Wow! Tomorrow will be the conclusion of our first week here in Kolkata. Things have been going MUCH smoother and we are settling into a nice routine in the mornings and sort of winging it in the afternoons and nights. We have volunteered 4 days total now and it has been amazing. Every time we go, we get a little more comfortable with the kids and they get a little more comfortable with us. It's so nice to know we will be staying here for so many weeks because I really want for each one to know me personally and know how much I think they are wonderful and beautiful. Kolkata has been an overwhelming experience, but these kids... they make it so worth the culture shock that we have been experiencing.
It's very hard to describe the culture and the streets of Kolkata, but I will give it a shot so that you guys can get some idea of how Hannah and I feel. Here, boundaries are very different. It is not considered rude to blatantly stare (especially Western women) and it is not uncommon to be followed for many blocks down a street. It is hard to understand why this would be intriguing for people because it is so unusual in American, but the people of Kolkata are just very interested in anything that is slightly out of the ordinary. The people are also very used to tourists and they are relentless when it comes to getting you to buy their products. They use the English words they know (which is usually "yes" "madam" and "take a look") to get your attention and lour you into their shop. The children are what is the most heartbreaking though. They come up to you and grab at your hands, begging for money and food. However, the nuns at the Mother House told us to, under no circumstance, give beggers money. They informed us that many pay for their spot on the street to beg and many of the children get paid to beg as well. It is hard, walking down the streets of Kolkata. Often times, I do feel harassed, but I try not to judge too much what I do not understand.
On a much happier note, I officially celebrated my birthday today, a week late. We have some friends here who are volunteering at Daya Dan and also staying at our hotel who are very very nice. They are Korean but they speak a little bit of English. We invited them for curry and cake on Park Street in celebration of my 20th birthday and they were happy to join us. Not only did they join us, but they bought me a little cake from Kathleen's confectionary, a bracelet, and a bookmark from Korea. They included little notes for me as well, spelling my name Elison. I am totally in love with all of them and want to put them in my pocket and bring them with me all over the place because they are so happy all the time. It was a really great night, all around and I'm glad I got to spend it with them and Hannah. Random, but hey, when in India... Haha :)
More updates soon (hopefully)! Thanks for following this! I love you and miss you :)