Sunday, March 17, 2013

Street Dentistry and a Must See Video

I know I'm supposed to be working on a post to chronicle our last days in India, but I couldn't resist giving you a little sneak peek at some of the craziness there. I'm not quite sure if these guys take dental insurance, but I'm pretty sure you get what you pay for.

Could this guy technically be considered colleague of Dr. Collins?

Tools of the trade:

Discount for two extractions:

I asked this "dentist" if I could take his picture and after I did he waved his hand away and yelled, "Oh, why don't you go back where you came from?" Yes sir.

As for us...India or Austin, we treat them all the same. Enjoy a video with some of the highlights from our dental mission at Rising Star. And I promise, more pictures are coming soon!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Goodbye Rising Star

The day has come.

I have hundreds of photos and a mind full of stories I would like to share but I'm tired. Today was perfect.  Mary Elizabeth lovingly placed flowers in our hair this morning. We painted our own special place on the volunteer wall with a symbol of our bracelet. We reached our goals in the dental clinic and had 223 happy customers. I exchanged phone numbers with a nurse who doesn't speak English. We laughed and we cried. We are changed.

Tonight I noticed Vothivoo (the "warden" who oversees all the children and housemothers) observing our goodbyes from far off and then she made her way to me. She thanked me for being here with my family and said that they will anxiously await our return. Then she smiled and said this,

"When you give love, it's love you get in return. That is the lesson."

Goodbye children of Rising Star, for now. It is time for us to return to our own children and our lives so far away and so different from the one here. We will take the lessons we've learned and the love we've felt as if we were bringing you all home with us. In our hearts forever...thank you for making the best kind of change in us that we could have ever hoped for.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A run through the village

This morning we got up just a little after sunrise and went for a run to a village close to Rising Star. It's so interesting when such different worlds collide. Here we are -  these tall white women running through a village for no apparent reason...we're not running from anything and we're not chasing anything. And there they were - brushing their teeth while standing in their front yards, hauling water for the day, cooking breakfast over a fire as they sat on the ground. We exchanged glances of curiosity with each other, having no basis for commonality except smiles, waves and the word photo. They loved getting their pictures taken as much as I loved taking them. They would pose, call out additional family members to join in, and always wanted to see the picture which made them giggle every time.

I wondered if they questioned our reason for running as much as I question the life they lead. It seemed so peaceful and simple. I run because I need the exercise. Their whole life is filled with physical activity and a scarcity of food that would make purposely burning extra calories seem downright ludicrous. I wonder what they would tell me if we could speak the same language. Do they want what I have as much as I want what they have?

I was taking this picture and out walked one of our Rising Star students.
We were happy and surprised to see each other!

This lady asked me to take her picture and then told me to come back after she fixed her hair (we spoke in hand signals of course)

After the visit to the village, it was time to hurry back to Rising Star and get ready for the busiest dental day yet. We saw an insane number of patients today and it has physically taken it's toll on all of us. Aaron can't even stand upright because his back is causing so much pain, Nicky started getting a migraine and I feel like I've been in a car wreck because my neck hurts so bad. But when we are doing the work, that part of it fades away. All we want to do is push harder because if we don't, it's the kids who suffer. As I said before, I know we can't do it all but there is much we can do and will do before we say goodbye at the end of the day tomorrow.

Today Aaron had a really personally devastating experience. He had a little 5 year old girl in the chair who needed an extraction because of a large abscessed tooth. She was scared and after getting her most of the way numb, she had enough. He took the bite block out of her mouth and said he didn't want to push her and scare her even more. I panicked. Her only hope is to be taken to a dental hospital here and the thought of that experience for her broke my heart. I pleaded with him to reconsider and just pull the tooth, even if it meant she would have a mildly traumatic experience. Once it was done, she would be out of pain and it would be worth it. He was torn about what to do, and against everything he stands for, he agreed. I cleared the room of other patients and the two Indian nurses went over to hold her hand, but before long it turned into them holding her down. It only took a few seconds, but by the time Aaron got the tooth out he was very visibly shaken. Nothing hurts him more than to see a child hurting, and even though he was doing the best thing for her long term, to have to be the one to cause her pain in the short term was very difficult. It made him feel much better when Anita told him she played with her on the playground this afternoon and she was fine - even proudly showed her where her tooth had been taken out.

Dental clinic day 4:

I fell in love with Veeran the first time I met him - I was his reading tudor and he had the thickest accent I'd ever heard in a child so I kept making him read more and more to me! While he was reading I noticed and asked about his teeth and he told me they hurt. Both of us have been anxious all week to get his dental work done. Today was the happy day!

One of my favorites - Basha



Today has been very emotional for me. Saying goodbye tomorrow is not going to be easy. I want to hold these kids when they are sick or sad or when they had a tooth pulled. I want to tell them they are going to grow up and be anything they want to be. I want to hear their laughter and see their open arms as they run to me for hugs. I want the girls who call me mom (I always correct them) not to have their heart broken when neither I, nor their real mom is there for them when they wake up or go to sleep at night. I want to be with them so I can discover their secret to happiness and learn what's inside their hearts. I want to put them all on a plane and take them home with me. But I know that removing them from the world they live in would change them. They are good and kind and determined because that is what their life experiences have taught them to be. They have a culture to uphold. They live and they learn in an inspiring, nurturing environment. They are Rising Stars and they are treated as such. There will be countless volunteers who come and go from their lives through the years, and my hope is that through those experiences they will feel safe and know without a doubt that even though we cannot stay here forever, we think they are worth flying halfway across the world for. And someday soon, I'm ready to do it all again.

We've gotten several notes from the kids here and today Aaron (Harren!) received not only a special note, but a song from his spiky hair friend. It tops my list as the most beautiful thing I saw today.