‘and then you leave again.’
i went home. or i came home. either way, i was in the redwoods by the ocean for three months. i’m not sure which word to use – ‘went’ or ‘came’; whether i am based in india and traveling to california, or vice verse. i feel in flux and constantly confused.
being home was beautiful, as only home can be. i soaked up my family, my friends, my boyfriend; my trees and beaches and storms; my bunnies. for the first time in 15 years, i was unemployed… a strange and terrifying phenomenon that helped me to better understand the plight of so many. i had a home to fall back on, parents to feed and shelter me, a luxury that put me in the minority. being afraid of money (or its lack thereof) is a hard thing.
whilst home i put on a number of fundraisers for ‘my girls’ in bihar… screenings of The Tibetan Photo Project’s beautiful film ‘India 101,’ silent auctions with scores of stunning items donated by my amazingly generous community, food and drink prepared by friends eager to lend a hand, a live dance performance, etc. they were beautiful evenings that showcased my beautiful community: people came out in the cold of a california january to talk, to bid, to buy, to donate, to inquire, to empathize, and to show that they cared about the fates of a handful of girls they have never met, in a town on the other side of the planet. i was awestruck; stunned with gratitude and love.
these fundraisers raised over $5000 (almost 250,000 rupees) – a substantial amount of money in india that will make a huge difference to my students’ lives. it was overwhelming, and i am grateful beyond description. i cannot wait to see their faces when i tell them they can stay in school instead of returning to the red light district.
and then i left again.
i write now from my friend elise’s kitchen table, in berlin, germany. it is my european home-away-from-home, and serves not only as a beautiful and friend-filled european excursion before the anti-luxuries of bihar, but a place to adjust my body to the time difference (i found that breaking the 12.5 hour time change into two legs was a huge help in not feeling like the walking dead for your first week in india). and, most importantly, germany makes THE BEST lice remedy known to man. why america can’t figure out how to make a non-toxic one-time lice solution is beyond me, but the germans did it, and i love them for it. though i did get an odd look from the pharmacist at the apotheke when elise explained to her that i needed not one, but TWO bottles… i am fairly certain she was on the verge of declaring me a bio-hazard. (of course, two bottles of said remedy set me back about $50, so… maybe that’s why it’s not in the states…). anyway, i will travel much better knowing that when i inevitably start to itch after a week in forbesganj, i have help.
i have noticed my hindi trying to return, as i struggle with my limited german… my inclination when spoken to is to respond in hindi, which is a change from the past when french was my go-to language when my brain didn’t know how to process the language being spoken. given that i still harbour dreams of a summer cottage in provence, (and have no such fantasies about a summer shack in delhi…) i am hoping that the relocation isn’t permanent. my body and brain know i’m returning; the language shifts, my stomach is unsettled, my manner begins to soften ever-so-slightly in preparation for attempting to blend in to forbesganj again.
in all actuality, i probably didn’t have to go back to bihar. all the administrative work to institute the scholarships could have been done by email with the delhi office. but i promised the girls i would be back. i swore to them. i told them that i would return before the mehndi had grown out of my fingernails. when i left forbesganj three months ago my nails were stained dark with henna. now only the tips are coloured- a strange orange french-manicure look that is hardly flattering and looks vaguely fungal. but i am keeping my promise. i will not be one who shows up in their lives and then never returns.
and so, at 4 in the morning on monday, i will be riding the U Bahn through berlin, bound for the airport, to paris, and then to delhi. i haven’t arranged my in-country travel yet, so i’m a bit nervous about that, but with any luck on wednesday next i’ll either be in bihar proper, or on a train bound for it. either way, i’ll be back.
i can’t thank you all enough for your love and support… truly. your thoughts and prayers and words of wisdom and guidance keep me afloat when i fear sinking, and i am eternally grateful and humbled. love and blessings from She Who is Clean for the Last Time…