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Letter from Barbara, Day 4 – Rourkela Home for Children

We arrive at the Children’s Home to peace and quiet (for 100 kids that is). Morning naptime is on and only a few cries can be heard. Until Susan sticks her head into the toddler room and 37 cuties start to wake up. Seeing Aunty Susan means they get more “chocolate,” which is Indian kids speak for anything sweet. Out come the Jolly Ranchers and the day is in full swing.

At this early hour, there are only toddlers and infants at the Children’s Home, so it gives us time to get to know some of them via a bubble session. As soon as the first bubble is blown, Aunty Amy and Aunty Susan become pied pipers and every toddler is running to be part of it.  Some love to blow the bubbles, like Deepak, while others like to swat at them tirelessly, like Sumitra. All the while the peace and quiet is clearly taken over by the excited squeals.  Homemade chai is served so bubble blowing becomes a one-handed task by both Aunties who prove adept at multi-tasking.

After our lunch, it is time for toddlers and infants to “take rest” or take a nap. This will never happen if we are there.  So we sneak away to the market which has opened in front of our  gates. This is the “real” rural society in India, where twice a week the villagers walk with their wares to Biramitripur (our local village) and set up shop on blankets. Dozens of different raw spices, thousands of colored bangles, racks of locally made fabrics, sweets for the upcoming Diwali holiday, a multitude of different colored lentils, and some things that just can’t be described, are all on offer. We are the spectacle for awhile, as Sushma, Director of our Home, tries to describe what some of the food items are and how to cook them.

Next we visit Rolly, our local shop keeper who proudly displays his typical Indian clothing and hopes we will purchase them as souvenirs. Amy picks out a few beautiful pashminas birthday gifts, Kevin chooses a gorgeous saree for his wife, and Susan deliberates between two embroidered pashminas and decides on both after Rolly spends 20 minutes waxing on about the virtues of each.

Back to the Home for the afternoon session with all the older children who have arrived home from school.  I brought Scrabble on this trip because I know our kids are very good with English, and improving all the time, and I wanted to see if they would take to English as a game.  As suspected, they listened, understood and took over the Scrabble board.  Within minutes 12 kids shared their tiles and helped each other fill the board. Krishna, Ranjeet, and Satish, all excellent students, didn’t  keep score but instead congratulated each other when they could make a word fit. Aunty Amy took on a bigger challenge, Sudoku. Sure enough, after only laying down a few tiles, Anandini and Paolina both understood the pattern and were engrossed in filling in the entire board. Uncle Kevin was playing Dad to at least a dozen boys on the soccer field, despite the broken toes and cut on his ankle.  Aunty Susann opted for drawing duty and she became so overwhelmed by the beautifully hand-drawn scenes that she began visualizing where she would place them in the art gallery she will create in her home!

From a distance we can hear children singing and we are pleasantly surprised to find our older children practicing for a concert. We are invited to watch and soon enough the singing turned into dancing and everybody is up learning Sameer’s – our oldest boy, who is also an excellent dancer – best Bollywood moves.

Our day draws to an end and once again we are on the road home, patient through the traffic, sharing our individual stories of the day. We share, we laugh, and we wonder…does it get any better than this?

By the time we hit the hotel again, Kevin reminds us that the day is not over yet by announcing, “There must be some dishes on the menu we haven’t tried yet,” followed with, “I’ll order the Kingfisher” and “See you at the restaurant.” No wonder we haven’t been to bed before midnight yet!