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Published: March 1st 2018
I am just a few days away from leaving the Child Haven home. And the last 10 days or so have been very different from the previous weeks as I was invited to visit and share the "normal" life of several staff members. I often expected just a quick visit, but there is not such thing here, people took great pride in showing me their area, taking me on journeys to local temples, historic sites, or other places. Neighbours were always pouring in, wanting to see the face of a "real foreigner"! And soon I would be invited for a cup of chai at their house as well. In one case, the village was far enough that I stayed for 4 days, a very unique chance to immerse myself in the indian way of life.
It was a huge privilege, and once again very humbling. I was welcomed as an honored guess, served the best food, offered the best seat, the best bed, the best of everything. Unfortunately I am a terrible guest as I have a very limited appetite, and I was a huge disappointment for all the mothers who had prepared such delicious food for me!
Visiting people can
also be challenging, especially for an introvert like me. This means spending every minute of the day and night with people, and once again the language barrier makes it very difficult to communicate. Once we are done with the usual I am from Canada, I have one sister, I am not married, Canada is cold, I am 43, I like India, there is little conversation that can be had, which can be very frustrating, but also leads to often funny misunderstandings. But I enjoyed learning more about the life and background of the people I have been living with for the past 3 months. People were very curious about what I did, and how I did it, but I was also watching them all the time, trying to do as they do, trying not to make any big faux-pas. They made me wear their clothes, they combed my hair, lent me their jewelry, put some make-up in my face... And as it is often the case in India, I just had to surrender.
Once again, the most memorable part of these visits is not the monuments or lovely gardens that I saw, it is to experience the reality of other
people, the kindness, pride and effort people put into making my stay most enjoyable, the generosity of Indians, who in most cases spend all their money and make big sacrifices to make sure their children will get the best education possible so that they will have a better life, and yet, they insisted to pay for everything while I was visiting them ("you are my guest") and some even wanted to give me money when I left! Including the neighbours who had also prepared a small care package with candies, cookies and chocolate for me.
Even a perfect stranger who I met at a restaurant where I had lunch with my hosts paid for our lunch "because he wanted me to feel welcomed".
There would be so much more to say, it's impossible to summarize all this in a short blog. But today is the start of Holi Festival, it is a busy day, so I have to go!
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