My internet connection went from being predictably unpredictable to being non-existant, so I am a few days late with posting this week! The past two weeks have gone by so quickly and it is crazy to think that I have been here longer than I have left. When my dad dropped me off at the airport about a month and a half ago, I was very upset because I knew that for the next three months, everyone I saw would be new. This is something I laughed at when I was moving centers and having to leave my girls.The ones who came in to my room appalled one day and cleaned it, the ones who fed me noodles with their hands as I was peeling onions so I could still eat them when they were hot, and the ones who were considerably worried the day I traveled into town alone, knowing my directional problems and fear of autonomy. I am hoping I will be able to see the girls again before I leave, but I don’t know for sure. As I was packing up my things, one of the girls told me “enjoy you life, sister” in English, to which I replied “I’ll kill you…” in Tamil. It is crazy to me to see how important these people have become in my life in what seems like such a short period of time.
I was unable to say goodbye to the evening school children, and this was really hard for me. A week ago, Dhandapani asked me when I was leaving for America and when I told him that I would be leaving at the end of July, he didn’t talk much for the rest of the class. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “Allison America, very feeling.” My heart broke a little. My brutally honest little nug who tells me when I need to relax and share my snacks he knows I have and reminds me so much of my best friend. One thing that made it easier to leave them though was that a French couple came to the center and they are amazing and will be staying for a month. I felt better leaving my Nisha and my Dhandapani and my Rakesh and all my other little friends knowing that there would be people who would encourage and love them the way I believe they deserve.
At the new center, we are part-way through the construction of a residential home for mentally diabled children. While it was unbelievably hard to leave the girls and kids, it has been nice to do physical work as well. The workers have been three male masons and one lady, who is incredibly strong and does almost double the physical labor for 2/3 of the cost, and she does it all while wearing a sari. The first day of the construction, the masons would tell me things like “Not so many many” and “only take half” in reference to the cement or bricks I was carrying. As a woman, they believed that I was not as capable. Therefore, I took more than I would have normally and cut my breaks in half. While I was in substantial physical pain the next day, the satisfaction of hearing at the end of the day that I was a hard worker and only responding with the Indian head bobble and a grunt was far greater. Also I quickly learned how to carry cement on my head, which is a fun new party trick.
After weeks of living a rural Indian experience, I have eaten pizza and called my mom and met another volunteer who is from Germany and we have been able to talk about things like cultural differences and reggae music and peanut butter, which has all been really great. There are so many things that I miss about home, but an equal number of things that I love here and it will be incredibly difficult to leave not knowing the next time I will be able to come back. My heart is full and my friends have been telling me I’m larger these days, so apparently so is my stomach. All my love!!