As my dad said on his Olympic blog 2 years ago, how sad that I can’t be with the people I love on Valentine’s Day! Luckily I am making nice friends and forging connections with the orphanage kids, so it’s not totally loveless. India, surprisingly, is quite excited about Valentine’s Day! I thought it was a fake American holiday but this is apparently not the case. The coffee shop we’ve been going to is decked out with heart balloons. Today on the way to work when we were stopped in traffic, some guys in red outfits came up to the side of the car. To my surprise, instead of ignoring them, our driver got very excited and rolled down the window. He grinned and posed and they took his picture and handed him an envelope. Inside was a heart-shaped keychain and red booklet with hearts all over. He told us it’s a promotion by a car repair company, and on Valentine’s Day they take pictures of all the drivers with their V-Day keychains and put the best ones in the paper. So funny!
I’m still loving the orphanage. Yesterday was really kind of bittersweet, the child who I referred to as “girl Aaden” (I think her name is Pinki or Pindi or something of the sort) fell asleep in my arms, sucking her thumb and gazing into my eyes. She also planted a big, wet, mouthful of cake (yes, they get cake!) kiss on me. When I first came she shook her head and ran away, so it’s rewarding to see her warming up. It’s hard to love these kids and know that they need that love and at the same time have to leave them and have to guard my heart a little bit.
It’s sometimes hard to watch the caretakers at the orphanage. They’re mostly kind to the children but they think nothing of hitting them, punching them, dragging them around by the collar, while the kids cry in pain. Yesterday the kids were supposed to be sitting under a blanket breathing steam from a humidifier. The first group seemed to like it and sat still for awhile. The second group panicked being under there, and the more they cried, the more the caretakers beat them over the heads. It was so hard to stand there, wanting to go scoop up the children and comfort them, but not being allowed to. Cultural differences are interesting to observe but it’s sometimes a fine line between being able to respect a different school of thinking, and saying “screw tradition, this needs to change.” I don’t think the kids are abused, but it gets pretty close sometimes. It’s interesting because I’ve noticed that the kids model the hitting on each other. They mimic the caretakers’ motions, the little wag of the hand before the big smack. And these are 1-2 year olds! At the same time, the caregivers do hold the kids on their laps sometimes, so it’s not like they only get hit and receive no affection.
Today at work was a bit odd, because there were about 10 caregivers in the room with us and the 10 or so children. The other days, they had left us alone with them. This made it awkward because we didn’t feel like we could really be goofy and swing the kids around, give them piggyback rides, etc. We had been holding the kids up to the window a lot and they loved to see the sunshine. They could have stayed up there for hours. The nuns told us today we’re not allowed to do this because the kids will then find a way to climb up there themselves when they’re not being supervised. Sad, but understandable, I suppose. I’m worried when they watch me because I think I’ll do something else wrong. I hate being in trouble! Today Pindi/Pinki/whatever her name is was laying in my lap and grabbed my scarf and put it over her face. I picked it up and said “Peekaboo!” and she joined in saying something like “Beekabee!” It was super cute and she even started doing it to her Winnie the Pooh toy (for some reason they have no toys except literally hundreds of Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals. They line them all up on a whole wall of built-in shelves.) But then I looked around and realized that the caregivers were picking lice out of all the other kids’ hair. Eww! My scarf must now be lice-infested. Must wash in very hot water. Does anyone know how long lice can live outside of hair?
My roommate Shannon was sick to her stomach all last night and now I feel like I may be getting sick. I feel like after I eat I feel like I want to throw up for an hour or so. I’m thinking I just need to eat very little and sleep a lot until hopefully it goes away. Cross your fingers for me! We’re supposed to go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal this weekend and I’d be so crushed to miss it.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all! A picture of me in salwar kameez (don’t laugh too much) and a couple more V-Day pictures to follow.