Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ties of Love - 6 Months Later

6 months ago today, I was getting on an airplane and beginning the biggest journey of my life. The sun was just coming up as I departed Salt Lake City. 34 hours later, after touching down in Hong Kong, I would finally see the sun set. (Snow Patrol was my flying music of choice, hence the new additions to the playlist.)

24 days, 8 flights, 1,783 pictures, and 37 friendship bracelets later, I was back in the US. My three weeks in India with Rising Star Outreach were some of the best weeks of my life. Every day held new experiences, new opportunities to serve, new opportunities to love. Six months later, I still think about the strength of the incredible people I met in the leprosy colonies every day. I still miss the little ones who taught me so much about unconditional love. Here are few of my favorite photos from those three weeks.

This "bracelet" was a gift from my buddy Aravind. The children loved giving the volunteers gifts; we were constantly finding stickers, candy wrappers, leaves, pictures, and strings accompanied by little love notes. These little strings are faded and worn, now, and soon I'll finally take them off and tuck them away in my journal. But for now they remind me that sometimes the greatest love is shown in the smallest ways.

At Rising Star, birthdays are a big deal. On Rosemary's fifth birthday, she got to wear a beautiful fancy dress and share a huge cake with all of the other students.

Mariadas and co excitedly awaiting their slice of cake.

Playing with my little Ajay on my last day at Rising Star.

Though I made many friendship bracelets while at the school, these two were very special. When I first arrived at Rising Star, Ajay was a very quiet little fellow who didn't spend much time with the volunteers. But a few days later, he and I were having thumb wars and reading some stories before bedtime. The days are long at RSO, and a very tired Ajay fell asleep in my arms. That subtle display of love and trust opened my heart. Ajay and I became very close during my time at RSO, and he blossomed with a bit of special attention and love. I made these identical bracelets a few days before I returned to the US, and mine hasn't left my wrist since.

Playtime with my favorite little climbers, Ajay, Mariadas, Jarnarthanan, and Sebastin.

My first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, where I watched the sun rise on my twentieth birthday.

Taking care of a very ill Kristaraj on Independence Day in India.

My dear friend Ravi Chandran. Never have a known a kinder man with a brighter or more loving spirit. Though he has been affected by leprosy for most of his life, he spends most of his time taking care of the other patients of the small leprosy hospital he calls home. Singing and laughing with Ravi was a highlight of my time in India.

With fellow volunteers Jared, Sami, Kristin, and Jenny in the home of one of the leprosy patients.

Can't you see the mischief in Satia's eyes? She's full of it.

Carly, Karly, and me in our India best with Joyce and Ron Hanson.

Lunch - mmm, Limca... how I miss thee.

Though the colors have faded (along with my summer tan), the memories of the people I came to love have not. I am so grateful that I was blessed with such an incredible opportunity. I went to India thinking I would be teaching English, but I learned so much more than I ever taught.
Naan unae khadlikkiren.
(I love you)

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