shocked and confused

With red paint clutching a single grain of rice thoughtfully placed between my eyes and above my nose, I was paraded through Lilapur. The streets we crossed were dusty, dry and uneven, with holes and cracks and made of materials ranging from concrete to brick to dirt. Men, women, and children peered from they’re windows or stood and sat in place, like statues, as we passed them by. Some joined but most stayed, observing us as we passed by. There were shops and houses, cars and bikes and carts, cows chained up and cow dung on the road, and the stray dogs looking for something they can’t seem to find, and all of it was run down and under-resourced. Standing outside a small, shaded booth to a shady shop with shiny and dusty packets of something hanging from the ceiling like an type of decoration, was a man. He shared an expression with many of those observing an event that was taking place within their home while loudly interrupting they’re presumably taxing day. The man looked shocked and confused, wide-eyed, a deer caught in the head-lights in many ways. His eyes were dark. It was a face unintentionally concealing sadness paired with a kind of shocked wonder. It was a curiosity, but dull as if it was fighting a losing battle with unsettling disappointment. His face was dark and wrinkled, covered with dust and his was closed in a relaxed yet intent way. It showed little but was not stern. I can’t remember his nose or hair or ears or jaw line or cheekbone or eyebrows but all he needed was his eyes and feeling. The man stood with an expression I remember because it in turn changed my feeling.

            I began to question my purpose, our purpose in this village. At its basis the parade seemed so ridiculous, it began to seem a somewhat iniquitous event. What made us so worthy of such a beautiful and incredibly heart-warming welcome? We had done nothing. We are Americans; we have money, recourses, access to education, electricity and clean water, clean streets, beautiful and expansive stores, and we have hot showers and working toilets with roofs over our heads each night. And still, they offer to us more than we could ever offer to them in this 8-hour visit. How can we do this? Why do I and how could I partake in that even with such knowledge? To me, it seems and feels somewhat immoral or at the very least raises an entirely moral and ethical question: How can I, an American with all that entails, come to this village and ask from them more than I can begin to offer?