Wow. How do I describe our experience in India. Words cannot capture the vibrancy of the culture. On our arrival at the orphanage, we were met with huge welcome signs that had the names of each member of the family. The kids were lined up in 2 rows and showered us with flower petals and hung beautiful freshly made marigold leis around our necks. There was much cheering and hugging; we were treated as royalty throughout the entire visit. This kind of hospitality is not found in America. The kids are filled with such love.
On our first day we were taken to the local market to shop for traditional Indian wear since some luggage was lost in transit. The ride to and through the city was quite the adventure. Although I had been warned, it was quite different actually experiencing the driving in India. I have not quite figured out the necessity of the lines on the road since they drive down the middle of the road honking. We miss hitting other vehicles, people, cows and goats by inches. Honking is expected so that other drivers know where you are; in fact on the backs of each vehicle it states “please sound horn.” Thus, it is such a blend of sounds as each driver vies for position. The word crowded takes on a new meaning here. The market is filled with people in their colorful dress as well as goats, cows and dogs.
One of the most memorable days is the one that was filled with well dedications. Words cannot even describe this. We drove out on narrow, bumpy dirt roads to isolated villages where extreme poverty exists among some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Although they are poor, we were again warmly received at each village with music, clapping, colorful leis/bouquets, drinks and snacks. We drank out of coconut shells. I was given the opportunity to cut the ribbon on the first well.
The expressions of the villagers as the water poured forth from the well is priceless. Prior to this, they were drinking dirty murky water that they used for laundry and general cleaning. Villagers came up to us, placing our hands on their foreheads. Although they did not speak English, they wanted our blessings. This was so humbling and it was difficult to pray as I was so choked up. As we drove back to the orphanage that night, the road was illuminated by the most beautiful moon I have ever seen in my life.
Our visit to Hope Island was another day that cannot quite be captured in words. Although we took a boat out to it, we had to walk several hundred feet through murky water to get to shore where we were once again greeted with music, leis and flower petals being tossed through the air. A translator described how the island had been devastated by a tsunami and they were unable to get help by the government or by the Indian people. There was one light bulb for the entire village and they were asking for solar light. As I walked through the village, words from the Hosanna song ran through my head. “Break my heart for what breaks yours. Open up my eyes to the things unseen.”
The thing that stands out most in my mind is the loving and giving nature of the Indians. Although they have so little, they will give it all away to a stranger. One chilly morning I was playing Uno with some of the orphans. One little boy offered me his blanket so that I could be warm, even though he was shivering. Each morning I was met by Venkatesh, the boy that we sponsor. He would take my hand and lead me to prayer. We sat on the floor with crossed legs and interlocked fingers. One morning he traced each finger with his and said, “black and white.” The simplicity of the words caught the beauty of the moment.
The Christmas celebrations were like nothing seen in the US. I could not help to think how they truly keep Christ in Christmas. We had fireworks, food and plenty of dancing. The kids had practiced the dancing for days. The performance and costumes were unbelievable and cannot be matched in this country.
You cannot leave here unchanged or unfeeling. I came thinking that I would share my time and love with these kids. In the process they taught me so much about loving and giving. Their faces will be etched in my memory.
I am not a writer although at the moment I wish I was so that I could capture the beauty of the Indian people. I wanted to thank those of you who generously donated money to the orphanage. Believe me, it is money well spent. We raised more than expected and each child received watches, clothes and toys. The excitement of passing these out was incredible. I cannot help but think of all the excess we have in the United States that we take for granted, including life giving water.