From the Faraway state of Uttar Pradesh, all the way to Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, this is Tea Ambassador Teresa reporting from afar…
In another words, a place where time seems to stand still and therefore it comes as a surprise to me that it has been almost 3 weeks already since I arrived here.
This red brick 4 storey house, full of all those joyful faces of girls running around, really feels like home to me now. That is where I wake up every morning and before going down for breakfast, take an Indian bath. The whole intricate system of taking a shower in an Indian way lies in one bigger bucket full of water and a small pitcher with which a person splashes the water over himself/herself. So instead of “taking a shower”, it is more like “taking a bucket”. However, it serves the purpose fairly well.
The daily routine starts with a breakfast (invariably toasts and hot milk or mildly spiced chai) and follows with my workshops with the older girls. There is some time to exhale and wipe off the sweat before lunch is served. (The secret word is: 215) Lunch as well as dinner consists of chapatis (“pancakes” made out of flour and water, rosted on open fire), rice, raita (yoghurt-like sour concoction) and cooked vegetables of different sorts but bigger amounts, so that all the 50 hungry throats in the house would get fed.
After lunch, I’m having English classes with the little ones for a few hours that naturally flow into an art workshop (yes, the girls love to draw) and sometimes basketball or a game of cards. There are also moments I steal away a little time for making tea from my own collection.
Dinner comes as late as 8pm and then there is just a little time left for the weenies to brush their teeth and play in their roomsbefore they get too tired and often crush at any random place in a house (from where the older girls carry them to their beds). Seeing a little girl sleeping on a concrete floor is a common phenomena, which quickly stops being a matter of concern. The older girls (and I) stay up till about midnight and talk, study or iron their school uniforms (the older ones still go to school in the mornings). Night is the time I get to know the older ones as they become more open and eager to share their personal stories, their passions but also fears and worries about their pasts and their futures. It is at night when you get to hear the most touching, most frightening and most sincere stories of their lives which you wish they never had to live through.
English classes with the little ones would rather deserve a title “Teresa’s preschool play group”, since we are mostly drawing, playing, crying, screaming, laughing, sleeping (and all that the 6 year olds love to do) and, of course, we try to do all that in English. The personality development workshop with the older girls has revealed many areas that should be worked on – the ability to listen, express oneself, work in a team, not to give up easily, take challenges, think in abstract terms, be creative, trust and understand. Generally all that everyone of us needs to get better at, right?
Well, these girls need special attention and care since their reactions are sometimes not adequate to the situation. The management of their own feelings might be one of the tricky parts. So it happens a girl can start crying during the class for seemingly no reason at all and stays inert until the end of the workshop, one 6 years old princess threatens another 6 y/o by shooting her dead (obvious knowledge of handing guns), and I even witnessed an ostensibly symbolic gesture of suicide. That all and more. The light tone of my voice serves merely to make the tragic reality digestable for general public.
It is not an easy work at times, but then, don’t get the impression it is all just dealing with difficult deep-tissue problems. Thegirls are adorable and after all, they are just kids who want the same like any of us in their age. They need to play, to hug, to have a cry sometimes, they are smiling most of the time, running and calling at each other from the inner porches of the house, they help aunties in the kitchen and although none of them has or knows her parents, each has 40 other sisters living in the same house. It feels like a big loving family.
My time here has recently had two other highlights – a very positive one, when a Danish girl Camilla joined me here as a volunteer and became my friend and a work colleague for 2 weeks; and a not-so-great one, when I was shot down by a typical Indian sickness (which means 3 days of strong headaches, fever, diarrhea and being sick). This is apparently a common “tax” that every foreigner has to pay if he/she intends to spend more than 2 weeks over here. The local people are completely chilled about it and always have the remedy that gets you up to your feet again within 3 days. Just another typical Indian experience (usual for other hot-climate countries as well).
Alright, today it was mostly about “the daily life in one orphanage in India”. There are much more impressions and observations which I will keep for later. Anyone who should have any specific questions from social/cultural/touristic or any related areas, feel free to drop me a line. Next time, I will try to focus on confrontation of cultures (get ready for some surprising and funny bits). Hope a few pictures get through for you to get a better idea what I am writing about.
Many greetings and best wishes! Keep making small differences in the world and drinking good tea!
Teresa — firstname.lastname@example.org