Peace Be The Journey
Our first day of volunteering at Mother Teresa in Kolkata India, was not a day I had been looking forward to. I thanked God we would only have to go six times in total. Six days for an amount of time that I can even remember. It could have been for as little as three or four hours.
I remember climbing out of a three wheeled green and yellow took took. Pulling my limbs free from the ridiculously tiny metal toy, I noticed the rain. This caused even more of a hurry than the fact that we were running late. We rushed along the sidewalk trying to find our destination through the wandering people who made their homes and earned their livings under the ripping blue tarps, and the few twisted trees.
The sidewalk grayed beneath my feet as I swerved and dodged the everything around me. Red dust lingered in every crack I stepped on. It was stubborn enough to keep from being washed away.
It was actually only seconds between getting out of the took took and seeing the smiling face. A lady who was slightly curved inward and full of possible expectation, smiled at me as the others asked a general audience where the entrance was. She motioned and beckoned, drawing me to a door inside the alley. Someone behind me moved passed and further down the sidewalk ignoring her directions. There was no time for my hands and face to describe an apology or the fact that it seemed we were supposed to go somewhere else. I was not willing to lag behind my team. The woman was soon gone as the corner of the grey building moved around her and behind my jerking steps.
I didn really want to be there in the city. Howrah I had loved in a way that would only hit me till I was gone and far away from it. But this, this hidden away spot through the whole in the gate, this sparsely painted place with a crucified Jesus and a glorified Mary, this I did not think I could love. Not even after leaving it. I chalked it up to nervousness over something new, something I had no knowledge of or training for.
Once we were found by a sister, my group of six young women was split into two groups of three. The one I was in, was sent up the worn brown steps. Three or four times we turned and climbed, passed more pictures but these were filled with either words or with the knowing eyes of Teresa herself.
Once at the door of our inner destination, we paused and waited. Beside the darkened entrance way was a window thinly barred in little lines from top to bottom. I stopped before the window and tried hard to feel any sort of breeze. The view was pinned in by walls on all sides. Somehow I remember there being a piece of blue in the cold dirty box. Maybe a garment was drying in the window opposite me, or a figure walking through the damp below my observing perch.
As I stood there, still hoping for a cooling touch, we were found by another sister who quickly ushered us in. We had missed the first ten or twenty minutes and were told to take of our shoes and find an apron. I took my runners off as quickly as I good without trying to hurry. The room we went into was dimly lit and the floor covered in mats. Children were sprawled across them while others were strapped loosely into simply made wooden seats. A few volunteers already had their hands full and we were sent to the roof.
The children who could walk or be moved were already there for us. Maybe it hadn really rained at all, maybe the puddles were just drying leftovers, I can be sure.
The sun was out and blinding, but somehow the heat was no worse than it was down below on the street.
Ten or so children wandered across the laundry covered top. Black birds sulked in the sky as we stood there awkwardly, not having a clue what we were supposed to do. Some how I found myself sitting on a woven mat with a child put near my arms reach. What was I expected to do? I have never really liked kids, or at least I have never ever known what to do with them. I always felt like baby talk was patronizing, and that faking interest was more insulting than no louboutin shoes t trying at all.
A woman, white as myself and older by twenty or so years instantly caught my searching eyes. She was kind and gentle, completely genuine. I marveled at her, gawked as every local on the street did at me. With my blonde hair and blue eyes I stuck out like nothing else.
This lady was exactly what I needed. I mimicked her actions in my own flinching way. Quickly she introduced me to a young girl named Roku who was sitting beside us. Her smile was bright despite how her body bent and wound tightly in against her. My fellow volunteer and instant guide said she was sixteen years old. I couldn believe it. Her body looked no bigger than a seven year olds, but it was impossible for me to assign an age to her warmly browned face.
The only words Roku spoke that I could understand were hello and goodbye Easy enough to learn in a place that is constantly recycling the european wanderer and searcher for truth and meaning. She knew these two words in seven different languages. Roku was smart and demanding, and easily made happy.
The lady left us for a moment and I reeled slightly, not knowing what to do or say. I had gotten used to the language barrier, but in this home for disabled children there was a whole other barrier to deal with. Cerebral palsy, Autism, abuse in all of its forms. I had never been so close to anything like this before.
When the woman louboutin shoes came back she was pushing a blue car with yellow flaking stickers. Picking Roku up and placing her bent and tangled limbs inside the car, she got the young lady ready for the one thing she was allowed to want. A ride along the roof top.
Doubling over I both steered and pushed the car across the small open space. The simplest thing imaginable was the only thing she had to hope for, on these days where they were brought to the roof and not kept away inside. I pushed and steered her around the other kids. Around the two girls who I assumed had been born without their eyes. Past the one little girl whose expression was frozen into what seemed like anger or fear.
Under the dripping rags I maneuvered our little convertible as the tires locked in a jerking motion. Roku smiled and laughed through her garbled speech. Moaning in the deepness of her throat and pointing with the back of her curved wrist when she wanted to give me directions. It wouldn be till later that the pain in my back would become ridiculous to me. Not till after I was gone and safe in my teams apartment that I would really get to think about how quickly I had faded away.
All she wanted was to be pushed around, to be given a chance to move with a little freedom. Maybe it was louboutin shoes the fact that I was perfectly temporary and easily replaced. I would be forgotten by the time they all went to sleep, I would be mistaken for the Irish gal or for the spanish one. What I was doing was completely self sacrificing in a way I had never expected to experience.
Nothing I did there was supposed to be about me. I was not important, I was hardly wanted when it came to the local women who volunteered past the end of our shifts. In their tired and at times jaded eyes, we made no difference whatsoever.
I had never felt like a commercial before.
My back started to ache in a way I wasn strong enough to ignore. Every exposed bit of flesh glistened with sweat. I was ready to be done. I parked our car amongst the rest of the group and motioned to Roku that I was only taking a break. Her head twisted and turned as a break became an attempt at conversation with my american role model. The woman answered my questions as she played with the little boy named Emmett who was easily the cutest kid in the ward.
After a bit of shameful ignorance that was flagged by a still aching back, the woman offered to push Roku around the roof for me. Roku and I were both very thankful.
When the day was finally over all I could feel or think was numbed by what I had experienced. Children had been randomly placed in my hands and then ripped away when I couldn get them to eat as much, or as quickly, as the louboutin shoes Indian women could.
I could tell I was being told what to do and how to do it through harsh and rude words. I at their brand of efficiency and apologized as best as I could, for not already knowing what they would expect from me.
When it was time to go I put my shoes on slowly, tying the laces carefully before heading down the three or four flights of stairs. I didn say a word when our leader asked us how it went and what we thought. Not a single word as I put one step ahead of the other. All I did was try to keep the toes of my shoes from catching against the broken sidewalk.
The only one of my teammates to respond, had been with me on the roof. not going back! I am not doing this again! Her exact words are gone from me, but the force of them is not. Nor is how she looked as she marched on determinedly ahead of us while saying them.
I was thankful, thankful that a fiery woman from Switzerland with a personality that could not possibly be boxed in by any known human, had said out loud exactly what I had been feeling.