My sweet seven sisters

There are seven girls who come for the nursing program every day but Sundays from 9-4. They come from neighboring villages and their families can not afford to send them to college. The organization I am working with trains them to be nursing assistants so they can get a job and not have to get married immediately after finishing high school. During the day, I teach them English and try to teach them nursing subjects as well, but the language barrier makes it extremely difficult, so we are working on it. The first few days I was here, they would always turn the fan towards me, give me extra snacks, nod when I asked them if they understood what I was saying, and serve me lunch at the table and then go sit in the kitchen to eat their meal. I am happy to report that I now get no preferential fan treatment, my snack rations are equal to everyone else, I get very loud “NO”s when the girls are confused, and I now eat with them in the kitchen (I followed them around when they would leave me enough so now they just nod at me and say “sister come” whenever they change locations). They also introduced me to the “cutest bus driver in the village”, and I’m pretty sure that is how you know a friendship is real.
The kids who come to the evening school are mostly around 14 years old. My new bestfriend is named Dhundaponi and he comes to school an hour early so we can make bracelets and listen to the Beatles and he can teach me dance moves. When the other kids get to class, we practice English and math and play games. Whenever we get frustrated or can’t understand each other, we resort to playing hangman or picking someone to lay on the floor and hurdle-ing over them. My teaching skills might need a little work, but we are working with what we have for now…
The hardest thing for me so far has been adjusting to the way women are seen in this society. 99% of marriages are arranged, and with that comes high rates of abuse and suicide. In rural villages like the one I am in, many parents can not afford to send their children to higher education. If the parents have sons, the sons are given more educational opportunities than the girls. I was talking to Ramaswamy about this, who is the director of the organization. He was explaining to me that while the organization itself promotes equality, in order to work in the society, we have to accept that the society itself is one of inequality. I knew about this coming into this situation, but it is much harder for me to see it firsthand. To know that in less than 3 years, my 7 sisters will most likely all be married off by their parents, even though they are given access to an education for job opportunities. To know that my sweet Hameletha who dreams of becoming a doctor will most likely not be able to go to college because her older brother will be sent before she would. To hear a 14 year old girl tell me for twenty minutes all her dreams and ideas and aspirations end with “but those are just my dreams and all that matters is what my parents say”. It is hard for me to accept that all the things I want for these sweet girls are not as attainable to them as I would like them to be. I am happy though to be working with an organization that is trying so hard to do good for these girls.
It has been a crazy two weeks in India so far. Monsoon season came early (there are holes in my bedroom roof), I successfully peeled onions for 2 hours as we cooked for 75 people at a temple festival, and I ate fish someone fried for me at a park with cows and monkeys and goats roaming around (not sure if that counts as the “street food” everyone tells you not to eat, but I’m still kickin.) All my love!!

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