New Delhi has taken me in. What a journey so far and it`s only day 3! There is already so much to write about but I will give you some of the highlights as I unravel this very new and different-looking picture.
To start with, I am staying in a bedroom that has just been created (new floor, new paint, new walls, new plumbing) and officially deemed “the foreigner’s guest room” equipped with a western toilet and all (Indian toilets are well-dressed holes in the floor). I am the first person to inhabit this room, who will be next i wonder? This room sits above the STOP headquarters in New Delhi and my bedroom door opens to the rooftop, giving way to some really good people-watching. The headquarters are in a part of a city neighborhood called Chattarpur which is under full-time watch by men with machine guns. Apparently the surrounding blocks are not very safe…but as long as I don’t venture over there, it`s fine! There is visible smog everywhere you look, men riding around in bicycles shouting whatever items they have for sale on the backs of their bicycles, and the smell of trash burning pretty frequently (Thank you, Chris, the essential oils are essential after all!)
At this moment, I am sitting on my cot in my bedroom, a cot that was made last week by the same men who are here this week putting some finishing touches on the new STOP training center just a few feet from my bedroom. I am drowning out their clanging as best I can with a little Valerie June playing on my iPod (thank you, Ionah, yes I love her). I have a toxic little mosquito repelling can plugged into the outlet on the wall, not exactly sure what it`s doing but i keep the fan on in my room so at least it getting circulated and not concentrated!
The men who are working here have never seen a foreigner before so i am keeping my curtains shut for now because they can`t help but to lean around and keep looking at me. What a sight I must be for them: blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale and freckle-skinned, tall, tattooed, “Doctor” they call me. It’s no wonder they want to keep looking at me, haha. But my hosts did offer me a pair of floral Indian house slippers so when I look down at my feet, at least I feel like I could fit in.
In my belly you will find some of my favorite cuisine. I have been delighted with the vegetarian Indian home-cooking. Everything is a little bit spicy, which luckily i am enjoying. But because of the concerns and constant checking in of the cook i can tell that they have injured some foreigners before! I would easily say that I have been taken to my limit already…but I am enjoying the menagerie of flavors so much! Some things i have learned: rice is never served with breakfast, but always with lunch and dinner. Chappati (delicious pan-fried thin bread) comes with breakfast along with a vegetable and either daal or egg. Lunch is also another vegetable, basmati rice and either lentils or another bean dish. Dinner is basically the same although we had homemade paneer and red curry sauce last night that was to die for. And dessert comes after the spicy meals in order to counter the heat…in other words, if you see them get the sugar out, you know what to expect with dinner. I have also learned that qualifiers are oftentimes subtle hints at what is to come. For instance, a little bit sweet actually means a lot sweet, and a little bit spicy, means you should grab the box of tissues before sitting down at the table. Lesson learned. But making them laugh at me seems to soften the language barrier rather quickly.
I have been using my Hindi phrasebook as much as possible, as embarrassing as it can feel sometimes. My best words so far are: Namaste which serves as hello and goodbye and dhanyawaad meaning, Thank you. The more risky phrase if I can get it to come out right is also the one that makes all the kitchen/ staff so very happy, khanaa bahut badhiya tha, simply stating that the meal was a very good meal! I heard one of the cooks tell the story at least 3 times yesterday of my complimenting her cooking in Hindi! She had also never seen a foreigner before either so it was extra special for her to have this foreigner speak a language she could understand.
Right now i am sharing the space and being hosted by a young woman named Rama and her husband, Shehkar. You may remember her from the short video I linked to my crowdfunding campaign about STOP India ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cufQ0xBz7S0&feature=youtube_gdata_player), her name in the brothel was Swati. She has full blown HIV-AIDS (as does her husband) after her years of being sex-trafficked and she has been undergoing treatment at a nearby hospital. Right now she is 25 years old and very sick but you would never know with how much energy she conjures up to host me. She weighs about 75lbs. Even though she says she is hungry all the time and eats a lot, she simply cannot put on weight and she takes naps all day long because she says she is always tired. During the week she works as Roma`s scheduler and office coordinator. She has coordinated so much about my stay here, in fact. I asked her, “what is the one thing I could help you with while I am here for this month?” and she says,”help me with my energy so that I can help Mommy (Roma) more, help me gain weight, and teach me to do acupuncture so that I can help the other sisters”.
Today I am treating the STOP India staff who are also made up of women who were trafficked and rehabilitated years ago. They are the people who will accompany me in the slums these next few days so it will be wonderful to have their help if the turn-out is anywhere near what they have predicted. None of them have ever had acupuncture before but they are all already very interested in learning the NADA protocol (www.acudetox.com) so that they can keep these clinics running year round.
I haven’t been able to visit Aashray Family Home just yet because STOP received very devastating news of an underage girl (about 10 years old they are guessing) being trafficked in a neighborhood that has been clean for more than 5 years. So everything has been put on hold while they formulate a plan to rescue the girl. Tomorrow my “treatment office” is being finished and I hope to get to Aashray by Thursday or Friday. In the meantime, I’m treating all the STOP staff as well as Roma, Rama, and Shehkar on my newly arrived “examination table” that is being outfitted with cushions…it is extremely difficult to find a standard massage table here in Delhi! Perhaps that is more telling of the priorities in a place like this.