Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Tis the Season

My Christmas concert has come and gone and while the experience was one that I will always remember, I am in the holiday spirit more than ever!

My Christmas concert night began with 3 teachers dressing me in my light pink sari. At first I had a hard time feeling the holiday spirit as I was wrapped up in our pastel color uniform. I decided to put on some American Christmas music to get in the spirit. I sang along (warming up my vocal chords) as the teachers made me feel like a celebrity, pampering me and making sure each fold in the sari was just right. As I rang out the door, my auto (taxi) was waiting at the steps of the school to carry me off to my performance. If I didn’t feel like a movie star enough already, when I arrived at the enormous hall, the red carpet had been laid and was waiting for the choir’s grand entrance. The concert was a blast…and I’m not exaggerating. I was very skeptical of joining this choir in September but this night made it all worth it! Some of the songs we sang in Malayalam I ended up mouthing but at the end of the performance I was told that it just looked like I had more passion singing the English the songs. (I took that as a compliment.) The icing on the cake was my picture in the paper the next day… a souvenir worth hanging on the fridge when I return in July! As I came home that night, I was rejuvenated and excited for the season.

I must admit I was a little apprehensive about Christmas in India. Spending 4 years in college where the holiday spirit was buried under mounds of school work and the days closest to Christmas were full of cramming for finals, I was afraid I would spend another year missing the spirit of this season while in India. However, it has been quite the opposite. It seems that each day since the month of December has begun, I have done something related to Christmas. The day after my Christmas concert, I attended Jim’s Christmas concert I have taught Christmas carols in class (weird feeling to be sweating while teaching these though,) attended various types of Christmas related programs and helped the girls at Nicholson with the pronunciation of words as they prepare for their Christmas program.

My favorite activity has been making and decorating our newspaper Christmas tree. My friend, Katie sent foam ornaments for the girls to decorate. As we were decorating them today, one of the girls asked where the tree was…I didn’t have one was my initial response. But after putting on my resourceful thinking cap, I grabbed the morning paper and some paint so we could make a Christmas tree. We didn’t have a paint-brush but used our hands and clumps of newspaper to spread the paint was a great collaborative effort! Each girl took a turn to “hang” their ornament on the tree as we sang O Come All Ye Faithful….it truly felt like Christmas! The girls have another week of school before their Christmas break begins and you can definitely feel the excitement in the air!

Top 10 Reasons to Wear A Sari

After 3.5 months of wearing a churidar, I mustered up the courage to try a sari. It was a great decision for many reasons!

Here’s my top 10:
10) Felt like a professional teacher
9) Now can appreciate the slow pace Indian women walk
8) Feel prepared to go to the bathroom in a wedding dress
7) Forced me to sit like a lady ALL day
6) Great bonding session with the teacher who dressed me
5) Couldn’t overeat at lunch
4) Felt more confident in the classroom
3) Appreciate how quickly Indian women can walk up steps
2) 400 girls told me how beautiful I looked on a day that the side effects of the prednisone had me feeling otherwise.
1)Loved the pampering of having someone else dress you

A Feast to Remember

The holidays are a hard time to spend away from family no matter the distance. I knew this Thanksgiving would be different as it was the first Thanksgiving that I would not be with my blood family. However, I was able to spend the day celebrating with my Indian family and it will be a Thanksgiving I always remember.

Achen and Kochamma out did themselves as went out of their way to make sure we had an American Thanksgiving. We feasted on chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots, stuffing and a PUMPKIN pie with ice cream! It was delicious. I think I ate more chicken at this meal than I have ever eaten in my 22 years of living. The five of us devoured the whole chicken, and were still able to ask for seconds on ice cream! (Indian ice cream is delicious- I would compare it to Dairy Queen, but twice as smooth and creamy!!)

Many laughs were shared at the table as we enjoyed each other’s company and cumbersomely attempted to eat our meals Western style…with silverware. After eating with our hands for 3 months, it seemed bizarre to use a fork. It didn’t take long for Madison and I to discover the fun of eating mashed potatoes with our hands. We ditched the fork and resumed the customary eating with our hands, a memory I will always remember.

This Thanksgiving, I had much to be thankful for. I found that being removed from all the normal holiday commotion in the U.S., it was much easier to take time to reflect on all the blessings in my life. However, in addition to Thanksgiving being a time to remember our blessings, I now also see it as a celebration! Achen gave a thoughtful Thanksgiving devotion before we shared our meal together that shed new light on the holiday for me. In the coming years, I will not only remember the year I feasted with my hands while eating more chicken than I have ever eaten in my 22 years of life, I will also remember to take time and celebrate!!
(It's actually boiled water in the Smirnoff bottle, there was no vodka included in our much as we may have enjoyed a stiff drink!! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Piece of My Puzzle

My blog posts have taken a slight hiatus but this is in no reflection due to anything here. In fact, it is quite the opposite. So much has happened, I can’t keep up! As I sit down to write, I’m amazed it’s the middle of November. Where has the month gone? As I take time to process my thoughts, I’m struck with the thought of how will this year affect the rest of my life. As life is becoming remarkably comfortable, I wonder how another 8 months will change who I am. I feel like I am just beginning to understand the culture and while I yearn to understand it more fully, I also wonder what I will bring back to the United States. Right now I’m trying to put the pieces together, digest what I am experiencing and identify places where the two cultures collide. As I think about this, my thoughts end in a jumble mess, trying to process experiences and relate them to realities in the United States.

During our last retreat (October 28-Oct 31,) we learned more extensively about the caste system and how it affects daily life. Jim, one of the other volunteers, articulates what we learned so well that I suggest looking at his blog for great detail. (Post from November 4th) Through these conversations I was most struck by the complexities of daily life issues. In the daily routine at Nicholson it is easy for me to surround myself with the simplicities of Indian life and enjoy the small things I never appreciated in our consumer and productivity driven society. In a way I feel like I have been removed from the harsh realities people face, as I am surrounded with children’s delight. However, after talking with people from lower castes (and actually people who are not even considered part of the caste system- because they are so ‘low’) the micro-aggressions people face a daily basis, reminds one that life isn’t simple. Our being, whether in North America or Asia, can change others miles away. We each face daily hard-ships, some harder than others but working together we can each do our part to make each day easier for others. As I am still connecting my thoughts to make clearer linkages, and understand what I will most take out of this year, I sit with one concrete thought our actions affect someone else.

In other news my crazy eye has flared up and I have gotten to experience the medical side of Indian life. Three weeks ago, I was sitting in morning chapel when my eye began bothering me- I took some ibuprofen hoping to beat the headache that I assumed was coming next. The pain remained and a couple days later I woke up as Cyclops with my right eye completely swollen. I knew exactly what it was from the pain and symptoms. Seeing as though its not horribly common and has been mis-diagnosed in the US, I was dreading the idea of going to the doctor here and trying to explain what was going on, especially when I knew the only way to correct the muscle inflammation was to take high dosages of steroids. It did take a couple tries to get the correct medicine and dosage, but the doctors were very patient and thorough as they worked with me.

The language barrier was difficult and frustrating at points but through grace and learning to accept others’ help, I am on the way to recovery. I must admit it was difficult, to ask for help. However, through this experience I learned to advocate for myself, standing-up for myself to receive the help I needed. I hated the fact that others went out of their way to help me- but this taught me a lesson. In order to give, you must be able to receive. Furthermore, I was reminded that this year is not all about what I can offer the people here, but rather, who can we be together. While I would have loved to learn this lesson in a way that didn’t involve taking steroids and blowing up a like a balloon, it was important that I was reminded of this as I continue to become more at home in this community and begin to understand how this year will affect the rest of my life.

The biggest bummer about the eye is the affect it will have on my ability to run the marathon on the 21st. Well I am disappointed, it was decided that running would not be the best idea. I have however, found some weights, so maybe instead of a marathon I can enter a body building competition.

I’m excited to have my full vision back, as along with clear sight, a greater appreciation for my health and a refreshed perspective on Indian life will be renewed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A thought from Henri J.M. Nouwen

For lack of my owns, I found Henri J.M. Nouwen's words to be soothing this week.

You are living through an unusual time. You see that you are called to toward solitude, prayer, hiddenness and great simplicity. You see that, for the time being, you have to be limited in your moments, sparing with phone calls, and careful in letter writing.

You also know that the fulfillment of your burning desire for intimate friendships, shared ministry, and creative work will not bring you what you really want. It is a new experience for you to feel both the desire and its unreality. You sense that nothing but God’s love can fulfill your deepest need while the pull to other people and things remains strong. It seems that peace and anguish exist side by side in you, that you both desire distraction and prayer concentration….

It is clear that something in you is dying, and something is being born. You must remain attentive, calm, and obedient to your best intuitions…You feel vulnerable but safe at the same time. Jesus is where you are, and you can trust the he will show you the next step.

~Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bringing Fall to Kerala

Weather is a great conversation starter no matter where you go however, I have found that in Kerala its even better! Everyone has a different opinion about what season it currently is, in Kerala. In my opinion the timing of the seasons have shifted, due to global warming, so no one really knows which season it is. However, its comical to here conflicting opinions as an outsider. I am coming to understand that while we have our definite months for certain seasons Kerala’s seasons are not as exact. I am also learning to judge whether I should do wash based on what the clouds in the sky look like. Today great day to do wash- sunny and hot!!

Whichever season it may be, I brought our fall traditions to Nicholson this past weekend as we carved pumpkins and ate candy corn. This was definitely an experience! My search for a pumpkin was more than exhausting and I had to pay extra for one that was orange. It was fun to explain Halloween and our fall festivities to the girls as we ate candy corn (sent from the United States) and attempted to carve our pumpkin. The girls are very artistic and had high hopes for the face of the pumpkin but our butcher’s knife and thick pumpkin skin limited our ability to do anything creative. Sending our Halloween wishes!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Since I’ve gotten to India, I have spent more time thinking about trash than ever before. I would have considered myself moderately-highly conscious of my trash consumption, relative to other Americans, before I left. However, in comparison to how much I have thought about trash here, I now see my previous trash attentiveness being more of a none-low conscious level.

The first week I was at Nicholson, I was told that my trash bin was outside my door and that I should keep it out there to avoid a bug invasion in my room. I have always been a little OCD with my trashcan, simply for convenience sake. However, bugs vs. convenience? I decided I could live with the trashcan outside my door.

During the first couple weeks, I often noticed my trash spread across the ground, outside my door. I assumed the wind was the cause and intuitively put the trash back in the can. As the days progressed, it became more clear that it was not the wind but rather a person spreading my trash about. This was very upsetting, as I was still adjusting to the lack of personal space. The fact that I couldn’t even throw a piece of trash out without someone knowing aggravated me.

One Sunday afternoon, during naptime, I got a knock on my door. I scurried to put on clothes and open the door, only to find girls holding my trash in their hands. In broken English they asked if these were mine…very angrily I answered “Yes!” Then I proceeded to ask why they were going though my trash. They began laughing and said, you eat a lot of sweets. I was upset as I closed the door that afternoon. It sounds funny but in a way, as I wrote in my journal that day, I felt violated. Looking back on it, I think embarrassed would have been a better word but in either case- I hated the fact that I couldn’t throw anything away without all the girls knowing…not even sanitary products.

This feeling has amplified over the weeks, causing me to really think and reflect on trash. People in India don’t use paper products; no Kleenex, no napkins (with the exception of fancy restaurants,) no papertowels, really nothing disposable (with the exception being cups for chai J). Furthermore, nothing is ever broken. In the United States if our umbrella breaks, we buy a new one. In India, people work on the streets fixing umbrellas, sewing together broken flip-flops or sharpening knives. Nothing is wasted. This eliminates the need to throw things away. Resulting in limited public trashcans which consequently leaves the ground as the trash can.

Your imagination of India may include litter everywhere and while it would be a lie to say this is not true, I can honestly say, I was expecting worse. Think of all the people who live in India over 1 billion people. Now think about how much trash you throw out weekly. Imagine the amount of trash that would be- but it is not because they do not waste like we do! The trash laying in random mounds is ugly, smelly and everything else. However, the amount is minimal compared to what our trash in the United States would mound up to be, even with considerably less people.
I was again reminded of trash as I worked in the kitchen last week. Wednesdays I don’t teach. During the first couple weeks, I sat in the staff room, reading, sewing and simply being present on Wednesdays. Sitting all day and doing nothing becomes boring real fast and last Wednesday I decided to change that! I went to work in the kitchen. I must admit I was very apprehensive at first, thinking watching the food preparations would curb my appetite for the year. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It gave me a greater appreciation for the food I eat at each meal as I sat with 4 others and cut vegetables for 4 whole hours.

I’m sure it was comical to watch as I awkwardly held a butcher’s knife and attempted to cut potatoes and cabbage. However, 2 things were notable. The amount of time it took me to cut a single potato and the lack of consistency in my slices. These women were fanatics with their knives. I often just sat, on my stool-just 6 inches off the ground, staring at the quick precision they had with all vegetables. I was able to cut one potato in the time it took them to cut 4. Even more notable than my ability, was the amount of potato I wasted compared to the other women. As I attempted to peel my potatoes with this large butcher’s knife, I slowly peeled away the skin…peeling off the brown skin but also taking off good chunks of the white potato flesh. These women hacked away the skin but rarely took a piece of the potato’s flesh. While I would love to think that skill had something to do with this, I know it was due to instinctive need to get ALL the skin off. Similarly with the cabbage, I put the core of the cabbage in the waste pile as the women just sliced it in the bowl along with the other parts. When we were finished, my rubbish pile tripled theirs. I was embarrassed, the women took my cores and sliced them in as if they were pieces I had forgotten. I had purposely left them out though, not wanting to ruin the dish with the core of the cabbage. As I thought about this, I realized I have eaten that cabbage dish numerous times and never once noticed the core. Reminded once again of the amount of things I waste.

I’m not sure I will ever be comfortable with people going through my trash, but I do know I am uncomfortable with the amount I waste. I hope in the coming days that I can become comfortable; knowing I used the thing, whatever it may be, to the fullest before I deemed it trash worthy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Delhi Here I Come

Exciting news to share!!! I will be running in a half-marathon in Delhi on November 21st!! Crazy and ever so exciting, I know!!! A friend I met at Xavier, who is originally from India and returned home after graduating with his MBA, asked me if I wanted to run in a marathon with him. He knows I enjoy running at home- and thought this would be a great bonding experience. While I am a bit nervous- as the training situation is less than ideal (I will be running laps around a basketball court,) I am very excited to run in a marathon in I-N-D-IA!! I will definitely keep you posted but for now, I must commence training.

Spreading least to some :)

Last Friday night, I heard my Dad’s words echo through my head; “Margaret, you need to think before you act.” I regularly was in trouble when I was little. Many of the times, it was caused by failure to think before I acted. My wise Dad told me that one day it would create problems. Dad, I never thought I would say this from India, but you were right!

Friday afternoons are a heartrending time at Nicholson. The youngest boarders (K-5) are allowed to go home for the weekend if their parents come to pick me them up. However, with no phone access for the girls, they never know if their parents are coming or not. The girls stand excitedly waiting to see if their parents will be the next one to appear over the hill. As girls trickle out- tears begin to trickle down the faces of those who are left. Their parents are supposed to come between 3:30 and 4:30, however 5:00 rolls around and girls are still holding out, wishing and hoping that their parents are running on Indian time I guess. A previous week, one of the girls noticed an eye-lash on another girl’s face. She put it on her finger for the girl to make a wish. After her parents didn’t come, she told me her wish didn’t come true. I couldn’t find any words, the only thing I could do was hug her to prevent my tears from welding up.

I usually sit with the girls during this time; holding their hands or tickling the one’s who need a smile at that moment. This particular Friday, I was even crying- I watched the same girl, stand patiently for 3 weeks in a row with no sign of her parents. I decided I needed something to lighten the mood- so without thinking I ran back to my room and got some paper. With the 10 girls that were left, I made paper airplanes. It was fun to teach them the folds and then fly our planes. We were playing in the central courtyard located outside the head mistress’s office, in the middle of the central pathway and the place the laundry is hung to dry. At a school where all the games are ‘prim and proper’ playing with paper airplanes was beyond exciting. Thus, it didn’t take long for the older girls to join in. After I taught a couple girls the folds, they taught a couple girls who then taught a couple girls and soon there were at least 100 girls throwing paper airplanes around. As you might imagine 100 + girls doing anything, created commotion….chaotic commotion! I was nervous eyes were going to be poked out, but before I could think about the havoc I created the sound of the head mistress’s flip-flops quickly hit my ear-drum. It was at this point that I took advantage of the drying laundry and hid behind it as I quickly escaped the area. As I walked back to my room, I could hear the head-mistress scolding the girls- but I couldn’t help but smile…I think I even stuck my chest out like a pompous jock. I came back to my room and sat in front of the mirror laughing, loving what I created! While maybe I should have thought before I acted, especially knowing things spread like wildfire here, I couldn’t help but be proud. I was able to see the joy I was creating…at least for some.

Disclaimer- I wouldn’t normally sit in front of the mirror and stare at myself but I’ve found this technique helps when I am lonely or need another person with whom I can share the moment.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Views of India in the last week

October 2nd was Gandhi’s birthday. There was a great celebration at Nicholson, complete with a parade and whole school cleaning. It was very interesting to be a part of this day. The girls were full of excitement as they wore their Sunday’s best for this occasion. As I was explained what was happening, the translation was quite hysterical. “Gandhi never cleaned his own bathroom so on this day the whole country cleans.” The logic of this was comical. My immediate thought was, too bad India can’t celebrate Gandhi’s birthday multiple times a year. While I never quite got what or how the country cleans, at Nicholson each grade was assigned a job from scrubbing the floors, to “plucking” the weeds. It was fun to take part in this day eat their special sweets and celebrate with the girls.

On Sunday night, the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games took place. This was another fun bonding experience. 400 students packed around this tiny TV to watch the opening ceremonies in their home country. For the past two weeks, I have been reading about the lack of preparations in New Delhi over these games. The main bridge to the stadium collapsed and needed repaired. Then 4 days before the games were to begin the roof of the main stadium collapsed. One article in the newspaper quoted a man who said he thought the standard of livings were just different. I chuckled to myself.

On Tuesday, after teaching my one class of the day, (we talked about farms, learned about animals that live on farms as well as the sounds they make and wrapped class up by learning Old McDonald’s Farm) I ventured over to see Jim coach his softball team at a local college in my town. This was a real treat for me- I was excited to see Jim in his element and get out of my daily routine at Nicholson. The game was supposed to start at 11am. I got there at 12:15 and the game had not started yet. I was excited I hadn’t missed anything, Jim was frustrated that his game continued to be delayed (the game had been delayed since Monday afternoon.) The delay didn’t end- in fact, his team sat at the field all day (8am-5pm) and never played. A whole day was wasted as his college students sat and watched other teams play, but no one seemed concerned that the students were missing school-work for the continuous delay.

Two things intrigued me most as I sat on the sidelines and watched other teams play; the ability level and the cheerleaders. Watching these teams play was like watching 12 year old girls play ball. They often mis-calculated where the ball was going and would run in to catch it and the ball would fly over their heads. The umpire and score-keepers ability was also interesting. The games were stopped multiple times for 7 to 10 minutes to figure out, what had happened and often argued over the play. One time the umpire even made a phone call to get confirmation on a rule. Something you would NEVER see in the states. As all of this is happening people were loudly cheering, sometimes in English, sometimes in Malayalam, sometimes in Manglish. One team even had a grunter. The best part of the cheering section was watching the men cheer for the women. Men and women are constantly separated in Indian life. Women sit on one side of the church, men on the other. Women sit in the front of the bus, men sit in the back. Individual men and women cannot walk together in public without signifying a more intimate relationship. In writing, this doesn’t sound as extreme as it is in real life. However, being separated from men in all parts of my daily life, I was excited to see this interaction.

Watching sports in other countries can tell you a lot about a place’s culture. Women don’t play many sports in India- frustrating to me because I was hoping to join a soccer team while I was here- but a few colleges do have women’s softball. Interestingly enough, I read an article in the paper this morning that said India needs to produce more women athletes if they have any chance in winning the Games in the coming years. The idea women do not participate in sports is fascinating to think about, on many levels. It is yet again another indication of the status of women in Indian society. It also reinforces the separation of sexes. It’s highly unlikely to see a co-ed pick-up game, something we would never think twice about. Most notable, is the lack of importance on a woman’s figure. The idea that women do not participate in sports or for that matter, part-take in any physical activity eliminates the consuming anxiety around one’s weight. While people in India are very blunt, especially around weight issues, I have noticed little to no concern over being physically fit. Even advertisements are just a person’s head, not a lean, sexy body attempting to lure you in. It makes one wonder why. Is it connected to their status of a developing country? Does is say something about their values? Or is it connected to arranged marriages? There is no need to be attractive to the opposite sex when your parents pick the person you will marry. Whichever it may be, it illustrates perfectly the idea that everything is interdependent; our being, our culture, our world.

This morning (Friday) I was walking to a meeting. I’m not sure what the meeting was about or even what the organization does. “Social work type work,” is the answer I get from everyone whenever I ask, it doesn’t seem to be clear what exactly this organization does. Anyways, I’m walking along the road, my awareness was slightly heightened only because the cars, motorcycles and buses are zooming by so fast and so close (sometimes I think I feel the bus brush against my arms they are so close,) otherwise I felt very comfortable. The sun was out- and blending into the culture, I opened my umbrella to provide some shade. As I’m wondering what exactly I am getting myself into, I notice a man do a sharp U-turn on his motorcycle right in front of me. He pulls off to the side of the road, and gets off his bike. I thought about making eye-contact but decided just to keep walking. Then I hear, “Miss,” and I turn around. The man waves me over and asks if I was British. I said I’m from the United States and he proceeded to ask me many, many questions. Right before getting on his way, he handed me his business card and told me, “If I was in trouble,” to call. While the extent of this run-in was a first, this is very common of India. There have been many times I have been walking down the street and someone will come up asking where I am going. The girls at Nicholson constantly ask where I am going, most often the answer is “the bathroom.” Sometimes I take this out of the intrusive context and put into a larger life context for myself, Where am I going?
I hope these small excerpts from my week give you a better understanding of the ‘life in a day’ but more importantly, I hope they make you consider 2 things; How does interdependence affect your life? Where are you going?

Breath of Fresh Air

(This blog was MIA on my computer- a little out-of-date but still wanted to upload it.) This past weekend (September 25-26,) was the YAV- India monthly retreat. I spent the weekend with Jim, Madison, Achen and his wife, in Kottoyam, a larger city about 20 km from my site. We had a great time! It was nice to get away and be with familiar faces as we continued to learn more about the state of Kerala.

Kerala is very unique to India as it has an exceptionally high human development index. Google Kerala. You will find information that may leave you wondering why. Why was I sent to a state where the literacy rate is 100% in a vast country where the national literacy rate is less than 50%? Kerala has a low infant mortality rate and a high life expectancy- opposite to the rest of the nation. A better question to ask is how.

After speaking with an Indian economist, the word empower was the only thing I could think. As a whole Kerala is very socially developed, surprising for a state in a developing country. However, economically Kerala is still under-developed. As it was explained to us, there are 3 stages in economic development- Kerala by-passed stage 2 and was able to develop socially without developing economically first.

Rubber, spices and tea are the main exports. These goods are processed in other states and countries because Kerala doesn’t have the ability to manufacture these goods. 40% of people living in Kerala are unemployed because jobs are non-existent. Those who are able, leave the state to work else-where. Many of my students’ parents work in the Gulf. Initially this was confusing to me, why Nicholson, why Kerala when your family is in Kuwait? However, after speaking to the economists it makes sense. The girls’ parents are originally from Kerala and don’t want to leave. Kerala has a rich tradition, and as it has been described to me, a distinct culture. Leaving this tradition behind is difficult. Supporting your family in another country means you aren’t fully leaving this tradition and culture behind. After talking to the economist, I saw my mission for the year. I want to empower the girls to stay in the state they love. Daily I here how great Kerala is and how much they each love it! Having learned more about the state, I can encourage the girls to continue loving it, continue making it a better state and a place that people can work. Unquestionable structures will have to change for development to occur, but my hope is to empower these girls so they become the future leaders of Kerala!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hello October

Yesterday marked month 1. Hard to believe in so many ways-I am still discovering something new everyday but feel like I’m been doing this routine for months, a weird feeling to process. As I reflect on the journey of the past month, I am thankful for the support I have back home. While I wish I could describe every emotion of my day with vibrant passion and every experience with colorful words, I know both time and ability stand in my way. I can express though, that it is your support and prayers that make me push forward when I want to cry, and laugh from the bottom of my heart when I laugh. As you prayerfully continue on this journey with me, I’d ask that you also remember those we are serving. I say we, because it is your love that serves and sustains me so I can continue to spread love on this side of the world. Know I am saying prayers of thanks for you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where is the weekend?

The first Friday I was here, I asked a couple of the students if they were excited it was the weekend. Similar to many questions I ask, I got the side-to-side Indian headshake, indicating yes, but with an expression on their faces that is easily interpreted as, I have no idea what you are saying. Typical to most conversations, I repeated myself using different words to explain what I trying to ask, but unlike most conversations my second attempt did not clarify anything. I thought to myself, maybe the idea of a weekend is foreign because the schedule at Nicholson is SO strict. The girls have school on Saturday mornings eliminating any reason to be excited its Saturday. At lunch, I asked the teachers the same question, again it was the headshake with a confused look. I stated it more simply by asking if they had plans to do anything because it was Friday. I again got the same answer.
After school that Friday, I came back to my room disappointed. Craving pizza, I was hoping to at least celebrate the completion of my first week and the arrival of the weekend by going to town and drinking pineapple juice and eating my favorite Indian biscuit with the teachers. Instead I prepared for the same week-day routine, Malayalam lessons at 6:30 followed by evening prayer and dinner at 8pm. I had a hard time motivating myself to go to language lessons when it was Friday. I also had a hard time wrapping my head around evening prayer on a Friday night- “Give us a break from praying, its Friday night for pete’s sake,” I thought. Well the next night I found out was no different- I was expected to be at language lessons and evening prayer. My enthusiasm was non-existent especially because I knew that church on Sunday began at 7am. Evening prayer may be understandable but I couldn’t even sleep in before I went to church? No wonder the girls gave me blank looks. Where was the weekend?
This feeling of ‘fun,’ or lack-thereof stuck with me the following week. I asked one of the teachers what she does for fun-she shrugged. I began to feel bad when thinking about it. Here I am doing a year of service, obsessed with finding ‘fun,’ while the people here in India have no concept of fun?
This past weekend at our monthly retreat, I clarified that there is no idea of the weekend of India. The response given was that their fun, or relaxation time was worked into their work-week. This made sense- I have noticed myself enjoying more of the little things…even the joy of my own breath. While I just assumed it was due to the most down time I have had in 4 years, I see clearly that it is apart of their culture. I must admit waking up at 6am, 7 days a week is rough and thinking about my alarm going off at 6am for the next 320 days straight is even rougher- there is a lot to be said about incorporating ‘fun’ into your daily routine instead of saving it all for Friday night.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The First Dip in the Journey

Saturday was my first true experience with frustration. In the past 2 weeks, little things have frustrated me and I have had to mentally talk myself through them but today it was a feeling of complete helplessness. On Saturdays I don’t have any responsibilities at Nicholson so I am trying to find other places in the community I could spend some time. I decided to go a home where people who are orphans and have a variety of developmental disabilities live. A teacher from the school accompanied me so I could get there. Amidst trying to figure out how I would remember what the bus stopped looked like, I was trying to gauge my emotions. I was thinking about what I thought my emotions should be versus what exactly I was feeling. I thought most people would be nervous so maybe I should be too. However, the ever-present feeling of, “I have no idea what this will be like, all I know is I will be there shortly,” is the only lucid thought I can put to how I was feeling.

Upon arriving I met with the ‘Supervisor’ of the home. He gave me a little background and then asked me how things differed in the United States. I was struck that no funding they receive comes from the government. I began explaining to him the differences however, the language barrier blocked my ability to explain all the differences. In India, all funds are collected through churches and outside offerings. The idea of family is much stronger in India. Family is expected to take care of family, eliminating the needs for retirement communities, as we know them.

After briefly talking about the home, I was given a tour. During the tour, I met most all the residents. I was able to hold everyone’s hand and exchange a smile and head nod. Soumia, the teacher who accompanied me translated our conversations, missing most of what I was trying to communicate but attempting to carry on a conversation. After eating lunch on a plantain leaf, Soumia asked me if I wanted to visit some more. I really did- however, I knew she was going to her home after the visit and I didn’t want to take up more of her time. She was very patient and said she didn’t mind staying if I wanted. This is where the frustration began. I needed Soumia to be there to communicate. I was completely helpless. My attempts at asking a resident their name failed due to my Western pronunciation of Malayalam words. After an hour more I decided I needed to leave, I was becoming too frustrated. Even with my efforts to sing and dance with the residents, the simple fact that I couldn’t talk to them was beyond frustrating. As we were leaving Soumia asked why I wasn’t happy anymore. I tried hard to hold back the tears but her question opened the flood gates- I wasn’t happy because all I wanted to do was carry on a conversation. The residents of Darmagiri Mandiram rarely got visitors and there I was to visit, but what good is a visit when one can’t even understand your pronunciation of “What is your Name?”

That night my Malayalam lessons meant more. I had a huge motivation to go and continue striving to learn the letters, (despite the fact they all sound so similar and my tongue cannot physically make the sounds,) so one day soon I can go back and communicate with the Darmagiri Mandiram residents.

I ended the night positively as I read the young girls a bedtime story. It may have been more therapy for me than them, but the expression of love was something I needed at that moment. The feeling of helplessness I experienced earlier in the day transitioned to a feeling of joy as we read about Franklin the Turtle and his adventures.

Finding A Balance

This week (last week as you read this) began my first week of teaching. It was exciting, intimidating and humbling all at once. I was given very little information so when I entered the classroom, I felt like students were my teachers. Holding on to every last word I said (or maybe just trying to understand me,) the students were very attentive and disciplined each other when needed. I quickly observed that my prepared lessons plans would be too difficult and scrambled to think of a game I could teach. Heads-up Seven-up was a favorite of mine as well as the first game that came to mind, so after introductions, which I think I caught maybe 3 names out of a class of 20, I gave it a stab. One student ended up translating the directions but I noticed in all the classes I have taught this week- the students’ ability to understand/speak greatly varies within a class. While this increases my challenge, its very understandable.

A struggle I faced this week was the idea of communal effort. Last week as I was observing classes, I noticed all the students answered questions in unison. Being as though this is not the way it is done in the United States, I was quite taken back at first. However, I thought maybe it was the specific teacher and didn’t think much of it. As I began teaching this week, I noticed that whenever I asked a question, all the students would answer together. I tried to explain the concept of raising your hand to be called on, but this was foreign…more foreign than an American in India. J I also noticed students’ tendency to look off others’ work, this bothered me. These may be occurrences that just happened in my experiences thus far but these experiences may also speak to level of communism in India.

We, in America speak of ‘rugged individualism,’ idealizing the need for citizens to be independent and self-sufficient. Often times, especially in a social welfare context, we have a negative attitude towards this idea. We wish individuals could accept help and we wish it was socially appropriate to admit our weaknesses without being seen as weak. As I was thinking about the observations I have made thus far, I saw strengths in the idea of individualism that I haven’t thought about before. Where is the ability to think and express yourself when you speak in unison? Where is the ability to let creativity flow on paper when you are directed what to write by those around you?

I don’t conclude here as I have been in the classroom for a week. While you can observe what is happening around you, it takes time to fully understand what is occurring. I will come back to this idea later in the year, but now I can confidently say there needs to be balance. My life motto, Balance is Key, rules again. Communism needs a little rugged individualism to let creativity flow and rugged individualism needs a little communism to take away expectations and let others in.

Monday, September 13, 2010

La La La

My first adventure out by myself was successful with only one minor set-back. Earlier in the week I met a man who is the choir director for a local community choir. He was excited to meet me and invited me to sing with his choir on Sundays. Amidst our conversation, he asked if I had any prior music experience because, “our choir is very talented,” he said. I had to laugh at this, while I did sing in the church’s youth choir growing up and I carried the clarinet in marching band, my music skills are minimal if existent at all (and I’m not being humble!) I told him I would give it a try but I’m not terrific. I received a warm Indian welcome when I arrived 15 minutes after the rehearsal’s start. I was in luck as the song they were singing was in English!! However, at one point the woman sitting next to me whispered in my ear, “We have a problem, you are singing the wrong notes.” I’m sure I was as red as a fire truck but I couldn’t help but laugh. The initial job description I got from Nicholson said I was to teach music, scared to death to have this responsibility because I can’t sing and now I find myself in a community choir? Ironic.

I was feeling very confident as I caught the bus back to Nicholson- flagging down the bus to Thiruvalla is the hard part, I had done this, I could surely get back. Well, I managed to get back to Nicholson but when I got there the gate was locked. I didn’t have Susama Kochama’s number so I attempted to crawl through the gate, this didn’t work. I thought about jumping the wall but decided that a white girl jumping the fence may look bad. So I pulled out a book I’ve been reading and just stood there hoping someone would come. After 20 minutes and with the sun-setting I decided I needed a more promising plan. I ended up calling Achen to get Susama Kochama’s number. In the meantime some man walking by came to the gate, fiddled with it and it opened. I was embarrassed. I decided to journal and shower before dinner, I lost track of time and was late for dinner. I was embarrassed again.

Tomorrow I will begin to find my schedule. I’m excited to plan out my days and get into a routine. Here’s hoping that the days to come cause less reasons to turn red.

Mind Over Sanitation

Since I’ve last written, I’ve experienced yet again another round of firsts. I found my new best friends, Joseph and Annie, washed my clothes by hand, semi-figured out how to get to town by myself and subscribed to a newspaper (Kerala is known for their newspapers- its in English. J) These small accomplishments are comforting as the newness fades and reality sinks in.

Two nights ago after dinner, I was scraping my scraps into the waste bucket and walking over to the trough that we wash our own plates in as I took a tumble. I try not to think much as I do this process as the lack of soap and make-shift sponge leave me to wonder if the plate is actually clean. This was evident as I was not watching where I was stepping and fell into a drain. It was drain that dirty water and food waste run through. I screamed! Susama Kochama quickly ran over because she thought I was hurt, but really I was more upset that I was now covered in half eaten food and dirty water!! She was very concerned, I tried to reassure her I was fine but I think my disgusted face left her thinking otherwise.

For the past couple days, I have been challenged as I face what it means to do “ministry of presence” work. Before I left I thought I would be great just ‘being.’ People talked about the challenges it brings but in the United States I enjoy just ‘being,’ so I assumed this part of the year would be easy for me. “How could a ministry of presence be hard, I can just sit there and smile all day and I’ll be great,” I thought. Now I can say, it IS different and while I don’t think it’s a matter of being great or not, it is something that takes a lot of stamina. While many of the students speak English (I’ve noticed the students from Northern India are much easier to understand,) the teachers speak little English and it’s very difficult to carry on a conversation. Also, smiling at someone longer than 15 seconds without saying anything begins to get awkward. Patience and the willingness to try, try again is greatly needed.

I experienced this first hand as I went to an old age home yesterday. I was very excited to get out of Nicholson and see the surrounding area. I was even more excited to see what a retirement community in India looked like as I did my fieldwork at a Jewish retirement community in Cincinnati. So I wander in, escorted by one of the teachers at Nicholson. Her body language told me she was very uncomfortable so I tried to lighten the mood with a joke, this was a dumb idea as the language barrier prevented her from understanding (Mr. Hickman-you would have laughed.) Neesha introduced me to the supervisor of the home, I tried to communicate but it was evident she has no idea what I was saying, so I said thank-you (in Malayalam they don’t have a word for thank-you therefore everyone understands thank-you) and proceeded on to a room. I introduced myself to a couple residents and seeing that language was going to prevent any interaction, I asked Neesha if she wanted to leave. As excited as I was to be there, the frustration with the language had already set-in. As we were leaving I walked past a room where a man, Joseph, began talking in English to Neesha and I- I was so pumped!! I asked if I could come in, he introduced me to his wife, Annie, and the three of us visited for thirty minutes. It was the highlight of my day if not my week, being able to understand and to be understood felt great! Joseph asked me to come back, I said he didn’t have to worry about that, without a doubt I would be back. I’m excited to get to know Joseph and Annie better, they sound like they lived an interesting life!!

Neesha and I went into the closest town, Thiruvalla. I got some pineapple juice and a Mango Ice Cream bar. Neesha took me to the seamstress so I could have another churidar made. Leaving Nicholson and learning how to get around helped me to feel like a had a little independence and I’m not stuck in the confines of Nicholson. As you might imagine constantly being surrounded by 400 children calling your name is draining.
I also helped myself gain a little control by cleaning my room and making it livable for a year. The small things that I looked past in the US are making differences in my daily life here.

Friday, September 10, 2010


The internet connection is not the best at my site- so I have decided to blog from the comfort of my room and when possible upload the posts, so like today you may find a couple posts at once.

Going to the Chapel and We're Gonna Get India!

Confirmation India is the place for me…they burp freely-in-class, at dinner, amidst meetings, on the bus....everywhere! Although, I doubt I could do this in any place (in India) but the comfort of my new room, I loved watching this. I did catch myself a few times wanting to say, “Excuse you,” but stopped realizing everyone was doing it. I also caught myself today when I almost asked if I should go get the silverware…slow learner.

Today I spent the day observing. It was a good day, with a lot of positive moments. However, the gawking is old already!! I once again experienced the formalities of this school, as the girls rose when I entered a room and asked my permission for before they walked past me. I’ve decided that as soon as I begin teaching I will ask them to show their respect in other ways.

However, the most exciting event of the day was an invitation to a wedding. Achen assured us we would all have the opportunity to go to many weddings….first full day and I already got invited! Although I can’t pronounce the woman’s name and I only maybe could pick her out of a crowd, I’m invited. I was very excited to text Madison and Jim this news only to receive Jim’s response that he had ALREADY been to a wedding. Day 1…this year has excitement in store.

Well, its 9pm and I am exhausted. I must get some sleep so I can get up at 6 for morning devotion. Crawling into my mosquito-net covered bed….goodnight!

Here I Am

So here I sit…in India, in my new home. My first thought once I got here was sh**, I’m really here. The place I have been imagining for months, the girls I have been eager to meet, the fish curry that I’m been dreading to try is here-I am here.

Our 40km drive from Achen’s house to Nicholson took 6 hours to complete as we weaved in and out of cars, dropped Jim and Madison off at their sites and sat in some Indian traffic jam with horns beeping constantly. I was happy to drop Jim and Madison off, as I was able to see where they both will be learning and serving. Jim has a bachelor pad by Indian standards; a large apartment with 2 beds, plenty of space for himself. Madison and I have smaller rooms, but rooms that will serve the purpose for the year. I must admit I was a little taken back at first, but after putting up some pictures, a map of the world and laying blankie on my pillow I was ok . I appreciated the time Susama Kochama, my supervisor gave me to set-up my room. It was nice to take a deep breath after arriving and eating my first meal but it also the first time since this journey began that I was completely alone.

At 4pm I joined Susama Kochama for tea. She introduced me to my language tutor as I ate my absolutely delicious biscuit (Mom, this makes 4 things that I like…don’t worry.) It was interesting to see how the girls shyly peeked around the corner, staring out of curiosity. I invited them to come talk but later realized that as I was sitting with one of the four head teachers, they were too embarrassed to speak English. I soon realized what was happening and asked if I could go play with them. They taught me a game and we played until their prayer time. Although I couldn’t repeat a single girls name correctly and I had a hard time mimicking their dance moves, we lit up each other’s lives immediately. I am so excited to get to know each of the girls better. Although I’m miles away from loved ones and miss them like crazy already, these girls are the ones I meant to love now, in this place.

The rest of my evening was pretty uneventful. I sat with the teachers for evening prayer and ate with Susama Kochama and Sara Kochama. I politely but also directly told them my eating preferences. In Indian culture, the need to be firm and decisive is a necessity. This doesn’t come naturally to me, but as I thought about it the idea eating fish for a year and I was easily able to muster up the courage to tell them I prefer other foods. I found out, Sara Kochama doesn’t care for fish either, I felt much better knowing this.

The first post from my new home would not be complete without a little description of the place. Nicholson Higher Secondary School sits on 26 acres. Some of this land is part of a rubber plantation (I’m fascinated by the looks of these plantations,) other parts are fruit trees with one central building in the middle. I described it to Madison and Jim as the jungle of Kerala. The center of the building is a courtyard where the girls hang their laundry to dry. There appear to be other buildings that are used for classrooms but my tour was interrupted. Approximately 400 girls attend this boarding school Last year was the 100th birthday for the school. Although I missed it, I was assured that this year’s party will be just as great!
The girls are used to discipline and routine. The single chime of a bell rings to tell the girls what time it is and when they need to be in their next activity. Each girl I met formally greeted me by stopping what they were doing to stand-up and acknowledge my presence. I was so tempted to wave like a queen as I have never experienced such formal or royal treatment before. There are 2 curriculums or syllabuses used for the girls. I’m still trying to figure out how these schedules and syllabuses fully work. More to come when I fully understand.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flesh into Bread

The lull in blogging is in no way a reflection of lack of activity on this side of the world. Since I’ve written last I have; swam in the Arabian Sea, visited Vasco de Gama’s original burial site and the oldest synagogue in the British Commonwealth, eaten off a banana leaf, sang in front of an Indian congregation, picked up our churidars from the seamstress and fished from a Chinese net. While the effects of jet lag are still rudely knocking on my door, the routine of Indian life is becoming much more normal, at least for now.

Tomorrow, I will travel to my site placement, and begin the process of finding my ‘home away from home.’ This is a bit scary, knowing that I am leaving my new friends behind to a place of unknown. I am able to find peace in the fact, that I have gone from being stripped of my communities back home, then the large YAV community, and now the YAV India community AND through it all, I am still alive and kicking. With each phase I have found a niche, so the comfort lies in a niche to be found at Nicholson Higher Secondary School. Achen gave each us a little more information on our individual sites. He started my individual meeting saying “Relax.” I found it funny and in a way comforting, that no matter one’s cultural background, I am still being able to understood.

I am very thankful that the church we attended was in English. I don't think I will have this luxury every week so I enjoyed it while I could. It was an interesting experience with all the fun of figuring out how things are done in a new place. On this particular Sunday we shared Communion. Amidst trying to figure out how the distribution system (women receive the bread and wine before men, women cover their heads when receiving Communion and the wine is scooped from the cup into our mouths,) worked and trying to open my mouth wide enough so that spoon didn’t touch any part of my mouth (which definitely skimmed my tongue,) Achen’s words from our bible study the day before echoed through my head. He reminded us as we read 1 Corinthians chapter 11, that when we come to the table as a community we need not be so concerned about turning the bread into flesh, as remembering to turn our flesh into bread. Achen put his Catholic colleague’s words so eloquently that chills ran through my body. While I doubt I am able to convey the same power of these words, my hope is next time you break bread, you reflect on turning your flesh into bread in your everyday life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Learning to Adjust

Today I only woke up at 6 am compared to 4:30 am yesterday. Today I found it normal to hear the Muslim call to prayer while taking our lessons from Achen. Today I woke up completely comfortable knowing I would eat with my hands. Today I looked at a newspaper and was able to identify Malayalam (the language spoken here in Kerala) vowels. Today I will ride an elephant! Today might even be the day I try to use the hose after I use the restroom (I tried yesterday but only managed to pick the hose up before putting it down immediately.) This is only some of the adjustments, Madison, Jim and I have faced over the past several days. This is also, only just the beginning of the adjustment period itself. The differences in daily living our most noticeable now, but as this becomes routine other differences and adjustments are sure to arise.

Yesterday and today have primarily been filled with lessons on food, culture, politics, religion and language. Each morning we begin with a short devotion. Yesterday we looked at 2 Kings chapter 5- the words in this passage were powerful as I sat as fresh as the morning sun and as powerless as the girl in the scripture.

As we sat through our first formal language lesson yesterday, I became very thankful Xavier offered sign language. The phrase, “up the creek without a paddle,” has never been more appropriate. Language has never been my thing. While I have every intention to learn the language (or at least attempt,) it surely will be a struggle- the characters are crazy and my tongue/ear synchronization is AWFUL. By this I mean I can’t get my tongue to mimic what I hear with my ear.

While this post is only a small (and choppy) snippet of our new lives, know that the start of our adjustment period is only the beginning of a year of transformation. Thanks for being apart of it!!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just the Beginning

Hello from India!! I am safe and sound, writing from my host family’s house. With patience, many laughs and help from friendly strangers we made it to the Cochin airport after 40+ hours of travel. Many notable things happened that kept the trip fun and the ‘experience of India’ real. People on the flight from JFK to Mumbai were extremely friendly and I even got the email address of a doctor on the other side of the country, just in case? At one point in the flight I was awoken by an announcement that said local authorities require the flight attendants to spray a midst. The cabin was then filled with a delicious and refreshing smell. However, the real India experience began when we got off the plane and were immediately greeted by men who took our connecting flights tickets, and nonchalantly told us our flight was delayed 7 hours but at 2 am there would be a snack handed-out, as if this was more important than the flight being delayed. Following this we experienced our first gender segregation as Madison and I, as females, had to go through a separate security check-point. Jim ended up waiting 25 minutes for us, as there were only 2 scanners for women as opposed to the 4 for men. We quickly exchanged money and called home to let people know we were safe in India. Promptly at 2 am we got our meal in Indian (free because of the delay,) ….KFC, couldn’t be more ironic! Apparently the Mumbai airport does not have an intercom system as every few seconds people walk around announcing which flights were boarding and/or leaving. We found this hysterical, even after 7 hours.

Around 6 am we boarded our flight to Cochin and were given yet another meal. At this point I had eaten 4 meals already. I tried to politely decline the meal but the flight attendant insisted I take it, true to Indian form. Madison had a lovely experience as she put her purse on the plane’s carpet only to pick it up and find it wet, most likely with urine from the lovely smell.

Once in Cochin, we quickly gathered our bags, went through customs and met Thomas John or Achen. We crammed into his car and were off to his house. His wife, had prepared breakfast for us (meal #6.) Even though our body time was telling us something different we fought the exhaustion and hung tough for a full day. This included going to town to buy our house slippers (flip-flops) and towels (more like a thin sheet.) While on this excursion we ran into a Hindu parade complete with a bedazzled elephant. The funny part was it seemed as though we were more of the attraction then the parade as we were a source of stare for many.

Achen gave us lots of useful information, Kochamma gave us lots of yummy food and we even began practicing our Malayalam this evening. Today was a great adventure and I imagine only a glimpse of the adventures that are before us in this coming year. I just took my first bucket shower and am off to bed to rest up for our busy day tomorrow.

Sending lots of love from 8,000 miles away.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Departure Day is Here

It is the day of my departure. I’m sitting here surrounded by nature’s beauty reflecting on the week and imagining the adventures of the year to come. All week I have heard YAV alumni reflect on their experience and share advice as I along with 61 other YAVs were prepared for our year. This week, much like last week, was an emotional rollercoaster. I went through many highs talking about the adventures to be had and the relationships to be formed as well as many lows imagining the realities of culture shock and the loneliness I may experience. I dove into conversations with YAVs going to both national and international sites. It was great to meet other people who will share in similar periods of joys and struggles throughout their year.

The most noteworthy event of the week was preaching at a church on Sunday with Jim and Madison (the two other India volunteers.) We spent Sunday morning at a local Presbyterian church, sharing our stories with their congregation. The pastor of the church was actually a former YAV and was among the first to serve in India. Our time spent together was good for everyone- good for Jim, Madison and I and good for Ben as we allowed him to articulate his experience and we gained more insight on what to expect. It was also a great bonding experience! I know Madison, Jim and I will be a great support system for each other. Both Madison and Jim have great personalities and will be fun travel companions as well as people I feel comfortable going to in times of need.

Our plane departs tonight at 9:30. We will be in air for 15 hours and 50 minutes before landing in Mumbai. From Mumbai we will switch airports and then fly to Cochin where our site coordinator will meet us. Hopefully this goes smoothly as we only have 2.5 hours to get through customs and travel to the domestic airport across town. Our site coordinator sent us a sweet email last night expressing his excitement for our arrival! I am ready to get there and get this adventure rolling.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

As I am trying to have a productive day with high hopes of crossing off lots of things on all 9 of my lists of to-dos, I noticed a peace that came over me. I have lots to do as I am trying to pack simultaneously for India as well as Cincinnati, as I will spend my list week in the United States visiting friends in Cincinnati. If you know me, you know my Type A personality doesn’t handle un-orderly things. Everything must be written down for me to feel like I have a handle of things, I like to know what I can expect with 2 back-up plans for every situation and every last detail is fine-tuned so I won’t need to use those 2 back-up plans. So naturally you might be thinking (as I have thought to myself before,) “How the heck will she handle India?”

As I have spent time processing this upcoming year, I have prepared myself that it is a year full of unknown. Right now the details are cloudy, I can’t fine-tune anything, making a list is practically impossible and my ability to mentally forecast any situation is completely halted by the unknown. Today, I found peace in that. I noticed that as I was planning out how I would spend the rest of the day and also thinking about the year to come, reading different things online, trying to soak up as much information on Kerala as my brain will allow, I felt ok not needing to be in control. Even though I still have 12 days until I even set out, I see God’s presence on this adventure.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where the Moon Shines, may there be a prayer

Two nights ago, I was sitting on the back porch with my parents having just gotten back from a short-visit to Cincinnati. My dad pointed out the moon was shining through the trees, reflecting beautifully. We were sharing conversation about this past weekend and my plans for the last couple weeks before I leave. As I was gazing at the moon, it struck me that in less than a month I won’t be in New Wilmington watching the moon but rather in Thiruvalla, India.

I have so many things to look forward to in the weeks before I leave for Stony Point, NY on August 23. I will leave New Wilmington early on the 23rd and spend a week in orientation with the other YAV volunteers, both national and international, before flying to Mumbai, India on August 30th. From Mumbai, I will fly to Cochin, a city in Kerala, where my site-coordinator, Rev. Thomas John, will meet me and the two other volunteers. I will spend time with Thomas John and his wife before leaving for my year’s placement. I am looking forward to getting to know Madison and Jim, the other two volunteers placed in Kerala, during this adjustment period at Thomas John’s house.

My last weeks are packed with weddings and other joyous occasions including a trip to visit my sister in Georgia and my Grandad and cousins in Maryland. I have lots to enjoy before this adventure begins. The days are sure to fly by as my excitement (and nerves!!) continue to grow. I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. I am excited to share this year with you as it is your support and love that allows me to push forward on this experience. I truly believe that while I am physically over in India teaching English and sharing with the girls and teachers, I am working as your hands as it is your support that sustains me. I also want to thank those who supported me monetarily. The fundraising aspect of this year almost turned me away from this experience, so thank-you for your support. I appreciate it more than I can express.

My hope over the next month is that when you see the moon, you will say a prayer for those at the Nicholson Syrian Girls School as in one short month I will beginning my adventure with them.

Peace and lots of love