To all of my loved ones who eagerly await my blog posts for their deep, analytical, witty, personal, beautiful, and reflective content, unfortunately I did not do any spiritual self-actualization since my last post. But I did have possibly my best week so far during this trip so read below for excerpts from my diary of the past seven days :/
We went to Belur Math Monastery, which is the headquarters of the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples (including Swami Vivekananda). Meditating in their temple, touching the holy water of the Ganges, just taking in the aura of sanctity and peace. I felt more Hindu than I ever do in the states. I perfectly recalled prayers that I had learned years ago in Balvikas and thought I had forgotten. Also I learned that my dad at one point wanted to enroll in the college here and becoming disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. But instead he birthed me :))))
I had dinner with kids at Future Hope today and taught this really cute boy how to play rock, paper, scissors. I love this organization – the children are all so supportive and loving with each other. The little kids help the littler kids with their homework and the older boys even let the little girls put bindis on their foreheads. It’s all so sweet and I want to cry (but again we’ve established I’m emotional).
The girls working at JDNM had our teacher workshop today and for the first time I felt like I was actually making some kind of positive footprint here. We created a workshop (with the help of our wonderful site coordinator Ellen) about sensory processing – how autistic children process their senses, why this leads to some of their behaviors, and how to adjust your own methods according to their needs. I researched sensory processing in sight and presented the needs and behaviors of children who are hypo- and hypersensitive in sight. I created a kaleidoscope as a demonstration of a potential remedy for children who are hyposensitive in sight. Because I lacked the materials needed to create one, I had to improvise and ended up making the kaleidoscope entirely out of a water bottles, a toilet paper roll, and my TGI Friday’s to-go dinner. TG for TGI.
I HAD THE MOST AMAZING DAY. I was in the transition classroom this week, which is the classroom with children who have more severe cases of autism. Today I brought in some of the activities we learned from the sensory workshop and it was incredibly effective. There’s one boy in the class who never eats his food because he’s painfully hypersensitive in his mouth. So I practiced some light oral stimulation with a toothbrush and for the rest of the day he was actually trying to bite things and touch his teeth – which for him was a huge accomplishment!!!!! There’s also a boy who always spits into his hand and at first I thought he liked playing with it so I gave him some shaving cream to play with instead. That didn’t work – he just tried to eat it. So then I thought he might be hyposensitive in his mouth and gave him a toothbrush to chew on and he was calm and focused for the rest of the day!!!!!!! AND MOST AMAZING OF ALL. There’s a boy in transition who has NEVER been verbal since we’ve been at the school. I blew bubbles for the kids after lunch which was so exciting and stimulating for them, and I said to the boy “bolo bubbles” (say bubbles). AND HE DID HE SAID BUBBLES. I then had him repeat full English sentences for me AND HE DID HE REPEATED THEM PERFECTLY HE EVEN MOCKED MY OVERLY PREPPY AMERICAN ACCENT HE WAS VERBAL!!!!!!!!!!
Eleven of us took our saris to the tailor to get our blouses made and because the tailor only spoke and understood Bangla, I communicated to him what designs each of the girls wanted. And he understood everything I said to him – for the first time, I actually felt fluent in Bangla!!!!
Future Hope had their annual play competition today that they’ve been working on this entire time we’ve been here. It’s a competition between the four houses at Future Hope. It was clear the kids put in so much time and energy and passion into their plays. The little kids too young to be in it would excitedly tell me when their house was on the stage. One of my kids from my classroom was a tree in the play, and though you would think he wouldn’t be that into it since he’s got kind of a bad boy swagger, he was actually so engaged in the effort. And when they announced the winner, all the kids, not just winning house, cheered and screamed. It was really moving to see all the Future Hope kids have so much unrestrained excitement and pride and I almost cried (again I’m an emotional person stop).
The most perfect weekend. I learned a tribal dance, I caressed a goat, I actually saw the stars for the first time since coming to Kolkata. Santinikethan was the quintessence of peace and relaxation.