It’s hot as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

Except I am. Because I’m in India and don’t have that choice.

Because I’m on the outskirts of a dirty, dusty, crowded city. Because the fan in my room provides only the smallest bit of relief before the power cuts out again. Because I take four showers a day not only to wash off the sweat and grime, but to cool down my body, which has been cooking in the 95-degree heat.

I’m going to take it because it’s only been a few days, but I’ve already fallen in love with these kids. They speak no English, and I obviously don’t speak Cannada, the local language, so we communicate in funny faces, hand games and colored pencils. The week has been crazy and emotion-fueled. A full-scale lice infestation has left the kids scratching their heads like mad. Mornings are spent coloring and breaking up fights over clothing. The afternoons are mine, so I usually head into town with Stephanie, the other volunteer. We sip room-temperature sodas on shaded stoops, browse the markets and occasionally head to the mall to refuel on coloring books for the kids.

This is hard, much harder than I expected. But I didn’t sign up for a luxury vacation. As Dwarakanath, the program director, put it, “If this wasn’t a third-world country, would we still need your help?”

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