Dance with them.

Thats all I got for right now but ill be sure to update again soon!