Monday, January 12, 2015

Capturing the Moment

Sometimes a picture captures the essence of a situation better than words. Here are some of my favorite moments from this past month.

His entire attention was focused on eating a giant sugar cane stalk. This is the moment he finally stood still.

The driver of this tourist bus must be a magician. How else could he possibly get motion out of this relic?

Two hard-working men with under-appreciated skills.

These fellow Taj Mahal visitors relished my request to take their photos.

She came to the festival to dance but had to endure an annoyingly long speech.

A family traveling on the freeway at 50 mph.

Finally, this stunning street girl was selling good luck offerings but beamed when I gave her my last granola bar. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Experience Created

Adjusting to living in India hasn't been easy for me. All my pet peeves are common social norms here - being late or not showing up at all, no organization whatsoever, talking loudly through movies, saying whatever sounds good even if it is far from the truth, general uncleanliness accompanied with random public peeing. How that last one became such an accepted option remains one of life's greatest Indian mysteries that I witness several times a day.

While this might be an interesting place to visit, it is a challenging place to live. Ty's day-to-day interactions happen with well-educated and Westernized Indians while mine centers around non-English speaking village migrants who are struggling to make ends meet. Frustration fills my days. I realized I needed to get out of the house more and create a different experience for myself. So when Andrea invited me to come along and teach blind boys to swim, I wagged my head and changed my life.

First of all, the boys are adorable. I have never, in my entire life, seen any children so well-behaved and so kind to each other. My first glimpse captured them guiding each other and laughing together.

Curious to know how one goes about teaching the blind to swim, I watched the warm-up exercises and tried to help move arms in the right circular motion but ended up accidentally tickling the same one below who couldn't stop giggling. 

We clap to guide them in a straight line and holler 'ready' at play time for them to throw the ball to us. Let's just say most of them are better swimmers than me and can throw like a pro!

Any immersible amount of water terrifies the average Indian. There are no bathtubs and most have never learned to swim since swimming pools are not common and the ocean/river waters are too polluted. Just getting them used to being in water is a great accomplishment. But their blindness means they rely on their hearing and that disappears when they put their face in the water to blow bubbles and swim. 

They taught me what it means to bravely try new things. I found this little guy sobbing as he sat on the side of the pool. He wanted to swim so badly but he was too terrified to get in. I hugged him tight and slowly got him into the water more and more, but it wasn't until he heard his best friend's voice that he jumped out of my arms and gleefully spun around with his buddy. His friend had been within reach the whole time but without sight, he had no idea he was there.

It was really hard to feel sorry for myself after I met these boys. Their Happy Home for Blind Boys teaches them all kinds of crafts and skills that enable them to succeed in life. They were the best rehearsed Christmas choir! Their teacher and pianist are former blind boy students whose lives were changed by the gift of music.

They tat cotton to make thread and linen cloths, they create beautiful ceramic pieces, they paint, and even piece together the most incredible mosaics. They ride the train home every Friday and back every Sunday night counting the stops and fighting the crowds all by themselves. I don't think they know they aren't supposed to be able to do these things!

What really inspires me, though, is their sense of humor. We had a Christmas party after swimming one day and when Christian mistook the ketchup for his bottled water, there was no stopping their giggles.

When this guy whispered to me it was his birthday, I broadcasted it. All sang enthusiastically with the volunteers belting out "happy birthday, dear Asit" because that was the name on his hat. All the boys knew his voice and just as loudly sang, "happy birthday, dear Suresh" but busted out laughing when they heard us call him Asit. Suresh could barely ask how long he'd been wearing the wrong cap because it was so funny to him.

I love these blind boys. I love them because they taught me how to see - how to see that there are better ways to handle life's frustrations. And when I forget that they can't see and tell them to 'look! They are setting up the party!' or yell 'watch out!' they smile and giggle at me instantly forgiving. They are a bright spot in my week. I think I can safely say, experience created.