Friday night was my last night in Chennai. I wish I would've had more than one day to explore a little more, but it's only four hours away, I'm sure I will be back! Saturday morning, Rajkumar came to the hotel to bid me farewell and make sure I got off okay (I'm telling you, ABOVE AND BEYOND kindness!) and I ate more than I've been eating, thank goodness. The hotel food was pretty good and a little Americanized which made it a nice transition.
Four pieces of toast and some chickpeas later, Amanda from National Instruments and her husband Brent came to pick me up in by far the nicest car I've been in so far (with blasting AC! What more could I have asked for). Amanda's company sent her to India to bring this computer game/education tool made by Lego to India. She and Brent had spent 10 days traveling India and going into the slums to teach this really great software to the children. The software, which I still have yet to really play with, is geared towards kids to teach them basic engineering skills. It's really cool because on the software, you learn how to build an alligator or a soccer goal out of the legos that are provided. Then, with a few sensors and a USB cord, the legos are synced with the computer game and through the computer game, you can instruct the creation to perform things. For example, when we build the alligator, through the computer we could tell the alligator to open and close its mouth, for how long and how many times etc etc. It's a pretty pricey software, but Amanda and her big heart are dedicated to trying to get more of these programs donated. I think the kids will really like this because it's hands on and not merely a lecture. Plus, I was quite the avid Lego fan as a kid (remember, Mom, all of those Star Wars sets?!)
Anyways, the car ride was really great. Amanda and Brent are from Austin, Texas (LOVE all of the Texas connections) and they were pretty much the cutest couple ever. We bonded over being very confused when we saw an entire family (infant and all) riding on the back of a motorcycle through the busy streets of Chennai. I felt very attached to them even though I only met them for a few hours and definitely shed a few tears when they left later that afternoon.
Upon arrival to the orphanage, Lilly, the "head nun" was waiting for us outside of the gates. Immediately, I was shown to my room but currently, we are moving me into the main house where the nuns are. I felt bad because the last thing I want to be is high maintenance, but they offered and insisted, since its less isolated and this house has fans that work even when the power goes out (like how the power is out now, a very common happening in India!) But my new room is similar, just a little older. I'll take pictures soon. Then, we had lunch, which was very good! But unfortunately, I haven't been able to eat a lot between my fatigue, the heat and the overall adjusting. They also did an adorable welcoming ceremony where they all sang to us and presented us with beautiful silk scarves and even a manly one for Brent!
Lunch was fun and then we toured the school and learned a little bit more about the orphanage. Apparently in India, the term orphan can mean that you have one parent. So a lot of the children have a parent and might go home for a night or a month when school is not in session (they also go to school on Saturday, ahh!) and on Sundays, many of the parents come visit the school/home. In addition, a lot of children from outside of the orphanage come to the school just during the day. Lilly also told me that many of the children come straight off the street and no matter what, she will never ever turn down a child. It's funny, just the few days I've been here, I feel so comfortable with the nuns and it seems like each of them reminds me of someone. Lilly reminds me of my host mom from Madrid, Concha, which is extremely comforting since I became so close with her and will be visiting her after this trip. Two of the nuns are from Colombia, and they are SO MUCH FUN. Natalia and Romi. Romi has the most contagious laugh ever, and they love that I [try] to speak Spanish to them and then they speak English back to me so we can practice. Romi almost looks like she could be part of my mom's side of the family! She has a lot of the same features as my grandfather and some of my aunts. Maybe a distant cousin or something, heehee.
All in all, there were no surprises coming here. If anything, I'm completely blown away by the hospitality and the constant, "you don't need to worry, Allie, this is your home, be free," comments that keep coming my way because I'm not going to lie, this is and will be a difficult adjustment. Like I've told many of my friends and family, I knew exactly what to expect and like I said before, nothing has come as a surprise to me. But there's really no real way to prepare for something like this and you don't actually know what it's like until you're living it. But truth be told, this is the best possible place I could be.
Although it is very very hot and the power is not consistent, the energy here is unbeatable and I can't imagine myself in any other place or job right now. The children, although so poor, are so amazingly happy, polite, eager to learn and interested in this new white person floating around their campus (crying a lot of the time, I don't know why the tears just keep coming!) You can almost feel their pulse and excitement which is exciting for me! It's truly incredible how peaceful and content they can be with little to no possessions and some, not even a family. I think that's an important lesson I will learn/am already learning. I knew that this journey would not be easy; that I'd struggle for at least a few days, but I know once I'm acclimated to the heat and am able to eat a little more and start teaching, things will start to fall into place. Today, like I said, the power went out, and they never know for how long. I'm thankful for the breeze that's blowing, though, which definitely makes the heat more manageable, and for the cute little boys who helped me trek my stuff across the campus. Goal for tomorrow: conquer the bucket bath... wish me luck!
Thanks for reading!
PS: HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO THE BEST DAD IN THE WORLD! MISS AND LOVE YOU!