Monday, February 23, 2009
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.
Monday, February 16, 2009
So check one item off my “to-do list”, learn how to make Indian tea. I came, I learned, I mastered. Indian chai, real chai, not the coffee shop junk, is the best beverage I have ever had. Everywhere you go there’s always somebody making or selling chai. It is India’s national drink. And not only is it amazing and everybody makes it, but every single batch tastes different. There are so many different ways to make chai, but I learned the basic way. Step one, mix liquid. Now there are two combinations of liquid for making chai. You can have all milk, or mix milk and water together. Whatever you want, the important thing is that you use the exact amount of liquid as you are going to drink. So for me, Daddy always has one cup and I usually have two cups, so I mixed two cups of water with one cup of ox milk, in the villages it’s goat milk. After that you add two teaspoons of sugar for every cup and one teaspoon of tealeaves for every cup. Since Daddy has the same sweet tooth as Mommy, he calls it just “liking my tea strong”, I added one more teaspoon of sugar and leaves. Then you boil it. Once it starts to bubble you turn off the heat and pour through a strainer into your cup and you’re done. So simple, yet so delicious. So now I know how to make tea, next is learning how to make dhal fry, my new favorite dish.
On Tuesday I held English class and I felt I had a successful session with my high schoolers. I gave back their “Who you are” stories with a copy of my corrections to them. I explained a few things on the blackboard like how if you write about the names of your friends, all the words in that sentence need to be plural, like, “My friends’ names are…” A lot of them wrote, “My friend name is…” and then they would list three names. They also made a similar mistake when talking about their favorite subjects and their age. They would write, “I am fourteen year old.” I also told them that it is more correct to say that you live in a village, and at a home. So after I explained those few things I had them rewrite their stories with the correct grammar and punctuation. I told them that it needed to be perfect because I was going to e-mail them to Doug Uncle. After they finished I had each student read their final draft out loud to the class so they not only got a lesson in writing correctly, but talking correctly.
On Thursday I got experience the frustration that is shopping in India. The DVD player isn’t working at the Home so I wanted to try and buy some cables that would allow me to hook my computer up to the TV so I can show them my new video I made. I knew none of the stores would have one of the cables I needed, but I thought for sure I could find an S-video cable somewhere in this town. Daddy took me to one store, they had no idea what I was talking about. We went to another store, they had no idea what I was talking about. Went to another store and again they had no idea. I even showed the workers the backs of their DVD players they sold in their stores and the port for the S-video cable. I said, “I need the cable that goes in here.” But no one had it. We must have gone to ten stores. It was insane. And then to add to my frustration while I was ordering the cables online, Amazon.com wouldn’t deliver them here. So I had to shipped home, and then have my mom ship them to me, which will most likely take a month for them to get here.
Saturday I went with Mommy, Daddy and Danny to a wedding in Yavatmal. It was very impressive. All the decorations and the beautiful colors all the women were wearing. In India, they use weddings to show your prestige, so everybody was wearing their most expensive saris. The reception was were the most money was spent though. It was outside in this large garden area guarded by two guards at the entrance. There were so many people there and the food was amazing. I’ve never had better buffet food. It seemed as though all the who’s who of Yavatmal came out for this one, I wish I had brought my camera.
Sunday could have been the greatest and most fun day of my life. It seemed as though it was an all day party. It started with me doing everything in slow motion in an attempt to slow down time. But not only was I trying to slow down time, it also made things more dramatic and exciting. Mommy explained why I was walking slow to the kids and they thought it was very funny. I even got some of the kids to help out with my cause. After church some of the boys were playing cricket. I asked where the girls were and they said no girls. I said sarcastically, “Don’t worry. I will get them. I’ll be right back.” They all told me no but I left anyways to go round up some girls to play cricket. The girls wouldn’t come and I pleaded with them to come, and I even started crying. After about ten minutes of this little Salomi came around the corner. I grabbed her and brought here out to the field, where the match was already in session. Shortly thereafter it was time to switch sides. I told the boys to let Salomi bat, some of them didn’t want her to, but Stavan also told them to let her. So Laxman threw three balls to her, and she hit two of them. That made her day. I took pictures of her batting and she kept having me show everybody. This prompted me to inquire about something that hopefully will turn into a longstanding tradition here at the Home. I told Mommy and Daddy that I wanted to have an only girls cricket match. They both said that sounded fine and then Daddy suggested that this could be a new thing, every Sunday the boys cook dinner and the girls play cricket. So when 17:00 rolled around it was time for girls cricket, although dinner was pretty much done, so we’ll start the tradition next Sunday. Mommy told me to stay and explain how to play because the girls “Don’t know how to play.” I quickly found out this was not true. Not only did they know how to play, but the rules too. And just like a while back when the girls started playing kabaddi just for fun, the laughter from these girls while they played was amazing. As lighthearted as they played though, they were also serious about the game, but it was a peaceful relationship. I took plenty of pictures during, and after, the match. After dinner we had a singing session. This was incredibly fun. The boys told me to play the drum for the songs. After I did this for a while Mommy was asking me what I wanted. Some of the boys were telling me Marathi phrases to say, but I decided to use one of my own. I yelled, “Mommy! Ghosta!(?) (story)” The kids yell this every night before devotion because they love Mommy’s stories. So after some back and forth banter between Mommy and me, some of the kids circled around Mommy and sat down. I got up and yelled “Ghosta!” and sat in the middle of the kids and I gave Mommy my undivided attention. This made it very difficult for her to tell her story because every time she looked at me she would start laughing and forget where she was. While she was talking I would nod my head yes and say, very interestedly, and say “Yeah, yeah!” All the kids loved this. After Mommy had me pray in Marathi, all the boys dog piled on me. I don’t know why. But then it was time for bed and ended a very fun day, and week. I wish all my remaining days here last that long.
Monday, February 9, 2009
On Monday morning we drove 1.5 hours to a nearby train station to drop off the guests that came and stayed with us. After saying good-bye and watching their train pull away, Danny, Daddy, Mommy and I began our 1.5 hour drive back to the Home. We ended up taking a 12 hour detour on the way home. They decided to take me to visit a hill station where Daddy did some Bible study and a tiger forest. The drive to the hill station took us right through the city that Mommy attended nursing college at. About an hour later we arrived at the base of the mountain and proceeded to make our way 1101 meters into the sky. This drive also took an incredible amount of time but the view was spectacular, I just wish I had brought my camera. He had a late lunch at one of the resort town’s many restaurants. Daddy showed me the church he used to attend while living here for three months and the bungalow he lived in. After we toured around the top of the mountain we headed down the other side, through a tiger forest. Unfortunately we didn’t see any tigers, but who knows how many saw us.
For English classes this week I did a lot of reviewing with my elementary students, to make sure they didn’t forget some of the stuff we’ve learned a while back. I am proud to say that the 5-6 group is doing very well. Some of things we’ve worked on so far is the difference between “this” and “that”, and “these” and “those”. We’ve also worked on contractions this week. It was difficult for them to say some of the contractions, as they kept saying both words, but they eventually picked it up. They were all able to successfully answer my questions. I’m having the most difficulty with the 1-4 group. They haven’t learned English in school yet so they are behind even the nursery kids. So it is very difficult to teach them, especially then the boys play grab-ass with each other all class long. For my high school group this week I had them complete a few worksheets I had printed out for them. I also had them do a writing assignment for me. I had them write me a story. I told them the title for the story is “Who you are.” There was two parts I wanted them to address in their story. The first part was who you are, I wanted to know village names, family and friends’ names, favorite subjects, games they like to play, etc. The second part was who you want to be. I wanted them to answer the question, “Where will you be in ten years?” This story I wanted written in English, and they did very well, although they all made similar errors. For instance, they would leave out pretty much all preposition words or use them incorrectly. They also would write, “My friend name…” and then list like three or four names. So I corrected them and am going to give them back to them so they can see their errors and then I am going to have them rewrite their stories, correctly.
I’ve been playing a lot of freeze tag with the nursery kids. Once you get tagged by the raj you have to stand with your legs apart and can’t move until someone goes between your legs. This is very difficult for me, I usually end up just tackling them with my shoulder as I try to go under their legs. It’s actually very fun to play. I am like the big prize during this game. Once I get tagged the raj holds on to me so no one can unfreeze me. So since they hold on to me, I decided to hold on to them. I would grab them around the elbows, so they couldn’t touch me with their hands, then someone would crawl between my legs and I would be free. Or, if there were others kids frozen, I would bear hug the raj and let the kids unfreeze all the other kids first.
On Sunday we went to Pandharwani, the village of Priscilla, Rahel, Ashok and Rambhao. Little Suvarna and Prakash came as well as their village is about two km from Pandharwani. Nirmala also came with us, but we didn’t go to her village. Five boys came with us, Laxman, Ishwar, Stavan, Vishwas and Mukesh, to led the worship at the church. We first stopped in Prakash and Suvarna’s village and met the pastor of that village’s church. After that we walked to their house and took the other five members of their family with us to Pandharwani. We already had a packed car, so with the addition of these five and Priscilla’s grandpa, the five older boys and I rode on top of the jeep. That’s how they do it in India. Once we got the village we were greeted by the pastor/Rahel’s father. After the boys messed around and took me to this tree where we ate the fruits from it, it was time for church. It was great seeing our kids singing so well, and Mommy gave the sermon. After church we ate lunch, a very hot and very fresh lunch. After lunch I toured the village and saw some of the children’s homes, like Ashok’s. I got to see the inside of his three-room house. And by three rooms I mean, all three would fit inside my family room. It’s very humbling to see the children’s living conditions. On the way out of the village we again had to ride on top of the jeep. Just outside the village we passed a man on a bicycle entering the village. I yelled, “Bye-bye!” to him. And then I did it to another person, and pretty soon we were all yelling “bye-bye” to everyone we saw. I was, however, disappointed that Rambhao didn’t drive me around in an ox cart as he promised me he would. I told him I was upset with him, but he just laughed.
My tickets are booked, my bags are packed. March 7th Danny and I will leave Nagpur around 17:00 by train and arrive Agra at 8:00 the next morning. Our next train leaves Agra on the 9th at 17:00 and arrives in Pune around 15:00, March 10th. Nothing like a 22 hour train ride through the blister heat without AC. Once we get to Pune I will meet some of Daddy’s family and will then meet one of Danny’s friends. Danny’s friend told him to bring me to Pune so we can have an outing. We hopefully will go to the beach from there so we don’t have to take a ten hour train ride to Goa. Danny and I will then leave Pune on March 15th by bus to Yavatmal. I am very excited about this trip. It should be a lot of fun and I will have great pictures to share. And hopefully I’ll get to ride in an auto rickshaw on this trip.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Not a lot happened this week. But that was good because it gave me time to reflect on the sad realization I had early in the week when I saved my journal entry as “Journal Entry 60”. In four months there are 120 days, this week marked the halfway point in my journey. Now I’m pretty optimistic, but I don’t see this as, “I have two months left.” I see it as, “I only have two months left.” So this week I did some thinking about goals and things I’ve accomplished and things I still want to do. It made me realize just how much I’ve accomplished. I haven’t died yet, which is always good. But most importantly I’ve bonded with all the kids, I quickly learned all their names and came up with nicknames for some and I have inside jokes with just all of them. I feel like I’ve done great at teaching them English, well, as good as I can do without a translator. I am learning cricket, which is a lot harder than it looks. A lot. I’ve visited some villages and seen where the kids come from. I’ve learned some of their games and songs. I’ve learned which kids are ticklish. I’ve learned why the men wear pants all the time. It’s because when you wear shorts the kids try to pull out your leg hair. I’ve learned how to eat with my hands only and tear chapatti with one hand. I’ve become a master of the bucket showers. I’m so good now, you’d think I’ve been taking bucket showers all my life. I’ve been enjoying every second but it’s gone by so fast and there’s no way to slow it down. I’ve still yet to travel, I still want to get up to the Taj Majal and Danny said he’ll take me to Goa. I have yet to ride on an ox cart, that’s actually Doug’s wish but I too would like to ride on one, and I also want to ride in an auto rickshaw. That would be crazy. I haven’t learned how to make anything yet except chapatti, but I’ll learn. I also want to create the biggest NCAA March Madness pool in the history of India by having each child and staff here fill out a bracket.
India is a land of great contrasts. There is such extreme wealth, and such extreme poverty as more than 50% of the population live below any other humanly accepted poverty line. India has such beauty, and such disgustingness as the ground is littered with garbage and feces. It’s a country where you have to be conscious of your deucers. The last think you want is to be out in the middle of the Punjab and have to take a dump in their open air system, using your hand as toilet paper. One day I asked Danny why a man was urinating just off the side of the road. He wasn’t even trying to hide behind a tree or bush. I said, “Why doesn’t he just stand on the side of the road and pee on the road?” India has the best food I’ve every eaten, and the worst. Everything has been delicious except for the mango pickle. The pickle is the name of the sauce, it’s basically a sauce of lemon juice and salt and other spices to give it a sour and salty taste. Basically, they found a way to make the mango taste horrible. Now I don’t want to judge a country of over a billion people, but the India’s seem to be the nicest and most welcoming people. When we would go to people’s homes they would give us everything they had to feed us and make us feel welcome. And here, the villagers always invite me to come play cricket with them.
Some things did happen this week. Monday was the 60th Republic Day in India. Everywhere the citizens attended a flag hoisting ceremony, and here at the home was no exception. All the children gathered in their school clothes at 7:00 and watched the flag being raised. It is a great tradition, one that I wish we did in America. Seeing the Indian flag going up that pole and knowing that was happening all over the country at the same time was pretty powerful. I can only imagine what emotions would run through me if it were the Stars and Stripes going up that pole. As powerful as this was, it was very similar to America in the sense that you only see this kind of patriotism once a year.
On Sunday 12 guests came to the home. One of them is a board member of Hosanna Ministries and the other 11 are friends and family of Daddy. All 12 of them attend the same church as Daddy’s mom. They visited with the kids and the kids put on a culture show for them. I’ve seen all the dances the kids did twice already, except one, the pillow dance. This dance is hilarious. It’s called the pillow dance because they put their arms and head in a pillowcase. But then they wear a sweater around their waists with a stick through the arm sleeves. So they can’t see anything and they have to dance around the stage. It was very funny to watch because they didn’t do the same motions and they weren’t together, they were spread out all over the stage. One of them, my dear son, kept going into the boys and Dede had to pull her back.
It was a very good week. I taught the 1-4 students verbs and how to change them into past, present and future tense. I work with the 5-6 students on the difference between this and that, and these and those. Also during the same lesson, I was teaching them how to answer the questions who and what. I would say, “What is this?” and they would say, “That is Ruth’s shirt.” For my high school class I showed them “The Green Mile”. When we finished we discussed the movie and then I gave them an assignment. I told them I wanted them to write about what they thought the theme, or themes, of the movie is or are. But I told them because I wanted them to get it right, I had them write in Marathi. I had Danny translate for me. I was very impressed with Mercy’ and Mukesh’s papers. They both were the only ones who really wrote the assignment how I wanted it to be written. And Mukesh mentioned things in his that not only did none of the other students mention, but I didn’t even talk about or discuss. I was very impressed.
The kids are very fast learners. One day I was helping Pooja and Salomi pick tomatoes and I while I was looking I was saying, “Let’s see. Let’s see.” And as I doing this, I heard little Pooja say, “Let’s see. Let’s see.” And all the kids understand when I say, “Get ‘em!” Like when a kid comes up to me and tickles me, I yell, “Karishma, get ‘em!” and they will, usually, go and chase the kid and try and beat them. When little Priscilla and Rahel tickle me, I say, “Big mistake!” and turn and chase them while they run away yelling, “No mistake!” On Saturday I gave all the kids a gift. I had bought prints of the pictures I took of the kids back in December, the ones I posted on Facebook. I really didn’t expect the joy it brought them. I guess I was expecting an American child’s reaction to getting two pictures of themselves as a gift. I called the kids up one by one to get their pictures and each kid got the biggest smile and just stared at their picture as they absentmindedly stuck out their hand for me to shake while they said, “Thank You.” For the last few kids I had to yell their names, as it became difficult talking over all the kids’ laughter and other noises they made as they moved about, sharing their pictures with each other. For ten minutes after I was done passing out pictures the kids were still laughing and sharing their pictures with everyone. Some of the kids would come up and quiz me to see if I could remember what their action was from their funny photo. I am proud to say I knew almost everyone’s.