So I arrived safe and sound!! There is no photo uploader at the internet café / shack but I’ll get them burnt onto disc in a photo shop soon as I have got some real corkers!!
I hardly know where to begin.
I had a panic attack on arrival and found the first day really tough, somehow lost my entire sense of self, suddenly realized what I had let myself in for and went into shock I guess. I considered leaving but am far too stubborn to ever do such a thing so bit the bullet and got on with it! It is so hot here. I am staying with two English teachers, one 23 and one 36. We are staying in a ‘luxury’ apartment which has no hot water, for dishes we boil it on the stove and for showers we go cold every time as it is so unrelentlessly hot over here! We come home at night with flies stuck to us and black feet and faces from the city. It is so dirty! There is an open sewer 4 metres across about 100 metres from our house too – gross!! We have no air con which is annoying but ceiling fans make it bearable. Yesterday when it rained the street flooded – people walk around up to their knees in muddy water still working or selling their goods, the cows graze in the road up to their neck in water and everyone remains perfectly calm!! One of the coolest things is that when cars reverse they play really loud high pitch tunes, like those annoying mobile phone ring tunes. Some cars reverse unnecessarily just to show off their tune!
I went to a meeting on my second night which was bizarre, it was in a falling apart old school room and people speak in Bengali but use the occasional English word so it sounds like ‘budi buda budi buda ‘powerless’ budi budi buda ‘just for today’ and so on. Afterwards I went to a fellow member’s house. It was AMAZING!! A massive ex colonial house full of wonderful antique Indian furniture. On the drive home I saw all the kids sleeping on the roadside, hugging each other, I am sure for affection rather than warmth. It is really incredible to see the wealth gap here.
We have been visiting the projects to see where we want to work. Yesterday we went into the red light district for the first time and saw the prostitutes, literally hundreds of them lining the streets. We kept walking through all these back streets until we went down an alley and into a doorway where a room full of kids was. They were dressed in rags and all clambered over us to touch us or ask our names. They are usually kept under their mothers’ beds as they entertain the clients or out on the streets which are very unsafe. The charity we work for provides a safe place from 5 – 8pm, so although they still have to go back under the bed or to the streets, we at least make their life a little easier. Tonight and Friday we go to a shelter home where they keep the girls who have been rescued from trafficking, who have been kidnapped into prostitution or sold there. That is where I would like to work.
We have only seen 4 westerners since arriving, all in the ‘tourist’ street of Calcutta. This is not a tourist destination it seems! Our house is the nicest one which i-to-i have and we stay there because our work is very harrowing and we can recharge there after a day at work. I am sharing in a rehab or prison for H&I next week and have arranged my work around the meetings, where I am the only non Indian and one of four girls in the whole fellowship (40 people per meeting, 4 meetings a day). I am advised not to hug the men there either, it is so different here.
We eat curry and rice every day but for breakfast we have these really sweet and tasty mangoes and toast. To make the toast we hold the bread over the hob in our kitchen!! I never thought I could live like this. There are insects everywhere, all over our flat and all over us.
So I’m doing it, much to the shock of me and everyone else. At the moment we are trying to find a yoga teacher to do yoga with us on the lawn in the morning! There is also a roof top pool in our place so we have to go and buy Indian swimming costumes as ours are too revealing – these almost come down to your knees and have high necks!! I will send photos.
Now I know where the internet shack is I will come here more and keep you all up to date, I will also upload some pics as soon as I can.
For now though it is back to our flat in a rickshaw and then off to work in the hottest and most busy city I have ever seen!!