Pune, India.

I am tired today. I think the adrenaline of being in India has just started to wear off. The internet cafe nearby has been closed for the past few days and the power outages have been very frequent. I have a lot I want to say, but my brain is a bit fuzzy right now. Still, I don't know when I will be able to access a computer again. :) So here it goes:
We have been in Pune for about a week. While our work with AIC is pretty consistent, every day is so so different. The first few days we were working the morning shift at The Center, doing arts and crafts with the kids and helping teach English. The kids that come in the mornings are all pretty young and know a little bit of English, but most of them are just beginners. Just yesterday we were asked to change times and work with the larger group of kids during the early afternoon shift. There are about 60 or so kids that come from 12-3:30 in the afternoons and they know zero English. Nothing. They speak only Morati and come directly from the slum. They have little to no interaction with foreigners or English-speakers. We have been asked to do art-related activities specifically with these kids as they never get this chance. These kids are very, very eager and in a way more of a handful to work with. We are constantly thinking of new activities for them. Three hours with even a small amount of kids that don't speak even a word of the same language is exhausting. Yet they are also full of so much joy and love and are eager for attention or physical touch from us. It is very humbling to us. And beautiful and wonderful. They are giving us a gift... so much more than anything we could ever give to them.
We continue to spend time with the children who live full-time at the AIC house as often as we can. On Sunday at the kids' request Dom and Gared spent most of the day drawing murals on the walls of the kids' bedrooms of Disney characters (perfect Cinderellas and Snow Whites and Jasmines). Then we spent the afternoon painting them :). It is so interesting spending time at the house where these kids have truly become a family. They speak a mixture of Hindi and English to each other and to the caretakers. They squabble about who won the soccer game in the front yard, they argue and complain about chores and homework, or about which Bollywood movie to watch on a Saturday night. It is so amusing to just watch. I have particularly loved getting to see the dynamics of a Non-profit organization like AIC in action. I very much admire the House director, caretakers, and manager of the Center. Their jobs are 24-7, all-consuming, draining, exhausting. Yet they are each so incredibly dedicated to these kids, to what they do. It is very inspiring to me.
India. It is very hot here. But according to other volunteers, not as hot as it once was. The monsoon should have started weeks ago yet it continues to be dry and hot. We hear that the heat of Pune is nothing compared to Calcutta though--so we are trying to just enjoy it while we can. Everyday we walk down the street to a little restaurant/shop where we have already become regulars. We eat samosas and drink tiny cups of steaming hot chai for breakfast. Breakfast for all three of us costs under a dollar. Maybe a little more if we splurge on something. After our work at the Center we are usually exhausted and pass out for a few hours in our room before getting up again to eat dinner at the AIC house and spend maybe an hour or so with the kids before they scramble off to bed. At night we sometimes cram into a rickshaw and go out for dinner or walk through the crowded streets to get a Pepsi near the market. Sometimes we read in the House...AIC has a huge library...lots of great books about India. Dom has already finished one. I have just recently started The Namesake. I saw the movie on the plane ride over here! SO BEAUTIFUL!! It made me cry. We have made friends with the family living in the apartments across the way from us. We sit out on our balcony at night and yell across to their balcony. They are very amused by us as are many people in this area. Not a lot of Westerners come here we have discovered. There are so many bright colors, so much activity. Nonstop. It makes New York City or anywhere else I have ever been look very mild. I love it here. As exhausting as it can be...there are often moments where I think that I have never felt so alive...as cheezy as that may sound :).
Every experience we have, every person we interact with reminds me of why we are here. We are not here simply to experience or simply to travel...although that is part of it. We are not here simply for adventure. We are not here to spread any kind of faith or religion. We are here simply to love. The people here are so giving, so alive, so full of joy. Everything revolves around community. And we want to be part of that in some way.

Until I find another computer :),


photo of Pune, India from Wikimedia.


Capt. Austin Maness said...

speaking of books and India, have you read The Life of Pi and/or the Bhagavad Ghita?

The Life of Pi is awesomely fun and cool.

The Ghita may give you some more insight into the culture/religion; it was also Ghandi's favorite book.

Capt. Austin Maness said...

... I'm a secret Krishna fan.

Amy said...

The story of what prompted the author of Life of Pi to write it and the affect it had on him is really cool, too. Really interesting.

Oona said...

You are a wonderful person, Lydia :)