Girl Was Learning, Just Not Fast Enough

I tacked my way from Bangladesh into India by bus and train, arriving in Calcutta sometime in February and finding a room at the Salvation Army guesthouse, in the heart of the backpacker ghetto. After Bangladesh, India seemed more user-friendly but no less crowded. Children tailed me down the street, calling “Aunty, Aunty,” their palms held open for change. Men brushed up close, muttering “Ganja? Ganja? Hashish? Smoke?” I spent about two weeks there, volunteering at one of Mother Teresa’s charities, working the morning shift in the women’s wing of the Kalighat home for the Sick and Dying Destitutes, delivering tea and giving sponge baths to patients with tuberculosis, malaria, dysentery, AIDS, and cancer, sometimes in combination. The frankness of it was galling, even nauseating at first, but slowly I relaxed. I would never be saintly like the nurses who staffed the place, but I tried at least to be helpful.

I was also getting used to being alone. What might once have overwhelmed me no longer did. I could read bus schedules, figure out the various classes of train tickets, ask for help when I needed it, sit in a restaurant and eat a meal alone without feeling self-conscious.

A House in the Sky, pp. 53 – 54

Lest we judge Amanda Lindhout too harshly, let us remember Daniel Perl, Stanford grad and Wall Street Journal reporter. Perl was lured in by the promise of an interview with an elusive target, and was kidnapped in Pakistan and subsequently murdered. He had lots more experience than Amanda. It made no difference. Amanda Lindhout emerged alive, and Daniel Perl did not.

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