Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saturday in Kolkata

The pace seems to be catching up with us all. Saturday had some down time. Our morning started with a trip to another NGO, preceded by a brisk walk about a neighborhood. We stopped at a grocery store and bought cookies and tea and spices. Amazing what $10 will buy in spices and tea here. Sanlaap is a non-profit that offers advocacy and services for girls and children that are victims of human trafficking. In this society, there are so many societal practices that oppress women...and they are deeply embedded - poverty, lack of safe public transportation, child- and arranged marriage. I keep finding myself drawn to these issues of how women can be empowered within a completely different cultural framework in a way that honors the cultures rich and varying religious and social traditions.

Sanlaap is in the process of opening a storefront in which will sell goods made by victims of trafficking in fair trade. Very cool. Our group really cleaned them out of inventory -- possibly not a welcome thing.

From there we hit Jimmy's Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant with Indian flair. The meal was ok...spicy pork was fabulously spicy. I think we have hit the place of being overwhelmed by food.

After stopping back a the hotel to freshen up, we headed to Bishop's College to join the students there for the opening chapel for the new term. One new adventure was added to the list...14 of us piled onto a public bus for the quick trip to The campus. Wild and fun. There were about 75 students present at chapel. Milk tea was served with biscuits prior to the service. The liturgy was a covenant service from the Church of North India's book of worship. Cedric Johnson, a professor accompanying us on this trip preached. Songs were sung in English and Hindi. After worship, we joined the students in their dining room for a simple dinner. This was our first utensil-free dining experience. Not any easy task...especially because someone had made perfectly fluffy, non-sticky rice. The students who are single live in dormitories and eat every meal together. I had an interesting conversation with Sathi about community and the differences between what happens at Wesley and what happens at Bishops College. These students eat, study, worship and pray together 6 days a week. It is difficult to imagine how a similar dynamic might be accomplished with a mix of full- and part-time, resident and non-resident students.

After dinner we did a quick tour if campus and then joined the Peacock family for dessert in their flat on campus. There we were joined by Phillip's parents. His mother Hilda Peacock is a renowned educational administrator who lives out her call by being radically inclusive in the school she serves. Although she retired once, she's taken a post-retirement role in a school which serves both the very rich and a class of Anglo-Indian children otherwise rejected by the local society. Dessert was either mango ice cream or the same lovely yogurt we had at Kewpie's. I may be addicted to this creamy, tangy, rich concoction.

While some headed out to find a night club, I had the good fortune of coming back a little early to FaceTime with the girls. It was good to see their faces after more than a week. This adventure is unbelievable and it is hard to be away.

Sunday will be a day of worshipping Once again with local churches.

Namaste.

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