...Ladies and gentlemen, the radio silence is over. I have been home for 4 weeks now and have caught up with planning and preparing for my own future through medical school applications, a new job as an emergency department scribe, enrolling in post baccalaureate classes for this fall, and researching where I need to go from here to reach my goals. The so-called "reverse culture shock" has been significant and will be the subject of its own post in weeks to come. For now, however, I want to update you on what has been happening and take you back to where we left off. Although you have not heard much from me recently, much has been happening in India. I am in daily contact with the sisters, doctors, Mithlesh, and/or Mamta and Shri about our students and patients. Nearly every morning at 7:15am, the sisters call me and enthusiastically recount their daily activities and the inspiring performance of our children. They are keeping a record of what I eat for breakfast and how I spend each of my days. Most importantly, however, they are praying for us and our children every day. They have grown very close to our students and are providing them with unsurpassed love and care. After my phone call with the sisters, I usually call Mithlesh or Mamta and Shri to see how things are going in the slum and with the other volunteers. The children have Skyped with me from the convent multiple times and have shown off their new English phrases and dancing. Although I am 8,000 miles away, I am so proud to still be a tremendous part of their lives.
Reports from the front lines are predominantly that it is hot…very hot…agonizingly hot in Faridabad. Last week, the temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity. There is no air conditioning and only scarce water supply. Furthermore, due to high power demands this time of year, electricity is only available for a few hours every day--usually in the early morning and late at night. The mosquitoes and flies are out in full force and it sounds like even sleeping is difficult due to the incapacitating conditions.
It is so hot now that schools take a month-long holiday. Anyone with money and surplus resources flocks to the Himalayas or the Ganges in order to spend even a few hours below 100 degrees.
Our students, however, are as inspiring as ever. Even though their classmates are on vacation, they wake up every morning and head off to the Carmel Convent School for a special class held just for them. Last week, poor little Ajeet came down with Chickenpox. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have Chickenpox in a slum in 113 degrees with insects everywhere. However, what upset Ajeet the most was that his teacher wouldn’t let him go to class. Let me know when you find another 7-year-old so enthusiastic about going to school!
Even in these seemingly inhospitable conditions, our students are flourishing. Two weeks ago, the Carmel Convent School administered its end-of-term exams. Despite the fact that they had only been in school for 12 weeks, nearly all of our students passed. Of course, our students are far from where they need to be, but they are engaged, determined, and still exceeding expectations. Their biggest struggle at the moment is spelling. However, if you asked me to learn how to read and write Hindi in 12 weeks, my spelling still wouldn’t be very good either.
Thanks to the generosity of the sisters and our sponsors, we have added five more children to the Squalor to Scholar Program. A total of 21 children from the Patel Nagar slum now attend the Carmel Convent School! I anticipate that, by this time next year, we will be supporting a total of 56 students! I will be introducing the remaining students and their sponsors as time progresses. Some of their stories are going to stun you.
I don't want to give everything away, especially out of context, so I'm going to take us back to where I left my regular blog posts on March 30th, when fellow volunteer Crystal Graham departed for Guatemala. From there, I will take you through my last month in India--including some of the most rewarding experiences I will likely ever live through--and my emotionally complex return to the first-world.