Sunday, April 29, 2012

Operation Smile Kenya

Welcome to Nairobi!
Had the chance to shadow miss Anna (speech-language pathologist) on an Operation Smile mission in Meru, Kenya for the past ten days. Amazing amazing amazing.
Operation Smile is a non-profit organization that repairs cleft lip and cleft palate facial deformities for children from third world countries.  They also provide a variety of other surgical corrections to those who come for screening.

Kenyan food- not so great. This is basically what we had for lunch and dinner every day. Pass the salt?
View from the hotel.
Found this gem of a pamphlet at the hospital we were stationed at. 
Enjoyed a lot of fun evenings of food and conversation with the international and local volunteers.
From 7 a.m. til about 5 p.m. there were five tables running nonstop. So great to see people with different talents come together to give these children a chance at a normal life.

Hands down my favorite child.  She was blind, yet unquestionably the happiest baby I met on the mission.

Visiting a local restaurant. Goat and rice. Again.
A little dance festivities to celebrate the 99 surgeries completed within 5 days!
Crossing the equator on our way back to Nairobi . . .
And getting absolutely heckled with the street vendors.  So thankful for yet another amazing experience.

(Goodbye to Kenya and hello to Tanzania!)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Poitu Vaaran India

Ugh- goodbyes. Aren't they the worst?  I literally had a hollow/nauseated feeling for the duration of my last few days in India. The Rising Star journey has come and gone in a flash.  To say that I miss India and those who have become dear to me would be an understatement. Being away for the last week and a half has only deepened my appreciation for my time in Tamil Nadu.  A little sum up of the last week:

Enjoyed a day with Velu and Dr. Susan on Monday.  After checking out a new colony we passed this lady on the way home. The Indian women balance parcels the size of refrigerators on their heads with such ease.

Second part of the day was spent visiting an emu farm. All sorts of entertaining- isn’t this bird the most terrifying thing you ever did see?

The campus cooks and cleaners were kind enough to teach me how to make chapatti during my last week there. Brooke’s chapatti rolling skills = weak.

Sad to have a last day of medical. Visiting the colonies and getting to know the
people has taught me so much. 

 Each interaction with the colony residents were such gentle yet powerful reminders of what a blessed life I have.  I can't imagine living day to day in such crippled conditions and being socially dismissed constantly because of it. It only takes a few minutes at one of these colonies to remember that there are much more important things in life than the silly little things I so often become caught up in.

 So perfect and appropriate to experience the final colony day with my beautiful cousin Kelli Ann.
Missing her so very much!

A little snapshot with me and the nurses (minus Nittya). Side note: Despite her supposed gloominess as portrayed by this photo, Sharmeela (black chudidar, cream scarf) is one of the most cheerful and hilarious girls I have ever met.

 Nisha, Angeli, and me in the library where I did most of my tutoring.

With Leema Rose, just one of the many teachers that showed exceptional kindness and tolerance to me and all of my American-isms during my stay at Rising Star. 

Goodbye Kanchanah and Allamaylue, the sweetest and most hilarious housekeepers out there.

This is Jayanthi, one of my tutoring students. She was admitted late to Rising Star and was put into Kindergarten even though she should technically be in 2nd or 3rd grade. After lots of work and continuous practice her English, reading, and writing skyrocketed! She is now in 1st standard. This girl is amazing.

Took this photo after the dreaded evening of goodbyes. Aren’t they so sweet? 

If there’s any thanks I owe it’s due to these amazing students. When you set out to do a service type event like this I think it’s more than normal to have that mentality of “Here I am, giving of my time to help other people.” A totally normal and acceptable attitude, yet when all is said and done these kids are the ones who did so much more for me. For my ten weeks at Rising Star I was supplied with endless amounts of kisses, thoughtful notes, and unconditional love. I am forever grateful for the friendships I was treated to. Nandri, nandri, nandri.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Less than a week in India. Eek.

I'm not even going to talk about next Tuesday's goodbyes that I'm absolutely dreading.  So for now I'll stick with a random little update on the latest at Rising Star Outreach.

Star store parties.  The kids are rewarded for good citizenship with "stars" and can purchase anything from toys to candy to party nights as a reward. Kelli and I have loooved having them over at our little green house for treats and movie nights. Here's a photo from our latest star store shin dig last weekend.

They are C-R-A-Z-Y for peanut butter. Each of them helped themselves to at least 1/2 of a cup (or more) to spread on the french toast we made for them. This is Shalini- wide eyed as ever while taking her stroll down Peanut Butter Lane. 

 Lice checks. It's a common favor we treat each other to on a weekly (ish) basis.  The kids at the school are literally infested and with so many of them the problem never really goes away.  I've become accustomed to the occasional sleepless night where my reoccurring lice nightmare doesn't let me be!
In good news though, the three of us gals in the green house are all currently bug free! 
Raise! The! Roof! Knock. On. Wood.

Skype. What a clever little idea Skype was. Isn't my 15 year old brother a hottie? I love it when Mother takes me on car rides with her and Jake to school in the morning.

Nithya, getting jazzed for lunch.  Love her.

And Sharmila, who willingly demonstrated the Indian ways of drinking for my memorabilia purposes. 

Revathi, Angel, and Pavithra. I adore these beautiful girls and have learned so much from them. 

So I like the food here. I do.  It's nothing off-the-wall-amazing but it's good.  On the other hand, the menu is the exact. same. every. week. Remember that saying, "Variety is the spice of life"?  I guess what I'm getting at is that I could easily go for some A Bountiful Kitchen right about now.
My taste buds are officially on strike. 

Reshma, one of our youngest little sweethearts here.  I had the absolute privilege of holding her in my arms the other night as she fell asleep.  Gives me a better insight on some of my baby hungry galpals back home.

And speaking of babies . . . 

Congratulations (!!!) to Corriney and Neil on their first mini Stokoe!
Aunt Brookie could not be more thrilled.