Tuesday, May 25, 2010

{fill in the blank}

{Our Group}
{Our Room}
{There was nothing I could title this post that could even begin to describe this whole day. Today was something like I've never pictured I could be a part of. Being in this country alone is an entirely new world. Makes Africa seem like a vacation. And it's not just the heat.}
This country is foreign to me.
{The guards killed this scorpion. One of the reasons we are told strictly to walk only on the path to and from the buildings. These and cobras are all over. Just yesterday one of RSO's dogs was killed by a cobra on the path we walk every day. Yikes.}
{We sat waiting for the train to come because the watchmen have to hand-crank down the guardrails and it takes like 10 minutes.}
{Our first day in the Bharatapuram Colony}
{We also walked through the great art school RSO has started, but were asked not to take photos just yet. We want to make friends before we start that. In the colony we could take a few, but I'm sure more will come.}
{Inside the room where all the elderly stay together. These people are the lowest of the low in society; not even regarded as people. They are rarely touched by anyone but each other, and any volunteers or doctors who really understand the situation. These women were caring for each other by tying up the other's hair with what little mobility their fingerless hands had.}
{Oradbama & Me. She got a kick out of me and Audrey trying to say 'how are you' in their language. Sounds like "Yeipidi eidingiding ga" and that took like 5 minutes to figure out. I'm serious, that's the phonetic spelling of it.}
Other words:
Fine- 'nalarga'
Bad- 'nalailay'
What's your name- 'Unga per una'
My name is- 'inpair na'
Hi- 'vanecume'
Have you eaten? (greeting equal to our hi, how are you)- 'saftung la'
Yes, I have- 'saptem'
{I don't even know what to say. This was unlike anything I've ever done. The only thing these people wanted was to have their feet washed and their nails clipped. They don't look like they've had anyone to help them wash for forever. They would stand to the side waiting for their turn. And neither of us understood what the other was saying, but we as volunteers just chatted and listened and made up our own conversations with them and they seemed perfectly content; always bringing their two hands together in a prayer sign and bowing their head as a 'hello' and 'thank you' gesture. The only thing this man could say in English was, pointing to the woman, "Wife, wife" so we knew they were a pair. We were there for 4 hours.}
{We learned a lot about Leprosy in this room where the elderly all sleep. There has been a dramatic decrease of the disease because the younger generation are separating themselves from the afflicted, and are finding easier access to the medication. It's only a bacteria, so it is easily cured. It has an incubation life of about 3 years when a person wouldn't know they were affected. Then a white circle starts to appear on the collarbone or the arm. With treatment, it can all be cured. Our goal is to help the people already affected, while educating and removing the children from the infectious environment and stopping leprosy with this generation.}
{Took an hour lunch break where we all sat under the fans. Then back to work. Our big project today was the library. Every one of these books here was moved and organized by category and reading level. Hours. Hot hours. Thankfully we had a fan...as long as the power was on.}
{Had a wonderful dinner on the roof with the sunset again. Then back to work till 8:30. We took wet rags and scrubbed down the new school so it will be all clean when the kids come back. Caught some frogs and toads just for entertainment.}

{In all honesty, I wish I could say today was the most enjoyable and rewarding day of my life. But it was hard, and long. And I'm not here for me, but to help and to work. I had a moment in the colony today as I was rinsing out another bucket and filling it up at the pipes where I stood to stretch my legs and back and looked down the colony dirt road and thought, "What the heck am I doing here? This is not a normal thing to be doing. I'm standing in a leper colony, in India, washing people's feet and hands; most with some fingers and toes missing, open wounds, flies all over me...and them, literally watching sweat dripping off of me into the bucket as I leaned down in the dirt and tried to make something so dirty and painful looking become...better."
I'm not proud of the moments I have of feeling grumpy and tired; when all I want to do is have a cold drink of water and walk away from all the work. I have everything in the world to go back to in just three weeks. But, I'm human. And this is not easy. It is so humbling and every second here is teaching me of my own weakness and capacity to give mental and physical help to strangers who are so much worse off then I could or will ever be. I don't know what I thought I was signing up for, but this experience is already exceeding my expectations
in just the first two days. Like I said, I'm not here for me.
I might have thought so a few days ago, but I am quickly realizing that this isn't something people at Rising Star do for fun, but honestly to serve. However, every now and then I know I'm going to need a moment where I feel rewarded and not just 'taught' by this experience. That moment came for me today when I was all finished washing the feet and taking a moment to stand and just 'be'. Then I noticed a man sitting a ways off from the whole group, alone on some stairs in just a wrap around his waist. He had his head down. I didn't go at first because I thought someone might see and maybe he was 'different' ya know. But, I just felt like he was lonely. I walked over to him and we started 'talking', even though I've figured out that doesn't really mean using the same language. He started gesturing about this and that, then showed me his hands. I grabbed a damp rag and some nail clippers, sat by him on the stairs, held his hands in mine and started to wipe them clean and do what I could with what was left of his hands. I don't know what to say. Maybe it was selfish, feeling like I got such satisfaction out of helping him. But I felt like out of my whole day, all my moments of fatigue, discomfort from the heat, and worrying about myself, that was a moment where I was needed, where I helped someone who was forgotten in the corner.
I hope I did a good enough job. I'll never forget him. I can't.


  1. Dear sweet Anne Marie. My heart is pounding, but I am speechless. One word came to my mind watching the women wrap each other's hair..."Sisters." Women are sisters. Your heart is beautiful. Don't be too hard on yourself. We are literally worlds apart...but you ARE making a difference.

  2. I agree with what your Mother said. What life changing moments you are having. What sweet service. Way to be.
    Also be safe =)

  3. WOW, I can't see the keys as I try to type- You are AMAZING!!! You are the perfect example of Christlike love and service. How humbling this experience must be.
    p.s.- Don't get married until Logan gets off his mission :)

  4. I am in tears. What an amazing story to share. I am sure that man will never forget you as well. I am so amazed with all the service and work you have done in Africa and now in India. I highly doubt I would ever be able to muster up the courage to leave the comforts of home and even civilization and then become completely selfless by washing others and working in a hot library; then catching frogs for fun! You are one incredible girl Anne Marie!

  5. Wow, Anne Marie. What an amazing experience and you wrote it down so elegently. You could put these experience (your posts) into a book one day. Good for you to go out there and be so selfless. Love ya. I look forward to reading more :)

  6. Anne Marie. Sister Memmott just phoned me in tears. Her blogger commenting feature is disabled so she cannot leave you a comment. However, she wanted me to tell you how moved she was by your post. And, of course...her sense of humor was tickled about your comments regarding getting drenched even as you stand still. She sends her love.

  7. wow anne marie-- wow. a whole different world. how eye opening it is to read and see your pictures---knowing that i don't even get it at all since i am here and you are there and i would have to be there to even understand. i loved this post. i can imagine coming back to this post to quote you one day for a relief society lesson on unselfishness. you are doing wonderful amazing things.

  8. I don't even know what to say, what an experience you are having. If everyone could do what you are doing we would live in a different world.

  9. Nope, not normal. Gigantic scorpions. Flesh-eating disease. Dog-killing cobra. And monsoon season hasn't even hit. I wonder if Job lived in India.

    Thank heavens you don't limit yourself to normal activities.

  10. Seriously. Crying. 2 words for you. Love it. Love you. You are amazing. Ok, that was 3 words. Sooo wishing I was there. It snowed here yesterday!!

  11. Wow Anne Marie...you experience with this man was spirit to spirit...sounds like something you will never forget. You are the bravest girl I know and you are in my prayers.