Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Walk Back in the Footsteps of Mother

Went on a small pilgrimage today tracing back Mother Thersa's life in Calcutta before she was anyone that the world cared about. It was overwhelming to see so much and start to understand her a little better. All of the text below is copied from the little guide page I was given on the walk.

1. At Mothers Tomb

"I do it for Jesus, HE IS MY ALL. If He is MY ALL, then I must be able to talk to people about the person I love. Because I love Him I am here today. I do it for Jesus, for the greater glory of God and the good of people."

Clean Heart

"God Speaks in the silence of the heart...and we listen. And then...we speak to God from the fullness of our heart. First we listen...God speaks...and then we speak and God listens. And that connection is with God. A soul of prayer, the fruit of prayer is deepening of Faith, and the fruit of Faith is Love, and the fruit of Love is Service, and the fruit of Service is Peace. That is why we need to pray to have a clean heart...and if we havea clean heart we can see God. And when we can see God naturally we will begin to love one another. That means we see and we look, and then we give our hands to serve and our hearts to love... and that's the beginning of holiness."*

Extract of Mother Teresa's words in the movie "The Legacy"

I will copy more later on. For now, just think on that a bit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Love

I Love!

I Love.

I can only Love!

I saw a dead baby lying in a cot outside on the street.

My tears scream Love!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Wish List

Yes, I know it is early for Christmas, but it will take 2-3 weeks minimum for anything to reach me from the US anyways, so I have decided to write my list now! As I am more than certain that my immediate family will not be able to buy most of the things on my list and send them to me I openly invite anyone who reads this and wants to help to send along any of the items listed below. You are more than welcome to remain anonymous in your generosity, however, I would like there to be a running list of what is being sent to me so that I may update my list in order to not receive say 1000 pairs of gloves and no hand sanitizer. Ok? So simply leave a comment if you have mailed anything to Kolkata, and I will update my list!

The Missionaries of Charity
54A, A.J.C. Bose Road
KOLKATA 700 016


Plastic gloves medium size - as many as want to come! The volunteers and the sisters use them when treating the ill patients. (1Box coming from Missy, my old World Youth Day friend!)

Sports Bras (size 34)- I forgot all my bras in the US. Have pity on me! I really only need 2 more as I do have 1 on me. (O! the shame in asking for underwear online!)

Hand Sanitizer - I really can't tell you how much we all love the Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer over here. Why it Kills 99.99% of all Germs! Gotta love that! (Also coming from Missy)

Stationary with ENVELOPES - I have found some wonderfully cheap paper made by rehabilitated Street kids, but I can't find any good envelopes, and I have so many letters to send!

Peanut Butter - Good for all the bananas I do get and to replace all the protein I am not eating. (Also coming from Missy)

Floss - for a healthy smile!

Books - Brother Dave, this is your department.

A Hairbrush - I don't have one, and I can't find any good ones here.


That is all I can think of off the top of my head, but I will probably add more later.

In the immortal words of my first Indian influence, Abu:


Saturday, November 24, 2007

I was not naked!

I'm sorry everyone for the long silence I have been sick since Wednesday afternoon, and have stayed in my bed for most of the time since then. All Thursday I was week and my head hurt and then in the evening I thought I felt a little better so I went with a few Frenchies and got some food. Which proceeded to exit my body in all directions and ways that were unpleasant throughout that evening. My throat being very sore from so much vomit I was unable to drink even water for about 15 hours. Not that I was even able to hold water when I forced myself to drink for fear of dehydration. Nope, it was amazing how it just went right through me. It was like pouring it down a drain! Sickest feeling I ever felt. I sucked salt off of some nuts and forced a banana into my stomach on Friday and haven't vomited since, though the other exit was still a problem till I took some Imodium. I felt much better this morning and so I wobbled myself to the Internet to call home and Fella, and update emails and blog. Which is where you find me now!

Now, where did I leave off... Ah, yes my perfect day!


On Monday I woke as usual at about 5:25, dressed and walked to Mother House for Mass. Mass was beautiful as it always is, and afterwards I again spent a little time with Mary and my Rosary and Green scapular intentions as I had the day before, then proceeded down to Chai and bread. It was while I was eating my bread that Sr. Karina came to me and asked if I would like to do something "special" that day. She wanted only 3 volunteers to help with a distribution project the Sisters were doing in a suburb. She asked if my fellow teacher, who was sitting next to me would mind if I went with the Sisters for the day and not to my class, and of course it was ok with her. So, I got to join 2 other volunteers and 2 sisters and 2 novice's in a MC ambulance filled with several 200 lbs bags of rice, sugar, and dal, boxes filled with large jugs of oil, boxes with bars of soap, bags filled with new clean towels, and off we went to the sisters in the suburb! It was about 8:30am when we reached our destination a serene little convent type place surrounded by walls and housing dozens of mentally disabled women who were most all abandoned by their husbands and thus went mad. (This is what I was told and so I believe it, though I suspect that many of the women were probably already a bit mad before their husbands left them.)

When we arrived we started to all work together to tug at and drag the large bags of food into the pavilion and through the garage doors. (Think LARGE shed, or medium airplane hanger, type building) We unloaded the ambulance and then set to work dividing all the grain and other things into nice little bags and then into nice plastic buckets. Pretty buckets! All bright red, blue and green I estimate holding about 2.5 gallons. As the morning progressed we sang songs and talked about histories and events that were of interest. At about 11:30/12 when the last sugar was divided, and the lids placed as best as could be onto the buckets, the Sr. Incharge (whom I love!) told us that the people would be coming that afternoon at about 3 and that we could wait or we could go back to the city and continue with our days as normal. The other 2 volunteers left, but I stayed. O! the joy, I had the sisters all to myself! We ate a few biscuits and then we walked to the chapel where I joined the sisters in adoration and Holy hour until it was time for lunch with the other sisters who ran the villa/convent at which time the sisters I was with went to eat with 'native' sisters and I was shown a small room and table set with a beautiful lunch just prepared for me. I felt sad and special at the same time. I had wanted to eat with the sisters and the fact that I wasn't allowed made me sad. However, when I realized that I wasn't allowed to eat with them I also realized that one of 'my' sisters must have spoken with the 'native' sisters and asked them to prepare me a meal all for my own. It was very nice, I suspect that the sisters had a meaner meal than I had. After lunch I wandered in and out of the chapel a few times and back to the pavilion where I read a bit of the book I had brought, The Abolition of Man, until Sr. Incharge came and told me that the people would be arriving soon and that I was to keep them in order as best I could. She related a story about how last time the people came they climbed the trees and stole the sisters coconuts and that I was to stop them from doing that again! After a time there were about 100 people in the square Fr. A came and stole them all for a catechism lesson. During which time I sat with one of the Novice's outside and talked about her history and how she came to her enter the MC's. About her family living in Nepal and how none of them were/are Christian and the trouble she had when she told them she was and that she would become a sister in India. How her family ostracized her and she was cast out from them. She talked about how it was very hard to learn humility and about other girls who had come from far off places hoping that they were meant to be MC's but were too weak to handle the life.

They are so strong and humble these women!

She told me about how I could ask to do a ''come and see" and thus live, eat, pray and work side by side with the sisters for a month while I prayed and they prayed about my vocation and whether God wanted me to join them. I know that I can't do that until after Fella is gone and that when I do it, it will just be to confirm without a doubt that I am meant for married life and not for a habit and order. Which I feel very certain of, but this I want to do as a "just in case" scenario. So that I know without a doubt that I have offered myself to Him and that He doesn't want me to be His bride. Just in case...
after Fr. finished with them the sisters and I passed out buckets to the masses and then cleaned the shed, had tea, walked to the main road, and took 2 taxis back to Mother House while saying the Chaplet of Mercy.
Nothing of interest happened after that.

Now to Tuesday and my naked woman!

As usual on Tuesday I woke, dressed, and walked to 6am Mass at Mother House, only difference was that that morning I walked alone. My roommate had already left and I chose to walk a different way than we usually take. It was then that I saw the naked woman and broke. she had nothing. Absolutely nothing. No one can imagine the truth of this NOTHING that she had. I gave her my skirt and would have forgotten Mass but for another Frenchie friend of mine who was walking to Mass who pulled me from her and said that I should pray for her during Mass and ask sister if I could bring her to one of the MC's homes afterwards.

I did, I went to Mass, I prayed and cried, I couldn't sit with Mary I couldn't think of anything else, I went down stairs and couldn't find sister.. Internally I was freaking out. I had to go I had to help her I had to I had to do it NOW! I talked with my roommate who had left before me and she told me how she had seen the woman, had thought of giving her scarf, but had given nothing, and felt like death during Mass. We talked with another long term volunteer and ascertained that we were indeed allowed to bring the woman to Kalighat but that whether the sister would take her or not was unknown.

My roommate and I took her in a taxi. She was taken to the bathes where a Massi washed her and shaved her head, she was fed and examined for injury of body and when none were found we were told that after work was finished we were to take her back with us and leave her exactly where we had found her. The Sisters had no room for her, she wasn't about to die. I am not mad now, though at the time I felt betrayed. They clothed her well and we brought her back to where we had found her. I kissed her goodbye and walked away.

As an afternote to family who snickered at the mental image of me without a skirt you will all be happy to know that I was NOT naked after I gave my skirt to the woman on the street. I happen to have the weirdest sense of style which enables me to wear, quite happily I might add, layers of not matching clothing. Think Gypsy. So, when I gave my skirt I still had an entire outfit on.

A salwar kameez in fact.
(Long shirt as good as a dress with open slits on the side starting at the hips, and a pair of baggy pants underneath.)

Not as fancy as the one in the picture below, but you get the idea now.
Thus was I attired on last Tuesday: in a dark blue Salwar Kameez which I had layered with a warm French scarf and my long red and multi patterned skirt over the baggy pants but under the long shirt. I think it looked quite nice!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Best Two Days!

Grrrr! I wrote a whole days story here already, but for some technical reason it didn't publish yesterday. So, here goes round 2!

Sunday: It was awesome, a perfectly wonderful day! (I couldn't have asked for a better day to live in God's love, except for maybe Monday. Which was so beautiful that I am almost sad now because I can not imagine a more fruitful day in Kolkata, and I still have so long to stay.)

Woke up at about 5:30, dressed, and walked to Mass at Mother House with my roommates. Received Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time in India! Hooray for His gift of Self in nourishment for our bodies and souls!!! After Mass I sat with the statue of Mary and said a decade of my rosary and took care of my Green scapular intentions. I then went down to the common room for my Chai and bread treat. When I saw father Abello I asked him about when confessions were and received the answer "Right now if you are ready!" He is great. I had confession and a got a gooooood bit of formational instucting, and was pleased as a pretty bird when my roommate came looking for me after she had noticed my absence from our small group of 'Frenchies' who were about to leave for Prem Dan. I felt so loved. (It's the little things that get me, like not being left behind, or being asked if I want to try a bite of a friends funny looking food.) When walking to Prem Dan we passed a man, quite literally dressed in filthy, and I would like to emphasizer that again, FILTHY rags, who was digging rice out of what seemed to be a mixture of vomit and street filth. I was broken. I hurried to teh nearest shop and bought him a big bit of fluffy white bread, and when I gave it to him he kissed at my feet. We arrived at Prem Dan a little late, but were still greeted amiabily by the Massi's with "Good morning Aunties!" and proceeded around the back to start on the wonderfully huge piles of laundry and tubs of wash water which would occupy us for the following 2 hours. As I was so happy I couldn't contain my whistle, but the problem is that when I whistle I often hum along, and when I hum I often start to sing the best lyrics, and when I start to sing... Well, I can't be stopped! I was so happy that my happiness even infected the other workers. (It is very contagious stuff we work with here in Kolkata!) As I sang I took requests from all the volunteers and gifted God and them with songs from My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, The White Album, Sargent Peppers, The Little Mermaid, Cat Stevens, Mama Cass, and the list of Gospel hymns... O! the Joy that was mine to be the radio for the morning!
After washing we had Chai and during Chai break I had a lengthy discussion with one "Lisa" who was not Christian but had so many questions that I dare not list them all here for lack of verity as I can't remember them all, there were so many.
After Chai we prepared to feed the women and I had my feet kissed and was called Buddha by one woman and huged so tightly by another that I felt so big inside that I might break again. After Prem Dan we took a motor rickshaw home to our beloved Salvation Army and I snooze till early evening. Nothing extraordinary and worth recounting happened after that.

On Monday though I had a perfect day. However, as I am again out of time for my internet session I will tell you about Monday tomorrow, and about today as well, for today was a somewhat depressing day but worth telling about. As a teaser for your attention tomorrow I will say this much: I gave my skirt to a naked skeletal woman lying on the street today and had my first experience of Nirmal Hriday, aka Kalighat.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The bad things about Calcutta

This post is not intended for pity's sake, but for informational purposes only. All feelings of pity which might incur within the readers of said post ought to be directed at the people of the city of Kolkata who live and endure the bad things, listed hereafter, during everyday of their lives. No pity is to be directed at the author. The author of the following post knows what fresh air tastes like and will rejoice in God's goodness when able to return to it, but the natural born inhabitants of the aforementioned polluted city have no knowledge of this beautiful way of breathing, nor have they the blessing of a physician to advise them in times of illness.

I am having a hard time breathing, and I choke on the pollution in the air here. Others say that they are having no problems it just smells a little bad, yet still others say that it was very bad for them at first as well and that you become adjusted to the level of pollutants in the air in about a month. I find this inability to breath fresh air my most distressing complaint. Volunteers say that it is like smoking two packs of non-filtered cigarettes a day. I think it much worse than that, and far less relaxing. Every time I blow my nose everything comes out black, not dark, but black. The back of my throat hurts and I get headaches frequently.

I have been having some bad dizzy spells and I read on my Mefloquine (anti-malaria pills) that it is a side affect. I don't like it. I have also noticed increased paranoid or "freaked out" feelings where I don't usually have them. Very weird, if I do say so myself, because a part of my brain will be going completely mad and stressing me out so much that I need to do yoga breathing to calm down, and another part of my head will be telling me that this is not a normal feeling and that I need to stop it. I am at odds with myself and I have decided that I don't care for drug induced feelings at all. I am unsure as to how I should go about contacting my doctor in WI as the time change between here and there is so drastic, but I feel I really should change my anti-malaria pills.

God is good and I am happy! Praise be to God for all the goodness, mercy, and love He showers on me and all those who love Him!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I visited the Lepers today

Just a quick note to say the Leper colony that the MS brothers oversee is absolutely wonderful! I went with 29 other volunteers to visit this morning after Mass. I'm out of time now, so I will write about that later. Pray for me a Cyclone is coming tonight to Kolkata...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Prem Dan for the day

I arrived to late for orientation yesterday, so I didn't have a place to work this morning! Benedict(a) the French girl suggested that after 6am mass this morning I let the sister at breakfast know that I wanted to work. It went well, seems there are actually quite a few people who miss orientation everyday, because the sisters walk around after breakfast with little clip-boards and day passes for the newbies so that those who want to can get to work right away. I got a morning pass for Prem Dan, it was wonderful. We washed clothes almost all morning then we had a chai break and after that we started to help the sisters feed and take care of the women in their care. Most of the women are no more than 85 lbs, and deformed in some small way. Twisted appendages, short arms, useless legs, etc. I got to help feed 2 women but neither was able to eat more than 2 Table spoons worth of food, though I had a whole plate to give.

I got extremely lost trying to get back to Mother House this evening to officially register, and in the end resorted to taking help from an extortionist, buying him biscuits at the price of 52. rupees for his baby daughter. I hardly believe that he has a daughter and feel very apprehensive about his meeting me at Mother House tomorrow morning with is daughter so that I can give him formula for her. Everything that I read at orientation tells me that he is probably a bad man, who will most likely "borrow" or BUY a child for the day in the hopes that I will buy him some expensive formula and then he will be able to sell it back to another street vendor and make a profit. I will pray very hard tonight, that my ignorance will not be the cause of a child's abuse. I'm scared, and feel very guilty.

Since I was so very lost I arrived about an hour late for orientation, and by effect missed it completely. I was handed a pamphlet to read by the guide/long term volunteer, and read it through alone. When I filled out my small slip of paper on it with name, address, passport no., etc and I put down that I would be staying for 11 months. When I handed it to the volunteer he was honestly shocked! There really aren't many long term volunteers. I asked for Prem Dan but was asked to teach the toddlers in Shishu Bavin (sp?). I am intimidated by the children, and I know I would be more comfortable with the manual labor and simple love that I could do at Prem Dan, but I didn't come here to feel confident, or to be able to give simple love. I will do what they ask, and God will make me grow big enough inside to handle it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Commencing Kolkata

The train trip was very nice, of course I will feel guilty for riding first class for the rest of my stay, but I was safe and happy the whole way! Anyways, I arrived about an hour ago and have settled into the dormitory at Salvation Army already. It has a very hard cot, but I am sure it will be good for my back. There are 5 other ladies in my room and I have already met one of them, she is French and a volunteer for the last 2 months. I think we will get along well, she is going to take me to adoration tonight at 6pm. I'm glad I will be able to work on my French a bit while here. I am going to try and find a phone tonight, but no promises. I am feeling rather out of place, and wishing that I had arrived earlier or that it was a Wednesday already so I could go register with Sr. Karina. I will be happy to see Jesus tonight and I think I will feel better after we hang out a bit. Thank you all for your prayers, please keep them coming, I am here and now the hard part can start! Woohoo!!! Bring it world!