Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Blessings Around You
After starting our travel from Boston to India Friday morning we arrived in Agartala around noon on Sunday. Although exhausted from jetlag the warm weather and welcoming faces of our new neighbors quickly re-energized us. We are finally here! Our group of five volunteers are staying in two small cabins across from the Holy Cross School, which lies about 5 kilometers outside of the center of Agartala. I don’t know where to begin since we have experienced quite a lot since entering the country.
I knew the long trip would be tiring and one cancelled flight, difficulties communicating with those at the airport along with my checked bag (and three of our bags too) still missing in action added to the exhaustion. Nevertheless, this has only been minor blockade as I have been consumed by the energy and warmness of the people of Agartala already giving me a real sense of why I am here.
Iain and I live in the cabin to left that has a small common area and kitchen, while Charlotte, Lucy Rose, and Christa live in the cabin on the right. The living quarters are really tight bringing our group literally and figuratively closer together. The bucket showers along with my lack of clothing (one pair of pants, socks, and underwear) due to the lost bags at first seemed impossible to handle until I truly thought about things. Many of those in Agartala are living very simply, with bucket showers, only one shirt and limited resources, but make the most out of what they do have. This brings to mind a line from a poem we read at the Holy Cross Teacher’s Orientation, “Think of the blessings that surround you, not the ones that are denied.”
Here there is severe poverty. Poverty that I have never seen, but there truly are a lot of blessings all around. It’s easy to wonder how people that have so little can have such great spirits and love for others. What I have seen is that many of the teachers and students do not dwell on what they do not have. They instead embrace the beauty of the landscape, the vibrant food, the cricket matches, and each other’s company. I have never been some where so foreign yet so welcoming. As a group we have been greeted with open arms by so many making us feel as if we’re been here for a lifetime.
The Holy Cross School and where we live is a relatively quiet spot full of palm trees like our own little jungle. Up the road in the city’s center it is not so quiet, but instead hustling and bustling with rickshaws, tiny stores, and masses of people wherever you turn. Here I was able to see where I can buy pretty much anything I need over the coming months and picked up a few small things. Here’s my shopping spree with the money conversion so you can get an idea of what things cost here. One US dollar equals approx. fifty Rupees.
Thomas the Tank Engine towel 100 Rupees ($2)
Bar of herbal soap 15 Rupees ($.30)
20 baby bananas (plus 6 free samplesJ) 20 Rupees ($.40)
The voyage ended with a tour of the extensive market where fresh vegetable, fruits, fish, and meats can be bought by the bushels. It was exciting to see where a lot the food we have been eating has come from and where we will be hand selecting our food. The market was no Stop & Shop. It was a whimsical place full of new sights, sounds, and excitement that will be my life in India for the next eleven months.