The dream of a decade.
As I landed in the Kolkata airport, I was in disbelief that I was finally starting a portion of my life that I have dreamt about for over a decade. Had I not been imagining about this experience for so many years, I would have been nervous about traveling alone to India, betting that an unknown man would be waiting for me outside, holding a piece of paper with my name on it. But with all the dreams, excitement and experience I have with me, I felt even more thrilled to start a new beginning in a Country that was familiar by book, but yet still unknown.
Sunday was my first full day in Kolkata, I spent the majority of the day getting to know my two house mates, who are Volunteers from California, teaching in the same school as me. We spent the afternoon exploring one of the most popular malls so that I could get some traditional clothing for my first day of school. The mall here is very similar to any mall you may find in the big cites of developing countries, all filled with high end brands like Gucci and Coach, American fast food chains, people dressed to impress, all creating an unrealistic portrait of living in India and representing what one day will become my afternoon escape from reality. Monday morning couldn’t come any sooner, I was so excited to finally meet the staff at the Piyali Learning Centre, meet the girls that make the school so amazing, and get an idea of what kind of work I will be doing as the future In Country Director. To get to school, we walk out of the alleyway near our house on to a big busy street that leads us to the train station. The fifteen-minute walk is consisted on weaving in-between cars, motorcycles, and rickshaws- all in which are constantly honking their horn, as if it was a 4 year old playing an instrument for the first time. From the train station, we have a thirty-minute journey to the outskirts of town; here you can finally see some agriculture and pockets of forest. Arriving to Piyali Junction, I met with the Teachers and current In Country Director, from the train station we take a 10 minute jeep ride into the village. What could easily be compared to Disney Land’s Indiana Jones ride for its bumpiness these 10 minutes have become a daily reminder of how happy I am to be here. The smell of incense, families working in their mud huts, colorful shrines, and nature sets each morning up for a great day. Walking through the gates at the Piyali Learning Centre is something that everyone raves about, not only is the condition and set up of the school so impressive, but the overall kindness and positive energy of the girls is something that you can feel while entering. Throughout the week I spent most of my days learning more about our Organization, PACE Universal, and its relationship to our school, the Piyali Learning Centre, the general administration details, meeting the Teachers and most importantly, getting to know the girls. Each day was jammed pack with orientation, that by nighttime we are all exhausted, though in a very awarding way, as each day we are gifted with the beautiful smiles’ of all of our students. My first full weekend here was spent entering into the city center of Kolkata for a Rotary meeting with the chapter who has partnered with PLC in helping us receive many big donations and grants. The Rotary meeting was so much fun, we were invited as the Guest Speakers, and along with the current In Country Director, I shared my story about how studying at UCSB, living in Ghana and doing Peace Corps have all helped strengthen my interest in International Development and Humanitarian work and my passion for working in India with PACE Universal. For the evening, we spent some time exploring Park City, a nicer part of town filled with great restaurants, bars, bookstores and shops. Most surprisingly was the Christmas street decorations, food stands and Holiday performance in the park.
Today has been a chance to finally take everything in and reflect on this past week and what I can do to make for a great coming week. I can truly say that this past week has been so exciting. Even in the moments of confusion with the language, or adjusting to the potent smells on the streets, I feel so blessed to be here.
For anyone who is interested in my contact information:
Phone Number: +91 990-378-3112
Jayanta Chatterji Care for: Kelsey Eaton 12/1 Lindsay St. West Bengal Kolkata 700087India Whatsapp: +19163703767 <- this may change in the next few weeks.