First of all, I just want to welcome all my new friends who now follow my blog! Thanks for coming over! It's great to meet all of you and I truly enjoy your blogs as well! This whole cyber writing world is a lot of fun!
Second, mucho thanks to Wendy of All In a Day's Thought who helped me realize my techno-goof. Many of you (you probably know who you are because I've been replying to your posts) I've been following for the past month but wasn't technically following in that list of friends with neat little boxes. I'm so technologically challenged that I thought I was! Anywho, hopefully that problem has been fixed now. I definitely meant no slight by it at all. This whole blog is teaching me a lot. I have a feeling that I'm going to learn as I go along, which means I'll make more mistakes before they can be remedied. Anywho... thanks, Wendy!
So... India. What would you like to know? :0)
This was my fifth trip to that incredible country, the third time this year. And honestly, it was an "accident" that I went at all. I was supposed to go to Cambodia, then stop through India for a few days on the tail end of things. Unfortunately, I had flight complications/problems in Delhi and got stranded on the way over. I never made it to Cambodia. Thankfully, that happened in a country where I had people to call and a place to stay! I don't know what I would have done if it had been anywhere else in the world.
So, what's it like over there?
India is like no place I've ever been. It's so hard to describe because it's just so different from the West. After all, it's the East. It's a completely different mindset, a completely different way of approaching life. Even the way people dress is different. Women wrap fabric around their bodies instead of dressing in separate pieces. Food is prepared differently, and traffic is insane. The closest thing I have to describe it is that it's like ultimate tetris on wheels at 70 miles an hour. There are no rules. And you're sharing the road with other motorcyclists (with multiple people or objects on board), bicycles, rickshaws, wagons, trucks, cars, buses, camels, donkeys, horses, elephants, and pedestrians, all going at breakneck speed and dodging each other. To be a good driver in India, you have to accomplish the art of not reacting. Because if someone swerves and almost hits you, they know you are there. They won't hit you, but if you swerve in reaction, you'll most definitely hit someone else. I've ridden down the world's most dangerous road in Africa, have personally driven in Africa, have been on some crazy roads in the Caribbean and South America, but nothing compares to India.
The picture below is of a rather tame moment in Indian traffic. It's a good picture of how things like lanes just don't matter there....
India has the power to make anyone crazy, I've decided. It's one of its many endearing qualities how insane it can be. Culturally, Indians cannot admit indifference or "I don't know". Because of this, you can ask someone and they will tell you a definite "yes" or "no" without actually knowing the answer. We like to call this the "Indian definite"... the very definition of "indefinite". Here's an example: the day before I left, my friend went to our landlord's tiny shop and purchased two packs of Chips Ahoy cookies. We all know what they look like: tiny, plastic bags that are bright blue in color, with pictures of cookies and the Chips Ahoy logo. She sat down on the bed and said, "Ah, I'm so glad I found these; I'm craving chocolate chip cookies." She then opened the package to find that inside were cheesy, salty chips. I'm not even kidding. There was nothing chocolate-y or cookie-ish about the contents. That, in summation, is life in India. If you make plans, they will be thwarted. If you need answers, you won't get them. Be prepared to have "India days", where you get absolutely nothing done and find that you've gone six steps backwards in the process. It's absolutely glorious. Infuriating, but glorious.
Honestly, I love India. I love how ancient and foreign it feels. I love how the people yell "chai" in the streets and the random people who chant as they pass by. I don't love being stared at (it's not a cultural taboo there and there aren't many caucasians where I go, so it's a bit like being a walking zoo exhibit), but then again, I do a lot of staring too. I love how all the buildings have rooftop access, and the crazy peacocks that strut around and loudly sound their cat-like cries.
India is a feast for the senses. It's so incredibly beautiful. The buildings are intricately decorated in bright colors; the vehicles are as well. The women wear swirls of bright fabric, the likes of which are shades that we wouldn't even dream of putting together--and they are dazzling. The air smells of spices, and depending on how close you are to a water source, of sulfur. I love chai, which, unfortunately, I didn't get to drink this time around. The picture below was actually taken at Easter. It's of me, my Indian friend, Paru, and another American named Jules. I'm the one in pink:
Everywhere are shrines to family gods, temples with statues atop and inside of them, icons and images painted on vehicles and on buildings. The primary religion in India is Hinduism, a polytheistic religion. The secondary religion is Islam. There's a huge influence of both of these religions in the culture.
I was there with an organization called Sixty1. We work with children who have been sold into the sex trade in Southeast Asia. Our primary work in India is at an orphanage, Asha House, and in a leper colony and slums. Though I've been involved and have relationships in all of these areas, this time around I spent most of my time at Asha House and with my Sixty1 friends who live in India. They (the staff) were moving houses. If you've ever moved, you know that it's a lot of work! I imagine it's even more so in a foreign country without the western conveniences that we have. Imagine moving heavy furniture in rickshaws and in a simple SUV instead of a moving truck. Anywho, I either spent my days with them or with the children at the orphanage.
Asha House, or House of Hope, houses almost thirty children. Not all of them are true orphans; many have parents that are still living. But these parents can't properly take care of their children. These kids are so precious! They are the sweetest children I have ever met, so well behaved. That doesn't mean that they are perfect, because they aren't. But they are so adorable. They look out for each other. And they LOVE Jesus, which is really cool!
Above is a picture of me with most of the children my last day there. Below is a picture of Suniya (pronounced "Sonya") and one of a girl named Ragina. Suniya has to be one of the silliest girls I've ever met. She's a constant blur of motion, so most of my pictures of her didn't come out. I love this one of her, though! Ragina is a little diva. She's such a drama queen and loves to sing songs in her native tribal language. She's so young and doesn't speak Hindi or English fully yet. Below that are pictures of the kids running and singing a song about a rickshaw driver:
My friend, Laura, is teaching all the little kids English. While the older kids are at school, she takes them into the "church room" and teaches them things like the days of the week and the months of the year. They need this tutoring in order to get into school. She's been teaching them about animals so she gave them all English animal names. Little Suniya is a the kangaroo, which is absolutely perfect for her. She's always jumping around. Ragina is the rabbit. The littlest boy, he's in blue and is in the picture above, is a monkey. The kids love to answer to their animal names and take great pride in saying, "Auntie! Mera nam Lamb!" or whatever they are.
The best part of what I do is making relationships with people. It makes it really hard to leave. But it makes it a lot of fun to come back! Because I've spent quite a bit of time in India, I have deep friendships with people, some of whom aren't Christians. Going back was awesome because I got to spend more time with them. And I have a HUGE praise--one of my friends came to Christ! I'm so overjoyed for her and the decision she's made. That's the whole reason why I do what I do.
So, I have a lot of stories, but that's just a little of the world I was in this month and what happened. If you'd like to see more pictures, please go to my picture site at http://picasaweb.google.com/ktsummer61. You'll see pics from when I was in India during the spring and this trip in one album titled "India 2009". If you'd like to know more about Sixty1 and Asha House, please go to www.sixty1.org or www.ashahouse.org. Thank y'all for reading! I hope you enjoyed this mini-trip to India! If you have any questions, please ask! I love talking about this stuff!
Have a great weekend and I'll see y'all on Tuesday at the regular time!
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