#SAS India Day 6

Day 6 – March 17
The last day in India, we got up early to spend a few more hours in the town, getting a few last minute items. Malia and a few other people had met a tuk-tuk driver the night before and had bonded with him and had met his family. So we went looking for him that morning but he ended up needing to stay at the ship to meet up with another student, so he took us to find a nice driver, and not one of the obnoxious drivers. He took us to Santosh, who spent several hours with us, driving us to all kinds of places, helping us fill our last minute request items. We all were looking for magnets, and I had put it off until the last minute so I was thrilled when he took us to this random little beachside wagon after trying several stores, at which of course we still found items to buy. Luckily the little wagon was full of miscellaneous trinkets, including magnets! Our last stop was at a store called FabIndia, a store recommended by Suchitra, Dhilan and Devan’s mom. The store has SUCH cute things and is even online. I almost ended up with a set of towels and a few clothing items but my self-control kicked in and I made it out with just a wallet, which I needed, a cute shirt and a cheap mud mask. The store was very reminiscent of Global Mamas in Ghana, with a mission to help the local economy and an eco-friendly mindset. Finally it was time to head back to the ship but one of us mentioned how we would miss the naan once we got back on board. So we asked Santosh if there would be a place on the way that sold naan. He took us to a bakery where they didn’t have naan, but another sort of naan-like thing that was like a crepe/naan combination. SO delicious!

Once we got back to the ship, Katy and I grabbed lunch, grabbed our stuff for our FDP and got on the bus to head to the SOS Children’s Village. It ended up taking about an hour and a half to get there, so of course I fell asleep, and I woke up with a cricked neck after sleeping in horrible positions because of the uncomfortable seats. I arrived tired and sore and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As we arrived, children were constantly running up to people, grabbing hands and asking names of the students. I met so many kids in a matter of minutes, that I couldn’t remember anyone’s names, not to mention the slight language barrier made it difficult to understand them. I walked up several sets of steps to the top of the grounds, while holding hands with one of the little girls and we were seated in a small outdoor covered auditorium. It was extremely hot outside, after several days of cooler weather, so I gladly accepted the freshly cut coconut they handed us with, even though it was a little warm to drink. They gave a short presentation about the school but because of an echo and a very soft-spoken man, I learned very little from what he was talking about. After his talk, we split up into groups to go tour the homes. The village reminded me a lot of the orphanage in Mexico that we used to go to. There are homes, which have a housemother, and the children all call her mom, whether they are her own children or not.

After touring the first house, I made a friend with a girl named Vasayana and she grabbed my hand and dragged me all over the grounds to see the different houses. She showed me her house and how she had a little brother and a prayer room, and would constantly point for me to take pictures of something. She spoke very little English but I learned she was 10 years old and her favorite subject is mathematics. She and I just walked all over the place, meeting her friends and siblings from her house. She took me to meet one of her sisters and her friend, who were both 15 years old. We talked for a little while, with lots of questions back and forth. Then they asked me if I knew Justin Bieber’s song “Baby” and asked me to sing it for them. If any of you know me well, I love to sing, but being put on the spot is a little stressful. It’s better when I’m asked to sing a specific song though, so I did it. Then I asked one of them to sing an Indian song. They were too embarrassed to sing and asked me if I would sing Akon “Smack That,” and a Michael Jackson song. I thought it was absolutely hilarious that these were the songs they asked me to sing; just your typical, American pop songs, all the way in an orphanage in the middle of India. One of the girls said her sister was good at dancing and I tried to convince her to dance but she wouldn’t, but she did end up singing a song for me. It was so pretty and the girls were just adorable.

After walking around to meet the different housemothers, it was already time to go. We hugged goodbye and Vasayana pulled my head down and gave me a kiss on the cheek. It was so hard to only spend such a short amount of time and then just say goodbye. I have actually found I have a big problem with the way service trips are planned. Being in the Service Learning class, although stressful at first, really opened my eyes so much more than I thought. What we did there is not service as most people see it. It is more likely “voluntourism,” a term we learned in one of our books. Basically it means we are touring around to watch the children and it is essentially the kids being presented for us to see and maybe interact with, but because of the ridiculously short time we spend there, it cannot make a significant difference that can be soon. There is so little that I felt we accomplished there, other than putting a smile on a child’s face and giving them gifts of candy and markers. But, as we learned in class, where exactly is the line drawn between service and not? Is it our place to determine what counts as service and doesn’t? Can’t something that simple count as service? When we got to Mexico, it’s nice that we can help build the house, but honestly sometimes it might be more effective to simply pay for supplies and give them to a family so they can build the house exactly like they want. That’s exactly how I feel about many of the SAS service trips I hear about. It seems like just donating money would be so much more effective. The amount of time and money it takes to travel to an orphanage, like the one we did, we could have given that whole amount directly to the school and made an even bigger impact. Not that we don’t make a donation when we visit, but it could be a lot bigger. Those are the questions and things that flew through my head as we sat in the bus, waving goodbye to the smiling children. After an hour and a half, we were back at the ship and after a few hours, it was time to head towards Singapore.

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