Made by Survivors | Wet Banana Leaf Plates = Hitting the Wall
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Wet Banana Leaf Plates = Hitting the Wall

11 Jan 2009, by elance programmer in Uncategorized

Here in Calcutta, on Day 8 our our annual volunteer trip, a few of us are reaching the limits of our ability to cope….just in case you thought it was all rosy, this email is about keeping it real.  I’m exhausted, emotionally overstimulated, and some of the group are ill.  On the bright side, i’ve found the perfect metaphor for the situation:  wet banana leaf plates.

Out at the Sanlaap Shelter home, where we are painting a preschool alongside survivors, we’re always offered lunch, which is so very kind of them, given everything else they’re trying to accomplish.  The food is simple rice and lentils and veg, which we eat with our fingers (not as easy as it looks – the dal is very liquid), served on these environmentally AWESOME plates made from banana leaves.   Yesterday the plates had just been washed (in unfiltered water from the well) and were beaded with water.  Of course the unfiltered water here can reek havoc on our foreign stomachs.  So the look on the team’s faces as their food was spooned onto these wet plates was a priceless combination of disbelief, fear, and finally resignation.  We were really hungry and really appreciative of the effort so we just went for it, despite our fears.  And so far it has worked out fine.

AN OVERVIEW OF OUR TRIP SO FAR:  The challenge for me at this point in the trip is that we really are taking on too many things at once and i am feeling the effects. We have 14 volunteers runnign programs – watercolor, Punjabi dance, Tae Kwon Do, origami and photography – at 4 shelter partners all over this huge city of 16 million.    In addition to the arts programs, we’re painting the preschool, and have been able to hire a carpenter to build the most adorable wooden chairs, cots, and tables (thanks to The Body Shop employees and consultants for this!!)

I’m also planning products for 2009 at our Destiny Center, and we ahve a volunteer designer here form the UK (Jessica Ann) so I’m working with Jes, Becky and Smarita to select bags and fabrics and to do costing and plan ordering for the next quarter.  One of our Destiny girls is sick and needed hospitalization and Becky has had to have an emergency root canal.  Two of our volunteers, who are currently out in Varanasi meeting an NGO there and learning about bonded labor slavery, became violently ill also, but they are now doing better.  And, as usual, i’m meeting wiht our NGO partners to further develop these relationships and to discuss business development as well as their funding needs and other needs.  The other night, we had to walk through the Kidderpore red light area to get the volunteers to their train on time, because we couldn’t find a taxi, and as always it was a heartbreaking and unbearable experience.

Becky and I are writing a grant which is due next week, just for good measure.  John and I are preparing to do our first trade show in NYC later this month.  I should have just hired some circus magicians and be done with it!!

Anyway, there’s a lot of unfiltered water on my banana leaf plate right now, and yes, i am getting tired and stressed by it all.  But, i’m taking my cue from the other volunteers and just diving in anyway, despite my fears. 

2 COMMENTS
  • Sarah,
    Your work always amazes me and puts my life in perspective. Every time I think I have it bad, I come and read your blog, and have a reality check and get inspired.

    Hang in there – you have no idea how big the ripple is that you are creating!

    Much Love!

  • That’s all! Love your blog and your honest detailing of what you are dealing with. I’ll find you some circus clowns to take some of the load off. Love, Amy

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