Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mother House, Daya Dan, and squat toilets... oh my!


Much to update today! Yesterday, Hannah and I took a rickshaw down to the Mother House (and then walked over to Shishu Bhavan) for orientation. There were MANY volunteers there and we met many Americans and English-speaking Europeans who would be volunteering for various amounts of time. Most of them would not be working for more than a week or two, but we met a few from a group that is staying until the end of July, so that is very exciting for us! Having familiar faces makes Kolkata seems so much more conquerable and less intimidating (though it is still one ridiculous city). The more we explore the city, the less confident I feel about my sense of direction and my abilities to cross streets. Haha. The pedestrian definitely does NOT have the right of way in India. But we are getting savy and having volunteer friends to help us out has been a major blessing. At orientation, we met a guy from man from England and a woman from Korea who are both staying at the same hostel we are, the Paragon Hotel. We hung out with them on the roof last night and agreed to walk over together in the morning. They are extremely nice and knew a better way to the Mother House, so it was perfect!

That brings me to volunteering. Hannah and I decided to work at Daya Dan for the next two months, which is a home for mentally and physically disabled children. We had our first day today and it was great! We met at the Mother House for a breakfast of bananas, bread, and chai and then from there, we followed the more experienced volunteers to Daya Dan. It was quite the exciting trek! We took a bus part of the way and then a motorized rickshaw the rest of the way. Once at Daya Dan, we got to work washing and making the beds, playing with and exercising the kids, feeding them, and then putting them down to their naps. All the kids are sweet and really receptive. They love the attention! It was a very humbling experience as well as many of these children have horrible incurable illnesses that I just wish I could take away. But the sisters love these kids so much and they couldn't be in a better place. It was really nice to begin volunteering because it definitely gives me a sense of purpose and reason. Kolkata is not quite the luxury vacation spot and so knowing that we are here for a reason and having somewhere to go in the morning from 8am to 12pm has been such a blessing. Also, at Daya Dan, we met a few people who will be staying as long as we are! This was very exciting for us and for them as well. We went back to Sudder Street with them and they showed us the metro and the best way to get back from the home. Volunteers come and go quickly most of the time and so it's a great thing to find people that you can actually form a relationship with. :)

On another, more disgusting, note, I had my first experience with a squat toilet this morning. It was.... gross. Though not as bad as I was thinking it would be. But let me just say, I will NEVER take a Western-style toilet again. Ever ever. Haha. But it really wasn't that bad. Hannah and I also had our first experience with manual laundry tonight. We washed our yucky, sweaty clothes and hung them on the lines on the roof and realized why it is that everyone in Calcutta Club suggested not bringing too much clothing. We were certainly grateful!

Wow, this post is long! A few last notes: it's really hot, the food is really good, and we are starting to get used to everything!

I miss you all so so so much! Thanks for keeping up with this :)

<3 Allison

p.s. I will try to figure out a way to get my pictures onto the computer so I can post a few here!


  1. allison! i'm so excited for you, and the working at daya dan! mm chai, bananas, and bread sound delish. i can't wait to see the pictures!

  2. It sounds like you are aclimatizing quickly. I am so proud of you. God bless and be with your trip. i remember my first squat toilet in greece, totaly disgusting. Love you sweetheart, maaka