Welcome to India!
Becky Getman, Hyderabad, India
I will be spending eight weeks in India, working for a non-profit organization in their anti-human trafficking unit. My first week in India has been quite the transition! The adventures started right away, arriving at the airport at 3 am and attempting to find our driver. After locating him, we were treated to our first taste of Indian driving. You'll have to take my word for it, but they put L.A. drivers to shame! The hour ride to the organization's compound where we would be staying was full of slamming of brakes, honking of horns, speeding, changing lanes, and more close calls with other vehicles then I would care to count. Welcome to India! We were dropped off in our room around 5 am and told breakfast was at 7:30 and church was at 9:00. At breakfast, there was nary a person of authority in sight. We ran into the two medical interns and they assured us "someone would find us."
After that initial welcoming, orientation was a gradual process stretching over all of last week. Work-wise, we were told to generally "research" the issue of sex trafficking. This was interesting and informative, but not quite enough to fill our days. Today I learned more of my specific task for the summer, which will be writing a process document for the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the work they have done since its founding last year. I will also write a monthly progress report.
Most of the work will involve interviewing the staff and looking over the documents the department has. AHTU has just opened a shelter for 15 girls whose mothers are temple prostitutes (jogini). The girls know very little English and next week will be enrolled in a school taught all in English. This will be a huge struggle for them, so we will do some work helping tutor them as well. The organization also does work in the slums that we will get to be involved in.
Although work has been slow getting started, the cultural realizations have come in rapid fire. The first thing I have truly experienced is how blessed we are in America. Our rooms here have a "shower" in the bathroom that consists of filling a bucket with water and then pouring it over your head with a pitcher. We may think of this as a very low standard, but it is probably better than what 90% of the Indians have. Secondly, it is fascinating to learn about the caste system and how engrained it is in Indian society. Dalits, the "untouchables" are the target group of the organization we are working with. Although the government has passed reform to stop their oppression, the laws are generally not enforced and the Dalits suffer greatly. Many Hindis will not look at a Dalit or eat with them.
The food has also been a fun experience. It is curry for three meals a day, consisting of white rice with a soupy vegetable mixture full of spices poured over it. Eating is done with your right hand and my hand is already stained yellow! The food is decent, but it certainly seems to be lacking good nutrients and I am craving a plate of fresh vegetables. Vegetables and fruit without a peel are not safe to eat here. We also cannot drink tap water.
Overall, it has been an amazing first week of getting used to my new surroundings and learning about the culture. I am excited to see how God plans to use me this summer. If nothing else, I know that He will use this experience to open my eyes and shape and grow me as a person. I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity to be here in India.