Sunday, August 24, 2008

“Listen, India is a place of uncertainties, ok”

Today was an adventure. Woke up early for a great good morning skype session with my parents. Put down some breakfast and hopped on the bus with my friend Miykaelah. She invited me to participate in a service of Siddha Yoga Meditation. This is her path of spirituality. It’s not the active American yoga you might be thinking of, but a time of reflection based on Guru teachings. Her Guru (spiritual teacher) is followed at this “center” so she wanted to find a community and wanted a friend for support. I was more than willing to see her faith articulated, I had so many questions and have a God to support me. We got there after an hour of travel and funny directions. Lucky for us we chose a great day, being Krishna’s BDAY! So they sang a mantra to Krishna and then another regular mantra from their Guru. Then we broke up into groups to encourage each other about how these teachings have affected our lives. I was able to hear such sincere and passionate Indians express themselves freely. Finishing with a time of mediation; my legs fell asleep, I tossed around. I lacked focus so I peeked around to see the old “wise” ladies swaying and clapping and smiling. They found their place of peace and once again were excited about their faith. I was humbly encouraged and took my time to thank God for peace, for silence, for each one of the people in the room. I wish I had the words to really describe the scene, but the smells, sounds, tastes, and touch where unforgettable.

Back to the house had lunch and then joined my friend Julia and Dr.Das (our RA-kinda/good friend) to the old city. This is the main place in Hyderabad where Muslims and Hindu practice their religions at the same time, in the same space. There is an amazing presences and history to this area of town. It’s like the India you think of…majestic, crowded, old, incense and dust mixed with fruit market smells all competing for your senses.

We stopped for chai and biscuits and fell quickly into life discussions: from marriage, heartbreak, loneness, growing up, to food and kids. We took the city train back and I had three people ask for my photo, with one man setting his child on my lap and asking for a photo with his camera phone. I laughed and smiled. We were asked for our autographs, what country we were from and why we were in India. The entire trip was an hour of laughter between the three of us. With16 year old boys deciding we were all best friends including secret handshakes. With an older gypsy lady poking me to leave the train with her. With us deciding we were from Canada with fake names and numbers in all. We had a great time!

You just never know what your day holds…

P.s. Just wanted to thank every person reading this for your prayers and thoughts. They sustain me. Be encouraged!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Closing me eyes to see

I feel like I closed my eyes 6am on Saturday in yoga and have only seen God’s abundant and timely grace since. I got to skype my parents, Jordan, and Lynn; each one of them listening to me, and in return I was honored to listen to them. After such a week as last week I needed REAL. Not saying the people or experiences I am having aren’t real, but my real core is made from these people (and others). Each one of you reading this (if even just Jordan-lol) I want to thank you. You are my church, you are my community, you are my strength even when you are weak. For I see God in you, I meet God with you. I got out of my funk, went out for a friend’s birthday and decided I was going be ok; better than ok, HAPPY (Mai khuse hu –hindi- I am happy).
So, I am going to indulge in whatever I know will continue to free me and keep me seeking our God. I told a couple people I wanted to buy a guitar, they chimed in that we should all share the cost and have a house guitar-ANSWER TO PRAYER. I wanted a better fitness challenge and I was introduced to Sy (for short) and he introduced me to artist (butt kicking) yoga-ANSWER TO PRAYER. I needed the sun to come out for more than one hour. The rain stopped and didn’t start until today-ANSWER TO PRAYER. Do not be fooled, I did not deserve these blessings. I did not know this was how God was going to bless me. I did not know I would be able to see them. But THROUGH GRACE, my friends…God met me where I was. Or maybe he was here the entire time and I finally closed my eyes and saw HIM.
Finally I really wanted to see our kids on campus, but one week had passed and I had not made the time for them. TODAY, no joke, Madave and her brother Sennu (sp?) showed up at my doorstep, asking for me. For me. Me. I am utterly broken. Broken to tears. Madave takes my hand and says, “Come on baby, come on.” The one phrase she picked up from me-lol-ok I was taking her on my bike uphill and it was tough ok. I laugh remembering that day and bend down to their eye level. Sennu lets his soft brown hand run down my arm to meet my hand. I am in love. I am in love with love. I am in love with this pure moment of Grace. “Acha, acha, acha.” Madave encourages me as she now touches her hand to Tess and Julia too (the three of us have mainly worked together playing with them). She was saying “Sister, sister, sister.” I will never forget when she let us be part of her family-ANSWER TO PRAYER.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Color, Color, Everywhere

Rachel's 20th B-day celebration------->

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Freedom From…

The music is off. The friends are gone and this will be my first night having my hostel almost all to myself. The silence is not only necessary, but acts as a blanket around my entire body. This week has been the hardest one, so far. I have no cool stories or lines for sympathy. I find it completely obnoxious to complain living next slums and knowing what I know about our decaying world. Where does this leave me?

If you don’t mind I will use this break to be honest with myself.

I have let living next to such poverty become a claustrophobic burden. I am at “that point.” The one everyone forewarns you about; the one that hits no matter how long you strive keep it way. Well, congratulations, I’m there. How much longer can I walk by the same slums, letting my heart break each time? Wasting food, over eating, laziness, snacking, electricity, heating, water… are hard to swallow. Visiting our kids only when we “have time.” Dropping them off at their homes (some would call slums) and having to leave them there. How do I reconcile? How do I justify? This is the bottom line I can now say with confidence after help from parents, Compassion (the book), Jordan, friends, and Eph 4 (thanks Lynn); it is this, I am free in Christ. I am free in Christ. I am free in Christ. You are free in Christ. We are free. I cannot live in fear of these realities because then no action is produced and then my heart is broken in vain. RATHER, dear friends I will fight…in love, in touch, in prayer (lots of prayer), in time, in hugs, in food, in knowledge, in listening. These are my tools I have been given to fight injustice. What do you have? What will you do? Who will you fight for? Or will you fight at all?

We have had some great days of no power and I have seized the time to be with the Lord in meditation and I must tell you this. Life is hard, whether struggling to pay for school in San Diego or India; whether denying yourself cheap pleasures in Vegas or Spain; whether crying over lost relationships in OC or South Africa. Listen! Please understand this does not lessen your issue or struggles, as I once thought. No! Christ is saying there is more! There is a choice TO LIVE (that is active) FREE.

“Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains.”
Jean Jacques Rousseau

Sorry to be so long winded, but that just flowed and hope you followed. Thank you each one of you for believing in me and loving me enough to support me here, where I am. You will not be forgotten. My love for you increases daily as I feel I need each one of you more. In honor of India’s Independence Day tomorrow I leave you with, “shanti, shanti, shanti.” (Sanskrit: peace, peace, peace)

P.s. more pictures to come...and don't know why this is underlined

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beauty is how deep?

Namaste family! This weekend was out first unplanned "relaxing" time. So what do we do, but treat ourselves to Girls day! We headed across town to a beauty parlor. On our way on the bus we are usually treated like celebrities. Constantly given the open seat and asked for our names and why we are in India. The women giggle to each other with each handshake or answer we return to them. Three woman in burkas asked me my name over serious laughs. As one woman went to put her hand to her face, as I do when I cover my mouth from laughing too hard, a stream of bright neon bangles slipped out. I pointed to them and said I loved it! She quickly lowered her head and covered her wrist once again. We began talking and they were so proud of me for knowing the area, where we were going, what we were studying and that we were up on the movies (a HUGE deal here!). I was only allowed to see their eyes, but I was overtaken by how much of their facial expressions I could be read through the slits that their huge brown eyes filled. I wonder how they find themselves beautiful? For us (American culture) "less is more", while here "more is never enough" (emily would love it).
We are welcomed inside the beaut parlor and I will never forget the feeling of safety. It is one of the only WOMEN ONLY areas in India (other than the home/kitchen). A man actually tried to come in and was quickly pushed back outside and then a message was sent outside to see what he could possibly want. I giggled at the foreign scene. Women filled every seat fully covered, either in starch black burkas or CRAZY colorful wedding sari. Either way, my definition of beauty was redefined. Instead of getting ice cream after pedicures and manicures, we covered our feet and hands in henna, got our nose pierced (yah!), and some got their eyebrows threaded (like waxing). They specialized in things we consider unnecessary, like how to wrap a wedding sari or how to put on the most ridiculous amount of jewelery. They have TWO day wedding specials, of completely recoloring your skin (cause white is still right, even more in asia), covering your body in henna and massive amounts of makeup, clothes and jewelry. I complemented one lady after she got her hair done, it was long, silky, jet black with a perfect bump under curl. I quickly and joyful said "You look great, your hair looks beautiful!" She slowly and shyly put her head down and said softly "Thanks" while in the same minute covered it completely returning her body under full burka. Who was defining beauty for this women, her husband? being the only man that gets to enjoy her gorgeous hair? I have held the theory that as women we dress to impress other women, cause honestly guys don't notice (as much as we imagine they do). But in this country, is it all driven by the man's standard of respect and beauty?
We finally left, renewed in our new view of womanhood. But the smiles on our faces were washed away with rain. The paper this morning said we received 15cm in 24 hours! Oh, monsoon season. We had to hid inside a hotel for about two hours until we could get a ride home. They charged triple the amount because they knew we were desperate and they didn't know if they could even make it through the flooded streets. The papers also said 40 precious people passed away just through the beginning of these storms, we are expected to get two more days of it. Please know I AM SAFE.
As we got home my first thoughts were with our kids on south campus, they ALL live in "slums"/ "shanties." I felt so distant and out of control. After a day of being landlocked in our hostel they rains let up for about an hour today and we got on our bikes and petaled our hearts out to South Campus. I had nothing to offer them, not even a blanket, I just had to see for myself if they were ok. My heart was beating so fast and was slowly pieced together as I saw my little Aneil running out to see me. I rang my bike bell and couple more kids came out. They had fires going and food cooking. Every house looked a little more soggy then usual, but they were ok. I asked Aneil if he was ok and he yelled, "Ya teacher!" Thats all I needed. My heart was broken in helplessness, but I have to leave each one of them with God. In the hands of the creator of these very rains. He alone will hold them, warm them, feed them, and love each one of them tonight.

Thank you for your prayers. I have never been so thankful for a dry house, warm clothes, warm food, and a warm bed, and YOU my family. Be blessed today! Sing and dance over each one your possessions, because you should know you are BLESSED beyond reason. Please continue to lift up our kids!

P.s. you know life will be ok, when you still have 4pm chai time and your computer has chai spots filtered all over the keyboard (don't worry I will clean it)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kick the Bucket

Sorry to take so long to follow up with the rest of my weekend, but I was passed the friendly head cold and had to sleep it off. But I kicked it! After a great early morning of yoga I want to fill everyone in on this past weekend.
Our program took us to a bridge school about two hours away. This is a school for just girls that have been saved from child labor or child abuse. They are offered this way of escape then brought into intense schooling, to catch up to their own age level of school. I had the opportunity to meet almost all of the 200+ girls and I hope to never forget them. We sang, danced, played, and laughed. They touched me physically and mentally in ways I didn't know I needed. (Like simply holding my hand)
I left a part of my heart with Suppira--->
She is nine years old and fell in love with me and my camera,
she took photos that I will never forget! The girls, didn't see a
difference between skin, hair, or accent. They loved us and played with us as though we were family. I pray for this school as they are faced with the challenges of dirty business men and village families that can't afford for their children not to work.

We again went and visited our kids on campus and I had missed them even more after seeing these girls. We played with them all sunday and it became my church. I was ministering and they ministered in return. We hugged each other and laughed with each other in ways I find some church people wouldn't even attempt. These children meet me on personal level and never cease in energy and passion. Even though I can't tell this children, Jesus Loves You! GOD MADE YOU and found you BEAUTIFUL. I can touch them, breath on them, pray over them, and leave them with GOD. God has again showed me grace through my new friends. Please continue to pray for them and us and we are trying to make more and more efforts to help this kids progress in their lives. There are so many but our solid 50 are constant now and we just need to let them now we are serious about them and we can HELP.

Ok, so here is to week 5! The rains are heavy but they lifted this morning so I will do a load of bucket laundry with my music blasting reminding me I can do this for four more months because our God is faithful.
photo taken by Suppira!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Brewed senses

Good evening or Good morning or anything in between! Today marks my fourth week in India and the time seems so long YET so controllably quick. This week we finally ventured back into the city after waiting around for the green light, since we were on red. But we realized that we have to live in the RED. We got a group of eight and headed to Abids a great eccentric area! Half of us went crazy at an art supply store and the other half went crazy over shoes (each to their own)! We meet up for dinner and the boys found us “this place,” maybe Bargara or something. I might not be able to remember the name of “this place” but the food was UNFORGETTABLE. We were feed like kings and queens for about 4 American dollars each! We cried, laughed, sniffed, cried, and could not stop eating the overwhelmingly spicy dishes. The rice, the naan, the yogurt, and the water…nothing could cure the burning sensations felt through my entire body. “It hurts so good!” My friend Thi let out. We all exchanged grins over the longest 30 minutes. Being a veg has never been so crazy! My senses were heightened! My mouth was awakened and each taste will never be forgotten.
I believe this awakened sense was the beginning of my weekend (so far). I audited Philosophy of Human Rights this morning with friends! One of our favorite professors teaches so I went just engage my brains and I was not disappointed. The class was so full we had to find a new classroom where he dove right in, “Everyman is born free but is everywhere in chains.” Then moving into law and state. What and who defines these big words. What freedoms are we willing to give up for our rights? (Is your mind going? ya!) I ate it up! My ears were pushing to get every word, follow every concept. I wanted to hear the direct phrasing and hear every joke. I was open to hear. This statement may sound simple but TRY IT.
Then went out and visited our kids today! (If not another sense could be engaged) I missed them and they remembered me, which still makes me smile right now. A couple of my main girls were missing and I was bummed. This school is trying, but with 50 kids and 2 teachers it’s hard. We brought out 16 students today, so half of us helped build a barbed wire fence to keep animals (goats, dogs, buffalo, cows) out of their bamboo made school, while the other half played with the kids! Finally before we left my girls strolled by. With the language barrier we only get so far and then just laugh, giggle, and stare, but I wanted to know why they didn’t come to school. “School?” I yell as I make my way to cut them off. I knelt in close and the oldest girl quietly describes something about head hurting (maybe), body hurting (maybe) and food to deliver. Hahaha…she could quickly see I wasn’t following so I knelt in closer. She slowly reached out her soft brown hand and grabbed by chin. In this instance I became the innocent child and she became the wise old grandma. She cared for me and wanted me to understand. Her touch still feels warm to my face. I found out later that their dad was sick or got injured from work and it was their place to take of him. They missed school to care for their dad.

I will dig into this topic more tomorrow after visiting another kind of school. To be continued…

(Please pray for our direction with these kids, they are purely a gift from God! We are thinking something like )

(photo taken by molly)