Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Home again Home again

I am in currently Seva Kendra Calcutta. I left Raiganj last night around 6:30pm. I leave in 17 hours. Then 36 hours later I will arrive in Boise. Home.

I had no idea that leaving would feel like this. It isn't the sad, crying leaving when you know you will return. It is a sort of emptiness right below my heart, that burns in my throat. I will come back, but who knows when and how. These are the worst kind of goodbyes.

Pray for my safe travel. I will be home soon, sending love.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Another day at Bishrail. The pace here is such that even the busiest of persons would be forced to relax. Luckily I am thoroughly enjoying this, and not fighting against it. This morning I attended mass at the girls hostel with all of the children. Mass was in English, and I was so grateful to be able to understand the readings. The kids sang a welcome song for Puthumai and me, and we were presented with marigolds. The kids are very sweet, and this is the first place I have been where the children call me m’am or miss, instead of sister. Then we had breakfast and the Fathers who live here all went off to work. Puthumai had some work, so I spent the morning lazily reading, and helping Puthumai with his work. He taught me some of Microsoft Acess, which was interesting. Then we took a walk through the village and spoke about social, political and economic conditions in India. I always enjoy these conversations, as they are intellectually stimulating and I think will help prepare me for the class I am required to take upon my return. Then was some more work, and then lunch. After lunch everyone takes rest, and although I can’t sleep in the middle of the day, I enjoy reading during this time. After a while I went out a played on the playground equipment (I couldn’t go to the school today because the students are taking their exams). Then the Sisters called us for tea. They had made special tiffin, a round ball like food made of rice powder with coconut inside. It was really good, and we all had a nice time chatting and enjoying tea. Puthumai and I took a short walk after tiffin, exploring more of the village area and speaking about development. Then it was time for the evening news and television. Dinner came quickly, and the fish was delicious. I am still not very good at removing fish bones, but I have been able to find pieces that have less bones, and I really enjoy those pieces.
There are also very small baby kittens here, and I enjoy checking on then throughout the day. They only opened their eyes a day or two ago and they are tiny! Their mother does not like me very much, but when she is away the little ones let me hold them and curl up into my hand. It is very sweet. The Sisters have baby bunnies, and they are even smaller than the kittens, with their cute tiny bunny ears and their little eyes, which aren’t even open yet.
More than anything I find myself very present in each moment, realizing that one week is as long as you make it. I keep thinking, one week, one week is so short, one week is going to go by so fast. But then I thought about spending spring break at home, or going to Illinois for the wedding, both of those trips will only be about one week, and I am hoping that they will last a long time. So, time is what you make of it, and right now I am cherishing every moment, living presently in the joy of my Indian life.
Sending love.
PS. I am in Raiganj for the day, finishing last minute errands, getting mehndi, and stopping in on a community based disaster preparedness meeting. Tomorrow I will be back to the village, then at DDC. So this might really be the last post from me. *But that could be a lie, who knows 


I will leave in exactly one week and 6 hours. Thinking back to one week before I left for Raiganj, I can remember being frantic, nervous, and expectant. Strangely, I am none of those things right now. I don’t know if my time her has allowed another piece of my personality to blossom or if this is an Indian trait I have developed, but I do feel as though I have a newly acquired sense of ease in previously frenzied times. I am enjoying my days here, enjoying the moments, and not in the least bit expectant for being home in America. That’s not to say that I don’t want to go home, ideally I would like to be in more than one place at once. But since that’s not possible I would like to enjoy each place I am in to its fullest. Which means that I don’t want to spend my last days here waiting to be somewhere else. In this moment, I couldn’t be happier to be exactly where I am.
Exactly where I am, I am in Bishrail with Puthumai(previously misspelled Bisreal). I am staying at a parish with three very kind and welcoming Fathers. There is a parish, and English medium school, a convent, a girls hostel and a boys hostel.
We left this morning after my English class celebration, which was wonderful. The four girls came, even though today is a holiday, and we had snacks and sweets and just chatted. Both parties expressed gratitude, and I was most excited to find out that they are planning on seeing me off at the train station. I can’t express how touched I am by this gesture. They also presented me with gifts today. Yesterday Shanawaz gave me a very nice agenda, and today Pritikana gave me a photograph (long story on where the photo is from, you see apparently someone took the photo for her husbands work, because I am standing in the background of a program. Then she saw the picture and though that I would be surprised to see it, so she printed it and brought it for me), Mutumita gave me a really beautiful wall hanging of the goddess Kali, and Susmita gave me a very nice bracelet. I presented their certificates (which I have to fix, because I didn’t write their surnames) and we all wished each other a happy holi (the color throwing holiday that happened today). The students have been so wonderful to me during my time here, and are probably a large reason that I began to accept and adjust to Indian life.
Then Puthumai and I left with one of the staff members from S. Dinajpur, who was giving us a ride (his name is Joe-an-tha, that is my best guess at spelling). We drove for a while, and saw quite a few people with color powder all over their faces and their clothes. I didn’t see much color throwing, which is a bumme:, it would have been cool to see that. Then we had a huge lunch and Joe-an-tha’s house, and met his family. We had a sweet drink, then Bengali sweets, then tea, and then lunch. Lunch was rice, dal, a cooked leafy green/red vegetable, a sweet mushy green vegetable, fish curry, mutton curry, cooked potatoes and carrots, stringy vegetables that looked like asparagus but didn’t taste like it, mixed with bitterguard, sweet chutney, and then sweets again when we were done. I am even probably forgetting a dish or two, there were so many. I was extremely full and had to almost forcefully insist that I couldn’t eat anymore. Before we left the sister got out colors and put some on my forehead, which was cool, so even if I didn’t get to see it, I got to experience a milder version of it 
I didn’t sleep well last night so once we arrived at the parish I took a rest. Then we had a tour of the hostel and had coffee at the convent next door. Everyone here is interested in American politics, so we spoke about Obama and other political issues. Then Puthumai, Fr. Selvum and I watched Pirates of the Caribbean. We had a lot of fun, I enjoyed being able to explain it to them, and they seemed to enjoy the plot. After the movie finished we ate a really good dinner (the best fish I have had my whole time here and noodles for dinner).
Unfortunately during my evening bath a gecko scared me half to death. I yelped, but after a few moments made a truce with him: if he wouldn’t make any sudden movements, I wouldn’t either. It seemed to work relatively well, until he hid somewhere that I couldn’t see. I closed the bathroom door, and will tuck my mosquito net in extra tight, because the last thing I want in a gecko crawling on me while I’m asleep.
Sending love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


There was goodbyes and packing today. I have…well okay, it’s the evening of the 10th and I leave the early morning of the 19th. So technically I have 8 days left in India. This was my last day staying in Raiganj though, well kind of. Tomorrow I will leave for Bisreal, which is a village about 60km from Raiganj town. I will be staying there for the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and the day of the 15th. For the night of the 15th, 16th, and day of the 17th I will be at DDC, just outside of Raiganj town. My train to Calcutta is on the evening of the 17th, so I will spend my final day, the 18th, in Calcutta. I am sure that I have written that before in my blog, well maybe not, who remembers anymore these days, but that’s the schedule as it stands. 8 days, 8 nights. Wow, time certainly has flown by.
Today I gave my final exam for my English class, the grades varied, but overall I was very happy with the results. I was most impressed with the spoken English of the students, as that is where the most improvement was shown. Tomorrow we will have a small celebration, but since it’s a holiday, not everyone will be able to come. After class I began tying up loose ends around SWI, running errands, and emailing.
After lunch I went to Chonditola, for the last time. I played with the kids as usual, and as usual it was wonderful. The kids are such a joy, and especially now that they know me, it is such a heartwarming place to be. I have come a long way to be able to say that. I don’t see the starvation or the TB anymore; I see the smiles, the running, the joy in their laughter. I think that is one of my gifts, the ability to see grace in the not so obviously graceful. Those kids have been a large part of God’s grace for me in Raiganj. On my way out, as I was desperately try to explain to the kids, no calque, no tomorrow; I ran into one of the Sisters. Once she began speaking to me I wasn’t able to swallow my tears. She told me that the kids have really enjoyed having me here, and that she would explain to them that I was leaving. I am glad that I ran into her, because now the kids know that I will not be coming back, but hopefully they will also keep in my how much I have loved (and continue to) love them.
Then I went to St. Xavier, where I played with and said goodbye to the KG kids. They are so sweet, and they were sad to see me leave. I think the best part was being able to communicate with them in English that I would be leaving. I also learned that one of them in the child of one of the girls who works at SWI. She is a cook, and I think it’s really neat that Puthumai helped her get her son into St. Xavier.
In the evening Puthumai and I went to a wedding reception. Because of circumstances (love) the marriage had already happened at the temple and today was just the reception. The bride was all dressed up in her gear though, and I got a few pictures of how decorated she was. We had dinner, which included 13 dishes, and left shortly after. While we were there though, we met the owner of the Cinema Hall, the man directly under the District Magistrate, and at least 8 of the groom’s family members. That is one thing that is always nice about being with Puthumai, wherever we go he is connected ;-)
I spent late evening packing, and as I sit typing this everything is in bags. At some moments I can’t believe I am leaving, and at others it feels so real it is overwhelming. Although I am learning acceptance, life doesn’t stand still, so there is no reason I should expect it to. I have been blessed to have my time in India, and it has brought me so much joy and introduced some truly miraculous people into my life. But I am also blessed with loving family and friends in the States.
I’m off now, to bed. Oh yea, did I mention it was hot, hot, hot here today. I have been sticky from the moment I got out of the shower today, because its impossible to stop sweating ☺ Such is life in India, give me a day or two, and I will adjust.
Sending love and peace (especially for Stephanie)
PS. There will be no internet at the parish in the village, so I might not post again until I am home in Boise. So if you don’t hear from me until then, don’t worry. Good luck with finals, and have a great spring break. I am looking forward to endless hugs when I arrive home ☺

Monday, March 9, 2009


This morning was another relaxing morning at Bolagon; breakfast, reading, packing, nothing too eventful. In the afternoon Sr. Anisha helped me wrap my sari as she was rushing around for last minute preparations for the event to begin at 1pm. The only problem so far, was that there was a bandh in Raiganj, so there were no vehicles traveling from Raiganj to Bindol. This meant that all of the guests coming from Raiganj were going to have a difficult time arriving.
An MC Sister came, and the two of us went to sit under the tent and wait for the program to begin. Because many people were not showing up the program began an hour late. Puthumai came for a while (I was glad to see him) and Dr. Prohibir (whom I met at the Health Awareness meeting in my first days in Raiganj. The program was wonderful. I can’t adequately describe it, although hopefully the pictures (soon to be posted) will help. There was a stage and a covered area for people to sit. Once the program began there were probably 600, then 700 and finally about 1000 people there (that is my guess, and I could be wrong). It was mostly women and children and the crowd was radiant with bright colors and grinning faces.
The theme of the International Woman’s Day program was health awareness, especially for leprosy, TB and AIDS. There were dances, songs, and dramas. I had met the health workers in the previous days, and they were the ones running the show. They are village women who are paid to go out into the villages and speak with the other villagers about health issues, promoting the Self Help Groups and various other trainings occurring in the area. The hostel girls danced a few numbers, and they looked absolutely gorgeous. The whole time the size of the crowd, the different cultural songs and dances, and the feeling of something making a difference enchanted me. Although admittedly I was hot, hot, hot, as it must have been in the high 90’s.
I loved watching the kids creep closer and closer to the stage, some of them even got brave enough to sit on the side of the stage. Eventually a woman in charge of the hostel came to move them back, but even after that, they kept progressively scooting closer and closer to the stage. There were village women there who were young, old and in between. There were infants and children in school uniforms having just been released from school.
I was given a shall of sorts and a dot on my head, as a welcoming gesture for the honorary guests, and I was even asked to come up in front of everyone and help light the ceremonial lamp. I wish I could describe in words how many people were there; it was really amazing. After the program ended Dr. Prohibir took me back to Raiganj in his vehicle. I said a quick goodbye and thank you to the Sisters, promising to come again. Dr. Prohibir and I had a lively conversation on the ride home about road safety, and if Pee-a-lee (sorry for the awful spelling) see this, I wish her luck on her upcoming exams.
Once at SWI I checked emails, and had dinner. I will be spending some parts of the later week in another village, so I may not be able to update. The 10th and 11th are a color throwing holiday, so hopefully I will have some interesting pictures of what that is like. On the 14th Puthumai is inaugurating a new program, which I am excited about and then on the 16th and 17th is the Regional Perspective Planning for all of the religious NGO’s of W. Bengal. I leave on the evening train the night of the 17th. Then in the early hours of the 19th, more like the late hours of the 18th I leave for America. Hopefully on my last day I will be able to meet up with Ruchi in Calcutta.
Only 8 days left. There really is no better word to describe it than bittersweet, bitter to be leaving what has been so etched into my heart, and sweet to be returning to family and friends I have dearly missed.
Sending love.

2/25,26,27,28 & 3/1

Darjeeling and Gangtok.
Day 1: The bus, the jeep and the frightening man
The long awaited entry (be prepared, the entry may be as long as the wait). The trip began on the morning of Ash Wednesday. Hannah stayed at SWI and we woke up at 6am to attend Ash Wednesday mass at the Missionaries of Charity Sister’s home. We took a rickshaw, because it was the only thing visible on the street at that hour. Puthumai had told us that the MC Sister’s mass would be in English, so we should attend there instead of at SWI. Upon arrival we learned that mass was in Begnali because the oldest kids from Chonditola were in attendance. I wasn’t upset that the mass wasn’t in English, mostly I was just excited to see the kids. After mass we went to SWI, grabbed our already packed bags (besides me, I always have last minute packing to do) and caught a bus. Catching the right bus here really is a science. You want a Government bus, because they will go faster and stop less often than the private buses. But you don’t want to tell the private bus drivers where you are going, because if you are going where they are going, they will all but force you into their bus. The rest of it is just luck, because if two Government busses are driving near each other, the one behind will intentionally slow down, in an attempt to put space between himself and the other vehicle. This way there will be passengers for both busses, even though the stops are the same. Good thing we had Puthumai, and he is well-versed in traveling by bus. We found the right one, got seats (that weren’t too far back) and we were off. The bus ride was from 8am to 12:30pm, with a short stop for tea. Hannah was sick from the day before still, so we made sure that she didn’t eat anything that would upset her stomach yet again. When the bus arrived, after we all had a short nap or two, we met Puthumai’s friend who tastes tea for a living in Siliguri. He took us the Sikkim permit office, because Hannah and I needed permits to enter into the Sikkim state and to spend two days in Gangtok. After filling out the permits we went for lunch, to a restaurant with Western food on their menu. We sat outside under an umbrella, and I was more than shocked to see Hamburger, Sandwich and Pasta on the menu. The toilet was also Western and really nice, with is a rare find on travel. Hannah had chicken soup, while the rest of us shared chow mien, fried rice and chili mushrooms. We were on the road shortly after that as Puthumai and his friend escorted us to a jeep, took our luggage and told us to sit in the front seat. We were happy to be in the front seat, because we had the best view although Hannah was a little squished, she sat in the middle and although there is plenty of seat space for three people there isn’t enough leg space because of the shifter. We took pictures out the window the whole ride up (which probably made us look like tourists, which I guess for the first time we were). The hills were beautiful and we climbed up and up and up for about 4 hours. By the time we reached the top it was raining and I can’t tell you how refreshed my soul was to feel the rain. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed it, until I head the droplets and felt them on my skin. I was instantly happy (the kind of happiness a sunny day in Seattle brings) and Hannah thought I was being completely ridiculous and should close my window. The driver had a tarp, so luckily our luggage didn’t get wet, and by the time we reached Darjeeling the rain had stopped. The driver was very nice and asked us where we were going. We took out the make-ship map drawn by Puthumai, with no street names, only a drawing of two streets diverging and the name of the place we were staying. The driver asked what streets were in the pictures, which of course we had no idea. Then we attempted to pronounce Di-vi-vani and luckily the driver understood us and drove us practically to the front door. We walked into the building and were instantly met by Cosmos, the caretaker of the establishment, who checked us in and showed us our room. Our room was on the Indian second floor, the American third floor (here they call the American first floor the ground floor). We quickly learned that stairs in Darjeeling were twice as steep as they were wide, a difficult task to maneuver with such large Western feet. Our room was nice, it had two beds a desk and a small dresser. There were two windows in the corner and although they closed they did no seal, so you could feel the breeze if you stood in the corner. Oh yea, I forgot to mention; it was freezing in Darjeeling. Everything here is in Celcius, which I gave up trying to understand long ago, but if I had to guess, and I think my guessing would be pretty accurate, I would say it was in the low 30’s for the morning and night and maybe reached the mid to low 40’s when the sun was out. Now let me remind you that the weather in Raiganj has been sunny and warm for weeks, with temperatures that must be in the 90’s during the sunny hours. So needless to say Hannah and I were cold, very very cold. Our first act in our new bedroom was to move the beds into the corner that was as far away from the windows as possible. Then we checked out the bedroom, which was an Indian-Western toilet. It was a Western toilet body, but under the seat there were places were you could put your feet and squat if you prefer the Indian style. I like to say that it looks as though an Indian and a Western toilet had a baby.  After unloading our things and putting on all of the clothes we could fit on our bodies, we went out to find dinner. It was dark by then, around 6pm, and we quickly learned that Darjeeling closes around 7pm. When I say Darjeeling closes, I mean that every shop is closed and everyone goes home. It is cold and dark and there is no reason to be out. Unless of course you haven’t eaten dinner. In Raiganj we usually eat dinner at 8pm so eating at 6:30pm was really early. We were searching for hotels or restaurants to eat in, with very little success. If you know me well, you know that I am scared of the dark. Perhaps irrationally at time, but it is what it is. So as we were walking down the dark unknown streets of Darjeeling, I was a little (perhaps more than a little uneasy). Hannah decided that the path we were on wouldn’t have any good places to eat, but that we should go down these stairs she found. Now if these stairs were in America, they would be a dark alley with steam coming from a gutter and a rats rummaging through garbage cans. I was obviously hesitant, but I rationalized that the sooner we found somewhere to eat the soon we would be home. So we began down the stairs, holding desperately onto one another because it was dark, scary and the stairs were steep as hell. About a third of the way down the stairs a man comes up behind of and makes a noise which I can only call the Indian equivalent of ‘Boo.’ I yelped and tripped and Hannah looked back and said to this man “That’s not funny!” I was scurrying down the steps, trying to get as far away from this man, who I assumed wanted to take our money and valuables, while Hannah was chastising him for scaring us. When I finally turned back I saw that the man was laughing and that Hannah had been right to scold, he didn’t want to steal from us, he only wanted to taunt us. He must have thought it was funny to tease the obviously afraid foreigners. Regardless of his intent both of our hearts were racing by that point in time. Once we found a clean looking hotel that was open we stopped in and tried to order dinner to go. Unfortunately this was misunderstood and we ended up just eating at the hotel. We had fried rice, dal fry, roti, and potato pancake. We had two sodas, with straws and out total bill was under 3 dollars. Content and full we headed back to the hotel (which really isn’t a hotel for anyone to stay at, it is a religious mission of sorts, kind of like DDC). On the way we stopped at a bakery, yes a bakery that baked bread, and Hannah bought a loaf of sweet bread while I bought 15 cookies each of a different variety to snack on. We arrived safely back at the hotel, with only a small confusion on where exactly the hotel was. On the last minute of the walk home we ran into a man who was also staying at Di-vi-vani. When he asked where we were from and learned that Hannah was from Germany he was thrilled and wanted to talk to her about an address where he could send rosaries to be sold. The funny part was that Hannah couldn’t understand his English and had no idea what he was talking about. She also didn’t know what a rosary is, because that is an English word she hasn’t yet learned. He wanted to continue talking to her, and she said that we were tired but that if he found us at breakfast we could talk them. We both giggled up the stairs, as we had no idea what he wanted and hoped that we wouldn’t see him at breakfast again. Neither of us took a shower, as the air was frigid enough without being wet. I washed my face, and my fingers nearly froze because the water was so cold. Once bundled up and under the blankets we chatted for a while and drifted off to bed sometime before 10pm.
Day 2: Walking, walking, walking, walking and more walking
The alarm went off at 7:25 and breakfast was at 7:30, perfect timing on our part. We had chow mien, egg and bread for breakfast. The man from the previous night was nowhere to be found, and for that we were grateful. We also had tea for breakfast, and I have to say it was some of the best tea I have ever tasted. The bread was similar to the sweet bread from the night before and there was strawberry jam, which appeared to be homemade. We enjoyed breakfast and ate a ton, planning on skipping lunch and taking another early dinner. Cosmos came down during breakfast and brought us a list of all of the places and things to see in Darjeeling. The list included 10-15 things and we were thrilled, because we both had no idea what we were going to do in Darjeeling (poor planning on our part). We discussed with Cosmos the proximity of the locations, and decided that today we would tackle the walking locations and tomorrow we would reserve a vehicle and see the rest of the list. Short tangent about Indian directions: In India if you don’t know where you are going you ask someone. It is really simple actually. If you are driving you roll down the window and if you are walking you just stop and ask the first stranger you see. Tangent complete. We didn’t know where any of the locations on the list where, and we didn’t know where to buy a map, so we opted for being Indian and asking for directions. Cosmos told us to take shared taxi from the bus stand and start at the zoo, from there everything was supposed to be pretty close.
We bundled up, still cold, having been cold most of the night, and walked up the hill from Di-vi-vani to find the bus stand. It wasn’t to difficult to find, it was the main street in town with all of the vehicles on it, and we found a shared taxi for 7 rupees each. We were dropped off in under 5 minutes and standing at the bottom of pathway leading up a hill with an arrow that said zoo. So we started walking up the path. This was our first experience with a hill in Darjeeling. For those of you from Seattle, I will make a comparison. The hills in Darjeeling are as steep James Street (on the downtown side of broadway), expect when you reach what should be the top, there is a turn and then the hill continues. We managed to find the zoo, which was closed on Thursday (bummer) and Hannah thought we should walk uphill more, don’t ask me why she thought this, or why I agreed. We walked uphill for about 10 more minutes until we were both huffing and puffing, until we finally asked a man in a hill-side shop which was the places on our list were. He pointed downhill and we headed back down towards the zoo.
Tangent: When I say that Darjeeling is built on hills, I don’t know if you fully understand what I mean by that. On the main street there is a steep uphill on the right side and on the left side there are houses and shops. If you stand near the houses or shops you see that they are built on stilts and that the hills plunge straight down. If you want to walk anywhere but straight on the street you have to find a staircase of a path winding up the hillside. If you look at the view behind the houses it is like looking at a natural landscape painting, hills, more like mountains everywhere. It is really beautiful.
We continued to ask for directions on our way down and shortly thereafter we stumbled upon the next site on our list. It was a Ropeway, kind of like a ski-lift but with little containers to sit in instead of chairs. The rope went straight down the hill and I bet the view was amazing, but unfortunately it was broken. We later learned that it has been broken since sometime in the late 90’s. Our next stop was a large rock, which was pretty impressive, and we were proud to have stumbled so quickly onto another one of our stops. Next on the list was a tea garden called Lebong. We walked and asked a few people where the tea garden was and they kept pointing us downhill. By this time we were on the main road slanted downhill and the walk was pretty enjoyable. We stumbled upon a road sign that said Lebong 7km. I still don’t have a complete understand of km to miles conversion, so I kept walking without thinking too much about it. Plus we were going downhill and having a nice chat. When we finally reached a sign that said Lebong 2km we decided to quit. We had already walked 5km and the tea plants were everywhere. So we stopped, admired the view and the tea plants. We sat for a few minutes and had an orange (packed along for a snack). We also had a quite amusing incident with a large bush that seemed to be moving; I was pretty freaked out, until we realized that there was a man who was carrying the bush on his back. After that we felt bad, and didn’t laugh anymore about the moving shrubbery. There were workers in many of the tea gardens who had baskets on their backs supported by a piece of cloth that went under the basket and then over their forehead. Many people in Darjeeling carried things this way, and I couldn’t help but think how awful that must be for your back (probably just as bad as bending over in the rice paddies).
We had decided to stop at the 2km sign because we had also seen a sign for our next stop, a Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center. The sign pointed up a hill off of the main road, and we decided to begin the climb, little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. We saw blue bamboo along the way which was pretty cool and then we ran into a few young men who were really nice and told us that the Center was closed for the Tibetan New Year and that we would have to come back in 5 days. We said thank you, and asked if Chowrusta, the last item on our list would be up the hill or not. Chowrusta was a shopping center, and we were excited to find it. They said it was up the hill, and we would just have to keep walking. So we walked, and then we found the refugee center, which looked very nice, and we met a woman who mimed to us that the center would be open after four nights sleep. We kept walking uphill until we can upon a family, we asked the woman for directions and she said that Chowrusta was up the hill probably about 10km. Hmm, that was a little discouraging, and I know had a much clearer idea of how long it took to walk 5km and the hill we were walking up was only getting steeper. Hannah and I convinced ourselves that we would find vehicles on the road and that we wouldn’t have to walk the whole way. About 20 minutes later, we were pretty sweaty and definitely out of breathe. We asked a man passing by if any vehicles come up this road, he said no and laughed at us. That was slightly discouraging. We asked him how far to Chowrusta, he said only about 5 minutes more walk. That was encouraging. So we kept on walking. About 10 minutes later we started hiking up some stairs and decided to sit and snack on sweet bread and cookies, we also brought a water bottle along (perfect planning!) After sitting, shedding some layers and cooling off (we were both pretty pink in our cheeks) we headed back up the hill. We were climbing more stairs now and the area was becoming more and more residential. We kept asking for directions and kept getting varying stories, it would take us 10 more mintues, only 3 more minutes, 2 km, only 20 more minutes. But we had already hiked so far we were determined to find this market. Finally we reached what appeared to be the top, where the street flattened out and after a few correct turns we found the market. We spent the afternoon marketing, bargaining and even stopped for a short tea break. When we decided to head down, we stopped in a shop, purchased a chocolate bar and asked the shop owner how much we should pay a vehicle to take us to Di-vi-vani. You see we had spent the afternoon bargaining and we were not about to pay the outrageous 100 rupees that taxi driver had said a share taxi would cost. The shop owner called out his son, who told us it would cost about 100 rupees to take a vehicle back, but that if we went down the stairs on our left we would be there in 5 minutes walk. I was skeptical at first, I mean come on, how many people had said ‘Oh only a 5 minute walk’ that turned into a hike uphill lasting about 45 minutes probably spanning 4 km. But at least this was downhill and we really didn’t want to pay 100 rupees each. So down the stairs we climbed. After the first stair case we asked another shop owner, and he pointed down another staircase. After that staircase we asked another shop owner, he pointed down the road and said ‘Only a 5 minute walk.’ Still skeptical we began walking. You won’t believe this, I still don’t understand how it’s geographically possible, but within 5 maybe even 4 minutes we arrived at Di-vi-vani. We rested for a few minutes and then we were off again to find a place for dinner.
During the span of the day we had unfortunately lost Cosmos’s very nice list of places for us to go, and I had rolled my ankle, which was by that time pretty puffy and bruised. So on the way to dinner to stopped at the Pharmacy and bought an ankle wrap. We asked Cosmos if we would need a list for the coming day, he said that the driver knew where we were going so it was no big deal.
We had stopped in on a restaurant the evening before that looked good but they had been closed. Since it was earlier we decided to check there first. Luckily we found that the restaurant was open and we sat down for dinner. We ordered chicken chow mien, vegetable momo, chicken wai-wai and an egg roll. Hannah ordered the wai-wai, we both had not idea what it was, but decided to be surprised. Momo is a specialty of the North; it is similar to a wonton, except it is usually steamed. The chow mien was really good as were the momos (which were probably my favorite food from the whole trip). The wai-wai was like top ramen with some vegetables in it, and Hannah enjoyed it (especially because we were so cold and the soup was really hot). My egg roll was a tortilla wrap filled with egg, vegetables and brown sauce. It was really good, but nothing like what I expected. We left feeling more than full and ready for a good nights sleep. On the walk home we bought another loaf of sweet bread, for a snack tomorrow morning. We went to bed shortly after arriving home because it was cold, dark and we were getting up early.
Day 3: The day that felt like 3 days
We awoke at 4am because we were going to see the sunrise over Tiger Hill. Cosmos had helped us arrange a vehicle that would take us to the sunrise, and also show us the other notable sites during the day. We woke up, groaned, put all of the clothes we brought with us on, and decided to wear the blankets from the bed around our shoulders too. It was so cold, when we first woke up we could see our breath as we lied tucked under our covers, and we knew that although the sunrise would be beautiful we should prepare for the cold if we wanted to enjoy it at all. We crawled into the vehicle around 4:30 and drove uphill for a little over an hour until we arrived at Tiger Hill. We had to purchase tickets (typical tourist site protocol) and they ranged in price from 10-40 rupees. 10 was for standing outside and 40 was for the super deluxe lounge. Not wanted to be wasteful or seem like rich tourists we bought the 20 rupee tickets which we for the general lounge. The good news was the lounge had a balcony, which meant we could see over the crowd, but the bad news was that the windows were broken, so the lounge wasn’t much warmer than standing outside. We only had to wait for about 15 minutes (enough time to enjoy our bread) before the sun rose from beneath the clouds. It was break taking. We could also see K2, the second tallest mountain in the world, a part of the Himilayas. Both were spectacular, and even though we were tired and cold we were both really glad we weren’t warm in bed and missing the view.
Then we went to a Buddhist Monastery and to a War Memorial. Both were cool, although it was funny to see the same tourists at the sites at the day progressed. We went back to Di-vi-vani for breakfast and enjoyed the sweet bread and egg. We had a while before the driver was ready so we went and saw a cool Botanical Garden near the hotel. Although we spent about 20 minutes searching for the garden that you could very clearly see out the window of our room. There were quite a few hills to see the Botanical Garden, so we mostly just scanned the flowers from the top and goofed around taking some pictures. The rest of the morning and early afternoon we spent visiting different sites. First we went to a Buddhist Monastery next to a Japanese Buddhist Temple, then a rock garden, then a beautiful natural water site. We did quite a bit of driving and continued to be impressed with the Darjeeling drivers’ abilities to maneuver the hills and avoid the cliffs. After arriving back we unbundled a few layers and went to the taxi stand. We reserved our tickets for the next day and found a shared taxi to the zoo. The zoo was open, although the foreigners ticket price was a bit steep. We decided to go anyway and enjoyed seeing the yak, the leopard, the tigers and the black bear. There were other creatures there, but these four were the most notable. Unfortunately I rolled my ankle again while walking through the zoo. Luckily there was a bench nearby and we had a papaya in Hannah’s purse. We sat and ate the papaya while changing shoes (hers are hiking boots with more ankle support). I limped a little the rest of the day and winced when we went down stairs usually going one foot at a time like a small child, but I am not one to let my clumsiness get in the way of an adventure.
We tried to flag down a car on the street (nothing was labeled taxi or not) but no one stopped for us. We walked a short while and found a shop where we asked the owner if she knew how to stop a taxi. She was very sweet and brought us to the side of the road and stopped a car for us. As we sat down in the car and told that man we would like to go the big bazaar (another story to come), the thought began to creep into our minds that this might not be a taxi. It might be someone’s personal car. It was a jeep, like most of the cars in Darjeeling, but the driver said we only had to pay 5 rupees and no one else was stopping to ask for a ride. The driver and his front seat passenger drove into the main town area, where the taxi stand is, and pointed to a beef market, saying, bazaar. We were both well aware that this was not the bazaar, but decided it was best to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way. We were both laughing by that point, and as the car drove off we were both pretty sure that it was not a taxi. We asked around and were told that the big bazaar was up by Chowrusta. We took the short route and stumbled upon the most American looking thing I have seen in India. There was a large building with the words Big Bazaar on it, it looked like a shopping mall. You see Cosmos had told us in the morning that we should go the big bazaar near Chowrusta and we both assumed that the bazaar was like a big local market that only happened on Fridays. Boy were we surprised to see a shopping mall. We entered through the security gates and left shortly after. It was too strange to be in a mall, and neither of us felt comfortable. We walked back over to Chowrusta and went to a few shops and stands we had missed the day before.
Then we found a shop that sold more wonderful baked goods (I had a scone!) and we also bought some chocolates. Then we sat down on the steps of a closed shop and people watched while we snacked. Ok, I’ll be honest, we weren’t people watching, we were white people watching. Its not that we aren’t interested in the Indians, but we are not used to seeing white people in Raiganj, and I guess we have become like local Raiganj folks, we stare at white people. We kept trying to guess were they were from and what they were doing there. There were quite a few who looked as though they hadn’t bathed in weeks, wearing what can only be described as hippy clothing. We decided that maybe along with tea, they grow other crops in Darjeeling that are desirable for dreadlock and hemp wearing folks. (although please don’t take this as judgmental, it is just an observation)  After sitting and laughing for about a hour we headed down the street to find dinner. We ended up going to the same place as the night before, it isn’t that we aren’t adventurous, its just that it was soo good! We had all vegetarian, chow mein, momos and one other dish, which I don’t remember the name of, but ended up being a soup. After dinner we walked home, stopped at the same pharmacy and bought some pain cream for my ankle. The pharmacist said that I really should go and see a doctor, and even told us where we could go to find the doctor, but I was not about to go to another Indian doctor just to be laughed at. We went back to the room, wrote our postcards, and then after the lights went out, sat in the candlelight chatting and reading.
Day 4: Monkeys, Momos and MC Sisters
We got up early, packed our things and had breakfast. Then we caught our jeep up to Gangtok. We left 45 minutes late and there was incense burning right into our faces as we were waiting in the vehicle. I was also sitting in the middle, where the shifter needed about 90 percent of my legroom. All things considered though we were in a pretty good mood. The drive was pretty uneventful, besides for the monkeys lining the sides of the streets and the stop at the beef market, where cows legs were leaning neatly against the way. We even managed to deal with the Sikkim foreingers registration office on our own. We arrived at 1pm and waited for a little bit for Puthumai to pick us up at the bus stand. Then we went to the Missionaries of Charity house, and had lunch. The Sisters were very welcoming and fed us wonderfully. Our first stop after arriving was to the permit office to get permits to visit Chungu, the area we would visit the next morning. It is restricted by the military as it is close to the China border. After that we spent the afternoon at different sites, a lookout tower, a Hindu temple, a flower garden, another lookout tower (the views in Gangtok are amazing) and finally a really cool waterfall area. In the evening we stopped at an outside market, which had nicely paved streets, and shops where you could go inside. The overall level of development in Gangtok was different than in W. Bengal. There was not as much littering and spitting in the street, and there were signs everywhere about not driving when drunk, driving safely and not littering. We were told this is because Sikkim was the last state to join India and still has retained many freedoms that the other states do not have. We went back to the Sisters place for dinner, and they made us beef momos, which were wonderful! I must have eaten at least 10 of them; they were so good. Then Hannah and I went up the hill to a hotel that we would be staying in. I was off to bed shortly, there was no water, so no use in showering (water here is like power, sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t). Hannah went in the hall and spoke with her mom for a while. There were some girls in the hall who came to the door twice after she returned. The first time they pretended as though it was a mistake and the second time they asked if they could make a friendship with her because they were bored. She told them honestly that she was exhausted and when they suggested meeting in the morning Hannah told them we were leaving at 6am. We both slept well that night, as it was warmer and we were exhausted.
Day 5: Indian snow
We woke up at 5:45 and packed quickly. We had to be at mass at 6am and we had a 10 minute walk down the hill to the Sisters place. We arrived only a few minutes late (Indian time) and then sat for mass in English. Afterwards we had breakfast, which was pancake like flatbread with beans in sauce. Then we loaded up in our vehicle and went to pick up our permits. They weren’t ready because the government office that issues them had opened late that day. So we waited and left an hour late. After a two-hour drive up, up and up we were amidst Indian snow and yaks. It was freezing, but we were all so excited to see the area it wasn’t the most pressing thing on our minds. We walked around for a while and played in the snow, admiring the half frozen lake and the huge mountains you can see when the clouds shifts. The yaks had been domesticated and were available for riding, although they were very very expensive. The whole time we were being careful not to slip on the icy snow and also to avoid the massive piles of yak shit. After an hour of playing in the snow (something I never expected to see in India), we headed back down the hill. We had some hot wai-wai before leaving and we were all full and somewhere near warm. The drive down was uneventful, although the huge cliffs, snowy roads and unknown driver were a little unnerving, we reached the Sisters place safely and after packing being ferried to the bus station we were off. We took the first Western vechile I have been in to Siliguri. The driver was from W. Bengal, so he had to leave that night, so the price was cheaper. The car was a Toyota, with windows that sealed, seats with headrests, seatbelts, and sufficient legroom for longer Western legs. Hannah and I were both pretty excited. After reaching Siliguri we took a bus to Raiganj and reached sometime around 11pm. We were all tired and went straight to bed. Overall, a highly successful trip.
Sorry for the length, I got verbose somewhere in the middle, no, it was the beginning that was long, sorry 
Sending love


For breakfast today we had noodles, a favorite Indian breakfast of mine. Then we went for mass at the church. The mass was in Bengali (as usual) and all of the children were there, plus some community members. I didn’t understand anything and the mass was about 2 hours. After mass there was a communal chatting time outside of the church. Quite a few of the children and adults came up to shake my hand and wish me a good morning. The tribal children bent down and touched my feet, a tribal way of wishing blessing.
After mass Sr. Anisha and I went to the panchayat (local government) presidents house. We invited her to the program tomorrow and unfortunately she is busy (although from what the Sisters say she is usually always busy). We had tea there, and it was made with ginger, which was really sweet at first, but after the first taste, was really good. Then we went to visit a few village homes. First we stopped at a home where they were making bamboo baskets. They were simply using a curved knife and with that they were shaving the bamboo into small or thin enough strips to weave into a basket. It was really cool. There was a father, mother and three children. Sr. said that that family has had quite a bit of difficulty with family planning, as they have had 5 kids in the past 5 years. One of the children passed away last year and the other is blind and being taken care of at a school for blind children in Calcutta. The family lives in a brick house built by the parish, and from what I can tell they are very poor. Nevertheless they are generous and welcoming. They offer to make me a small piece of bamboo work and bring tea. After leaving there Sr. and I walk back to the convent. On the way a village family wishes Sr. a good afternoon and calls her to come for chai (tea, not actually chai tea, just the Bengali word for tea). We go and sit on the porch and chat with the family for the next hour. There are three adult brothers, one with his wife and child, and the grandfather. Two of the adult brothers I had met this past week at DDC during a photo lamination training. The boy, probably 4 or 5 years old, was really cute and when I wasn’t able to follow the Bengali conversation I played with him. He would peek back and forth from behind his father’s back and laugh when he caught me looking at him. The parents are trying to send their son to St. Xavier to live in the hostel, and were talking with Sister about the difficulties they were encountering. The family (adult brother, wife and son) also had a parish built home, which we were able to walk through. It still amazes me every time I see a village home.
Then it was lunch time and rest time. I wrote my spoken English final exam and finished the Darjeeling and Gangtok blog (beware its long). Then I heard the children playing outside and decided to join in. I knew that Sr. would be busy, with the program being tomorrow, and decided it was better not to bother her for things to do. Plus I usually never turn down a chance to play with kiddos. At first there were some difficulties with the language barrier. They would ask me questions in Bengali, I would say that I didn’t understand them (which of course they couldn’t understand). We got the basics out of the way though, how are you, what is your name, your mother’s name, father’s name, brother’s name. Then I decided that talking wasn’t going to get us anywhere, so I took the closest one to me, and started to teach here the hand clapping game we play with the kids at Chonditola. Luckily it was a big hit and the girls were lining up to play with me. I tried to encourage them to play amongst themselves, but they were too excited to play with me. I also taught them thumb wrestling. Then we went up to the hostel, an empty large cement floored room and they sang for me. It was really sweet and they were all more than anxious to sing the most and as loudly as possible. Walking up and down from the hostel they wanted to hold my hand and be as near to me as possible. They also like to touch my arms and hands. They were amazed at the color of my palms and the feel of my skin. After I left the girls (it was time for their tution) I had tea with the Sisters. We had boiled yams and tea. I spoke with Sr. Lizzy about being a headmaster and the problems with village education. Then with Sr. Minnie about being a nurse at the dispensary the Sisters run, we ended up talking about leprosy and its prevalence in this community. Then when Sr. Anisha sat down the four of us spoke about development problems combining health, education and the government programs. It was really interesting and I learned a lot. For example, in this area it is not common for someone to know their age, which can make entrance into school difficult. Also, although the government schools pay the teachers well, the teachers to not always attend class, because there is no oversight agent making sure that they do. Because of this the students are always passed from one class to the next. Sr. Lizzy said that she had many applicants for KG 1 that have completed standard 4 at government school, but haven’t learned a thing. Sr. Anisha said they have a girl in the hostel who is in class 2 and is probably 16. Another problem is that parents will bring their 10 year old children and say they are ready for the children to begin school. Since child marriage is still present in India, many girls are married around the ages of 12-16, so this becomes a problem for education. Also since the parents of the children are illiterate and uneducated the children have to attend nightly tution (tutoring) because their parents are unable to help them with their homework. Sr. Lizzy said that sometimes the tribal parents do not know their childrens names for registration, because in tribal communities children are called first one, middle one, elder one. Sr. Minnie spoke about the lack of any health knowledge or awareness in the community, and because of the presence of illiteracy it is difficult to raise awareness. We also discussed the difference between health problems in the first and third world. It was a very engaging conversation.
Then we had evening prayer in the convent chapel, and dinner. In my room I can hear the Sisters watching the Hindi soaps  Tomorrow is the Woman’s Day Celebration and I am excited. I will hopefully wear my sari, and even though I won’t understand the speeches, there will be dancing and singing, which don’t need understanding.
Sending love.


I found it again, the ability to occupy my time and find peace without business. I was worried that once Hannah left I would be anxious and always needing something or someone to occupy me. But luckily, that is not the case. Today began with sleeping in and then breakfast. For breakfast we had pur-ee, which is like a small tortilla that is fried. We had it with potato in a yellow sauce, that was really tasty. After breakfast and conversation with the Sisters I spent the morning typing my Darjeeling blog and reading. The hostel kids came back from school around 10am, and then spent the rest of the morning cleaning. I kept smiling at them from where I was sitting and they would giggle and smile back. For lunch we had rice, dal and vegetables. The Sisters are so sweet; they also made thin fried tortilla and gave me an egg. They are all concerned that I am not eating enough, but I promised them that if I were hungry I would eat more.
At lunch Sr. Anish also asked me if there were poor people in America, at first on my trip I was very defensive about this question, of course there are poor people in America, we are not all rich. But I am starting to have a better understand of the differences between the poverty. In America there are no areas without electricity, without plumbing, without clean water. There are no areas that are completely undeveloped. And poverty in America mixes with a lot of different factors, violence, drugs, homelessness, migration, mental illness, inner city areas, racial disadvantages, etc. So I am now better able to explain that yes, there are poor people, but the poverty is at a completely different level.
After lunch everyone took rest, and it was really quiet around here. I indulged and took a nap. After that I read some work that Father gave me on the front porch. The hostel girls were out and every time they would walk by me I would smile at them. At first they would just run past, but after a while they began to smile back, and eventually one of them got up the guts to ask me ‘kamon achen dede?” Luckily I knew how to answer “pallo achi, kamon acho?” The little girl smiled at me and ran off, saying over her shoulder ‘pallo!’ After that the girls (all between 5-12) were coming up an asking me the same thing. I must have answered 16 different girls. After a while a small crowd of girls with varying ages gathered near where I was sitting and they were trying their level best to talk to me. I told them I don’t speak Bengali or Hindi, and they were able to ask me in English what my name is. They were sweet and mostly we just smiled back and forth and laughed when we didn’t understand each other.
Then it was time for mass, the parish priest is out of town, so the assistant parish priest gave mass. I realized today that I didn’t describe how beautiful mass is. The church is a long rectangle, with the alter at the front. There are only two pews, one on each side in the far back. The children from the hostels sit on the floor and there must be 200 of them. They all sit with their legs crossed, girls on one side and boys on the other. I love to listen to them sing, all of their voices echoing together in a unknown language. The only lights on during mass are over the alter, which just makes the whole scene even more beautiful. I sat with the 3 Sisters in the back and we must have been some of the only adults in the room. When mass is in Bengali it is mostly just time for me to pray in my head and reflect on the day, because even though I know what order the mass parts are in, it is still to difficult to follow in Bengali. After mass we walked back and on the way Sr. Anisha, Sr. Lizzy and two of the teachers/workers (I’m not quite sure) wanted to ask me some questions. They asked me about my family, and about America. There are so many differences; they were surprised at most of what I had to say: (about the way children move out of their parents home after age 18, or how in a city all of the roads are paved so there is no dust, or that in America tan skin is beautiful) They asked about my acne, which is customary here, because acne is uncommon, so many people will approach me and ask what is wrong with my face. I am more or less used to it by now, but it has taken some getting used to. Afterwords we had dinner and now its time for rest.
Sending love.


I woke up with that feeling in my stomach, the same feeling I had my first few weeks. It was loneliness come back to keep me company. This time though, I was prepared. Hannah is gone, and that is really sad; but I am so grateful for the time we had together. I remember praying for companionship in my first weeks here, and looking back I can see all of the companionship that I have been given for my journey. Hannah was a large part of that, but I have also found support in the staff, Fr. Puthumai and all of the kids who make my heart smile. So I got out of bed with a mission and started my day off with a positive attitude.
I spoke with Mom this morning and it was great to see her. Then I had an interview for a position back in Seattle. It was a little awkward doing the interview on the phone, but I think it went well otherwise. Then I had a small breakfast (Second Friday of Lent) and was off to class. This was officially my last regular class session, and we spent most of the time reviewing for the exam. I have really enjoyed teaching, and spent a portion of the class thanking my students and complimenting them on all that they have learned. I remember the first day of class, I couldn’t understand them, and even when I spoke at a 10 word a minute pace they couldn’t understand me. And now I am able to speak to them at a normal pace and we understand a good majority of what the other is saying. The exam is on Tuesday and then we will have a small celebration on Wednesday.
Tangent: I have three million and a half mosquito bites. The mosquitoes were really bad at the train station, and I got a few bites on my arms and legs (yes Indian mosquitoes bite through clothing). Back at SWI I put some mosquito repellant on, and went to dinner. The repellant is strong, so you have to wash it off of your hands after you use it. I washed extra hard because I knew that I was going to dinner and would eat with my fingers. Now looking down at my hands I can count at least 12 mosquito bites on my fingers and palms, which are awful places to have mosquito bites. During the station of the cross tonight there were lots of mosquitoes as well, so I also have 3 mosquito bites on the bottom of my feet and 7 on my back. The total is three million and a half. My self control is more than being tested. oh yea and I have one in my belly button, that one is really unpleasant.
After class I checked my mails (Indian way of saying I checked my email). I spent a while on the computer and wasn’t finished until lunch. I also had a chance to call Hannah. It was good to speak with her, even though its only been 12 hours . The current went out a few times, so the internet wasn’t working the whole time, but when it was working I was able to be productive. Lunch was small and afterwords I cleaned my room and packed for my weekend with the Sisters. I decided to go to Chonditola early, so that I could hold the babies before the big guys wake up from their nap. The babies were sweet and I think the staff that works there is getting used to me, they have started asking me how I am before I ask them. I held the small ones and then greeted the big ones when they woke up. After a snack of beaten rice in milk (which is a mess to feed a toddler) I played around with the larger ones, teaching them English words and playing the assortment of games we have taught them. I wasn’t able to stay for too long, because I was leaving early for the Bolagon, but I was able to give a bottle to Hannah’s favorite (this is a nickname, because of course we love them all equally).
Gabrielle, the accountant took me to Bolagon. He lives in a village near the Sisters house, so he took me on his way home. We took a trekker with 25 passengers sitting inside and 15 (+/- 5) holding on the back, sitting on the top, and hanging on the side. It was funny, there are police at Siliguri Moore, the intersection and traffic light in Raiganj, and it is illegal to have people sitting on top or holding on the sides. When we passed the intersection all of the men let go, and then 20 feet past the intersection they all jumped on again. The journey is only a few hours and we arrived before dark.
At Bolagon I was shown to my room, which is lovely, and then I went to the station of the cross. Afterwords I read in the common room with a few of the girls and then we had evening prayer. There is something really beautiful about praying with Sisters, I can’t explain it in words, they are just so connected with God. Then we had dinner and it is time for bed. The whole time there has been children laughing, running, and making noise in the background because the upstairs of the Sisters convent is a girls hostel. I love the noise, especially during prayer; it makes everything seem more alive. Good night for now, sweet dreams.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Okay, back to daily entries, I want to have memories of the end of my journey, just like I do of the beginning. And I think writing my thoughts down at the end of the night is still the best way to end my days. I spent the last night at DDC with Hannah, it was her last night in Raiganj. She packed and I attempted to distract her so that she wouldn’t be able to pack and she would have to stay :-) This morning we took an auto do SWI and the driver let me take control of the steering wheel. He only did this for the empty portion of the drive while no one else was in the vehicle, but nevertheless I was thrilled. Upon arrival at SWI we had a quick breakfast and I taught English class. I am teaching my students interview skills, and class lately has been really interactive, it’s a lot of fun. After class Hannah and I went with Sr. Sarita to visit a monastery. The Sisters there stay inside the building the whole time, they have staff for marketing and taking care of the grounds. They rely on the church and the community to support them, but they supplement that support by selling their stitching work and preparing the host. Their daily schedule includes praying, doing yoga, meditating, stitching, personal spiritual times, and meals. They are not allowed to see visitors during lent, but since it was Hannah’s last day and we were special guests the Sisters call came to greet us. We sat in a room and behind the metal bars sat the sisters. There was a lazy Susan that they handed us drinks through. The Sisters were really happy to speak with us. Two of them will be traveling to Virginia in the upcoming months to support a monastery there. They were pleased to hear that I was from America. After saying goodbye to those Sisters we went next door and visited the novices house for another order of nuns. I really enjoy meeting the different religious communities in India, because they are always so welcoming.
In the afternoon Hannah and I spent a few hours lying in bed and chatting. She was sick again (her weekly bout of illness) and wasn’t feeling good. It was great to just relax with her, but it only reminded me more how much I am going to miss her when she’s gone. Then we went to Chonditola, where the kids were energetic as ever. Rajes(previously known as Sleepy, I am doing really good at learning their names) was really upset today, he was crying and didn’t want to be held. But besides him, the kids were all upbeat. Cibass and Puja convinced me to play chase and after 3 minutes I was sweating in giant droplets. Even just sitting in the shade I was sweating, so running after the kids and tickling them was hot, hot, hot. From then on I mostly sat in my puddle of sweat playing with the younger ones, Sumitra, Shonali, Sajen and Uttu. After Chonditola I went to St. Xaviers and played with the KGer’s, we played football, which it turns out isn’t about scoring goals. Instead the objective seems to be to kick the other kids in the shins while kicking the ball at the same time. I thought this was particularly vicious, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. There is about 6 of the little guys that usually hang around me regardless of where the soccer ball is. One of them always asks me what I ate for breakfast and for lunch. Whenever he has head bulgur for breakfast he always tells me about it. The bulgur the hostellers get is from USAID, and they know that I am from America, so they think that I brought the bulgur with me just for them. The other ones who usually hang around me include a little guy who smiles at me and then runs away, and two guys who I’m pretty sure speak no English. They all love when I hold their hands and spin them around. The guy who asks me what I ate for breakfast also likes to ask me to dance with him. They are lots of fun.
I left St. Xaviers a little early and went to DDC to have a final tea with Sr. Sarita, Sr. Philo and Hannah. We had thin pancake like things wrapped around coconut shreds. I have had it once before, but with cumin, this time it was even better. Tea time was pretty quiet, because we were all sad. We left together because the Sisters wanted to come and see Hannah off at the train station. There were 2 other people traveling with Puthumai and Hannah on the train (2 other people that I know). One of them is from CRS and she has been staying at SWI for the past two days, and the other is the Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity Mother House who was in town for the funeral of her brother. Once we all arrived at the train station Hannah and I were both in tears. I cried so hard my face went numb. It is sad to see her leave; she has been a really great companion. I know that I will miss her for my remaining days in Raiganj and that all of my previous days would not have been the same without her.
In the evening the current was out, we ate dinner by candlelight and had the remaining pigeon from Hannah’s fairwell dinner (pigeon is Hannah’s favorite). I had a cold wash after dinner and then the current came on. Tomorrow I will leave for my stay with the Sisters near Bindole (a village). On Monday we will have a International Women’s Day program for the village women. I am excited for the change of pace and to spend so much time around village life. I will update on Tuesday and hopefully by then I will have found enough time to write about Darjeeling ☺
Sending Love