First Impressions

              Five hours after landing in Kolkata I found myself waking up for my first full day in this new place.  Even at 7AM the city was already shockingly loud. Between the birds, the people and most especially the car horns I couldn’t help but think that sleeping-in might just be an impossibility here.   After brushing my teeth with bottled water and eating some breakfast, a few people from my group and I set off on our first adventure, going to the grocery store.  Since my first time being on the streets was at 3AM while being half asleep from our day of flying, I was both excited and nervous for my first real taste of the city.  To say walking along the sidewalk for the first time was overwhelming would be the understatement of a life time.  It was instant sensory overload.  I think for myself, I was struck most by the smells of that first walk.  In my 21 years, my nose has never been through such a rollercoaster ride. One second I was smelling the delicious street food that lays right outside the mission house we are staying at, and the next you smell what I can only describe as the olfactory consequence of many people being forced to live on the street.  That process was repeated, with some smells I have never encountered and could not begin to describe, about 20 times throughout the three block walk to the grocery store.  It was also shocking to witness the traffic norms of Kolkata.  Compared to the passive aggressive Midwest driving I learned behind the wheel, these streets seem to be an anything goes race.   Somehow, by the grace of God, we were able to cross the street unscathed and were able to count our first venture as a success.

              After the trip to the store, a few of us who were awake went to the Missionaries of Charity Mother House.  While not the first house St. Teresa started in Kolkata, it became over time the largest house in Kolkata and the center of operations for all of the Missionaries of Charity.  It is tough to explain my first time in the house.  I think the first thing that caught me off guard was how unassuming the whole place is.  From the street, if you weren’t looking for it, you could easily miss the large blue building that is home to one of the greatest saints of the last century.  Once inside, I noticed that the whole place was a contradiction.  The building faces one of the busiest roads in Kolkata making it quite possibly the loudest place on the planet; even while horns are honking and people are shouting, I felt an unescapable peace when I entered.  It is truly a place where Christ has come into the chaos of Kolkata, and as a result, it feels different. As a person with really bad A.D.D., I assumed that I would never be able to pray well with all of the distractions, but that first morning I found myself able to start out my time here with a peaceful rosary at the tomb of mother.  The whole experience reminded me of a quote from a saint that I cannot remember, “When heaven kisses earth, all suffering is eclipsed with joy.”


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