We touched down in Kolkata at 8 o’clock in the morning on Sunday 7th of October. Looking out of the plane window the haze of pollution was a sight I (Emily) hadn’t seen before but I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of palm trees. We met Anu (our amazing supervisor) at the airport and got driven back to the guesthouse. One of the first things we were told is that there’s no need to wear seatbelts! We are settling into life at the guesthouse very well now. The staff look after us so well and have made us feel so incredibly welcome by calling us part of their family and promising to shoot(!) anyone that ever bothers us (we have two very protective new older brothers – Raj and Francis !!) We have been so overwhelmed by how incredibly we have been welcomed and instantly accepted into this new place that is home for the next few months. The guesthouse is somewhere we all feel very safe and are really enjoying getting to know the other people staying here who are from all around the world. Being in the beautiful gardens also provides some peace, even if you can still hear some car horns in the background. Going out on the streets is another story! Our first outing to the shops was very overwhelming! In India, drivers seem to drive with one hand on the wheel and the other on the horn, it’s so noisy!!! Also, there aren’t really traffic lanes or any system for vehicles so crossing roads is a lot more “exciting” than the boring traffic lights back home! We provide much entertainment for locals in their cars as they watch us try and decide when to cross the crazy roads! We are definitely getting the hang of this though and can now start to appreciate the beauty in the city amidst the chaos and very unusual smells. We are starting to learn Bengali and have had our first proper lesson but practise daily with the staff here and we’re finding it a lot of fun! We look forward to learning more and more which will really help us to connect more with the people we meet, especially the children at school.
These last weeks have been a wonderful mixture of different experiences, certainly starting work with our first project has been both highly rewarding and initially challenging. After a few days of settling into to the busy city we began working at GNCEM (Good News Children’s Education Mission), a charity working to share the Gospel and educate children. The charity runs a school bus Monday to Friday which collects the children from their homes, most live on the streets, and then collects us and takes us to school together. The children are extremely friendly and as soon as we boarded the bus on the first day they were keen to shake our hands playfully, sit on our laps and talk with us, although we couldn’t understand much! At the school itself, only 10 minutes drive away, we have been teaching the children little songs along with actions and acting out some Bible stories, we also play games and help the staff to set up for lessons, crafts and meal times. GNCEM does some really wonderful work and we are thrilled to be part of it, looking forward to the challenges and greater responsibilities we will receive in time.
Lights, noise and plenty of action this week! The people of Kolkata have been celebrating the Hindu festival of Durga Puja and we have really enjoyed experiencing this along with them! On Wednesday evening, we joined some of the other guests here in taking a couple of tuk tuks to a place called New Market to immerse ourselves in the festivities. The lights were the first excitement that struck us as they were so bright and colourful and some even moved (we can check seeing elephants and giraffes off our list now 😉) ! We also had the opportunity to look inside some of the temples that had been built to honour the goddess Durga (in whose honour the festival is celebrated) which was a really interesting cultural insight. On Friday, we took a trip to the river to watch the idols being submerged in the water and then lifted back out again which is one of the rituals of the festival and was a rather strange sight for us but a good story to tell!
In addition to Durga Puja, the staff at the guesthouse had a prayer meeting which was a far cry from any prayer meeting we’ve ever attended! There was singing, acting and plenty of dancing which the Indian women were keen to involve me (Erin) and Emily in, again and again-we both agree that we loved every minute of it! Cameron wasn’t let off the hook for long though as, soon, the men had dragged him into the middle of the dancing circle to join in the fun! Bring on the next prayer meeting!
· Safe arrival in Kolkata
· The people that we have met who have made us feel so welcome!
· Air-conditioned rooms
· That we would settle into more of a routine and be able to get stuck into our projects
· That we would continue to develop good relationships with the people that we are living and working with
· That God would continue to give us the strength we need for each day