It could be the constant drumming and bells, the pure light of the stars at night, or the feeling of small, dirt caked hands desperately scrambling to hold your own that has impacted me the most thus far. India isn’t exactly the Darjeeling Limited version that I watched on the plane ride here but is more mysterious, beautiful and rich in humanity than I ever could have expected. Each day I find it incredible to even be here. To everyone at home, I love you and know that I am safe, very warm, and indescribably happy. Today was our last day teaching lessons at the Jibhi school and probably one of the most rewarding days of teaching. Although the kids were rowdy and there was a constant line for the “time out mat”, our team had positive energy and I was impressed with their stamina and strength. We spent the last 45 minutes playing games with the giant parachute along with sharks and minnows as a group of about 50 kids. I’m fairly sure everyone in the nearby area stopped and watched intrigued by either the loud laughing or the way small Indian children were chasing white teenage foreigners. The pure joy and happiness I witnessed during this game time was unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time in the US.

Later this afternoon we began our murals at the school! I’m painting an entire world on the fourth grade classroom wall and we already have some sweet animal drawings. I hope our paintings will brighten the school, help teach basic English, and remind our kids that someone recognizes and loves the light within them.

Two of my closest friends here are Kilha and Kanta. Kilha, a nine-year-old girl at our school, is possibly the most sassy and animated person I know. She violently grabbed me and planted a wet kiss on my cheek before running off to meet her friends and stole the bubbles from my hand today. She also wrote me a little note in Hindi that Kanta, my favorite Indian translator, read to me tonight. It roughly translates to “Audrey, I love you so much. Thank you. I will miss you. I cry every night because I miss you.” (the last sentence is definitely a joke because Kilha and her friends laughed hysterically as she wrote that). I will undeniably miss her too but her presence in itself has made me happy every day. Kanta and I have become very close friends and she did a beautiful henna on my hand two days ago. We talk about our lives and she tells me secrets, explains the culture, and patiently listens to every question I have for her.

The relationships I have created here have been the most important part of India and inspire me to shine my light and recognize it in every person I encounter.

Audrey Mancini

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