Kolkata Diary: Day Five (Thursday)
Posted on June 4, 2013
This post is part of a fifteen-day series covering my trip to Kolkata, India in May 2013. Some entries have been slightly edited for length or content, but they are mostly copied directly from my journal.
Hotel Circular, Kolkata
I just got my first good night’s sleep by going to bed at 9pm. Last night at dinner, everyone seemed so exhausted, and I’m hoping they all were successful in going to bed early, too, and sleeping.
We attended volunteer orientation yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to volunteer. Prem Dan, to serve adults with special needs and disabilities? Kalighat to help the dying? Daya Dan to see where I volunteered before and perhaps discover what happened to Govinda, a little boy who, according to the internet, died a few years ago at the home? Shishu Bhavan, the children’s home that is close to our hotel and the Mother House?
My students were having a hard time deciding, too. I wanted to ensure that everyone at least had a partner to volunteer with, and that worked out. Three are going to Kalighat, three to Shishu Bhavan. Because I didn’t have a strong preference as to where I should volunteer, I’ll be going to work with Emily at Shanti Dan, a home for adolescent girls with physical/mental disabilities and adult women with mental illness. My co-leader Tom will work solo at Daya Dan.
I think going to Shanti Dan is a good choice for me. The accusations against Mother Teresa center prominently on Kalighat and, to a lesser extent, the children’s homes. I would like to see how a facility that is specifically for women treats those women. Are they treated with dignity, as individuals? Are they well cared for? Respected? My thoughts about the objections to Kalighat are often simply that the home is a hospice center and not a hospital, but what a place like Shanti Dan, where the goal for the adult women is to help them recover and become healthy enough to go home?
There will be a lot to process, I’m sure. According to Sister Mercy Maria, who supervises the volunteers, there is only one other volunteer currently helping with the women, and she will be happy for us to join her. I don’t yet know what kind of work we’ll be doing, but I’ll learn more tomorrow when we first volunteer.
Unless plans are changed by the coming typhoon. Sister Mercy Maria made an announcement about it yesterday morning. I am sure things will be fine, but I have some major anxiety about storms at home already–during bad wind and thunderstorms, my heart races, my mind imagines countless disaster scenarios, I don’t sleep, I worry. I can’t imagine how much worse I may be here. I’ll worry about flooding, about the power going out, about having enough water, about figuring out how to fed everyone if the hotel restaurant is closed.
The storm is supposed to hit between today and tomorrow. I’m trying not to worry. I can confidently tell my team that they shouldn’t worry, but I am not able to follow my own advice. The sisters emphasized that we should pray against the weather. Usually I view such a thing as pretty futile, but today I am reconsidering.
This morning I realized that my Kindle can get online in the lobby, and I successfully got online. I learned in an e-mail from Chalupa that my Grandpa Joe has died. I’ve had a lot to think about today and believe that the best thing for me to do tonight is not to journal my thoughts, but to sleep.