I finally took a shower today. It’s freezing in India and there is often no hot water at the house I’m staying at. Today there was hot water, and I was so relieved I cried as I poured the small bucket of steamy water over my hair. Showers in India in middle class families are, um, awkward. I squat, hunched on the ground and I use a bucket.

I packed all wrong. Winter clothes for Toluca Lake are absolutely not winter clothes for India. So I’m finding myself strolling the Tibetan refugee markets for thick wool sweaters, scarves, socks, — way more than expected.

I’ve also managed to break out with a moderate-to-severe case of acne. I’ve been to India enough to become accustomed to a minor break out during the first week. It’s always the same. I get to India. I break out. It goes away. It’s been here for a few weeks now and the zits are getting worse.

I also went to a salon where I received a haircut and massage by three women using rose oil and. The lady cutting my hair must not have heard me correctly, and she cut my hair off. My hair is now above my shoulders.

But it’s worth it because I’m here to check on the orphanage I opened last March and to open a new one. It’s one thing to be in L.A. receiving pictures of the children in the orphanage and an entire other to be here, in their home, holding their hands. These children have stolen my heart.

“Hi guys,” I say in English because my Hindi sucks.

I walk into in a home and before I can take my heavy boots off I’m tackled to the floor by the five boys who live there. I manage to stand up and the boys fight to hook themselves around my legs as if I’m a tree.

The boys are learning English in school, but as of now the only words we mutually understand are, “My name is Chutney.”

The boys say this and then I say it and then we all burst out laughing because chutney is an Indian spice – not a name. I have no idea where they learned this, but it’s adorable.

I spend the night at the orphanage on the top bunk. All was quiet. Out of nowhere Sonu says, “My name is Ch-u-t-a-nee.” And we all cracked up and laughed ourselves to sleep.

Acne, occasional showers, and Peter Pan hair are all worth it. I’ve fallen in love with these children. 

Alice can be reached at

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Tales of a Toluca Lake Actress

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