I’m entering my final week of my trip. I want to say right off that it doesn’t feel like I’ve been gone for 2 months but when I really think back to when I was in China or previous places, it seems like quite a bit of time ago.
This past weekend was my last weekend before heading back to New York, and I’m glad this was my “concluding” weekend. It was absolutely awesome.
I’ve been staying with Shaina, the India program coordinator for NEST (which I plan to write about soon!). She’s here in Kolkata for at least one year — possibly more — and lives in a quaint and relatively convenient part of town. It feels like “real India” in her neighborhood, and I’ve had the chance to meet her local egg man, sweets man, and tea man, among other friendly folks.
Shaina also knows a good number of ex-pats living and working here, as well as short-term volunteers, so I got to meet some people — Americans too, finally!
So a breakdown of my weekend?
Went with Shaina to Destiny Reflection, one of the social enterprises that NEST partners with in India. I met the founder Smarita Sengupta, whose birthday it happened to be!
Trekked up to Sari Bari, taking the Kolkata Metro for the first time. Will make a post about Sari Bari later on.
Stopped off at South City Mall, a super modern mall that makes me feel like I’m in another world within Kolkata.
Met up with Shaina and we headed to dinner at Bar-B-Q on Park Street with a bunch of Americans living in Kolkata.
Went to the cutest coffee shop in Kolkata, Mocha, where I somehow managed to finish an entire Kit Kat milkshake. Great menu and great ambiance.
Met up with Kate, the other volunteer at FTBK, up at New Market. Got some henna so that some of the older girls at the center could do some mendhi. Ended up spending far too much on jewelry made of real silver and stones. Said bye to our friends at New Market (Babalu’s family) since we weren’t going back after Saturday.
Kate left to go to the movies and I met Clementine, a MakeSense member who is currently doing a traveling tour to meet social entrepreneurs involved in addressing hunger and malnutrition issues. Ate at Blue Sky Cafe, a popular ex-pat and tourist restaurant in New Market (clean food is key in India!).
Met an Indian man on the street who just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and whose brother attends Boston University (“Have you heard of it?” haha). He spoke French as well as some Chinese.
Walked to Maidan Park and walked through a religious festival for Krishna and Rama before discovering an open park with families sitting around. Reminded me of Central Park. But a small, Indian version.
Met a nice family with a young son (high school age) with whom we chatted for a while. He took a picture with us on his phone, haha.
On our way out, we met a man named Munoj. He works with the Children’s Welfare Committee in conjunction with the U.N. and is very proud of Kolkata. As he walked us to the Metro, he gave us some history and stories behind some of the buildings, including a government building he described as “where the corruption begins.” He also recommended a restaurant to us that has the best Bengali food in all of Kolkata.
Got back too early to Shaina’s so I wandered her neighborhood and stopped by a sweets shop. Chatted with the couple who owned the store, as well as several of their customers, for over an hour! They welcomed me to the neighborhood, invited me to go for morning walks with them, gave me free food, discussed culture and language, suffocated me during their incense burning, and shared parts of their lives with me. It was fun.
Went to Kolkata Christian Fellowship with Shaina, a church with mainly local Bengalis but also a good amount of ex-pats and visitors. Service is held in English translated to Bengali.
Went to lunch with some of the folks from KCF at South City Mall. Met some interesting and encouraging folks. Tried to get a pedicure and massage with Shaina but that failed. Instead, we caught some street cricket action.
At night, we went to Kewpie’s, the best Bengali restaurant as recommended by Munoj, with Clementine and Melissa, an IJM summer legal fellow. The food was super yum.