These thoughts are excerpts from my journal from my trip to India:
I can’t believe it is the last day. The time went by too fast. Tara & one of the ladies from the office took us to Saint Thomas’ Mount. Tradition says that the apostle Thomas was praying up on the mount when a mob found him and stoned him. A monument and a catholic church have been built there. From the top of the hill, there was a fabulous view of the city from every angle; I can see why Thomas would have been up there praying.
As we were walking around up there, I saw a girl about 10 years old carrying a baby sister walking towards me. Behind here there were 3 women motioning her on. I smiled at her and said hi. To my relief, she spoke English. I asked her a few questions, to keep it from being too awkward, she was a very polite little girl. And I could tell from the way the women encouraged her to come over that it was one of those ‘shake a few hands and kiss the baby’ meet-and-greet moments, which by now I had come accustomed to here in India. So I touched the little girl’s hand and talked to her, which was met with a ‘who are you?’ stare. After a few awkward moments, I told the adorable girls that I had to go.
We then met one of the nuns that runs the orphanage on the top of St. Thomas’ Mount. She showed us around their facilities. They have 51 kids from ages birth to 5 years, then the children move back in with their families, because they are only partial orphans (meaning they still have one living parent).
For our last lunch together, we met up with Isaac, Sitara, and Matthew at a restaurant. The food was HOT – both in temperature and spice! After lunch, Tara took me to the tailor to get the blouses for my saris made. Gail and I then headed back to STEPS so we could spend some time with the girls before heading to the airport. They sang some songs for me – one of their favorite things to do.
It was hard to say goodbye to them. When I told them that I was leaving, they looked as sad as I felt. I tried to reassure them that I will come back to visit, and one of them asked, “Will you be here for our Christmas play on Sunday??” “No… not that soon. But I will come back.” I held it together, but barely.
I still had all of my packing to do, so I had to run upstairs to do that… and make sure that no critters had climbed in my suitcase for a free ride home. Thankfully I was able to fit one suitcase inside the other, so I wouldn’t have an extra baggage fee. I headed back to the house to wait for Tara to come home with my saris so I could pack those. She came home with pizzas for us, and shortly after, one of the drivers came in with the saris. So thankful that the tailor was able to finish them in time!
After dinner, I went back to the home to get showered and finish packing. I was actually completely packed, showered, and ready to go an hour before we left. Go me! So we just hung out until it was time to load up to go to the airport. We said goodbye to Tara, Sitara, and Tarun at the house. We left for the airport and made our way through town, through the crazy Chennai traffic.
At the airport we had some issues checking in our bags. It wasn’t much better at the carry-on check point – there was only 1 line for women and men kept trying to cut in front of us. I needed about three happy snacks after the whole ordeal. But we finally boarded and were on our way home.
On the way home, we flew Lufthansa airlines again – what a great airline! I watched The Help, then took a beautiful 7-hour nap! It was amazing, Plus I had an empty seat next to me, so I had so much glorious room! Now if I can stay awake the rest of the trip, I should be able to get back into Knoxville’s time zone a little easier.
Our layover in Frankfurt was short, but we sat for a while on the runway. I ended up sitting next to a nice Italian man, and we chatted throughout the flight.
It was great to be back in Chicago. I sat with the rest of the team while they waited for their flight, then made my way to my gate. I made some phone calls while I waited for my plane to board. It was nice to hear familiar voices on the other end. My plan to stay awake until I got home failed on my last flight though. I only had an hour and a half between Chicago and Knoxville… and I lasted all of 20 minutes. I was out cold. Oh well, it was a well-intentioned plan.
I finally walked through the door of the house, and it felt good to be home. But… I can’t wait to go back. I mean, how can I not want to go back to those precious little faces?