Dear friends, we hope you all had a very enjoyable and merry Christmas, we certainly did. We hope you will find this final blog post of the year interesting and we would like to wish you all a very happy new year.
Although very busy, as usual, we have found some chances to enjoy ourselves and relax a little whilst seeing some additional parts of the city. During an extra day off we were very lucky that the one of the Guesthouse drivers, named Raj, was available to take us out somewhere of our choosing for the day, and could come in with us. We choose as our destination a place called ‘Science City,’ which had been recommended to us, and we were keen to cross it off of our list of places to see. The main part of the centre itself had a choice of two entrances, one by foot and the other by cable car, we chose the latter. Although the cable car wasn’t especially high up we were all slightly concerned when in the middle of the journey the car stopped, thankfully it was a short delay to allow other passengers to board. The centre itself was split up into several sections, with many interactive displays outside. The first part of our adventure was inside one of these large buildings; immediately I was reminded of the Science Museum in London. There were a range of interactive displays, some more fun than others, all demonstrating scientific facts. After spending some time in this building, seeing their many displays on illusions as well as a modest, yet impressive aquarium we spent some time outside on the displays there. After a little time outside exploring we then went into the second building to have a look at their displays, all focused on dinosaurs and the theory of ‘evolution.’ We saw a short film, in Hindi, about this theory and also went on a small train ride through a tunnel with lots of moving plastic dinosaurs, whilst being narrated with the ‘theories’ of evolutionist Charles Darwin, in an Indian accent. Upon leaving the tunnel Raj began to cheer very loudly ‘go again,’ along with whoops of joy which left many of the people waiting to board a small train looking horrified and puzzled at our friends enthusiasm.
Overall it was a very fun day out and we all had a good time, especially with our friend Raj who was on top form as usual.
Myself (Emily) and Erin were invited to go to a Christmas party at one of the midweek church groups for young adults (called Trek). This was one of the first Christmas things we did so in a way kick started our festivities! The group was held on one of the pastors’ roof terraces and it was lit up with lanterns so this created a lovely atmosphere. We chatted, played games, sang some carols, heard a Christmas message and ate some good food (including mash potato!!). We had a great evening, felt very welcomed and really valued the chance to get to know some of the other people at church our age because up until now we have struggled with this because it is such a large congregation which can make it hard to meet other people! We are very excited to go back and reconnect with the group in the new year.
One of our kids projects has been one of our favourite places to be in December because they do something fun and Christmassy every day of December leading up to Christmas – how amazing is that?!! Although we didn’t manage to attend all of them, here are some of the days we got involved in. They brought all of the children to where we are staying for a picnic day! We played lots of games including badminton, cricket, relay races and ninja in the garden and had a very tasty biryani for lunch! We all had such a fun day!! We were also able to join their film and popcorn night and ice cream party! Also, we helped at a party they threw for street children where we could facilitate crafts and games. The finale of all of the projects festive activities was their Christmas programme which we were able to go and watch. The children did a variety of songs, dances and dramas. They are such talented kids and it was amazing to see them performing with such confidence. One of the dramas was particularly moving as it was a choreography of Jesus rescuing someone from other influences and things that had a hold on their life such as drink and drugs. This was very powerful because it showed the story of some of the young people we hang out with there and it is incredible to see how Jesus has completely transformed their lives.
As it is the season to be jolly we are all keen to get out to enjoy ourselves, when the opportunity to attend a musical performance, much akin to a pantomime, came up we all wanted to go very much. This musical performance, called ‘Songs of the Season,’ has been put on every year by AG church (one of Kolkata’s larger churches) in order to entertain, raise money and importantly to share a Christmas message. This year’s performance was a joy to watch, the story was of a hotel called ‘Hotel Bethlehem’ which would always have a troop of loyal guests staying at Christmas, but was empty the rest of the year, leaving it in serious financial difficulties. One of the families which visited the hotel every year had recently said goodbye to their oldest daughter who had gone to live with a gentleman friend, little do the family know that she had been abandoned by this gentleman friend was then forced to live on the streets, to complicate this matter she was with child. Thanks to the kindness of the manager towards the homeless girl the family is reunited and due to the efforts of rambunctious bell boy, using social media, he was able to save the hotel from financial ruin by sharing a passionate speech by the manager speaking about the hotel. The scenes were interrupted by lovely little messages by various members of the church who wished to share some message, the overall themes were that of hope, goodwill and charity. As well as talented and comedic acting we were serenaded by the choirs singing, some nice traditional Christmas songs and others specially composed for the play, one choir was composed of children and the other of adults, both were very well rehearsed and was a joy to listen to. The whole evening was a fantastic way to begin to feel seasonal.
For the last few weeks of school instead of lessons the children had spent their time practising for their nativity play. As well as this they had been practising the dances for the Christmas programme ever since we have been here. The programme went fantastically well, the children all danced, sung and acted very well, a few of the children has also remembered Bible verses in English which they read aloud. We also had been asked to do a little song, so we sung ‘the first Noel’ in front of all those attending at the programme. Many of the children’s mothers were able to attend which was a great joy for both the children and proud parents. The children were all very lucky to be given a Christmas parcel each, some food, a rucksack and various other goodies, which put a smile on their faces.
There has also been much Christmas activity here at the BMS guesthouse which has been fun! One evening, Emily, Cameron and I took it upon ourselves to decorate the guesthouse (with permission from Anu of course!) and there was plenty of bauble hanging, tinsel draping and dancing to Christmas music so everything you need for a perfect Christmas decorating experience!
BMS also had its own Christmas programme which allowed Emily and I to wear our new saris which, as much as we would love to say we had put on ourselves, the truth is that we had a lot of help from staff members here as they are more complicated than they look with dozens of pleats in various places! The programme involved skits, singing and dancing performances by the staff and their children and even included a number from us! We sang a rendition of “The First Noel” which went down very well with the audience, thankfully! For lunch, we were served Biryani (the go-to meal for any big event or celebration here!) followed by Indian ice-cream, both of which were delicious! All in all, it was a great Christmas celebration and one which we will definitely remember!