I got up early to get some of the coveted hot water in my shower. Our hotel is very simple, more of a dorm style. We share hot water, which is heated using solar power. I have never been so happy to take a lukewarm shower!
Yesterday we got to hear more about the projects that SEED is doing here in Kolkata and learn more about the city and Indian culture. One thing to note before I continue: Kolkata is the new/old name for Calcutta. The British renamed most of the cities when they were in power. In the early 2000's Indians changed many of the names back, which is why you'll see 2 different names for many of the cities here. So Kolkata is the Indian name for what we call Calcutta.
Our Indian leaders and translators are also the two that started SEED in 2009. They worked for Compassion International, which is a great organization doing amazing things all over the world. Their daily commute brought them past a slum, and they started opening their eyes to the needs there. Eventually Jaishree and Piyas took a giant leap of faith and quit their jobs to start SEED and do work in the slums. When I say leap of faith, I should be more clear - this meant they had to live off what savings they had and use any money donated for their projects. They didn't take any money for a salary. In fact, our trip leader, Andy, started working on a project to pay them and their now 30 staff members. I can assure you they are wise with each penny donated. Jaishree noted that spending money and doing work faithfully will be rewarded by Christ. She is one of the most selfless, faithful people I have had the priviledge of meeting. They are doing some incredible things! I can't wait to see them in action and share more witih you throughout the trip. I can already tell God is moving powerfully here, and will continue to do so on our trip.
We also visited the Kali temple and Victorian Memorial in the afternoon. Kali is the Hindu god of destruction, the most worshipped god here in Kolkata. There was a feeling of coldness there, and in spots, just a dark, unsettling feeling. As we were walking out, many of us felt uneasy from it. Victorian Memorial was beautfiul and peaceful. It was built to honor Queen Victoria in the early 1900's. When we walked around the grounds, we noticed many Indian couples nestled together "secretly" in the gardens. For such a private, conservative culture, it was funny to see them publicly kissing. We also went shopping in the market, which was hectic and slightly stressful, especially with 15 of us at once. I was able to get a few things to bring home. We had KFC for dinner. I note that for 2 reasons. 1) I have never had KFC before I got here. I also never thought I would be so ready to eat fast food chicken. 2) They hire special needs employees, so we had to point to menu items because most of them are deaf. I think that's pretty great that KFC is doing that!
I'm looking forward to sharing more with you after today. We'll be spending the day in the Kalphar slum, teaching and playing with the school children and seeing what the vocational women are working on. They have safer jobs, making more money because of the donations and support we provide them. Please pray for us as we dive into our true purpose here in India.
I love and miss everyone back home!