Sunday, January 25, 2009

19/1-25/1: A Ground Breaking week

So this week was a ground breaking week.  Monday morning an engineer came to the office to go over the measurements he had taken last week for the new school building at the home with Daddy.  Later that evening with the help of Ishwar, Laxman, Prakash and Shamu they began marking the dimensions of the first three classrooms.  The first classrooms are going to be, I believe, for 1st standard, 2nd standard and 3rd standard.  After all the chalk was laid it was time to bless the land.  Daddy led the kids in prayer and Ishwar read from the Bible.  After the land was prayed for Daddy asked me if I would be the first to break the ground.  “I break this land in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” and with a swift blow from my pick the land was broken.  The reason they want to build classrooms at the home is because the kids get treated differently at the government school.  The kids often get singled out because they are Christian, and “rich” and are constantly being asked, “Why are you praying?  Why are you Christian?”  But the funny thing is, if it wasn’t for our children, the schools wouldn’t get the funding they get because our children raise the bar academically for the schools.  The next night I watched the inauguration of Baby Killer, or BK for short, with Mommy and Daddy.  It was, however, awesome to see that America has finally woken up and realized this isn’t the 1800’s anymore.  I listened to his extensive list of promises and found out the next morning found out that he suspended a program that has been working for the last seven years.  He’s basically saying that terrorist deserve more human rights than babies.  Dianne Feinstein was right when she said, “The world is watching.”  And as she said this I thought how funny that was.  The whole world was watching the inauguration of the US president, but American’s don’t watch, or even care about, any inaugurations of other presidents, not even Canada or England.  I then became tired of all the discussion on Michelle’s outfit.  Even BBC and an English-Indian news station were discussing it.  The day was for her husband, not her, and she was smart enough to know that and let the spotlight shine on Barack.  So my impressions of BK on his first five days are this: I’m upset at his moral principles and I wish his first order as Commander in Chief was to turn every Arab nation into glass.  I read just last week an article that schools in Pakistan are teaching their kids that “A” is for allah, “D” is for dagger, “J” is for jihad and there was another one I can’t remember that was for gun.  Now this isn’t just some school or teacher teaching this, this is in the textbooks of the government schools.  The hatred of Muslims is so strong here in India, I can’t believe there are actually Muslims that live here.

Thursday morning a drunk guy came into the home and grabbed me right in front of all the kids and asked me for Rs. 20.  What happened was I was sitting in front of the kids while they were studying and Prakash went to the gate to see what this guy wanted.  I guess he knows Mommy and was coming to see her.  He then made his way down the driveway, walking straight toward me.  He shook my hand, he reeked of alcohol, and asked if I was from US.  I said yes and then he grabbed my hand and started talking in Marathi and all I could make out was “…20 rupees.”  I wasn’t afraid for myself, I was afraid for the kids and their safety.  I didn’t know what this guy was going to do or if he was going to come back later.  And what made me even more upset was that he asked Prakash for Rs. 10, and me for 20.  I joked with Laxman about it and then looked at my watch and said, “It’s 8 o’clock in the morning?”  He said, “This is India.”  A classic.  The next morning I came out of the guesthouse at 7:55 to find some of the boys throwing rocks at another drunk man outside the gate.  I guess this guy wanted us to give him work.

Some highlights from this week.  On Thursday I was thoroughly entertained by taking funny faced pictures of the girls.  It all started when I was trying to take a picture of Usha.  She was walking away from me but turned to look back right as the picture was taken.  Her eyes were half shut and she had the goofiest grin on her face.  I thought this picture was hilarious.  I then got a great idea.  I would go up to other girls, laughing and say, “Look at this picture of Usha.”  I would hold the camera as if I was going to show them the LCD screen.  As soon as they got close I would quickly turn the camera and take a picture of them.  Another trick I used was I would say the same thing and pretend to show one of the kids the LCD screen.  What I was really doing was taking a picture of the kid right next to them, who for some reason were always staring at the lens.  I then found out the next day that you could fool them twice when I used the same tricks on the same kids.  These pictures are hilarious, see for yourself on Facebook.  It’s the album titled “The Beautiful Girls of Lasina” but what it should have been titled was “The Beautiful Girls, and Samson, of Lasina”.  I showed all the girls their lovely photos and they all told me to “cut” their picture.  Instead, I posted them on the Internet.  Yesterday I told them I posted them for Cleveland, Doug, Lu, my family and friends to see.  Yesterday I also became a chapatti expert.  My job was to roll the dough into a thin circle and then hand it to Usha for frying.  My first one didn’t turn out so good and all the girls laughed and said that one was mine.  My next five were so perfect, you would have thought I had been rolling for years.  I then told the girls who laughed at me that those perfect ones were mine too then.  I got a shave on Friday and while I was waiting at the barber, my girls were waiting to catch a 6-seater to take them to high school.  They yelled across the town for me not to get a haircut.  I yelled back that I was only getting a shave but they also told me not to.  I’m glad I didn’t listen to them.  The shave was amazing.  I had been letting my hair grow so he had something to shave.  He started by lathering up my face with oil and giving me a face massage.  Then the shave, which makes you feel like you’re going to get whacked.  Then another amazing face massage with oils and powders followed by him pounding my head like he was in some bongo drum band.  As I sat there watching him slap my head, rub my head, squeeze my head and punch my head, I thought, “I don’t know how he is doing it, but this is the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced.

Everybody sleeps at the home and Daddy takes Mommy every morning to work and comes back in the afternoon.  Sometimes I go with them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


This was a very exciting week.  I was Chief Guest for Annual Sports Day, the boys caught the first snake of the New Year and of my trip and I was part of the greatest moment in Ankoor Children’s Home cricket history, but first things first.  On 11/1 I was named Chief Guest of the Annual Sports Day and I got to be apart of the opening ceremony and hand out awards after the events.  This was a great day full of excitement and photo finishes.  Once the games commenced, which consisted of mostly running events, I took some great photos of the events and the kids cheering on their teams, which there were three teams.  I joined one team even though they told me I couldn’t because I was wearing the colors of another team.  For some reason I was into taking pictures from the grass’ point of view.  I would set the camera on the ground and take pictures that way.  I think they actually turned out pretty nice, see for yourself.  Watching these games really took me back to my childhood when I too used to compete in three legged races and sack races.  However I never compete in an event where you tie a bread roll to a string and tie that string to a rope that hangs over you and try and jump and grab the roll with your mouth.  After all the games were finished the teams gathered around for the closing ceremony.  Since I was Chief Guest I got to hand out the awards.  The awards/gifts went not only the top finishers in the events from today, which I refer to as Sports Day 1b, but also from Thursday’s team events, kabaddi, longare and football, which I call Sports Day 1a.  After posing for some pictures with the individual and team winners, it was time to, as Doug put it, start a new Indian tradition.  For Prathna’s birthday I told Mommy that Doug wanted to give Prathna some water balloons.  I don’t know if she didn’t understand or just wanted to do this on her own, but we gathered around Gauri and Prathna and after we sang Happy Birthday to them we pelted them with water balloons.  There were only five balloons but every one hit their target.  I took two great pictures of this although I am a little disappointed in the first one.  In the first picture you see Prathna turned around and trying to run away.  You also see the biggest balloon in midair between Rajesh’s hand and Prathna’s face.  And I took this picture about a second too soon because immediately after this picture was taken that balloon, the biggest one of the five, hits Prathna right in the face as she is trying to run away.  It’s still a great picture though.  Afterwards we took Omana to the bus station to send her back to school.

14/1 is a festival in India were everybody flies kites, well, except in Yavatmal.  So since Daniel and I weren’t able to watch any kite flying, we decided to do our own flying.  So we drove around the city and bought two kites.  After getting the strung we went on the roof and started flying.  I learned that it is extremely difficult to fly a kite without wind.  However, we did get it going for a good five minutes and I took some video of Daniel flying our kite, then he gave the string to me and I instantly flew it right into the neighbors antenna, three houses down.  Good thing we bought two.  Despite my frustration and disappointing kite-flying abilities, I’ve never had more fun flying a kite in my life.  Later this day I learned that women are internationally petrified of mice.  Back at the home Mommy and Prakash were putting a new curtain pole up and they were both holding one end of it.  I had just come out of my room and saw them with the pole between them, and a mouse running along the top.  I figured they already knew about the mouse until I heard a shrill like the sound of a teenage girl who just waxed off her eyebrows hours before prom.  She dropped the pole and ran as fast as she could outside, screaming all the way and finding safety behind the nursery kids.

Well on my 48th day in India, my 42nd at the home, I finally saw a snake.  The kids had holiday and were doing yard work around the home.  I was near Sonali, Ruth and Mahima at the far end of the home entertaining them by imitating all the goofy mannerism they do.  All of a sudden a bunch of the other kids started running to the front of the home and asked what was going on and one of the kids told me “snake.”  I instantly got excited and thought today is the day.  They aren’t going to let this one get away like the previous three times.  They’re actually going to do it.  And do it they did.  As excited as I was to see my first cobra, I was equally disappointed that it was a female.  The male cobras are the cool ones.  The females are smaller and aren’t even poisonous.  After the boys posed for some photos and tortured it, they eventually killed it.

On Saturday I went with Mommy and Daddy to a nursing college, the same one they sent Ravita’s sister, Kalpana, to.  We went to fill out Savita’s admission paperwork.  Once we got home it was time for our ODI as I was referring to it, America vs. India.  While I was warming up and messing around with the younger kids, some of the villagers passed by and invited me to play with them on the community field next door.  I woke Daniel from his nap and we and the high school boys went over and played a LOI, consisting of 8-overs, against the villagers.  Now since the villagers are all men and older than me, we were in for it.  We lost the match 47-38 and I played terrible.  In field I dropped the only ball hit to me.  I did manage to take two wickets in the over that I bowled.  I bowled on player and ran out another.  But when we were up to bat I went one-and-done and was bowled, by the same player that I bowled, on my first ball.  Needless to say I was disappointed.  Our match turned into a two day LOI when they invited us to play again on Sunday at the same time.  I knew I had to do better tomorrow.

On Sunday after church I practiced cricket with the boys.  Afterward I went into the city to buy ice cream for all the kids and after lunch we served them the ice cream.  The kids had their bible study and I joined a group during this time, which I love so much.  Watching these child-run prayer and bible study groups is awesome.  At 17:00 it was time for our 2nd LOI.  We rounded up the boys for our 2nd LOI vs. the Villagers and marched to the field with a bunch of the little kids holding our hands like we were marching onto the pitch of a World Cup final.  What happened next will go down in history as the greatest moment in Ankoor Children’s Home cricket history.  We put up a valiant effort and we all played better than yesterday, especially me.  I caught both balls that were hit to me and the second one was hit just in front of me, which I’ve always had trouble with in baseball.  The first one was hit to my right and I sprinted as fast as I could to catch it, I thought I was going to have to dive.  In fact, no one dropped a ball.  So we all did better fielding, holding them to only 32 runs.  Batting we did better as well.  I did better than one-and-done, although I did get bowled again.  We managed to score 31 runs, only two runs shy of victory which was the greatest moment in Ankoor Children’s Home cricket.  We marched back to the home like we were the Romans returning after the Battle of Zama.  All the boys were giddy with excitement from our one-run defeat and I sat with the older boys during dinner that night and all they talked about was our next cricket match against them.

So this was again an amazing week.  I began teaching the older three groups about using grown up words and being more descriptive.  Like, instead of saying, “I am eating.” say “I am eating with…”  I also told the high school that since all the younger kids look up to them as role models, I want them to help me teach the younger ones English by asking them “How are you?” and “How was school?”  I’ve heard this done a few times but I want it done more, so I am going to reiterate this request I have.  There are new pictures on Facebook and I am hoping that in 12 hours I will have posted my newest slideshow, as well as the first one I made, on Facebook as well.  I continue to love getting your e-mails and I, as well as the kids, thank you for your prayers.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I am going to try posting new blogs every week.  I could easily post a new blog everyday since my journal entries are about as long as my blogs.  Sunday was an amazing day.  To summarize how great it was, I took 213 pictures.  In the morning I started taking pictures of the kids getting ready for church.  Most the pictures were of the same kids because anytime they see me with my camera they all rush over to me and get in some goofy pose and yell out to me to take their “copy”, “Brother!  Brother!”  To combat this I ignore them and only take pictures of kids who aren’t yelling at me, but some of the kids didn’t understand that and still yelled to me.  So I went on the roof and took some great pictures of the kids on the other side of the big hall.  These kids had no idea I was taking dozens of photos on the other side of the big hall, they were just sitting there, quietly reading their bibles.  These made some great pictures.  For church, which was lead by Ishwar, the boys got me up in front of everyone to help them lead worship.  They let me pick out all the songs.  I don’t know any of the words or the motions, so I was up there trying my best while all the kids were laughing at me.  After church I took my favorite picture of the trip so far.  A little back story first.  One the songs the kids sing, “Peace Like a River”, has a verse that goes “I have Joy Like a Fountain” and when ever the girls wear pig tails I always tease them about how they look very much like a fountain.  So this morning one of the cutest girls here, Saloni, was looking like a fountain.  She would come up to me all morning, show me her hair and then say, “Fountain.”  I would try to take a picture but she would run away, laughing.  So after church she did it again and I tried to take her picture.  She started running away and I yelled out to Karishma who was right next to her, “Grab her!”  So in one of the funniest moments yet, Karishma did to Saloni what everyone here does to her, she grabbed Saloni and held her so I could take a picture of her.  Later after Mommy and Daddy returned the kids broke off into their five groups to study for a Bible Quiz.  After studying it was time for the quiz.  I joined the Powerful group, and we dominated.  “We are, Powerful!”

Monday was the first day of the rest of my trip.  Since Mommy is a nurse, she has a regular job which she has almost everyday.  So I was all alone today.  I ate breakfast alone and when I was done with my English classes I was all alone until around 16:00.  Now I say “all alone” but the nursery kids are here all day, but all I can do is play games with them, I can’t talk to them.  But all this alone time does give me some good time to get some reading done and personal time, so its fine.  My English classes are doing a good job.  I’m having the most trouble with the high schoolers because they are so much farther than even the 7th graders that they are experts one the stuff I’m teaching the other kids.  I told Mommy and Daddy I want to go to their school someday to see what they are being taught so I can teach them better.  For my other three classes I’m working on simple questions I ask them that they don’t know, like “How is your food?”  Now I’ve also been teaching them past, present and future tense so I throw them a curveball and ask “How was your food?”  They would have to change their response from “My food is…” to “My food was…”  And I would throw other variations in too but the kids seem to understand and are progressing quite nicely.

Thursday was a great day.  It was a Muslim holiday so the kids didn’t have school.  Today was Sports Day 1a.  Games all day and I was able to take 226 photos to capture all the excitement and intense action.  For each event they have three teams and have ongoing scores and today was the semi-finals and finals for three events, kabaddi, longare(?) and football.  Only the boys had competitions for kabaddi, the girls played longare.  Watching the boys was fun.  I had seen them play before but that was just for fun.  This was Sports Day and first place was on the line, so it was more extreme.  They were going all out, there was no place for friendly sympathy here.  After they boys finished their semi-finals they took a break and it was time for the girls to play longare.  First it was the little kids turn to play, so while they were playing longare, the older girls started playing kabaddi.  This was by far more fun to watch than the boys.  They were just out there having fun.  No one was keeping score, or even watching for that matter, but they didn’t care.  And seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing their laughing as they tackled and wrestled each other to the ground was a very fulfilling moment.

Longare is played inside a circle with two teams at a time.  One team is the “chaser” and the other team is the “chasee”.  Three players from the chasee team enter the circle and are chased by one player from the other team who must hop on one foot and try to tag them.  If that player touches the ground with their other foot, their teammate comes in and replaces them.  Once all three players have been tagged, three more come in and it continues.  They play for about five minutes and then switch roles.  After lunch and a mid day nap it was time for the football final.  Watching these kids play football is like watching a group of five year olds play.  All they do is kick and chase.  Sports day was concluded with me showing the pictures I took from the day on the TV after dinner.  And it seemed that the kids agreed with me that the girl’s kabaddi match was more entertaining as it drew the most laughs.

On Saturday I was able to go into the city and make some prints of some worksheets I found online to help me with my English classes.  After we got back to the home I hung out with kids, made fun of all the girls and their new haircuts then watched the kids practice their opening ceremony for Annual Sports Day 1b.  As we were walking over to the field I was talking with Prathna about her birthday tomorrow and got a complete shock when she told me she will be turning 14.  14?  I know 14-year-old girls and there is no way they are in the same league as her.  Prathna is more mature than most 20-year-olds I know.  Here is a girl 8 years younger than me, who is 10 times the servant as me.  I joke with her all the time and tell her that when I grow up I want to be just like her.  I hope I can learn from her about being a servant.

Throughout my trip and this past week I have been able to video chat and IM with some of you, and that has been awesome.  Thank you for all your e-mails.  I enjoy getting your messages and hearing about things back home.  I got my first letter in the mail on Monday.  It was from my Aunt Cindi and Uncle Larry.  I discovered it takes about three weeks for mail to get to me since the envelope was stamped Dec. 13, 2008.  Thank you to everyone for your support.  There are new photos on Facebook to go along with my blog.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Christmas Season

Shortly before my last entry the Christmas season began and lasted until 1/1/2009.  There was singing, dancing, prayer, playing and of course worshiping.  Our Christmas season began on 22/12 with the nursery’s Christmas program they put on for the parents.  The nursery, or preschool, consists of mostly the children from the home but they have opened the doors to some local children as well.  The local children are not Christian but their families send them to our school so they will learn English.  So it was good having the parents of the local children come and here Christmas songs.  It was very entertaining seeing the children in their little uniforms and hearing their voices.  For the rest of the week the other children continued to practice songs and dances that we will be performing on Christmas when the parents come to visit.  On 24/12 the parents started coming.  I took some great photos of the kids with their families and it was nice that some of the parents from Bander remembered me from when we visited.  Since there weren’t enough plates for everyone, everybody eats off of banana leaves that are glued together.  On Christmas Eve night all the kids received new outfits.

Christmas day was a very fun and exciting day.  It was pretty much an all day party starting with a morning service.  We actually had two morning services and during the second service the two choirs sang the songs they had been practicing all week.  I don’t know the words, but they are the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.  Some of the parents had brought gifts for the home from their villages.  Each family that brought a gift was prayed for and we blessed the gifts.  I was asked to pray for Suvarna, Esther (one of my best friends) and their grandmother.  We had lunch and then it was game time.  Everyone gathered at the field to play a few games.  The first game we played is the national game of India, kabadi.  In a nutshell it’s played with two teams and one person from one team goes across the centerline and tries to touch someone and then make it back across the centerline without being captured.  First it was the older boys versus the dads, then the older girls versus the moms and then it was my favorite, the younger girls versus the younger boys.  Two of the girls, Monica and Rupali Dongre, really enjoyed tackling the boys.  Watching Rupali play was like watching a wild animal stalk its prey before attacking.  After kabadi we played a dodge ball game, men versus women.

After dinner everyone gathered again for more worshiping.  The kids performed their dances they had been working on for the past week.  Since I had already seen most of the dances I enjoyed watching the parents watch the kids.  During the evening service the kids received a package with more gifts inside.  I didn’t watch this because Sara and I had arranged for a surprise video chat with my family.  So at 21:30, 8:00 Christmas morning back home, my sister surprised my parents by video chatting with me.  We chatted for about an hour and then I had to get back to the party.  The kids had started a bonfire and everyone was singing songs.  Then everyone went around the campus to everyone’s room and sang some Christmas carols, in either Hindi or Marathi, I don’t know.

The New Years celebration was bitter sweet.  I had found out the day before that my grandpa was going to die, passive euthanasia.  It was tough being so far away from my family but they reassured me that grandpa was proud of the work I was doing and that he wanted me to continue and stay in India.  The kids asked me if I was going home and if I cried.  I told them no and yes.  We went into the city for most of the day and I was able to post a video I made for my mom, as well as everyone back home, on facebook.  At this time I found out that they were going to take my grandfathers oxygen away at 9:00.  My mom was also online so I was able to chat with her about it.  Once we got back to the home the kids did their normal routine and after dinner we started a bonfire.  The kids sang tons of songs but I left at 22:15 to be alone at 22:30, the time they were going to take away Grandpa oxygen.  I began praying and thanked God for blessing me with such an amazing grandfather and I asked him to be with my grandmother, dad and the rest of the family during this time.  I returned to the bonfire at 23:30 and found that only about 1/5 the kids were still awake, but they were still singing songs.  At 23:45 the singing stopped and we began a prayer session.  The kids took turns in what I can only imagine as thanking God for the blessing He gave them this past year and to bless the upcoming year.  When we finished praying it was 2009 and we shook everyone’s hand and told everyone “Happy New Year!”

On 28/12 the kids asked for me to give the message.  I talked about my life and how it was they who wanted me to preach to them but it is they who preach to me everyday.  I told them how awesome it is to be woken up every morning to the sound of their songs and prayers.  The kids continue to enjoy my presence.  Some of the girls tried teaching me the words to one of their songs but I can only say a few lines.  I know the dance that goes along with the song and the kids are always asking me to sing that song and they laugh and laugh.  They also love it when I “sing” the song that goes along with one of their hand clapping games.  I also changed one of the lines in the song to include some of the kid’s last name.  They love this especially since I mispronounce the name and my mispronouncing of the name means “old lady.”  I find imitation to be the greatest form of flattery, and so do the kids.  They love it when I make of them when they laugh, which only makes them laugh more.  This one girl, Sonali Kodape, and I are always have very “heated” conversations which causes her to laugh and she is also the one I imitate laughing the most.  Three of the girls told me that we are best friends, Esther, Jyotsna and Chaitali.  Esther says that we have the same mom.  So the kids are awesome and I am truly having the best time of my life.  I love everyone back home and I thank you for your continuing support.