Friday, November 03, 2006


It has been many days since i have blogged or written anything, and for this i apologize. i antagonize you all to read, to check for updates and leave comments, and for over 10 days i have posted nothing. there has been so much going on, and i have experienced so much in the mean time. i havent had the chance or space to write b/c i have had the stress of impending academic deadlines and departure dates bogging me down. it is nov 3rd today, and i leave india in 9 days. i arrived with my group early the morning of nov 1 in chakkibank at 3 am. It was the closest train station to dharamsala, and we mercifully took taxis from there straight to McLeod Ganj. It was a three huor long drive, where i got to talk about music with mike and watch the sun rise over the himilayas while nikki and alex slept. i dunno if it was because teh trainride from rishikesh was so peaceful and i got sleep, or if i was just excited about traveling to McLeod, but i was hyper and wired. Everythign was exciting and new.

we left Rishikesh on Halloween, but celebrated witht he wonderful children at Ramana's Garden a day earlier. we had a big hallweoen dance party for them where we all dressed up; i was ali baba!! i told the halloween story to the kids, which they seemed to enjoy. hardly anyone in india knows what halloween is, so we had to steer clear of most of the scary stuff. couldnt have a haunted house or be monsters b/c it might really scare the kids. jaime & i carved jackolanterns and then were forced to attempt making a dessert off the cuff with the pumpkin filling. it became a bread like pumpkin cake that wasnt so tasty. But we had fun making it. the kids in the kitchen were a bunch of clowns who we spent the whole afternoon joking with. we made a pinata out of a clay pot and the kids wore the masks they spent the previous afternoons making. we had fun dancing around with the kids; dwaba had warned us that dancing was "not possible" without our involvement as well, otherwise the children would become nuts. we laughed at this, both at the suggestion that we wouldnt dance and the idea that the kids would turn the dome (the geometric space that most large community events happened in) into a mosh pit. i didnt think it was as funny when i spent a chunk of that part of the night pulling kids off of the floor, off of jumping on each other and stopping general hitting, pushing, punching and shoving. the whole night was exhuasting but fulfilling. every night at the orphanage, they have SatSong, when they all come together and sing mostly hindu prayers but also english kids songs (i.e. if you're happy and you know it). i taught them "ride that pony" which is a fun game that i learned in City Year, and they loved it. basically, everyone stands in a big circle and claps and sings "ride ride ride that pony" 3x followed by "this is how we do it" while one person dances/gallops around the circle, riding an imaginary pony, until the next line, which is "front to front to front, my baby, side to side to side, my baby, back to back to back my baby, this is how we do it!" the galloping person in the center then picks someone in the circle to gallop up to and follow the instructions sang by the rest of the group. once they get to the 'this is how we do it!" the people switch places and it continues. it is ehuasting, especially for the adults leading it, but it is a fun game. the kids loved it! i felt all warm and fuzzy inside when the day after the halloween party at recess the older gurls were all playing ride that pony together. they got all the steps right too! the first night i taught it to them at SatSong, they didnt follow the instructions, they all just rubbed their bums together and riggled around laughing. it was hilarious but bemusing.

i was glad that i could share somethign that brought laughter and fun to the chilrdren with them. their stories are heart braeking and suffocating. one boy was found at the bottom of a pile of his family after they had been burned alive. another boy, nicknamed lucky, got the name b/c his family was sleeping by the side of the road and a truck ran over his whole family; he was the only one to survive. pinki, a quiet, shy and adorable little gurl somehere aroung the age of 5 (we have no way of knowing)had been at the orphanage for a little over a month. she almost never spoke and simply smiled in response to being spoken to. she has a lazy eye that on closer inspection is blind. at first, i thoguth she was deaf. i spoke to her in hindi, asking what her name was, how she was doing, telling her she looked beautiful, and there was not a spark or recognition, acknowledgment or understanding in her face. i asked her repeatedly, and much slower, what her name was. eventually she whispered "pinki" so quietly i couldnt be sure what she said. i heard other kids call her pinki though, so thats what we all said too. her name isnt pinki. they have no idea what her name is. she spends most of her time there confused about her surroundings and circumstance. we dont know if she knows much hindi at all, and apparently, her parents are dead b/c they killed each other (or a murder suicide, which makes more sense) and she wandered the streets on her own for some time. her eye is messed up b/c she was beaten by other street children. she was found, beaten, on the steps of some shop. the shop owner took her to the police and the police brought her to ramanas.

the thing that makes these horrific things stand out even more is that when you play or talk with the children, you would never know. they are mischivous handfuls and for the most part seem like normal children, untouched by life's creulty. it is easy to forget or not even know that these kids are getting the opportunity to live, love and learn a new life at ramanas. the outside world is a dangerous place for them, but they never seem afraid, traumatized or even sad. they laugh, smile, play and pull us all into their hugs, arms, and hearts. remembering them makes me sad. none of us wanted to leave there. i felt like i had finally gotten used to the way there was absolutly no schedule at ramanas; i had started to make connections and was building relationships with the children. i want to spend so much more time there in my life. they need the support, and i need to see them again. i am invested and in love. they are beautiful, with their scabbed knees, wide smiles and tattered clothes. at first i held off getting to know them because i thought it would be too much for me. i was afraid the reality of their situation would take over our present and make me unable to deal with them. they were fascinated by me. everywhere i walked, i heard squeals of "Hindi!!! Hindi!!!" followed by "Are you Indian?" it annoyed me quite a bit for some time. i was past the point of thinking it was cute to have to explain myself 50x a day. eventually the kids started remembering the info i told them and that would answer the questions that followed me around the compound. things got easier after that.

last sunday we went to the cinema with the kids and saw my first bollywood movie on the big screen. we saw jaan-e-maan, a love triangle comedy starring salman khan (with muscles so big they kept trying to escape his euro-trash styled shirts), akshay kumar (as the lovable nerd genius turned cool guy) and preity zinta, the object of their affection and competition. it was set in manhattan and made me miss home SOO MUCH. it was hilarious though, b/c while the outside treatments were shot in nyc, the inside shots were done in india (we could tell from the indian 3 prong outlets on the walls on set) and in any scenes featuring white people or non indians, all the extras had australian accents. EVERY SINGLE ONE. lol! We ate Lays spanish tango chips
(delicious tomato flavored, slightly spicy chips that are thankfully not sold in the US, b/c i would become obese) during the whole movie and threw crumbs at mike's head. loads of fun.

this is such a paltry entry, especially when there is so much to cover... but it is late. i must go back through the dark streets to our guest house, sleep, and get ready for a day of no b.s. and just getting my work done. maybe i'll be able to blog during one of my breaks. love you all!


Frick said...

YES! Word from you :) Your experience at the orphanage sounds amazing and exhausting. You're descriptions of them forumlate a picture in my mind and my heart goes out to them. I cannot way till those 8 days are up, because then I'll be thatmuch closer to seeing you and talking to you! Luv ya and stay safe.

Juan said...

Wow, this entry is just amazing. There is so much here to go over and imagine. The description of the kids and their lives is heart wrenching. I can picture the things I've seen in DR and have that as a point of reference, but I don't think I can imagine those children having suffered the way the children in that orphanage have. It's a testament to innocence and the human spirit that the children laugh and play the way they do. They all deserve so much after having gone through things that no one, let alone a child, should go through.

Love, Shreen! said...

hi honey!!!
i hope you can go back to the orphanage one day, maybe make a documentary like that one we watched about the kids in the red lite district that were taking photos. Kiss and hug all the kids as much as you can before you leave, you dont know how long that affection will keep them warm at night. i love and miss you and cannot wait to see you. its selfish i know, but this departure atleast promises a returned trip to india, and in the spring you can bring peanut butter and some of the other travelables that youve bin craving. LOVE AND MISS YOU LOTS!!
ps. have u heard that faru anti and kids are coming to thanksgiving with us? maybe even ami jan and baba. also, are u allowed to make calls wen ur bac in Cali? hope to hear from you soon!