Written By: Micaela Gutierrez
‘Sup everyone! This is Micaela G. reporting live from Kolkata. Well, maybe not live as we our blog is a little outdated considering the WiFi issues but that is just one of the aspects of this exciting Indian experience. Speaking of the Indian experience, allow me to share a little of what I’ve experienced so far…
India thus far has been quite the wild ride. In fact any time I hop on a Turk tub in a race I or on a bus I’m pretty sure I’m paying for my death. Other than the crazy modes if transportation, Kolkata has been very good to me and very hospitable. In most places the people are the most respectful and polite to you. More time than not you can here anyone calling you auntie or ma’am and offering you more food than you could ever eat. The values and virtues that so many people hold, like hospitality and manners, are actually quite surprising in a place that one would assume would be filled with so much anger and hostility. There are millions of people without the necessary means of life and yet they offer so much to people- it can be quite unsettling to see someone give their last of anything to someone else.
The one thing that any westerner may find a bit creepy is the long stares that you get because of fair skin, or in my case because most people can not tell if I’m Indian or not. (Ive come in to contact with many shop owners or mashies at my site who have said I look like I could be half Indian of from the Southern regions.) The experience for everyone is very different though, to each their own would be a more than appropriate saying. I personally have not felt too much discomfort with the people in Kolkata but depending on how well you pick up on social cues there might be a chance it is very different. There have been plenty of people who have pulled on my heart strings whether it be the staff at BMS (our hotel) or the staff working with MCC, my new shop owner friends in New Market or the volunteers, children, sisters, and mashies at my Sisters of Charity site and I can’t forget the baristas I have gotten to know at 8th day.
Kolkata is a pretty big city filled with a lot of culture and history- which are both things that I truly appreciate; there is never a day that goes by that I do not learn something new. Even the small things are victories like hailing a cab or tuk tuk, bargaining a good price on some new pants, or finding my bus stop through a sea of people on the bus and on the crowded street. Speaking of crowded streets, there is a lot more than just people on them; they are filled with vendors, shops, and dogs- tons of dogs. If anything more though, the smells in Kolkata can be quite strong. Anytime you walk outside you get a whiff of humid air combined with the smells of whatever the guys down the street are cooking up, throw some smog and incense in there and you basically have Kolkata.
Nevertheless, the city has its moments when you can just stare at something and be filled with awe and hope. As dilapidated and dirty that most of the buildings are, they still have aspects of craftsmanship that you can be mesmerized by. The kids of the family who sleep on the side walk a little ways down from my comfortable hotel are always running, laughing, and filled with joy- even in the crazy heat of India. While is sit thinking if complaining about how hot it is or how I have no clean clothes, those children give me hope; it amazes me that they can be so happy with so little.
On my journey to this country I prayed that God would soften my heart and help me to appreciate the things that I am so fortunate to have. He has defiantly begun this work in me and I can feel myself becoming more understanding of suffering. The situations and sacrifices that so much of this country endure adds perspective to an outsider looking in to their own culture. The things that I have seen in Kolkata have helped me understand more of the ways that God works in this world and among the marginalized. He reveals himself to us in ways that we do not always expect- in the laugh of a child or the craftsmanship of a skilled carpenter or in the beautiful patterns of the clothing. Some people do not understand that as they perfect their craft, God is trying to perfect His. It’s hard to come in to a different culture and expect people to understand your worldview or values but the important thing is that through everything you see God and you shine your light.