In the second full week in Bangalore I felt like I’d really found my, as only my father would say, groove. I was no longer surprised to see a cow walk across a main street and I was able to eat more than just white rice. I was, however, feeling like I need a little break from the shelter. I was missing adult conversation and personal space. Just as I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed I am invited on the trip on a lifetime. The heads of Sparsha trust, Gopi and Chitra (they’re married) offered to take me and 4 other volunteers on a trip, along with their two children. We went to Coorg for 5 days, it the home of Chitra’s family and far more rural than Bangalore.
The trip was even more beautiful than I could have anticipated. The food was amazing and the people were so incredibly accommodating. The forests, or jungle as Gopi calls it, is absolutely beautiful. I am from northern Michigan and the tropic flowers and fruit left me in awe. We hiked and swam and experienced a side of this country that I never would have been able to see as a tourist.
We also experienced some aspects of Indian culture we would not have been able to alone. We went to a naming ceremony and a festival. We were late to the naming ceremony and missed the actual ceremony, but came in time for food and good conversation. A couple of days later we went to a festival at another temple in a smaller village. I am still unsure what the meaning of the festival was, but we went inside of the temple and we saw a man dressed as a god. I was to grab the rice, which served as a blessing, place the red powder between my eyebrows, and give the god money by placing it on his forehead. It did not happen to me, but for some of the other volunteers they received a blessing. The god told them what would happen in their lives, such as marriage in the near future.
I loved the festivals and experiencing the culture, but I was frustrated by constantly being stared at. It was as if I had grown a third leg or I was walking around naked. There were maybe 100 people at the naming ceremony. We walked in and everyone began to stare. I was so uncomfortable I walked to the back. I kid you not, at least 50% of the people turned completely around to continue to stare. One young girl took pictures of us from across the room for at least 5 minutes before we asked if she wanted a “selfie.” It was incredibly unnerving.
We returned to the shelter after 5 days and 20 girls all ran and gave us hugs. They told us how much they missed us and how happy they were to see us. In that moment I began to realize how hard it would be to leave. And with that week 3 began….