Monday, December 13, 2010

Posted by Erin Posted on 5:52 PM | 1 comment

Becoming More than Aware

December 13th. Today I went to the same job I have gone to for the last 2.5 years. And today, it was not any different. But I was. On December 1st, I boarded a plane in Houston and about 24 hours later, stepped out of an airport into the air of India. Eleven and a half hours ahead of Houston, we had completely missed December 2nd. It just didn't exist in 2010 for us. It was now about 5 am on December 3rd. We headed straight to the hotel where, although our bodies were convinced it was evening and fast approaching bedtime, we checked in and started the first day of what would prove to be a life-changing trip.

We ate breakfast and made a short trip to the market. Then, it was time. We visited the red light district. Everything seemed to be normal as we drove down the main street, but as the driver pulled over and we scurried out of the bus and began to weave in and out of buildings, we saw how dark was the "normal" . We ducked through doorways and packed into tiny rooms, stalls really. They could not have been any bigger than 4x7 and they were each furnished with a wooden cot sometimes hidden behind a curtain sometimes in full view. We climbed one by one up narrow staircases aware of everything around us and not wanting to touch anything and yet wanting to hug every woman we passed. We nodded emotionlessly as Ralph explained what we were seeing. And we passed women who had resolved to survive. (This picture is not from our trip. It was found on

You could see the struggle in their eyes. It's a struggle I am familiar with, but in this context, it suddenly developed new pain, deeper darkness. They were resolved, "This is my life. It's the hand I've been dealt. I don't want it. I want out, but there is nothing I can do about it. So, smile. Suck it up and don't let them see your aching." Their smiles were beautiful and filled with sadness. These women were not full of life. Their strength came, not from joy, but rather from resignation to what their lives had become.The walls were plastered with gods. Every god you could imagine, including Jesus. They are so hungry. The women. They are hungry for a god to know them, to hear them.

The nine of us packed into one room that was lined with stalls. The woman that was leading us through the district opened one room for us to see inside. But what we saw was not an empty room. No, we instead stood face to face with a young man, maybe a high schooler, sitting on the cot and the woman he had chosen facing him ready to offer what he purchased. They looked at us, him without shame, and her without any sign of wanting to be rescued...she was resigned.

As we walked through one alley, I thought I would have to tell Ralph that we needed to leave. We had been instructed not to show any emotional reaction to what we were seeing or hearing but I was not sure I could hold it in much longer. I was either going to cry or vomit. Thankfully, we left shortly after that moment and as soon as the doors of the bus closed, the floodgates opened. I cried all the way back to the hotel. I felt sick. I felt dirty. I felt the heaviness of all the lies that had been told to get the women to the brothels, of all the bruises and burns they'd been given as they tried to refuse that life at the beginning. The stench of death filled my nose. I wanted to wash it off. Thankfully, that was not the end of our day...For so many it is the ending of every day and the beginning of every new day and it fills every moment in between. But for us, we got to see the light.

(look for more posts about the trip as the week progresses)
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Jessica said...

Oh Erin. You have me in tears. My heart is aching.