Monday, April 6, 2009

30/3-5/4: End of a Chapter

Well it started quickly this week.  On Monday all the kids from Bander left.  Their car came while we were in the city.  So we picked Mommy up from duty and then drove back to the Home before they left.  When we got back I saw one of my crew members had made the journey back to the Home.  Shubham had come with his mother to get his two sisters, Sonu and Rupali.  I got to hang out with him for a little bit until he left me, again, for the second time in a month.  This was the beginning.  They were the only kids who left today.  Tomorrow, the rest of them would leave.

On Tuesday, pretty much all of the kids left.  And it started right as they were getting back from school.  Rohit’s mother came at the same time the kids were getting back.  This started the chain of kids leaving.  I could go through and describe thoroughly how each kid left, but I’m not going to do that.  It was sad enough having to watch the kids leave one by one.  I said my “see you laters” to everyone as they left, and told everyone, “Za nocco.”  They just laughed and said, “Me za.  Za nocco.”  It means, don’t go.  So all throughout the day the kids left.  As they all walked down the driveway, they all turned around for one last wave good-bye.  It really wasn’t as sad as I thought it was going to be.   The more I think about it, it wasn’t a sad day.  Maybe it was a happy day, a day filled with thankfulness and the knowledge that this wasn’t the end.  It was the only the beginning.  It’s not a question of “if” I’ll see them again, it’s “when”.  And the kids know that.  We didn’t cry because it wasn’t a good bye.  These amazing kids will not be forgotten anytime soon.  Not all the kids left today.  There were seven that didn’t get picked up today.  So you add those to the 11 high schoolers, the two boys in college, papad wala, and the four orphan children and that left us with 25 kids for the next few days.  But like the other kids, these last seven also got picked up slowly throughout the week.  Actually only six of them got picked up.  Sandesh was going to stay and leave with his brother, Ishwar, on the 11th.  As I watched how happy the kids were when they saw their parent walk down that driveway, I thought about the four orphan children.  I wondered what went through their heads as they watched their friends’ happiness when their parent showed up, and know that no one was coming for them.  I wanted to do something for those four kids, Roshan, Priti, Ruth and Joseph.  I talked to Mommy about and asked her opinion.  She said she feels the same way for those children and I told her I wanted to buy them clothes.  She said that was a fine idea because the kids usually come back with new clothes that their parents bought for them.  So on Thursday Mommy took me to buy the kids clothes.  I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to get them.  She asked me how much I wanted to spend and I told her that money was not an issue.  I told her that the gifts weren’t from me, they were from my mom.  I figured this is what I would tell them when I gave them their clothes so the other children wouldn’t get sad that I didn’t buy anyone else clothes.  I think Mommy knew I was lying, but she went along with it.  I picked out two kurtas for the boys and two Punjabi dresses for the girls.  All very nice.  Then Mommy bought one Punjabi dress for my sister.  I know she doesn’t read my blogs so I can write that here without ruining the surprise.  We then bought some other gifts and then headed back to the home.  On Friday I gave the kids their gifts.  They liked them and Priti started crying and gave me a big kiss.  I told her I’d relay that to my mom for her.  After I gave the four of them their gifts, it was time for the kids to give me my gift.  I had the Marathi Bible that Mommy gave me and I told her that I wanted all the kids, and staff, to highlight one of their favorite passages in the Marathi Bible, then write their name in the front and what passage they highlighted in English so I could find it in my Bible.  These kids had some very good ones, and once again, they found a new way to amaze me.  It was amazing that after four months they could still amaze me with their passion for the Lord.  Later that night I was telling everyone how fat I’ve gotten over these months and Ishwar went into Dede’s room to get the scale.  Everyone took turns weighing themselves.  I was hesitant to get on and had to be carried onto the scale.  The scale finally stopped, I looked down and saw it had stopped on 74, my girls tried telling me that it was actually 75.  I then took off my watch and gave it Mommy, no change.  Then I took off my necklace, no change.  I went to my room to check how much 74kgs. are and found out that it equals 163lbs.  Before I came to India I weighed 135.  I gained almost 30lbs. in four months.  I think that there is a different gravitational pull here in India because we are closer to the equator.

Saturday was my last day at the Home, so in the evening we had a celebration, complete with orange floats.  And this time everyone got one.  Ravita had joked earlier in the week that they were going to have a celebration on the 5th, right after I left.  She also this week told me everyday how many days I had left.  I asked her why she was counting and that she was a very naughty son.  I told Mommy that Ravita probably had some tally marks up in the girls’ hall of my days I had here and everyday would erase one.  She said she wasn’t doing that and told me not to go.  She said she was going to hide my suitcases so I couldn’t leave.  I told her to do that.  That night I taught them how to play everyone’s favorite game, “For on the Couch.”  The kids loved this game so much that we played four games.  One before dinner and three after dinner, we played until 23:30.  Despite their numerical disadvantage, the girls still won the best-of-five series 3-1.  I didn’t play with them, I took pictures of them playing.  It brought joy to me that I was still bringing them joy right up to my last minutes.

Sunday was full of lasts, last breakfast, last lunch, last day and last church service.  But I’m not going to focus on the negative.  For my last nigh, I slept outside with all the children.  I should have been doing this for a while since it was so much cooler than in my room at night.  I had to wear a blanket the whole night.  I was awoken to the sound of hundreds of sparrows singing in the tree above the stage.  When everyone was awake we sang songs and then prayed.  After that I had a pillow fight with Roshan.  Before breakfast we celebrated Palm Sunday by marching around the campus with palm branches decorated with flowers.  After our service we had breakfast, which was made by my son as a gift.  Everyday I would thank her for making me my omelets and she would laugh and say, “You’re welcome.” even though Auntie made them.  So this last week I kept begging her to make me breakfast and she kept saying no.  I decided to compromise, I asked her to make me my last breakfast at the home.  She agreed and then I told her make me tea as well.  So this morning she made me, and everyone else omelets, and they were the best.  I told her next time I come I don’t want to have to wait till my last day for her to make me these delicious omelets.  She made them just how I like my women: Hot, and full of spice.  For the rest of the afternoon I played carrom with the younger kids, while the older boys helped the “blasting wala”, as Mommy called them.  They were here to blast the well to make it deeper.  So I played with them for a little bit then I went into the guesthouse to finish packing, plus it was very hot.  I had finished and was just sitting there watching TV and decided that this was how I wanted to spend my last days here.  So I went outside and played “uno” with Ruth, Mercy, Prathna and Ravita in the guesthouse garden.  This was the most fun I’ve ever had playing “uno”.  Right before lunch it was time for the blasting.  We all gathered inside the big hall to watch.  And as we were filling in and trying to get better views, BOOM!  Without a countdown or anything they just blew it.  I wanted to videotape it but all I could do was take pictures of the aftermath.  We had lunch right after that.  After lunch the kids watched TV up until it was time for me to go.  I took one last bath before I left and when I was finished, it was time to leave.  I put my suitcases outside my room and said to My son, “Here.  Hide this.”  Before I left I had one last thing to do.  I went up to the top of the water tower and just looked out over what was my home for the last 4 ½ months.  It was sad knowing that I have to leave this place, and I took a little video from up there of the campus, not for me, I will never forget how it looks.  It was for my family and friends, so they can see where everything is.  After I took my video I stayed up there for a couple more minutes before walking back down.  I was doing fine until I turned the corner around the big hall and saw all the kids standing by the guesthouse, waiting to say good-bye to me.  This is where I, and the kids, broke down.  Daddy said a quick prayer for me and then it was time.  I shook hands with Roshan first and just grabbed him and patted his stomach.  Next was Priti, and I gave her a big hug.  I also gave Sandesh a big hug.  After those three it was the older kids.  First the boys, who I shook their hands and then gave a big hug to each of them.  I have to say that not one of us had a dry eye.  Next were the girls.  I started with Dede and gave her a hug, then my girls came up to me and gave me their greeting cards they made for me.  I shook their hands and last was Aunite.  She made some joke about me not wearing a hat and she kissed my hand and I gave her a hug.  After all that was finished, I had to get in the car.  It took everything I had to get in the car.  I told all the kids that I would see them later, and I told the boys that when I come back I want “ku-sti”, then I shook their hands again and once all my bags were packed it was time to make the longest drive of my life.  As we drove down the driveway, I kept my head out and waved to the kids.  This wasn’t something I looked forward to, but it was something that I had to do.  I would be back, and just like I said, “We’ll pick up right were we left off.”

Once we got to the train station I said my “see you laters” to Mommy, Daddy, Peter and Naresh before the train arrived.  I was talking with Mommy before the train got there and I told her to “show me that smile again, show me that smile.  Don’t waste another minute on your crying.”  She gave me a hug.  Despite my wishes, the train arrived.  We loaded our bags into our room and then I went back to say “see you later” to them.  When our train started pulling away I waved to them.  I continued waving long after I couldn’t see them.  As we were leaving I couldn’t help having this feeling like I forgot something at the Home, and that I had taken something else.  I mentally rechecked my bags trying to think of what it was when I realized that I hadn’t forgotten anything.  I left it there.  And I hadn’t taken anything.  It was given to me.  I left it there on purpose, just as what was given to me was given on purpose.  When I would think about it, I know it can never be taken away from the Home.  And what was given to me, I will always have it.  It is the greatest thing in the world and is more beautiful than words.  I think about my last minutes at the Home, everyone gathered around me, everyone crying.  It fills me with joy thinking about how much emotion these kids can bring out of an adult.  Now it is a two-way street, but these kids have impacted my life way more than I’ve impacted theirs, and I told them that everyday.  Prathna wrote in her greeting card, “I have nothing to give you except my prayer.” which is not true at all.  She, and all the kids, gave me everything.  They gave “it” to me as I tried to give “it” to them.  I often think about when I will return, how I’ll take family and friends with me.  Maybe that’s why I have to leave, so that I can spread the love of Ankoor Children’s Home to the world.  But for now, I must this chapter of my life must come to an end.  This chapter about one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I say “one of the most amazing experiences” because there are many other amazing experiences in my life, I just haven’t experienced them yet.  I haven’t returned to Ankoor Children’s Home.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


This week was kind of a wind down as it was the kids' last week here.  They've been having exams everyday for the last week and a half so I haven't held any English classes for them.  Not much happened this week besides me trying to spend as much quality time as I can with the kids before we go.  I tell them not to go, that we should all stay here.  I've really enjoyed it here and I've learned a lot.  Here is an excerpt from my journal entry on Friday:


            Last night I didn’t sleep very well.  I was a little bit anxious about today.  The kids had a holiday today, for some reason.  So they were here all day, as well as Mommy.  She took leave for the 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th.  Daddy left in the morning to do some office work, getting ready for the board meeting on the 29th.  Around 8:00 Danny brought the beef and another thing, his sister.  Apparently she came without telling anyone except Danny.  She came in last night and called Danny an hour before arriving in Yavatmal and said, “I’ll be home in an hour.  Don’t tell Mommy or Daddy.”  This morning Mommy wanted to check the kids’ school bags and had the wardens toss lockers.  Ishwar kept wanting me to go into the guesthouse and check on the score from the second test.  I happily reported that my Kiwis had pounded the Indians, scoring an impressive 619 in the first inning.  Once they were finished with their school bags and lockers, Mommy let the kids watch TV.  The big boys are the only ones who know how to work the TV and the remote, so they turned it to cricket.  The girls kept telling me to change it to some other channel.  I figured the kids could watch something better than cricket.  So I went to my room and found Mommy in the guesthouse.  I asked her if she wanted the kids to be watching cricket.  She said it was okay and I told her that I meant that I had something better to show the kids.  I still had those movies I bought a while back, the three Shriek movies and the two Ice Age movies.  She said that I could show them that and when I walked back into the big hall with the DVD, all the girls cheered and clapped like I had just saved them from some terrible dilemma.  I showed them “Shriek 1”, which was in English with Chinese subtitles.  The kids all enjoyed it and were laughing when I would sing along with the songs from the movie.  When it finished I walked up to turn it off but the kids told me to wait.  They sensed something was about to happen.  I didn’t know that the second movie would start right after that, but it did.  So “Shriek 2” started, which was in Hindi.  Right when it started Mommy walked in and I asked her if it was okay if they watched the second one now, because it had just started.  She said it was fine.  Around 12:45 Mommy came back in and asked if the kids wanted to eat, they told her no.  But she told them the schedule for the day and that they could watch again later, but now was lunchtime, followed by study time.

            I sat with the kids during lunchtime and then while they were studying I ate my lunch in the guesthouse.  After study time the kids, and I, all took rest.  By this time Danny and Daddy had come back.  So we all rested for a little bit and then about 15:30 I peered out my window and saw some kids working by the kitchen.  I got my shoes and headed to the kitchen.  There I found some of the older girls getting dinner started.  I gave all the girls trouble, and Mommy.  Later I went to see if Danny was awake yet because we still had to go get the ice cream and pop.  He wasn’t awake just yet so I watched the big boys play cricket.  At 17:00 Danny finally emerged from the guesthouse and then I got my things and we left for the city around 17:15.  We first bought the pop, then the cups and spoons, and last ice cream.  The evening was set.  We finished at 18:15 and headed back to the city.  While we were driving back I asked Danny, “What do you think Mommy’s reaction would be if I was in the drivers seat when we pulled into the Home?  Do you think she would be happy?”  He said yeah, so I said let’s do it.  I told him that we should stop just a little bit down the road from the Home and then switch places.  He obliged and we switched farther from the Home than I had told him to.  I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t driven a car since November, but it was very strange to be driving.  The shifting with my left hand wasn’t difficult, it was driving on the other side that freaked me out.  I looked over at Danny and he had both hands on the dashboard and I asked him, “How scared are you right now?”  He just laughed and said, “Yeah.”  Danny told me not to be afraid to use my horn, so I honked at everybody, sometimes even when no one was around.  It was also difficult driving without power steering and I almost hit the gate pulling into the Home.  But I made it and I laid on the horn the whole way down the driveway.  The looks on the kids’ faces were priceless, Mommy was just laughing.  When we got out the kids came up and did the usual shaking of my hand and saying, “Praise the Lord.”  I said, “Really praise the Lord.”

            Well we had just a few things to get ready before the program started.  I took a quick shower and then put on my kurta and the shoes I bought for my uncle, as well as all the bracelets the girls made me.  The boys told me I looked “so dashing.”  I got all set up in the big hall and the kids came in and the program started at 19:00, Ishwar was the emcee.  All my girls were looking so beautiful and the boys were looking so dashing.  The program started out with a slide show I had put together, with the help of my mom scanning and e-mailing me the pictures of my childhood.  I had all the photos set up in chronological order.  Before I started I told the kids I was going to show them pictures from my childhood, but if I heard even one laugh, I was going to turn it off.  If I would have stuck to that threat the show would have only lasted for one picture, as they all laughed at chubby, little Kyle Dada being lowered into a pool by my grandma.  We had some good laughs and it was great to be able to show the kids my photos.  After the show I told them that I had some pictures for them.  So I called them up one by one to get their two pictures I had for them.  After that I was presented with a gift from the Home, a bouquet of flowers and a sherwani.  “wani” means look like, so sherwani means “Look like tiger.”  It’s like a kurta, but it’s a little bit different.  Danny couldn’t tell me what the differences are, though.  After that I got dozens of cards from the kids.  All the cards had beautiful drawings on them and most had Bible verses written inside.  After that the kids were able to come and share stories about me and/or thank me.  The ones who came up and shared did both, they started out with a story about me and then thanked me for coming to the Home and playing with them, eating with them, encouraging them, teaching them, worshiping with them and just being like their brother.  Mommy shared a little bit about me as well as Daddy, and they both cried.  Then it was my turn.  I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I was going to be, until I started talking.  I started out fine talking about the great experience I’ve had and then I went back and started from the beginning, and that’s where I lost it.  I got extremely choked up when I talked about my first meeting with Mommy and Daddy at church way back last July.  I told the kids how Mommy had taken my mom’s hand, looked her in the eye, and said, “I will take care of him like my son.”  After a little bit I was able to regain my composure and continue my speech.  I reminded the kids of all the things they taught me, and all the wrong things they’ve taught me.  We had a good laugh when I reminded them of those.  I told them how easy it was for me to adapt to their culture and how much I enjoyed playing with them.  I told them the best part of my day was sitting next to them at dinner.  I told them how much it meant to have had the opportunity to see some of their villages and meet their families.  I told them that I have enough photos and videos to last me a lifetime, but that I didn’t need any of them to remind me of my time here.  All those were already in my mind and heart.  I said that I didn’t know when I would come back, but that I would come back.  I said that when I did come back we would pick up right were we left off.  I would play cricket with the boys, and give trouble to the girls in the kitchen.  I closed by telling them that being an American does not make me more blessed than them.  It does not make me better than them.  And in many ways, they’ve made me better than I was.  I told them that “I would sleep in America.  But I would forever live at Ankoor Children’s Home.”

            After my speech it was time for laughter.  The kids were able to come up and imitate me.  They had some good ones, but then it was my turn.  I showed them no mercy in my imitations.  Even Auntie was not immune to being imitated.  So after all that laughing, it was time for dinner.  Dinner started at 21:30, and all the kids were so hungry, you could hear a pin drop.  Plus they were all hurrying up to finish because they knew what was coming after dinner.  So they all got cleaned up and then came back in.  They all sat down and the older kids started preparing the orange floats.  No one had ever had these before, or even knew what they were, but they all loved them.  Unfortunately we ran out of pop, but pretty much everybody got one.  Only a few big boys and Mommy didn’t get one.  I told them they would get one soon.  The whole program lasted until just after 22:00, a little more than three hours.  It was a very nice evening and after the program I went right back to harassing the kids.  I look forward to making the most out of these last few days I have left."

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I started off my first week back at the Home very exhausted.  We got back to the Home just before 5:00 on Tuesday.  I don’t know how Danny did it but he managed to get the driver to stop almost right in front of the Home (the route between Yavatmal and Pune takes you right past the Children’s Home).  He said he noticed a restaurant just down the road.  He woke me up and we got out, I had no idea where we were since it still dark.  I thought we were in the middle of nowhere.  But as the bus pulled away I figured it out.  We were at the center of the Universe.  Danny had called Mommy to tell her where we were and she sent two boys to meet us.  As we were walking down the street in the dark we see Prakash and Ishwar running towards us.  They help us with our bags and carry them to the guesthouse for us.  The kids were still sleeping when got back so we went straight inside to say hi to Mommy and Daddy.  They asked about our trip and we told them all about it.  Well, almost everything.  We then unpacked and Danny went into Mommy and Daddy’s room and slept.  I was so jacked from being home, and by this time the kids were up, that I ran into the boys’ hall and yelled, “Papa’s home!”  All the boys screamed and jumped on me.  I then joked around with them for a while and then I was off to see my girls.  I quickly found some of them doing their chores.  They too were excited to see me.  Lil’, lil’ Rupali Dongre said to me, “You go to Agra.  Go home, no.”  I told her yes.  Then I went into the kitchen were most the other girls were.  They all looked at me like I was a ghost.  Most of them said they missed me a lot while I was gone and I told them never again shall I leave them.  I told them the new words I learned on my trip and they laughed, it was great to be back home.  In the afternoon I went to the city with Daddy to e-mail my mom.  She had sent me three e-mails with I was gone.  The first one saying, “Please e-mail me when you get back to the Home.”  And the other two, “Are you back yet?”  Once we got back to the home I had lunch and then was walking outside when I saw to lizards on the wall above the door going at it like two lizards on a wall above a door.  I showed Mommy and she laughed and said, “Leave them alone.  They’re busy.”  Another encounter I had with animals this week was on Friday when I believe a monkey threw poop at me “in a festive manner.  Like he was at a celebration of Monkey poopin’.”  Later that day was able to show the kids the photos from our trip with a couple surprises for Daddy.

For the next three days I worked on two projects for the kids.  I pretty much remained locked in my room while I was working because I wanted to get it done before the kids go home on the 30th.  The first one took me all three days.  I made another video for the kids and was able to show them on Friday.  This video summed up the 4 ½ months of memories into one, 45 minute video.  The second project was an impossible one and the fact that it only took me 1.5 hours to complete doesn’t mean it was possible.  Daddy had put the kibosh on my idea of making a CD for every family with pictures of the kids.  Daddy said it would be a bad idea for the safety of the kids and of the Home.  That actually lead to a good talk about how Indians don’t like Christians because they are giving hope to poor people.  They also don’t like things that come from outside India’s borders like cars, electricity, TVs, phones and especially religion, just to name a few.  Except that they love cars, electricity, TV and phones.  The Indian culture is a strange one.  But anyways, I decided to make prints for each kid.  So had to go through all 4,281 of my photos and narrow it down to two per kid.  But I managed to pick two per kid and I hope they like my decision.

Another highlight of this week was when I found out exactly why Mommy wanted to have a children’s home.  I was talking with her over breakfast on Tuesday about our trip and the family I saw.  I started talking about all the family I met and we began talking about how some of the kids I met called me “Mahma.”  Mahma means, mother’s maternal brother, or uncle.  She then told me her story and I realized exactly why she wanted to start a children’s home.  She told me she has no mahma, no sister, no brother, no anybody.  She was an orphan.  She told me that when she was just a baby some missionaries came to India from America.  They had come to work at a mission here and I forgot the name of the organization.  But at this mission there were two Indian workers, a married couple.  The man was a gardener and the woman was a cook and they had no kids.  So the people from America wanted to get them a child.  They were able to get an orphaned baby girl from a nearby hospital and the married couple adopted it.  And that baby was Mommy.  She told me about the rough upbringing she had, not with her family but with being an orphan, because kids can be mean.  She said that’s why she wanted to start a children’s home, to help poor children and teach them the gospel.  It was an emotional talk and I actually got a little teary eyed.

The kids have Saturday school everyday now.  And even though they are home by 11:30, I still don’t really get to spend any more time with them than before because it is so hot during the afternoon.  I do get to play more games with them since they are able to get their evening chores done earlier.  I played a new game with the kids the other day that is very fun, and very tiring.  One team runs around and tries to stack up some blocks while the other team tries to throw a ball at you.  I got to watch the kids play another game called kho-kho.  All the high schoolers wrote that they like to play kho-kho in their writing assignment I gave them a while ago, but I’ve never seen them play it.  The other day I told Daddy this and he said that before I go they will have to play it so I can experience it.  I can see why I’ve never seen them play it before.  It took the big boys at least 45 minutes to set up the field.  It is a very fun looking game and trying to explain it without the field dimensions would be very difficult.  It’s a tag style game played with two teams and is very fun to watch, and I’m sure it’s fun to play.  I think I’ll play next time.  All the kids came to play because they really only get to play this game at school so they all wanted to play it today.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Well this trip was a very entertaining and very busy trip, from the second we got off the train in Agra to the time we got on the bus to go back to Yavatmal.  After the 12-hour train ride from Nagpur to Agra we were greeted by a tour guide at the bus station.  He told us he would drive us around all day, taking us to three hotels, lunch, the Red Fort and Taj Mahal and then some shopping.  This man and the driver took us first to a hotel it seemed good enough for the both us so we took it.  After freshening up we went for lunch and then they took us to the Red Fort.  This fort was massive.  The biggest and oldest thing I’ve ever seen.  It’s called the Red Fort for obvious reasons.  I experienced what discrimination feels like when we bought our tickets to get in.  Indians: Rs. 20.  Foreigners and N.R.I.s: Rs. 300.  At the Taj Mahal it was worse, Indians: Rs. 20, Me: Rs. 750.  I told Danny it was because I was 37.5 times the man he is.  The Fort was spectacular and seemed unnecessarily big.  We opted not to take a tour guide and just walk around ourselves.  I don’t know why anyone would use a tour guide, everything that is of importance has the information written right next to it.  After spending some time walking around this beautiful structure, we then headed back to our drivers.  While walking back a vendor came up to me and tried selling me a whip again.  He had come up to me on our way into the Fort trying to sell me a whip.  I thought it was funny that he first started talking to me in Hindi, then when I said no in Hindi, he started talking to me in English.  But anyways, we wanted $20 for this whip.  I thought it would be funny to buy and bust it out someday during English class, but what was I going to do with a whip when I got home?  Beat Tom with it?  He lives to far away for me to get my moneys worth out if it.  So I told the man no again and then he followed us all the way back to the car and continued lowering his price.  His final price he yelled out as we drove away, Rs. 100.  He then called Danny a bad man for helping an American over a fellow Indian.  Our driver then took us to some shops.  I think they get commission from every shop they take us to.  The first one was a jewelry shop.  They had some pretty impressive stones here like one black stone they said is only found in Agra.  When light is shown on it, it reflects a natural cross on the stone.  After we left here we went to another shop that I think has to be the most impressive shop we saw.  It was a shop that specialized in making hand-knotted rugs.  These were some very impressive rugs and we watched one of them being made.  These are hand-knotted rugs, not hand-woven rugs.  Meaning, they take the loom and individually place a tiny piece of string on around the loom’s strings and once that row is finished, he then knots it by running a piece of string across the loom, much the same we did in art class back in second grade.  Just to put how long making a rug like this takes into perspective, it takes five people, five months to make a pretty standard design on a rug about the size of an average dinning room table.  This kind of rug would cost about $1000.  I would have loved to have bought one of them, but this isn’t the right time in my life to be spending that of cheddar on a rug.  Next we went to a shop that specializes in making the marble designs with the inlayed stone.  Watching them make these art pieces was very impressive as well, and takes the same amount of patience as making the rugs.  They have to first grind down the stone into the shape that they want, mostly flower pedals.  Then they chisel out they size they need from the marble and glue each pedal individually together to make the flower.  This is the same process they did when constructing the Taj Mahal and these workers are the descendants of the original artists who worked on the Taj Mahal.  After watching them make these designs and seeing how long it takes, I can see why it took 20,000 men, 22 years to build the Taj Mahal.  After this it was time to head to the main destination of our trip.  After telling us a few of things about dealing with the tour guides and things like that, they dropped us off at one of the entrances.  We began walking the quarter mile to the Taj Mahal.  On the way we turned away many tour guides and even some bicycle rickshaws before finally letting one drive us for Rs. 10 total.  This old guy turned out to be pretty funny.  As we headed down the road we got our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal and he said, “Here is the Taj Mahal.  It is very dirty.”  We had a good laugh at that.  He dropped us off at the ticket counter and we bought our tickets and went in.  The security for this is a joke.  It felt like the same security service they provide at the McDonalds in Hiltop.  The building is the most impressive thing I have ever seen, and it’s size is hard to capture on film.  After taking some pictures of me wearing my Cake Face shirt for my buddy ( showing how Cake Face is taking over the world, Danny and I just sat on this platform in the middle of the pools facing the Taj Mahal.  We sat there for at least an hour just starring at it, we could have easily stayed there all day.  We then moved in closer for some more pictures and to check out the inside of the tomb.  The inside is actually not interesting at all.  In the middle is the wife’s tomb and next to hers is Jahan’s tomb.  Since I’m an advocate for symmetry, I hope to be buried on the other side of the wife’s tomb.  We stayed there till closing when they kicked everyone, and even a pack of monkeys, out.  It was quite an end to a very busy day.

The next morning at 11:00 we were picked up by the same guy and he drove us this tomb in Rajastan.  This tomb was pretty massive itself and like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, it was built by a Muslim.  This king had three wives, one Muslim, one Hindu and one Christian.  So all the artwork depicts each religion.  Compared to yesterday, there really wasn’t much here and I would have rather had spent my day at a nearby bird sanctuary.  What was impressive, though, was seeing the entrance to an underground tunnel system that connects this tomb to the Red Fort, which is connected to Delhi and then continues on to Lahore.  After leaving here we began the hour long drive back home, had some dinner and then boarded the train for our 23 hour trip to Pune.  This train ride was the longest, hottest, most crowded and dirtiest train ride ever.  We rode in sleeper coach which is non A/C.  And it’s times like this when I’m glad I am a man.  Peeing on the train is like peeing into a hole between your feet while standing on a roller coaster going through a helix.  I have no idea how women can do this.

We reached Pune around 16:00 and were greeted by Danny’s sister.  The three of us road in an auto rickshaw to their Aunt and Uncle’s house.  And I got to now check two things off my “To-Do List in India”: See the Taj Mahal and ride in an auto rickshaw.  On the way we stopped off and bought three boxes of sweets for the three houses we were going to visit tonight.  The first house we visited, which is where we stayed most nights, was Daddy’s oldest sister’s house.  Daddy is one of six and is the second oldest.  This sister is the third oldest.  After freshening up Daddy’s mom stopped by.  I showed her some of the photos from Agra and the Home and then we went and visited another families house who I still can’t figure out how they are connected to the family.  They live a whole two doors down in the same apartment.  After that we walked a whole minute to another Aunt and Uncle’s house.  This aunt is the youngest, and looks exactly how Daddy would look if he were a woman.  I met their family which included two daughters, one was taking the tenth standard exams this week and the next, and the other, named Yerusha, who is in fifth standard.  She was very shy and wouldn’t talk to me and kept hiding from me so I had to learn how to say “Don’t be shy” in Marathi.  I also came to learn that one of her nicknames is Tinger Padre, which means “Farting Ass”, which made her even shyer of me.  This was a great family and we spent a good deal of time here and one day they tried taking us to see some tourist things like a building where Gandhi was imprisoned by the British and a small fort that was inside the city.  Both attractions were closed because our half hour naps turned into two hours.  I blamed Yerusha for not waking up in time.  So then we drove around the shopping centers of Pune and they bought me a shirt.  One night we stayed at one of Daddy’s uncle’s house and I met some more of this family including the two most naughty children ever, a little four year old boy named Nahum and his cousin Sheva.  To show you how naughty they were here are some examples, most are stories I was told: He once broke his arm and when he got his cast off, he showed his aunt how he broke it the first time, and broke it again.  One time at church some women were coming up to him and pinching his cheeks.  They didn’t know Marathi and he said to them, “Keep quiet or I’ll beat you.”  The ladies asked his mom what he said and she said, “He’s glad to meet you.”  When he comes home from school he shares an auto rickshaw with seven other boys and he makes them stand so he can sleep on the seat.  He woke me up from nap by slapping me on the head, and he wasn’t wearing any pants.  And finally, I was tickling him and he said to me, “Hey stone!”  Stone is what the teachers call a student who doesn’t know the answer, meaning, they are as dumb as a stone.  And how little Sheva was naughty is she was shy around me at first and just before going to dinner she said to me, “I’m going to kill you.”  Apperently she doesn’t know what that means, which means she heard someone say that to her (most likely Nahum).

One day we drove two hours to Daddy’s hometown with his mom, where his brother lives, the oldest of the six.  Once we got there we were introduced to more family and went around the town and saw some of the places that Daddy used to visit every day.  Grandma stayed at the home for a few days so Danny and I drove home by ourselves, and it rained.  It poured on the way home, which is the first time I have seen rain since London on Nov. 28th.  We also got stuck in rush hour entering Pune which took about an hour to get back to the home.  Back at the home where we spent most of our nights, we got to hang out some more with Auntie and Uncle’s daughter and son-in-law and their 11-month old daughter, Stuti.  Stuti was a very funny girl and her mom told me to take her to America with me, but she also told me not to go back to America.  I actually think about not returning, I love it here that much.  And I’m not even joking a little bit.

One night we left for a beach town with Stuti’s father, Sachin, and Danny’s friend, Arbin.  We stayed one night at the parents’ of a friend of Arbin’s house that was about two minutes walking distance from the beach.  This whole trip was intense, and we had a blast, and we’ll leave it at that.  The first night we got there we went to the beach, which was the dirtiest beach I’ve ever seen.  We swam for a little bit and then went back to the house for dinner.  The next morning we packed up and headed out for a tourist spot farther down the coast.  We went to see an old fort that was built on an island by a king from South Africa 900 years ago.  To get to it you had to take a sail boat, which was by far the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done.  And once you get to the fort, there is no dock to unload the boats.  They just throw you off the boat onto some stairs leading down to the water and then disappearing below the sea.  Who knows what happens if you missed the bottom step.  Getting on the boat is even scarier, as everyone acts like it is a race to get on the boat and when you’re standing on that bottom step and everyone is pushing forward trying to get on the boat, that can be a little scary.  The fort was pretty interesting but very dirty.  They don’t try to preserve it at all.  On the way back home we stopped at a beach along the way and swam some more.  This beach was so much cleaner than the one yesterday.  We got back around 23:00 and went to bed, this was my last night in Pune, and our last night of our trip.  The next morning we said our good-byes to all the family and then got on a local bus, the ones where you have to be insane to drive, and drove three hours to another families house.  We spent the afternoon with this family playing with their one year old daughter before it was time for us to leave and head back to Yavatmal.  Our bus left at 19:00 and will drive us 12 hours to Yavatmal.  I am writing from the bus now and it is making me sick.  The bus is bouncing around, I’m trying very hard to read what I’m typing and we just ate dinner, which is trying to make it’s way back up.  I will go to bed here shortly and when I wake up, I’ll be home.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


This transmition is being sent to you from the Taj Mahal.  However, despite having already seen the Taj Mahal earlier this morning, I am not going to include today’s events until next week’s post.  So back to this week.  The week didn’t start out that well.  I returned to the Home Monday afternoon after spending the day in Yavatmal to the fact that the well had maybe two feet of water in it.  Obviously this is no good for a home with 60 kids, but add the fact that is doesn’t rain in this region till July and August and you have a real problem on your hand.  Luckily that night Daddy was able to go to a nearby restaurant owner and pay him to pump water into our well.  This is nice for the time being, but we can’t always rely on that.  This region experiences this type of drought every year, but this year is worse than others.  The rainy season was very poor and didn’t provide the people with enough water.  That’s why the kids are getting out of school early and the nursery kids have already gone home.  Right before dinner Mommy was told by the high school girls that Esther, Jyostna and Suvarna skipped class during lunch time and went to a restaurant and ate food.  The high schoolers got out early on Monday and saw these three girls on their way home from school.  I had not seen Mommy cry before, and these three girls had disappointed Mommy so much that she couldn’t hold back any longer.  I was sitting with Mommy, Dede and Auntie during dinner that night and Mommy wasn’t eating her food.  Auntie kept saying, “Eat Mommy.  You have to eat.”  But she just kept turning her head away from the kids and starring off into the night.  However, Mommy let me show the kids the photos from our trip to Rajesh’s village, which he wasn’t there to watch.  Tuesday night was also able to show the fourth video I made about 1.5 months ago.

English classes went alright this week until it was time for me to give them an oral exam.  All this week I had the 1-4 and the 5-7 students reviewing all the things we’ve learned this year, getting them ready for the oral exam I was going to give them on Friday.  When Friday came around I was surprised with the exams.  They took way longer than I thought and most of the kids didn’t do so well.  So I wondered if it was me or them?  Some of the kids got all the questions correct, and they are the ones who are always paying attention to me when I teach and never goof around.  The ones that struggled the most are the ones who goof off in class and are always doing other work and not listening to me.  I wasn’t able to finish the exams, even when I tried to finish them after dinner.  Although I wasn’t able to finish, I already know what the kids need to work on before I give them a written exam on the Friday after I get back: Everything.  I will ask Mommy if I can make it optional for the ones who got perfect scores on their oral exams to make it easier for me to teach the others.  I think most of them got over excited because it was a test.  Some of the students who answer the same questions everyday weren’t able to answer them during the exam.  I had to stop some of them and tell them to breathe.  For my high school class I wasn’t able to have a consistent class because current would come and go at unpredictable times and they also had a weird schedule for school.  They would go early some days, and other days normal.  And from Thursday on, the only have school for like one hour a day.  They leave at 7:00 and are back by 9:30.

All my crew are now gone.  The last three left on Tuesday.  It was sad seeing them leave.  On Wednesday I pretended to play tag with them in front of the girls’ hall, our old stomping ground.  The other kids just laughed at me.  On Friday we had an ice cream party for the kids to celebrate everyone’s birthday.  Doug and Lu had wanted to have an ice cream party for Jyostna’s birthday so Danny bought butterscotch ice cream for all the kids and we had a mass celebration.  That mass celebration was the last time I would have with the kids as I left Saturday morning with Mommy and Daddy because we had to leave to Nagpur right after Mommy got done with duty.  So like I said, Danny and I are now in Agra, we saw the Taj Mahal earlier today, but those pictures and account wont appear until next week’s entry.  From Agra we leave Monday evening at 16:00 and arrive Pune at 16:00 Tuesday.  So looking forward to that tomorrow.  But then we have a fun filled week scheduled for next week in Pune, so that will be fun.  Until then, take care.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Well I thought I had at least another week to go but I got surprising news Saturday night that nursery school was over and most of my crew were leaving tomorrow.  These are the kids that I play with all afternoon, everyday, while we wait for Mommy, Daddy and the other kids to come home.  In fact, we bonded so well that many days we played on our own even after the other kids have come home.  Roshan lives at the home, so he’s always here.  Stuti will most likely go home with Sunil, but may leave before that if here grandma comes and gets her.  And Yerusha was back Sunday and ended up staying the night which surprised me because I would have thought that her mom would have only brought her back to get her things.  So she might leave tomorrow.  And Salomi was still here tonight.  So total, nine of he nursery kids, my crew, have left.  I told the remaining nursery kids to never leave, to stay at the Home forever and I would stay also.  But let’s jump back to the beginning of the week.

Monday I went and made worksheets for my English classes, three for my 5-7 group and four for my high schoolers.  The 5-7 students did very well with their worksheets.  One was on pronouns, one on contractions and one on the difference between is and are.  They did well on the pronoun sheet and I most of them seemed to understood.  The trick is seeing if they can use them when I ask them questions, which most of them can.  The contraction one was easy.  Now actually the third worksheet was pretty easy for them as well.  The interesting part came during the second part of that worksheet.  At the bottom there is a picture of a farm with some animals and a boy.  The directions were to write two sentences about the picture, one sentence using the word is and the other using the word are.  Now Thursday after we finished the first part, I told them the second part was extra and gave them the option if they wanted they could do it and show me the next day.  I don’t think they understood what I told them because they all had it done by Friday morning.  Now half of the students did a great job with this, and the other half copied off each other.  So for half of the worksheets I got I had for the sentence using are: “Chicken licken and started to run.”  I told them that didn’t make any sense.  I was very pleased with other half I got as they all were able to correctly fill out that part.  The four for my high schoolers turned out to be fun.  It’s basically just a word from one of the worksheets that turned into an inside joke of ours.  Two of the sheets were full of words and they had to go through and tell whether the word was an adjective, noun or verb.  So they’re going through the worksheet very easily, with a few questions here and there.  Then they came to the word, squat.  They didn’t know this word and I didn’t know how to define it to them, but I knew they knew what the action of squatting looked like.  So I squatted in front of them and they all started laughing and yelled out, “Bathroom!”  It’s funny because that is the position Indians use when they are dropping a deuce.  Which brings up an interesting observation I’ve noticed.  When Indians have to go pee, they go a little ways off the side of the road and turn away from the road.  But when they are doing #2 they simply squat on the edge of the road and face the road.  I just thought that was interesting and thought I’d share it with you.  So now whenever they see another kid, especially another high schooler, squatting, they yell, “Brother look!  Squatting!” and they all laugh and the person gets embarrassed and changes positions.  On a serious note, I feel as though the high schoolers main problem, besides vocabulary, comes from comprehension and fluency.  And not even really fluency as they can read very well.  Mommy found a comprehension book and I copied some lessons onto my computer, changing the names in the stories to names of the students.  I hope to get these copied so I can use them next week.  The students did very well in computer class this week and I look forward to Vishwas and Peter finally passing Lesson 1.  Overview of this week’s English classes is very impressive.  The youngest kids were using correct verb tense and are learning pronouns and possessive pronouns and my other two groups successfully completed their worksheets.

Pretty much every week with the kids is usually fun, and this week was no exception.  One day while Mommy was in the kitchen observing the girls working I brought her another chair so she could put her feet up.  She told the kids about our recliner chairs in America and that prompted a Q&A session after I told the kids that they will see those chairs for themselves when I take them all back with me in a suitcase.  Some of the questions asked were about how I was going to feed all the kids?  How were they going to take baths?  How would they breathe in the suitcase?  Stuff like that.  I played a little cricket this week and one time I was batting left handed at the Home and hit a monstrous drive.  If it were baseball it would have for sure been a home run as it bounced off the right field foul pole.  However, the foul pole happened to be Usha’s spine.  The shot was very impressive, though, as I was trying to hit Chaitali who was sitting on the other side of Usha.  Usha just got in the way.  One of the best moments came on Saturday after I found out the nursery kids were leaving on Sunday.  I was feeling a little bit sad that my crew was leaving so soon, and I thought I still had a week to go with them.  So I had all of them sign my T-shirt but I was still sad.  My sadness quickly ended as they kids had an evening program where they got to rip each other.  The kids would go up in front of everyone and imitate each other’s actions or just tell a funny story about another kid.  And nobody was safe from this abuse, not even Mommy and Daddy, past and present staff members or me.  Well, I guess Danny was safe and when I asked some boys the next day why nobody made fun of Danny, they said it was because they are still scared of him because he used to beat them when they were younger.  On Sunday we went to Rajesh’s village.  Now when we went to Ashok’s village I described his house that it could fit in my living room, well this village could fit in my house.  There were five, maybe six, houses that made up this tiny village deep in the heart of India.  We had church service in Rajesh’s house and Vishwas and Stavan’s family came from their nearby village to join.  The boys sang some songs and Daddy gave the message.  Afterwards we had lunch and since it was so hot I didn’t go outside for very long.  Before we left I took some photos of the kids with their families except for Rajesh as he got sick after the service.  I took his families photo without him.

During this week I began referring to all the children as, “Babu”, even the girls.  Babu means little boy and is usually used when referring to your younger brother.  And just like the evening program, no one was safe from being called Babu, not even Mommy, Auntie or Dede.  Another thing I started to call the kids was sparked after I watched “Slumdog Millionaire” for the third time.  I started calling the kids, “walas.”  If someone brought me chai, I called them chaiwala.  When the kids were making papad, they were papad wala.  Some of the other types of walas the kids were: pani wala, cuti wala, cutting wala, food wala, washing wala and I am photo wala.  Obviously this doesn’t make any sense, but that is what makes it so funny.

I leave for my trip to the Taj Mahal and Pune in less than a week.  We leave next Saturday and I am pretty excited.  It’s weird to think that my next blog entry will be from somewhere in Agra.  This trip is defiantly going to be exciting as it will be the first time either of us has been to the Taj.  It might also be good to get to some cooler climates as the heat here is very intense.  It’s now in the 40’sC., which is 104F.  In fact, that is the reason the nursery kids got done so early.  There is massive water shortage all over this region so the schools are finishing up about three weeks earlier and Dede had the nursery kids finish this week.  This is actually an inconvenience for me as, depending on when each grade finishes, Mommy and Daddy said that as soon as they are done with final exams they are going to let the kids go back to their villages.  So basically instead of one big good-bye to the kids, I may have to say good-bye multiple times.  I’m really hoping this isn’t the case but what are you going to do?  I am trying to put together a slide show for the kids before they leave with pictures from my childhood.  I am having my Mom scan and then e-mail them to me.  I am still waiting for her to send me more(hint, hint) as the last time she scanned them some goofy way and I was only able to get 2/3 of the photos she sent.  This upcoming week is going to be interesting to see what happens.  I can just see my journal entries now: “I took my daily nap and woke up around 15:00 and sat around and twittled my thumbs for two hours until the kids came home from school.”  I hope this isn’t the case though.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Without even doing anything in slow motion this week the days are still seeming to last a long time. In fact, this seemed like a very long week. For my English classes I did a lot of review with the 5-7 group. I was very happy to see how much they remembered. They remembered the difference between “this” and “that” and “these” and “those”. They remembered contractions and pronouns. I also introduced possessive pronouns and they picked it up very quickly. They were using correct verb tenses when they spoke. It was awesome. I just hope that we can build off that. For my 1-4 group I was tired of them goofing off all the time. One day I kicked half the class out and another day I kicked Monica and Sanju out. In fact, I literally threw Monica down the stairs. I love India. Later that day when Mommy came home she asked me why I kicked them out and I said, “I didn’t fly 3,000 miles on a 24-hour plane ride for them to not listen to me.” Mommy laughed and said she wishes she could do the same but she has nowhere to send them. Kicking those students out helped me a great deal though. I was able to get more done with the remaining students. We worked on using correct verb tense and I introduced pronouns and possessive pronouns to them. For my high school class I began the week off by having them work on four worksheets I made for them. Two were on synonyms, one was on antonyms and the other was on possessive pronouns. They did alright with this so I am planning on having them work on the same stuff next week. This week I was also able to have computer class for both groups twice. I had them use Typing Tutor and I also made a chart to document each students progress through the lessons and tests. After every lesson and test that they pass they will get to put a sticker by their name for that lesson. I hung the chart up above the computer so all the kids can see how they are doing compared to everybody else. Now everyday the kids ask me to have computer class. So English classes went well this week. I only have few weeks left so I hope I can continue teaching them enough that when I leave, they can hopefully understand some of what I will tell them.
On Thursday the kids had kind of a holiday so we had a day of fasting and prayer. Now before you label me as a Saint, I have to say that I didn’t really fast at all. The fasting was between 8:00 and 14:00, I don’t eat between those hours anyways so it was like any other day. The fasting was for the kids who had to go six hours without any food. They eat breakfast at 7:00 and lunch at 9:30, so it was more difficult on them. So the kids went to school at 8:00 and then came home at 10:30. It was a day to honor a king from the 1700’s who helped establish the state of Maharashtra. The Mumbai airport is named after him. It was actually quite annoying that the kids had to go to school today. Wednesday night we were all set on taking the kids on a picnic and I was excited to ride in a truck bed full of 65 kids. But then the kids told Mommy that they had to go to school for a morning program to honor him. So no picnic and no riding in a truck Indian style. So the kids came home at 10:30 and the little kids ate lunch then took a nap. At 12:00 the older kids gathered in the big hall and had a prayer session from 12:00 to 14:00. During the session the kids had multiple prayer requests. I also noticed that everyday some kid prays to God thanking Him for protecting them as they were almost killed on the way to school. It’s really amazing how almost everyday one of these children almost gets hit by a car. So there was lots of praying and singing. One thing I really liked was that all the kids were sitting in a circle and Daddy had the kids to pray for their friend on their left. For most of their praying they all pray at the same time, out loud. So it sounds like chanting and it really freaked me out the first time I heard them do this. It reminded me about this time I was having the funniest breakfast in history at Catins in Puyallup with some of my buddies. At the table next to us there were two women and six or seven little kids all dressed the same. And while we were sitting there the women would lead these chanting sessions with the kids and it really freaked us out. Anyways, when the praying was over the kids at lunch and devoured their food. It was funny to watch because they didn’t do much talking with their friends, they were to focused on eating their lunch.
As my time here is drawing to an end, the kids are starting to realize this. They ask me when I’m leaving and they tell me not to leave. Mommy also told me not to go. I told her with Obama leading my country and Gregorie leading my state down the drain, it might not be a bad idea to head back to India after Amsterdam and live there for the next four years. These kids are awesome and find new ways to amaze me everyday. On Friday the high schoolers didn’t have school so I helped out in the kitchen with my incredible chapatti making skills. We had a great time and there are plenty of video clips and photos to prove this. On Saturday night two of the boys, Stavan and Naresh Dongre, slept in the guesthouse and I stayed up with them till 21:30 studying. For the whole hour and a half they went through their English-Marathi dictionary and would ask me the definition of some of the words. Ever answer I gave they would say correct, like they were the ones teaching me. I was really impressed how much they’ve gained from my English classes as for some of the words they would tell me some synonyms and antonyms for that word. I would also show them how changing the suffix on some words changes the word from an adjective to an adverb. These kids are all great and I hope that I’ve impacted their lives in some way, but it might be them who have impacted me more. I want them to realize that this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. A beginning with no end in sight.