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A Warm Welcome to Jeanamitabh!—Field Blog #2

23 January 2014

The flight from Delhi to Gaya was turbulent but a snack and tea was served nevertheless. At the airport I was greeted by not only Tarik, but also Mummy Jee – the founder of Jeanamitabh and Muna, her driver. I was welcomed with two wreaths of orange flowers around my neck from Tarik and Mummy Jee and she gave me the French welcome of two kisses on my cheeks. I felt welcomed right from the start! Tarik looked very relaxed in his local Indian garment. We drove to our guest house to drop off my luggage – it was a brightly painted 4 story walk up. Muna carried my luggage over head like it was a light paper ball. This made me happy because it was a very heavy bag. This will be our home for the next several days. Tarik warned me that they may be power failures and no hot water – but with me here, all should run smoothly.

Right away we set out for Jeanamitabh, the larger of the two orphanages that Paper Kite supports. There are about 350 children at this location. I expected to be there in 5-10 minutes, but with the street very narrow, shops on both sides, cars, motorcycles, heavily loaded carts, rickshaws, people, animals and a large bus approaching, the wait for the bus to clear the narrow road was 1 hour. Our driver pulled over to the side of the road to make room for the bus. But he was not able to get through because of all the traffic that piled up. Muna got out of the car to direct traffic and plead with the multitudes to make way.

Much excitement and confusion went on in the land of Enlightenment as Bodhgaya has become a very hot touristy spot. At Jeanamitabh, I was greeted with singing and a welcoming ceremony where another wreath of colourful flowers was bestowed on to me and a bindi placed on my forehead by a young girl. Mummy Jee lead me to the children who grabbed me by the hand to bring me in front of all the children while three girls were singing a welcoming song. They had seats of honour at the front for us to sit. While the girls were singing, a young man played the piano. I was overwhelmed and became emotional to the point of tears of joy. I was so touched with this love and smiling faces. This jubilant celebration just for us?? I could hardly fathom what was going on – I had to take a deep breath to collect myself. Boys were coming over to me to ask my name and tell me theirs, to touch or shake my hands. I was totally moved. I will never forget this moment – never.

Tarik, Paper Kite’s president, brought 80 pairs of shoes for the girls from Canada. They were now being distributed. Next year, the boys will get shoes again, like the previous year. I have noticed that almost everyone was

walking around bare foot on cold concrete floors. Shoes are a luxury to the children and they celebrated getting them – like kids seeing candy. At one point, it felt like it was Christmas. We were treated to a welcoming tea and coffee. Then the boys took my hand and showed me around the building and classrooms. Most of the classrooms were not larger than 9×9 and also served as sleeping quarters. The boys pointed out the kitchen where the staff was preparing dinner. Tarik recently purchased coal for the clay stoves and the kitchen staff were cooking up a storm. As we went up each level, the stairs were dangerously dark with no lighting. The kids pulled me along and gave no mind to the darkness. It was difficult for me to maneuver; however, the kids had no problem. On the roof, evening sport activities take place – yoga, massage class, karate, ping pong, and dance. I took the opportunity to catch a breath of fresh air and observed the colourful red sky at dusk. The children pointed out the landmarks and temples, the big Buddha statue, and the tree where Buddha achieved enlightenment. The children were saying the fields are full with green and yellow flowers and I deduced that they are flax seeds.

I ended my day reflecting on this joyful experience over dinner with Tarik before heading back to our guesthouse. At dinner, I was re-envisioning the welcome ceremony with the children. This beautiful welcoming was very unexpected and I have never experienced anything like this before.

– Jeff, Paper Kite volunteer

6 Responses to “A Warm Welcome to Jeanamitabh!—Field Blog #2”

  1. Amila says:

    Wow, such a rich experience and no wonder you like India !! so glad you are on this. Good luck with your work there Jeff.

  2. Felix says:

    I feel so fulfilled, just reading your vivid account Jeff, and imagining your experience through you! How beautiful!
    I’m wondering how you are faring for food and how much of that “storm” being cooked up was suitable for you?
    Oh! If only I were there! I would have loved it!!!
    God bless,
    Felix

  3. Bruce Turner says:

    How wonderfull! I can’t wait to hear more about your daily experiences.

  4. Philip de Baros. says:

    Blessingsd to you Jeff.

    What a great experience.

    Hugs,

    Phil.

  5. Terry Pannike says:

    What a wonderful description of your experience Jeff. Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences there.

  6. Garry Carter says:

    Sounds wonderful Jeff – I can only imagine your feelings. Sounds like a good “TOPIC – with pictures” for a P.T. meeting.

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