Visakhapatnam, India, December 2011
Back in 2011, during my IBM days, I spent a couple of months in India training a team of analysts (miss you, my Vizag crew). India, like many developing countries, isn’t an easy place to travel alone. In cities like Delhi, you’re always cautious, anxiously clutching your bag and uncomfortably avoiding beggars on the streets…
One day I found myself walking to a local celebration in Vizag: it was a pleasant walk along the beach with fireworks glittering in the distance. Suddenly a group of 6-10 boys approached me: they seemed excited to see a foreigner dressed in a sari with a bindi on her forehead. I quickly and carefully evaluated the gang: they were between 7 and 15 years old, poorly dressed and skinny, but cheerful and seemingly non-threatening. I let my guard down and was ready to give them some change for a “come, we’ll show you the way”. They were eager to practice their English and asked if it’d be OK for them to walk with me. Walking and talking uneventfully, we came upon an old woman selling corn on a cob on the sidewalk. One of the boys proudly announced that it was a very special way of preparing corn (on the coals) and asked if I’d ever tried it [there]. I haven’t, and so I offered to buy everyone a round. Little did I know, my new friends had a plan of their own…
They stood there, some of them barefoot and shivering, turning their pockets inside out, collecting change to buy me a corn on the cob. They vehemently shook their heads as I protested this chivalrous gesture. It was the best corn I’ve ever had. As I found out later that evening, the boys (at least some of them) were from a local orphanage. I don’t know which one, and I’ll never find out, but that experience shook me to the core and made me fall in love with the country and its people even more. The boys didn’t want my money: all they wanted was to show me their beautiful land and buy me a corn on the cob.
In 2018 I started donating to orphanages in Visakhapatnam, one orphanage a year. Last year we had a successful cookie sale at work and raised over $1000. This year, it wasn’t an option. 2020 hasn’t been kind to many, and instead of actively fundraising, I decided to give or send cookies to the people that contributed to the positive tune of the year (local friends, please send me a note if you haven't heard from me regarding this. Europe friends, you'll get my treats another time!).
I hope these homemade pastries will make you and your loved ones smile. If you feel generous, want to thank me for the cookies or wish a belated happy birthday, please donate.
Here’s to a happy 2021!
- Barbara Pietrawska
- Jeffrey Bosco
- Margaret Beauchamp
- Tim and Kelly Howell
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