My Happy Place: Atalee Smith

Atalee2nd 5 Atalee2nd 4 Atalee2nd 3 Atalee2nd 2 Atalee2nd 1Coming to India has by far been the best experience of my life. Teaching these kids and getting to know them has been so rewarding, as well as growing closer to my YMAD group and growing as an individual. The atmosphere here is absolutely amazing. On Easter Sunday we hiked up to a temple that was built over 1,000 years ago, and we all sat in a circle and talked about everything that we were grateful for. I can’t exaggerate how beautiful it is here. You know how sometimes people tell you to close your eyes and go to your happy place, well Jibhi is my happy place. Being here or in any third world country truly makes you realize how blessed you are just to have such easy access to clean, running water, appliances to wash your clothes and dishes, and a warm, comfortable place to sleep at night. But the people here in Jibhi are also very blessed. They have a gorgeous view, it’s much cleaner here than in the city, and people here value people more than they value things. We also got to call home that night, and I was so happy to hear my family’s voices. On Monday we went to each school and performed our songs and dances. We hiked so much that day! I got a little emotional when we were at my school and I looked at my kids. I couldn’t imagine leaving them. After we were done we went back to my school to give the kids brand new sweaters, and I teared up seeing how happy they were to have a new sweater. Turns out my school was the poorest of all the schools we went to. On the way back to the car, the kids walked us us and little Godavari wouldn’t let go of my hand. I was tearing up because I knew that tomorrow we’d have to say goodbye. She noticed and had a confused and concerned look in her big beautiful brown eyes, then she smiled and said “I love you”. It was so sweet, but it sure didn’t help stop the tears. Then Tuesday rolled around, and we were only able to stay at the school until about 12:45 rather than 3. We got all the kids new backpacks, blankets, education kits, and socks. They were so excited. It was kind of sad though because when we said goodbye, most of them didn’t understand that we weren’t coming back the next day - or most likely ever again. But I know I’ll be back. I don’t know how or when, but I’ll go back to Jibhi and see them again. These kids changed my life forever. When we got back to the camp, everybody was crying and hugging and it was such an amazing moment. Next we had to pack up, eat, and say goodbye to our translators. That was also hard because they have become some of my very best friends. I hope to see them again one day too. Once we headed out, we had a 19 hour bus ride to our next destination. Our hotel was SO nice, even by American standards. We had running water, air conditioning, and a comfortable bed. We went to see the Taj Mahal and pictures will never be able to capture how beautiful it was. It’s indescribable. Then that night, we had PIZZA! I’ve never had better pizza before in my whole life. At 4:30am the next morning we drove for another 6 hours to Jaipur and believe it or not, this hotel is even nicer. We are being so spoiled and I couldn’t be more grateful. There’s a pool here! And today for lunch we are eating Italian!! Then we will be going shopping, and tomorrow we will be riding elephants! Ahh I love India. However, I do miss home a bit more so I’d say I’m as excited to go home as sad as I am to leave India. XOXO Atalee