I think I speak for the whole family when I say Rising Star was an amazing, perhaps even life-changing, experience. Every day we got up at 7:15, had a quick breakfast, and headed out to, on the first day, clear branches, leaves, and trash for a construction project, then, the other days either visit a leprosy colony, or teach the children.
Full-grown woman and leprosy sufferer
When we went to the leprosy colonies, my siblings and I were to young to dress their wounds, test their blood pressure, and wash their feet (you have to be at least fourteen). Instead we were the water managers, so when the water from washing the leprosy victims’ feet was dirty, we would take the tub, pour the water out, rinse it with clean water, then medicated water, and give it back to the “nurses.” When the metal casks, which they used to pour water into the feet-washing tubs, ran low we also refilled them. Everyone had to wear a medical mask and gloves at all times. It was really humbling to see how these people lived without fingers or toes, or even without parts of legs in some cases. When you have leprosy, your fingers don’t fall off. Instead, the calcium of your bones becomes reabsorbed by the body. So your fingers and toes shrink, and then your feet and hands, and then it may stop, but more likely it will keep continuing up your arms and legs.
It also causes big ulcers on the outer skin. These aren’t like the ulcers you get in your mouth, those are not serious. These are big gaping holes in the skin. It’s an awful disease. Leprosy is practically wiped out in most countries, but don’t go around making fun of it. In places like India and others, leprosy is still at large, and it’s still ruining lives and taking limbs. Don’t think of it like it’s no longer a threat. It’s not one to us, but we’re only a handful of people. Only a handful.
The construction project was fun. We cleared out leaves, trash, and branches with rakes, then loaded them off in the back of a truck. I found a giant centipede in a pile of bricks, seriously, giant, which I picked up. Luke found a frog, which I also picked up, and a giant black beetle, which looked a bit like a stag beetle, which I also picked up. The toad also urinated on me, and I learned after that, had I not been wearing gloves, the urine would have caused a severe skin infection, including boils, excruciating pain, and a few other things which I myself am not partial to. What can I say? I’m what people call reckless. A worker man also found a baby crate (an extremely poisonous snake. The babies have so much of it they can’t control it, so, as a result, if you touch it you will probably die horribly.) The worker man stabbed it with a rake, and, as a result, it died horribly. He then threw it over the wall onto a highway, for good measure. Probably also because it could still bite (reflexes), and he didn’t want anyone stepping on it. La, la, la… Ouch! I stepped on the second most poisonous snake in India, and a baby at that, and now I’m gonna die! Oops!
Teaching is harder then it looks, especially with little kids. Once, I taught a girl named Priya, and I was trying to teach her the difference between uppercase and lowercase, and she kept singing, and I quote: “The A says Ah. The A says Ah.” Then I had another girl who I was supposed to do a “Compassion Exercise” with, and when I asked her the first question: “How would you feel if I spilled water on your clothes?” And she said (again, I quote) “Like a fish.” Then we made a card together for her grandmother. She drew a dog and flowers on it. Then I taught another girl, who said “Happy” to every single question, even “How would you feel if I stole your candy bar?” and “How would you feel if I hit you with my fist?” Then we made a card, (this time for her father) and she just drew loads of random blobs on it. After that, I taught a boy, and I was meant to read him stories, but he kept losing interest halfway through the book and going to get another one, then he would keep turning the pages really fast of the old book, which wouldn’t have been a problem, except I wanted to know what happened. That was the last class, and then we went to P.E and played soccer with these boys, but one of them divided up the team so it was literally Thalie and I against everyone else. And when I say “everyone else” I mean six Indian boys, and two adults, including my mom and a fellow volunteer called Mark.
We always went to playtime in the afternoon. I always played Tag and Cops and Robbers (they call it Key) with my special friends Varalakshmi and her brother. They were eight and six, respectively, extremely hyper, and constantly tussled with one another. We were the perfect match, Varalakshmi and I. A bunch of her friends played with us, including a boy who I nicknamed Imp (due to his impish smile). He was really fun. Playtime was really fun. A bunch of older girls were impressed with my skill with the monkey bars, as I would go with both my hands and feet grasping the bars. I’ve always liked doing that. They asked me to demonstrate it over and over. It’s fun, so I didn’t mind in the slightest.
During the last day of our trip, we painted a mural. I drew it on the wall at first, actually. Then everybody painted it. It’s two hands, making a heart, one Indian and one Caucasian (we were with 3 other volunteers). Since we stayed around Thanksgiving, painted on the heart is a quote: “Let our lives be filled with both thanks and giving.” I’m sure my mom will post a picture of it. Rising Star was a humbling, enlightening experience, and it filled me with gratitude and thankfulness (which are practically the name thing anyway, but hey-ho). I would definitely recommend it to anyone I met.
Learning how to eat curry…with one hand…crossed-legged on the floor
Be awesome, keep on laughing, and, above all, keep checking the blog for exciting new stories!
Yours, (when have I not been?)