A pungent, gut-retching stench assaulted my nose as I walked into the hazy sunlight, suitcases clutched tightly in my hand. The flight from LAX to New Delhi, India had left my brain a bit fuzzy, but the excitement of the chance to get to serve an Orphanage in India was crystal clear in my mind. The moment I stepped out into the capital of India, I was awakened by the colors of the fruit stands, the sounds of horns, and the sights of a new land. I was ecstatic to experience a new style of life, and that I did. From rags to riches, I encountered it all.
The first place me and my fellow trip mates went was to our luxurious hotel, the Shanti Home(http://www.shantihome.com/). Looks were deceiving in this case as the plain, white walls of the building gave way to the exquisite rooms and dÃ©cor inside. My friend and I both agreed: it did not feel like we were in India. I was surprised at how welcoming and accommodating all of the locals were to us. Everyone from our tour guide Vinny at the breath-taking Taj Mahal to the bus driver who had to sit in hours upon hours of traffic with us all showed us a deep sense of respect that I had never experienced in the U.S. I felt as if I were a celebrity.
After experiencing the wealthier parts of Northern India, we headed to the train station to take a train from New Delhi to Allahabad. Stress and discomfort were felt by the group as we really began to live the life of a true citizen of India. We weren’t tourists anymore. That night on the night train, in the midst of the blinking lights and the creaking from the train, I knew that I was in for an experience I could never have imagined, an opportunity that only a few would ever have. As the sun rose and the train stopped, I stepped out into the dirty train station to the place where I would leave my heart: Allahabad.
After another arduous car ride, the New Life Boy’s Home in Allahabad came into view. The tan, two-story building with red trim made my heart smile with the thought of how it helps so many in need, but this joy was nothing compared to the moment I saw them. Twenty or so young boys, all wearing black slacks and pink or blue shirts, were waiting in for us.
The moment we came into view, the boys shot up to grab our luggage from us, hauling our heavy bundles all the way upstairs to the rooms we would be staying in for the next few days. Though they could not understand our “thanks yous,” I know that they could understand our beaming smiles from ear to ear. That was the beginning of a wonderful experience in which friendships would grow, and we would dance, paint, clean, laugh, and play together. While we shared our bags of gifts from home consisting of medical supplies, clothes, and toys, they got to share their amazing Chai tea that I drank almost three times a day. Through these wonderful boys, I was able to observe the pains and joys of India, taking many life lessons with me that I still live by to this day. Although I thought this was going to be a trip where I gave, I ended up receiving so much more than I ever could have expected: new friends, new experiences, a new view of the world.
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