Monday, July 20, 2009

Home Sweet Home

This morning I woke up not to the sound of children screaming as they played tagged on the school grounds, but to the sound of my mothers heels clicking as she prepared for work. Today I woke up in all felt so different. My big sister (Lipi) wasn't knocking on my door to bring me tea, so it was only right for me to go downstairs and prepare tea for my brothers and myself. It was the first time that they had had raw tea and I prepared just as Lipi would for me along with some chana chur (one of my favorite Indian snacks)...they loved it.
My last days at the Academy were some of the hardest. I did not want to deal with the reality of leaving. I had a surprise for the hostel children and the family that took me in as their own. I made and presented them all with friendship bracelets, because they were like family, friends, and students all in one. They made my time there comforting and enjoyable. My last night there, there was no current so I sat in a circle with the children and we all shared songs, they laughed and asked me again and again to sing at least 2 American songs and I felt so shy around them, but it all was a good time. It is unexplainable how much I will miss them.

On the last day, Lipi and Monika came in the room and sat with me as my face grew longer and longer when the time got closer for me to leave. They helped me pack and made sure I didn't forget anything. Uttam's father asked me to come back and I will never forget the smile that grew on his face when I told him that I would. Uttam brought me all of my favorite sweets to eat before I left and I just felt so sad. As the children helped me bring my bags to the car, I knew it was goodbye...I couldn't look them in the eyes because the very sight of their smiling faces made me cry. Then I looked over at my big sister and saw her eyes tearing up, I couldnt hold it in any longer. I cried as I waved goodbye over and over and closed the door. I cried all the way to the airport (thank God Uttam didnt have a camera :). When I got to the airport, it was worse, I was saying goodbye to Uttam, the overprotective, caring, determined big brother that I never had. I had to say goodbye to Guwahati for now. It was really hard to accept that I was leaving my family back at the Academy, on the plane as I looked through the pictures I began to cry again, the guy next to me asked if I was missing my boyfriend. I told him I am missing my brothers and sisters and he responded with "How many do you have?" "20," I said so smoothly...he gave me a look like what are your parents up to???? But then I told him, 3 at home in America that I've missed for the past 2 months and 17 that I am leaving behind in Guwahati.
I had major flight problems, each of the flights that I had were either cancelled or delayed. The flight from Guwahati to Bangalore had to stay in Kolkata for 3 hours because the city declared a bandh and passengers could not make it to the airport, I had to spend a night in Bangalore because the plane heading to london had defective parts and could not take off, and I could not get a flight into Baltimore unless I wanted to stay in London an extra day (which would have been nice but I really just wanted to be home), so I had to fly into Dulles airport. I began traveling at 2pm on Friday (india time) and did not reach home until about 10pm Sunday night (Baltimore time...which is 8am Indian time). I was extremely tired of traveling, but I could not control my smile as I saw my mother get out of her truck to hug me. I was so happy to see her, and even though when I am away at school it's normally about 2 months between my visits home, this time felt different...I felt new and refreshed. I was so happy to see my family, to be home with felt different but great none the less.
Today I am spending the day with my little brothers, amazingly we havent argued since I have been home. It was soo good to talk to them until 1 in the mornign about some of my experiences in India. I told them, this is only the beginning for me...we will many more conversations like this.
I have a couple more posts!!! Will post soon!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The last full day

Yesterday morning when I had to get up early to wash all my clothes I realized that I am actually leaving here tomorrow. As I scramble around to finish up some things that I have been working it makes me sad that I am leaving. While I was in my room packing yesterday, Lipi came in and told me not to go....she told me to come back and stay for at least 6 months, America is expensive anyway. It made me smile to know that I have grown close to this family in my short stay. Uttam is constantly trying to catch me crying so that he can take a picture of me lol, I guess he will use it as blackmail.
Yesterday the sun scorched the village, a pair of jeans that I handwashed dried in one hour, sad but true. There was a wedding in the village so I got to attend another wedding. Again the food was amazing and the bride looked so beautiful. All the little children were running around playing tag while the adults sat and talked. Reminded me of all the weddings and cookouts I attend at home. After the wedding I went souvenir shopping and being at the outdoor market made me realize how much Assamese I can understand and semi-speak now. I did pretty good on my own, and even managed to do some bargaining on alreadt dirt cheap prices. Lipi's parents prepared dinner for me before I left and after two whole months, Lipi's brother finally removed his shyness and had a conversation with me. All these things are just a reminder that I have to leave here. Of course i want to go home, but in a way this is like a home to me. The children, the family, the villagers, the food lol. Na ligay Jaboh....I dont want to go :(
The good thing is that the children are back to classes today!!!! And I will be able to do the first aid workshop with the teachers. Today will be a good day, my last full day in Assam.

My trip with Biju bidu

In the tea garden with Biju

Me with Amal...the young boy I met in the village

This little boy insisted on being in every picture that I took lol

At a village meeting



These little worms and their cocoons give way to the most beautiful silk

Just some scenery

Some new pictures

Getting ready to go to a wedding with Lipi

The older boys are making a small garden for the Academy!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Smiles :)

I must say that my mouth hurts from smiling so much. It hasn't been the usual, I am smiling at you because you are staring at me smile, but the genuine smile that I get when I feel happy inside. Even in the midst of awkward silence at the beginning of the week, there were things that made me grin continuously.
The students are still on their summer vacation and half of the hostel students are still gone but I have been enjoying my time with the hostel students that are here and the occasional visit from some of the 9th graders. The hostel children have really opened up to me, the other night we danced together and we just could not stop laughing the entire time. They were excited to see my moves to the different bollywood songs and even though I was just joking around they seemed to be enjoying it. We watch Hindi soap operas together and they laugh at me as I shake my head in shame at the overly dramatic scenes. They are like my younger sisters and brothers, they help me when I need it, giggle when they see me all dressed up in a sari, and desperately question me when I am going somewhere. The thought of leaving them makes me really sad, but when I can smile with them, I know that they are happy that I am here and I should just enjoy the time that I have with them.
I had the pleasure of spending this weekend with Biju Borbaruah the founder of the Asha Darshan Trust. She is truly an amazing and dynamic person. I was able to travel close to the Bhutan-Indian border to see her work that she does with women. On Monday, I was able to travel deep into the villages with her as she did some social work with the families there. It was an awesome experience, the culture that was present in the villages was like none other. The village children were sooo cute, they all saw that I was taking pictures so they became little models posing and such. I met one little boy in the village that i will never forget. I was sitting in silence as Biju carried out her meeting when I heard someone speaking to me in English. I turned to see the cutest little boy asking me what my name was. As we conversed, he told me that his health is bad, a physical disability, but that he really wants to be a doctor when he grows older and wants to come to America to receive his college degree. At only 15 years old, this little boy had been through so much and still remains positive. The place was absolutely beautiful, the scenery, the mountains, the water, the tea gardens...but most of all the stars. Because this place is not near any cities, mostly open land with no electricity, the stars at night were amazing. Each night that I was there I spent at least 2 hours gazing in awe. Never had I seen anything like it outside of a national geographic book. The clear skies gave way to an endless amount of stars with the occasional sight of distant lightening flashes. I honestly couldn't keep my mouth closed at the sight, that is until I realized how many bugs were outside. Because Biju knew a government official, I was able to see the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. It was a good experience overall. Biju has inspired me to take some of my dreams and make them reality. At such a young age she has accomplished so much with her organization and has joined forces with others.
There was a road bandh in the state of Assam that delayed my returned to the Academy. But when I got back, it truly felt good to be home. All the children smiled as I walked to my room, and I was very happy to see that 2 of the hostel girls had returned from home. Lipi asked me to come with her to two weddings and wedding parties. I was really excited, I got to dress up in my sari and put on makeup to go to my first Indian wedding!! I really had a good time at the weddings and the parties and the food was delicious. It was really cool to see the brilliant colors of the wedding...the decorations, the bride's clothing, the flowers. I had a great time!!!

I have to go now....will post again tonight!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Yesterday (my time) was my younger brother Trevor's birthday. Since I was not able to use the computer to tell him before his bed time I wanted to give him a special bday wish on my blog...

Yesterday was a pretty rough day. The subtle issue with respect that I was having reached an uncomfortable limit. Since being in India, I have dealt with people assuming that because I am from America that I am a bit slow or lack knowledge of common realities and because I am a woman it has been insinuated that I am generally incapable of being an independent human being. Because I am here alone, now that Promona has gone, these issues have began to rise again. It is assumed that i have lived the "sheltered American life" and in no way can adjust to the realities of the Indian lifestyle. In coming to India, I took full responsibility and made the choice of being on my own in a trouble torn state and coming to help the children. If my voice is heard when I am standing in front of the children or doing anything that is related to the children, then it not be questioned when I make a general statement or ask a simple question. While usually I can ignore these small things and continue with my day, I unintentionally allowed it to get to me.
But like all good things must come to an end, so must all bad things. I was able to spend the day with a woman that I met earlier in my stay here at Parijat. We engaged in great conversation. We talked about child labor in India and she explained to me her experiences with it. While many will say that it is wrong, a lot of people keep children in their homes to make sure they stay off of the streets and properly educate them. But then there are parents that want the child to make money for them, so if a person says that they will educate the child, then the parent will not allow them to stay and instead take them somewhere where they will be able to work and earn money. It is a vicious cycle, parents instill the thought of money in the child's mind and the children have no desire to learn, or to do anything besides work for a living. It was a very interesting and heartbreaking conversation. Even when people try so hard to help the children in these conditions, there is not much that can effectively be done.
The older students came yesterday for a quiz competition, like a Jeopardy sort of thing. It was all in fun and the children really enjoyed themselves, especially the charades category...even I enjoyed that part. They stayed for a couple of hours and answered Assamese history, traditional songs, and geography questions. Even though I could not understand much of what was said, I really enjoyed the competition.
I can't believe that Micheal Jackson is actually gone. Since I haven't been in America, I don't think that it had sat in until last night. I let the hostel children watch the thriller video on my iPod and told them that it was Michael Jackson. They had no idea who he was!! It saddened me to know that the children hadn't been exposed to such a great music icon. They really enjoyed the video and asked to see it again. It was then that I realized that Michael was actually gone, that his music will not be able to reach new generations.

I have to get ready to go now...but I will post soon!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Was I really feeling homesick?

When Saturday began, I was pleased with the sunlight, it seemed like ages since I had seen a blue sky. I woke early to wash the load of clothes that I had been putting off for a week and when I finished, I was looking forward to doing something with the hostel children. Uttam made the children vacation from the 1st of July to the 14th, and because of that, two the hostel students came and asked him if they could go back to their homes. Then, I saw a few more of them packing, they were leaving me...all alone. Half of the hostel students left for home and as they waved, I realized that I desperately wanted to go with them. After the children had left, Lipi, the only female here close to my age, also decided that she wanted to leave and stay at her mother's house for a week. I couldn't believe how teary eyed I was getting. I wanted to go home too. There are no school students, no hostel students, no one to talk to that can actually relate to what I am saying, which meant that there was absolutely nothing for me to do. The feeling inside was weird. Often I have nothing to do, I mean I go to school in Maine but when there is nothing for me to do at school, I have my friends to do absolutely nothing with, at least we can engage in some type of conversation. But on Saturday, I felt like there was no one there and to top it off, there was nothing to do. It was a very uncomfortable feeling and I did not feel like being bothered. I just went in my room and slept until dinner, ate, then slept until the next morning.

On Sunday I woke to blistering heat with no current, which is always a signal for me to just go back to sleep (sad but true). I felt like a small child as I asked Uttam, what is there to do today , and even more like a small child when he told me we were going to the zoo. I quickly wrapped my sari and was excited about leaving the house, the two older boys from the hostel, Sankar and Nabakanta also went. More so than going to the zoo, I was excited about the hostel boys being able to come along. They are really polite young gentlemen and they way they smiled when we were out was unlike the other smiles I have seen come from them. I could tell that they were really enjoying their time away from the hostel. We all had a great time and took some pictures which are posted now. I even had this snack called chaat for the first is like a smorgasbord of things that doesn't seem like it will taste good together and looks disgusting but tastes wonderful.

Although the children are on their summer vacations, some of them have been coming just for a couple of hours to do some activities. This morning, I took over the group of children that came. I decided to do a short grammar lesson. I felt pretty bad making them do work during their vacation but the group of 17 children really enjoyed learning vowel sounds and understanding English punctuation. I could even hear them saying the sounds once the class was over. After the grammar lesson, I let the children paint portraits of each other, it was fun and peaceful. The children really enjoy art and they are excellent artists. After the class, I watched a couple of movies with the hostel students and then I had some more clientele for hair cutting. A very simple day, but full of fun spent with the children... who knows what tomorrow may bring. Will post soon!!

A trip to the zoo

A Sunday trip to the zoo with Sankar and Nabakanta

The wild deer!!!

India's famous one horned rhino

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'd rather call it liquid sunshine

This morning I woke up to all the hostel girls coming in my room to make sure I was feeling better. I instantly knew that today was going to be a much better day. I peeked out of the window and saw that it was raining cats and dogs outside but it didn't matter because I was ready to get out of my room. The fever has gone away so I am functioning at a much more normal pace than I was yesterday. In preparing for the day, I noticed that I didn't hear the sound of the school children playing before the morning assembly. When I left my room to check, there was no children running, or giggling as they saw me in my nightie and my hair standing on top of my head. I was then told that the students and the teachers are taking a break so that the teachers could grade the half yearly exams by the 16th and I'm sure the weather played some factor. A small group of students did come, when I walked into the classroom I saw a group of smiling children; some of them I hadn't seen since the half yearly exams begun. They were all dressed in their normal clothes, rolled up jeans and frizzy hair from the rain, everyone was just laid back. I was greeted with an abnormally loud "good morning Maam" (the Maam I absolutely detest) as I coughed and croaked good morning back I thought "Yes, they are as excited to see me as I am to see them." In class, I sat as Uttam explained to them that they will have summer vacation until July 8th so that the teachers could finish grading the written exams in order to meet an important deadline....Of course, my poor little heart was shattered. That meant another week that I will not be able to teach the children. I tried not to think about it as I sat through the class. Uttam then shared with me that he wants to organize a cultural festival where the children get to perform their different traditional tribal dances and songs etc. at the school on the last day of their summer vacation. I am very excited to see what the children are going to perform, who knows, I may even join them in a Bihu dance or two. Class was more like fun today, we played sudoku, and learned Indian geography. Sankar, one of the hostel boys really impressed me with his knowledge of the Indian states. He was the only one in the entire group that knew all of the states by location, he will definitely be getting an award from me.
Because this was a semi free day for the children, the class ended at about 1 and I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my day. The voltage in the current was very low and I found out when using my computer that it causes electrocution so I quickly put my computer away...I have had my share of electric shocks since I have been here. The hostel children were all grinning as if they had something desperately to ask me but just couldn't muster up the strength to do so. Lipi, Uttam's sister in law, broke the ice and told me that Monika, one of the hostel girls, wanted a hair cut. I couple of weeks back I cut my hair because it was too hot and once they saw that I could cut hair and I explained to them that I had been working in a hair salon since I was 14, they wanted me to cut their hair as well. One by one the hostel girls lined up at my door to receive haircuts. I was cutting off this beautiful long hair that people in America pay to to have. The girls were all so ecstatic, and so was I. Its been so long since I've had "clientele" and to see the girls smile and swing their hair as they walked away just made it pure fun.
The day ended with a bee sting, Bihu and Karbi dances from the younger hostel girls and boys, as well as an awesome comedy performance from the hostel boys. (I had to throw the bee sting in there, I HATE bees.) Oh yeah as well as with fried fish, fried potatoes, greens, and rice...a good ol' home style dinner with an Indian twist. I sat to think about what I would do since I wouldn't be teaching and I realized, that their is so much here for me to do. Even in just giving the hostel children haircuts, I granted them with something that they don't receive often. I understood prior to coming that things would not always go as planned, so just because I am not teaching doesn't mean my purpose here is null. Smiles and thank yous from the students and Uttam have let me know that the small contributions that I have given make a difference here at the academy and that makes me smile and say thank you as well for allowing me to come and take part in their lives. My mother would always thank God for liquid sunshine whenever it is raining, and today I thought of her as I thanked Him for it too. Even on a dull rainy day, I had an amazing time with the children, I am feeling much better, and I had the time to think of alternative things to do with the children. The rain seems dreary on the outside but the blessings throughout the day makes it nothing more than wet sunshine!!!!

Some things just stick to you

Yesterday there were visitors that came from the Rotary Club. While visitors come to the Academy frequently, I will never forget this one in particular. The normal conversation was held..."How do you feel here in Guwahati? How do you like the food?" Then he asked the big question, "How are you adjusting with the language barrier?" But instead of commenting on how hard it must be for me like everyone else has done, he simply said "Children understand the language of the heart, you have nothing to worry about." I will never forget his words, it was the first time in a long time that I felt like someone actually understood what I came here to do. Prior to coming, I knew that the children spoke little to no English, I knew that they have never had a volunteer come and teach them, and still I chose to come and help. Those were just small obstacles I knew that I would encounter so I mentally prepared myself for a mutual learning experience. And I must say, there are no complaints on this end, my time here has been awesome.
On Monday, the weather took a rainy change. It has rained all day every day since Monday morning, which can be semi depressing. I enjoy letting the hostel children watch dvds on my laptop when the weather is like this. They looove to watch movies. The other night, I sat with Uttam, Lipi, and the hostel students as they had a nightly meeting. It was the cutest thing ever. The main cause for the meeting was to allow the children to name the cows that Uttam's family owns, but that never happened. Instead they all talked about how their studies have improved, how their garden vegetables are growing, they discussed who would share which duties in the coming week..etc.
I guess the anticipation of getting back into the classroom really got to me. Either that, or the drastic change in weather. This morning I woke up with a high fever, a runny nose, and a cough that sounds horrible. Needless to say, I stayed in the bed all day and I didn't get to teach the children or hold the First-Aid workshop today. It is good to know that at times like these, Uttam and his family and even the hostel students are here for me. While I was in the bed today, three of the hostel girls Kalpana, Nomali, and Deepa brought me three hand-stitched hankys that they had made for me, it really meant a lot.
Its late and hopefully I will be feeling better in the morning. Will Post Soon!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Just a quick update

Sunday night was the first night in a long time that I have been able to enjoy the night sky. Now that moon has finished playing its almost to week long game of hide and seek, and because the current was out for the most part of yesterday, I was able to see the sky lit with stars with a strong light from the crescent moon. The view made me realize how much I will miss the Indian night sky when I depart in less than three weeks.
Friday, I cried for the first time since I left America. Promona left on Saturday, so the hostel students and the teachers presented us with traditional Assamese gifts. I understood that it was not time for me to leave, but I was emotionally reminded that I will be leaving a group of children that I have grown very close to over the past month. The children laughed as my eyes became teary...
Saturday Promona left, while it was sad to see her leave, I know that my journey must continue. It will be a little harder now that I do not have someone to translate for me, or explain things to me, etc. but that is all a part of my experience. I have become comfortable enough here to deal with the hardships on my own, I was just a little spoiled while Promona was here. I am continuing with some of the projects that were put on hold while Promona was here. I wanted to do art in particular with the hostel children, but Promona came to do art in general so I put some of the art related things that I had in mind on hold to allow her to complete her art teachings. The students will be done taking their exams on Tuesday and I am really excited about teaching them again. I am going to make the best out of the last bit of time that I have with them.
I have planned a workshop for the teachers to all learn about the items in the first aid kit so that they can treat the children in case of an emergency. I am anxious to participate in this workshop because so many accidents and mishaps have happened only in my short time being here, and it is crucial that the teachers know how to handle these situations after I leave. After having the workshop with the teachers, I will have the same workshop with the 9th grade students. If there is not an adult present in the case of an emergency, the older children should know what to do as well. The grade 9 students will also design the actual first aid box that will be kept in the office. I am hoping that this will all go well come the middle of the week.
Remember that picture that I put up of me getting the mahendi during the Ambubashi mela...well that very picture is what landed me in the hospital on Saturday. Because I decided to get the henna tattoo done with the stamp, I risked having an allergic/hypersensitive reaction to the combination of the metal/henna powder. My skin burned and became highly irritated, and I was afraid that it had gotten infected. Fortunately, after my trip to the hospital, I was told that it was not an infection, but merely an allergic reaction. I must say that it wasn't the best doctors visit that I have had. The doctor was very rude and did not want to give me any information before he had decided that I needed 2 injections. I had only asked what was the diagnosis and he acted as if he did not have the time to explain it to me, as a matter of fact that is what he said. Needless to say, I waited for an explanation and received the two injections along with a prescription and a " If this doesn't work, then find a dermatologist." Everything is fine now and my arm is healing well.
Yesterday it rained all day, and I woke up this morning with the same scenery. It has not been raining like it should be. I am happy because with the rain comes a nice, and much needed, cool down. I have visitors coming so I don't have time to write, but I will post again tonight!!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Saying goodbye to Shillong :(

The school children in their prep clothes

A market in Shillong City

Elephant falls

More Elephant Falls

Shillong Peak

Promona fighting with her broken umbrella

Gorgeous view of Shillong

Juicy pineapple on our way to Shillong