Dear friends, we thank you for your continued support and prayer, we hope you enjoy reading this blog post and that we are able to give you a little additional taste of the city as well as our work.
At the school, GNCEM, we now understand more about what is expected of us and know the routine of the school day which helps us to feel more comfortable, also allowing us to be more useful as we know what is going on and what we can do. This is not to say that there are no surprises, it is not uncommon to turn up with our lessons planned and to be told that actually it is Christmas play rehearsal time, so no lessons! Some of us are still finding teaching a real challenge due to the informality of the classes and the big class sizes in a small room, so continued prayer for us in our teaching would be much appreciated. We are really enjoying teaching English at Daisy Project, where we teach a lesson once a week, the children are great at participating in our lessons and are already improving their English skills significantly. Additionally, we have continued to work with the Missionaries of Charity, often in the afternoons when we do not have any other projects to work with, and also Cameron has been spending two mornings a week at ‘Prem Dan.’ We have had a little taster of a new project we are going to start working with called ConneXions (https://connexions.org.in/). This organisation trains and employs women from the slums who would not normally have employment opportunities. They make beautiful products such as bags, blankets and cards which then gives them an income and makes such a difference to their families.
One of our highlights from the past couple of weeks was Diwali. We decorated the roof of the guesthouse with little lamps, called dias, fairy lights and flower petals. We had a lovely meal of roast beef (a little ironic considering Diwali is a Hindu festival and they consider cows sacred!) with Anu and Alfie – our amazing supervisors. Afterwards, we used sparklers on the roof and set off a Chinese style lantern which was great fun! Sitting on the roof and watching the fireworks that were being set off all around us was a very special moment and an evening we won’t forget. (We did not actively celebrate Diwali for anyone concerned that we celebrated a Hindu festival – we just enjoyed some lights😊)
Some of you may be interested to know that we have been having two Bangla (Bengali) language lessons a week – some of us are enjoying it rather more than others! We are definitely improving and starting to be able to put together basic sentences and questions, which really helps us to communicate with the children in school and build relationships with people. Even though we cannot have a proper conversation yet, the people we practise with and try and talk to in Bangla are so encouraging and really appreciate us trying to learn and speak the language, which is really helping to motivate us to learn more! One of our most used words is ‘bosho’ which means ‘sit down’; I can’t count how many times we say this every morning!
As well as our work, we have been able to find time to relax and have days out. We have been lucky enough to meet the couple, called Subir and Enoch, who manage the organisation to which the school we work at in the mornings belongs to. They were kind enough to ask us out to see a Bollywood film, in Bengali, with them. The film, called ‘Thugs of Hindustan,’ was certainly an experience and was enjoyable to watch, although the film has apparently been quite a failure here in India so perhaps it is best we could not understand the dialogue!
We have also visited a large flower market, which is very famous within the city, it was perhaps the busiest place we have yet to visit. The stair ways were choc-a-bloc with hundreds of men carrying extremely large bundles of flowers on their heads, we had to pick our time to go down very carefully to ensure we didn’t have our heads crushed between the flower bundles. We also attempted to visit the Catholic cathedral in the city, apparently very impressive, however at the end of a very hot twenty-minute car journey we discovered it was closed for repairs!
We continue to have great joy of meeting new people, I, Cameron, was lucky enough to meet some very kind Swedish people who invited me out with them on their annual visit to the city to visit a centre for girls which their church runs. It was a very fun day as we visited an amusement and water park to take the girls from the centre out, many of them had never been in water before, needless to say I got rather wet.
Two weekends ago, Emily and I (Erin) had the pleasure of being invited to a youth conference involving all the children from the different GNCEM projects. After a long journey including the exciting unforeseen adventure of getting lost (or taking the scenic route as we like to think!) and being half an hour late, we eventually arrived. The conference involved a guest speaker, various dancing and singing performances as well as plenty of worshipping. Emily and I also got involved and talked about Ephesians 3:20, giving some testimonies about how we have seen God at work in our lives recently. Despite some initial nerves, it went well and we were able to enjoy the rest of the celebrations, including seeing some of the girls from the mobile school perform! It was a great day all round and one that we will look back on with fond memories!
We have learnt a lot from our time in Kolkata so far and wanted to share with you some tips for surviving life here…
- Do not be surprised when you are stared at wherever you go and make sure you always look your best as selfie requests will come at you left, right and centre!
- The beeping of car horns will become the anthem to your day so just relax and learn to sway in time to it. The beeping is not aggression, just encouragement for the vehicle in front to get a move on!
- Try and view crossing roads as a giant, real life version of ‘Crossy Road’ (a computer game where you are a small chicken tasked with crossing a road safely); how quickly can you cross before being bumped by a tuk tuk or yellow taxi?! Master these skills and you’ll never lose a game of Crossy Road again!
- Be aware-ginger haired people tend to attract a bit more attention than is typical in the UK!
- Do not trust the yellow taxi cab drivers when they tell you they know where they’re going. They don’t…but they will try and increase their geographical knowledge by asking plenty of strangers where your destination is along the way!
- New people we have met and new relationships we’re forming
- The fact that we’ve been able to have the time to have some fun
- God’s continued strength especially when homesickness has hit us
- That we can find ways to be useful in Connexions
- That we can feel reenergised because we’re all getting quite tired
- That God would show us ways to show his love to the poor people we pass on the streets