Sunday, September 25, 2016: Week 4 in Bal Ashram, Rajasthan, India
This week I’m already four weeks in Bal Ashram and six weeks in India. I am very attached to my family and friends and start to miss them. There is contact through Whatsapp and Skype, but that’s different from being closeby and, for example, being able to give each other a hug. Guru Ram Kripal-ji 17is the one who works the longest in Bal Ashram. He has helped build Bal Ashram 18 years ago and teaches at the informal school. He invites me to dinner at his home with the youngest children of Bal Ashram. This was very cozy and it felt like I was at home with my own family. His daughters are like sisters to me and we danced and played together.
Also Nitu-ji, a teacher of the beauty class, invites me to diner at her home with her children. We have a good time together. We eat and talk, about anything and everything. The kids call me didi and with the team I’m bonding more and more. With them here on the other side of the world, I still feel a bit like having family around.
Meanwhile I conducted psychological interviews with 30 children. Some children need to and others do not dare to expose themselfs. One child asked me twice to what end I will be using the information and who gets to read all of their stories. He gives short and sometimes contradictory answers. He doens’t seem to trust me yet. I find it troublesome, want to help him but he keeps me at a distance. Where does his suspicion comes from? What has he seen? He makes me curious.
Dilip (15 years) is usually a bit quiet and looks a little sad, so he really stands out to me. He keeps physical distance, but observes me carefully. Is Rishma to be trusted, what is she doing here, he might think. If I tell something to the others, which he agrees with, he nods occasionally. Yes, I have indirect contact with him! I wonder how our relationship will develop further? We have to wait and see.
Happy b-day to me!
Last Monday I became 35 years old. If someone has a birthday in Bal Ashram a havan is performed. This is a Hindu fire offering to cleanse yourself spiritually. As spiritual as I am, I answered with a resounding yes when I was offered this havan. The children who attend the informal school and the children who learn a trade in Bal Ashram were all present at the havan. We recited the Gayatri Mantra 35 times. Mantras are used to spread positive energy, both in yourself and in the environment. Very special to experience this. Then I went to a mandir (Hindu temple) with my colleague Sita-ji. This mandir is on top of a mountain. I found it very relaxing to be there. At last it was time for a treat; Indian delicacy (mithai) and chips for the children and colleagues. It was wonderful to see how happy the children were with ‘just’ a little treat. We ended the day by dancing together. I found it very special to celebrate my birthday this way.
Life in the Jungle
Beforehand I knew Bal Ashram is located in a green area, but I did not realize we are in the middle of the jungle. After some time to have lived here, I realize this very well. In the first week I heard that some snakes were killed. Snakes?! Are there snakes here? I have often been to India, but only in big cities. I never saw snakes in the wild before. I have encountered several snakes now. It is still exciting, but my fear seems reduced.
On the streets I see goats and cows sitting together and a camel passes by with his owner. In Bal Ashram there are 3 dogs, 40 cows and a few goats. In my room there are many salamander-like creatures with frog legs. They are very fast, so I’m just as much afraid of them as they are of me. Now I accepted them as roommates and I barely notice them anymore. When I look out my bathroom window, I see a huge beehive. From the other window, I see something hanging down. I look up and it turns out to be a monkey, quietly eating in the tree with three other monkeys. When I walk from my room to the office, I see two cows grazing and many squirrels quickly climbing the trees. Different butterflies fly around and I hear various birds singing. Wow, this is life in the jungle!
Spot the monkey
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