So far Kolkata has run the gamut on adjectives for me; Fascinating, astounding, beautiful, sad and least of all enlightening. I knew going into this experience I would see and hear things I never had before and Kolkata has not dissapointed! The Fairlawn Hotel is truly incredible. Not only are we here in another country, but you step through the 'doors'(because truly there aren't doors you step right from the garden terrace in to the front desk/sitting area) and you feel as though you've traveled through time. In business since 1936 there are knick-knacks, pictures, statues, books and the list goes on and on of things collected over the decades. I've been up and down the stairs 50 times and still find something new everytime. I could talk all night about this place..perhaps more next time!
Our first full day here, we met Rosalie who opened the Preyrona School here in Kolkata that we will be working with. She has opened a total of 4 schools now in her 11 years here and is a true character while being SO inspirational. Her thoughts on the beggars here really solidified an idea in my head that I was uncomfortable with until I heard her words: "If we give them the money, or the food we're telling them that it's ok. They need to go to school and be educated. It's our fault they continue to beg." (I am paraphrasing, so hopefully I don't offend the lovely Rosalie) Agree with her (and I) or not, this opinion has stuck with me. Rosalie took us then to Prabartak a home for mentally challenged adults. These people were pure joy. Overjoyed to see us there, they welcomed us with 'Hello, hello!' , handshakes and huge smiles. We did a project where we helped trace their body's and they drew themselves on it. I helped a man named, Arjun, who when we first arrived brought out a picture he had drawn and my jaw hit the floor. His artistic skill level was INCREDIBLE, so far beyond my capabilities and had such a lovely style. After he then knocked my socks off when he drew his own face in perfect detail (moustache and all) I found that he is not only an artist but a musician playing the tambra drum while they sang and danced for us ( we even sang 'We Shall Overcome' with them, which they know in English, Hindi and Bengali...phew!) Then I recieved a souvenier I never could have purchased here. Arjun disappeared and came back handing me a paper rolled up. I opened it finding an amazing drawing of a Hindu diety; I thought he was just 'showing off' but when I attempted to return it he said "No, No..you, you!" Which if you know me you know the tears were on the edge of my eyes before I could say thank you (Dhana wad). I think we spent almost as much time saying our goodbyes to them as we did on the project. I could go into detail about everyone of them that touched my heart, but we'd be here an awfully long time :)
So much more to tell but I'll save it for tomorrows post. I will say this; I feel like in this city I can't open my eyes wide enough to take in all there is to see, open my heart to feel all there is to feel because it is so incredibly powerful, but my eyes are as wide as can be and my heart is bursting for this country and its people!