I woke up at 4:40 this morning, still all nervous about the orphanage. Ellen, one of the girls who’s been here for awhile was telling us that they don’t want you to give affection to the kids because it ends up causing them more grief when you leave. I guess I understand that perspective, but my main philosophy, and the reason why I wanted to come over here is because I believe that any attachment that these kids form, even if they have to move on from it, will benefit them in the end. Teaching a kid to connect with and trust someone is, I believe, so important to their overall well-being, compared to kids who go through their childhood in an institution without ever forming a bond with anyone. So trying to reconcile my personal beliefs on why I’m here in India vs. what I’ve heard the orphanage wants from me has been keeping me up at night. It’s hard to abandon your mission and chalk it up to cultural differences.
Luckily I didn’t have to do that so much. Annica ended up coming to the orphanage with me because apparently they said they didn’t need her at the Dying and Destitute home anymore. I was happy about this, because I really like her, although there’s a small part of me that wants these kids to be “mine.” I guess I just can’t wait until there’s a kid who’s really mine.
We got in and Lalit, one of the CCS staff introduced us to the head nun and asked her our questions. One was about picking up the children, and to my great relief she smiled (!) and said that the no-holding policy is just for visitors to the orphanage who are passing through. They don’t want someone walking in, grabbing a child, putting them down and moving on. But since we’ll be spending lots of time with the children we’re allowed to treat them the way we’d normally treat a child. I was so thrilled and relieved!
The orphanage itself is big and well-run. The kids are clean and eat nutritious meals. (Their lunch looked delicious!) Supposedly there’s 120 children there but we only saw 15-20. They keep the babies hidden from us because a volunteer tried to snatch one and leave the country a few years ago. They’ve only recently allowed volunteers again. The 4 and 5 year olds go to school every day, so they were getting their uniforms on when we arrived. One boy cried for a good 20 minutes because he didn’t like his shoes! I guess kids will be kids.
We spent the morning with the 1-3 year olds, which was exactly the age range I was hoping for. Most were older 1s – young 2s (crèche age, for the IPS people!) There were a few children who I “loved” right off the bat. It’s hard because I really want to just hold that one or two and really try to bond with them (like Miguel in Guatemala!) but I really can’t here, there are too many. There was one little girl who was so skinny with glasses and an eyepatch. (She looked like a little baby girl version of Aaden from Jon & Kate + 8!) I was immediately in love with her but at first she looked at me and shook her head. Then she warmed up and wanted me to hold her and was kissing my cheek and going “mwah!” So sweet. Most of the kids appeared healthy, although a few had some limb deformities. They were all very adept at getting around, despite their physical differences. The staff basically just left us alone with them and we spun them around, gave piggyback rides, let them look out the window, etc. I was totally in my element and had a great time. It’s going to be so hard to leave them, I know already. I’ve heard that most of these kids get adopted, even the ones with the limb differences, which makes me so happy.
We fed the kids lunch (or tried to while they closed their mouths and ran around – once again, kids will be kids!), swept the floor, and then went home. It was fun and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep without waking up super early in the morning now!
This afternoon I spent a good 2 hours in an auto-rickshaw. What an experience! It’s funny because I’m a nervous car-rider in the US but here everything’s so crazy that you just kind of have to go with the flow. We were supposed to go to a particular market whose name I can’t remember, but when we got there we found it kind of uncomfortable and sketchy. Andrea, one of the girls who’s been here awhile, was with us and I was so happy she was. She knew what was safe and unsafe, what was a good price and when we were being ripped off. She told us to get back in the rickshaw and we went to a place called Central Market (I think?). It was really great and I got a new Indian shirt for work. It’s so beautiful I think I could even wear it at home! They have these basic forms of the shirts (kameez, I believe is the Hindi word) and then they tailor them for you in about 10-15 minutes. We browsed jewelry, scarves, and went to this shoe sale that was total insanity, much like an American shoe sale I suppose.
When we were trying to get our rickshaw back we were by this really creepy store opening with masked clowns and a mime. The mime gave me and Sam balloons on sticks, and we just brought them home because we didn’t know what else to do. I hung mine on the little bulletin board above my bed. Dinner tonight was homemade Indian veggie burgers and the best handmade French fries ever! They call them “finger fries” and they were dusted with Indian spices. Wow. I need to figure out exactly how they make them so I can impress you all at home. After that we watched Arrested Development on my computer. Glorious! Now I need to get some sleep and stop boring everyone with every detail of my life. Things are definitely improving, although there are still twinges of homesickness. My major complaint about India is the dust! When you blow your nose you can tell how much dust you’re breathing in, eww. When I clean my face with my face wipes at night you can actually see brown dirt on them. And on that happy note, I’m off to bed. Love to all!
PS: They have masala Cheetos here! I must try.