Sunday, July 22, 2012


Day 10 - 22Jul2012

Today is Sunday and I had the day off to do whatever I'd like.  A small group got to go into Chennai for church, but I didn't make the sign up in time for that.  I stayed back at Rising Star.  My room slept in a bit and enjoyed a free schedule.

A small group of those that didn't go into Chennai for church decided to go on a little stroll to a village near to Rising Star.  There were eight of us (five girls and the three boys).  We headed out to experience India separately from Rising Star.

We stopped at several interesting roadside places along the way.  First up was a well.  I found a crab skeleton there.  We also found a Christian cemetery.  We know it was Christian because a cross adorned the entrance.  We continued on...

Once we arrived at the village, everyone came out of their houses to look at us.  I felt like a celebrity.  As we walked down the street, a group of men called after me, "Photo!"  I turned back to let them take a picture of me, but that is not what they wanted.  They wanted me to take a picture of them with my camera.  There was one man in particular that the others kept pushing forward to me and laughing at.  I asked him if I could be in the picture with him.  They laughed.  It is hard to take pictures with people here.  I need to respect their culture so I never know how much I can touch them or not.  The picture is a little awkward because I'm trying to lean into the picture, but not actually physically touch him.  Just then, a mother walked over to me with her small child and placed the child in my arms.  I held the very confused four year old for a couple of minutes and set her down.  I don't know what they wanted me to do with her.  I got a picture though!  Another man asked us if we had "finished lunch."  We lied and said we had because we didn't want them to feed us.  I have to be very wary of the food you eat here.

As we continued on, more people came out to see us and take picture of us and with us.  We were quite popular!  They led us to a Ganesh temple.  When we were about to leave an older woman came over with a key to unlock the gate to the temple.  She said something to us in Tamil in a very upset tone of voice.  I'm still unsure about what she was wanting.  But she blessed us by placing white chalk on our foreheads and then used red chalk to make a red dot on the white.  She then lit a match and lit some kind of substance on fire.  She showed us that we were to pass our hands through the flame and touch our heads.  I participated in this blessing.  I'm not really sure if what I did was sacriligious, but I figure that I was just experiencing a culture.  The woman again proceeded to yell at us.  We were able to figure out that she was unhappy about us putting our shoes back on so soon and that we did not "donate" money or pay her for the experience.  We gave her a few rupees and she seemed satisfied, but she kept yelling at us about our shoes until we reached the road.

They led us to another temple.  They told us that this one had been completed only a couple of weeks earlier.  This temple was dedicated to their village god.  We had a take off our shoe again.  This temple was beautiful!  It was extremely colorful and vibrant!  Statues of Lakshmi adorned the gated entrance to the shrine.  The old woman wouldn't let us go in this one, but when we finished she was there to yell at us until we "donated" again and put our shoes on at the appropriate time.  After spending two hours in the village, we decided to head back to Rising Star.

As always, it was really hot and I was extremely sweaty by the time we got back.  When we got back to the Elephant House, the rest of the volunteers had arrived.  We had a couple of hours of free time before we ate dinner with the kids.

Eating dinner with the kids is an experience.  They use their hands to pick up massive amounts of rice and curry and then they stick out their tongues and plop the rice onto it.  Beside their hands, they don't really get dirty.  It is pretty amazing and disgusting all at the same time.  I really didn't like the curry they served tonight so I didn't eat much.  Jayanthi and Mymonisha made fun of me for not eating.  They were appalled that I didn't finish my plate.  I felt bad, but wasn't going to force myself to eat it.

At family time, I played thumb wars with Kristraj.  A couple of the other boys taught me how to play their version of marbles.  It really is amazing the type of things they come up with here to keep themselves entertained.  I sat and read a book to Harikrishna (yes, that really was his name).  He is one of the younger boys.  He said, "Auntie!"  I looked down and he pointed to my water bottle.  I told him that it was mine and they I saw him pull some pretty sneaky moves.  He looked at his house mother and quickly lifted the straw, then he looked at me.  I was curious about what he was going to do so I smiled.  He looked back at his house mother intently and then at the water bottle - back to his house mother.  And then, before anything could be done, he had his mouth on my straw and was taking a huge sip of my drink (which was blue Powerade).  He set the bottle down and made sure that his house mother hadn't seen him.  I looked down at him and asked him if it was good.  He gave me the slyest smile ever and did the head bob to indicate that it was.  So cute!  I laughed out loud.  I continued reading to him and saw him take two more sips.  He thought it was hilarious!  Naughty boy.  Don't worry, I washed the water bottle before I filled it up again.

I loved being immersed in the culture of a village today.  And I loved being so warmly welcomed.  I never felt threatened or unsafe.  But that is just the kind of people they are.  What a great day!

Day 10 - Complete

Firsts: Eating with the kids. 

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