Wednesday, January 23, 2008

India Log

While a bit late (now that I'm back) and quite long, I thought I'd post all of the updates I wrote while in India...

January 8
So, it has been a significant stretch here to begin the trip withoutemail or phone access. When they said the conference was in Chennai,that was a bit of an approximation. :) It was in a rather remote areacalled Mahabalipurim about an hour and a half outside bus ride fromChennai. So, internet and phone were not so easy to come by.
Anyway, I am here in Dehradun now, and John and the team are alsohere. It is great to see them! I am also very thankful to be in oneplace for a stretch of time, as I figured out on Sunday evening that Ihad spent almost equal time in India up to that point in various modesof transportation as I had doing anything else! To sum up my travels,I had a flight from LA to London (around 10 hours), a layover inLondon (9 hours), flight to Delhi (9 1/2 hours), afternoon break,train ride to Chennai (33 hours), waiting in station (2 hours), busride to Mahabalipurim (1 1/2 hours), and then after the conference,the return bus ride back to Chennai, a few hours in the train station,the return train trip to Delhi, a metro ride to the bus terminal, abus ride to Dehradun (8 hours). Whew! Glad to be done with that.Hindsight being what it is, it would have been nice to fly directlyinto Chennai! :)
The travel felt very tiring to me this time, and it seemed to take mea little longer to get oriented to what in the world day it was! Itwas really great to be at the conference with those from the Vineyardsfrom all over India. I was privileged to join all of the pastors fora couple of afternoon discussions and further vision and plans werebeing discussed and are taking shape. I also had many wonderfulconversations and times of connecting with various people. Iparticularly enjoyed sharing a room with my sweet friends Alotoly andAtoli (sisters of pastor Sunny's wife Vika), though our other tworoommates amused us quite a bit.
On the last night of the conference, there was a talent night. I justhave to share a few highlights that stuck out to me as a Westerner.The first was a song. As the girl got up to share the song, theperson who was introducing her, said she was going to sing a song fromIndia's favorite English movie. I sat there wondering what it couldbe and would everyone actually have one collective favorite. Sheasked the group what the movie was, and without hesitation and inperfect unison, everyone shouted, "Titanic"! Wow, really?! Maybe I'mbiased being from LA, but I think we've put out a lot of good moviessince then! Anyway, she proceeded to sing "My Heart Will Go On" withwhat was a strange combination of an Indian accent and an attemptedAmerican accent that came off as Southern. Interesting.The second was, not one, but TWO solo dance performances to "Move YourBody." Not actually sure if that is the name of the song, but it is arather, um, crass rap song that I am fairly certain shocked many ofthe people in the room, and the ones who weren't shocked probablydon't speak English. The particularly amusing performace to me wasfrom a boy from Mottrawalla (a very small village outside ofDehradun). This boy barely speaks any English, has rarely been pastDehradun in any travels, and yet was up in front with an Avril LavigneT-shirt (unconnected other than being American, I guess), doing theserap guy moves with a little gangsta' attitude on his face!Unbelievable! Apparently, the kids in the village there gather at onehouse to watch MTV! So strange.
We took the team yesterday to two Hindu holy cities to get a betterunderstanding of the culture here and the dynamics of the religion.One of the ladies from the church here accompanied us and brought herson. As he was drinking a juice box, one of the many wandering streetcows passed him and made a sudden movement that knocked him over. Hehit his forehead on the rough stone pavement and instantly had thisgigantic knot forming on his head! After much confusion and somedisagreement from the locals, we got some ice to put on it. He seemedfine by last night, but please pray he will not have any trauma oranything from it.
Tomorrow we will spend the day in the village, visiting homes and thendoing a children's program (not planned ahead of time, so a bit ofscrambling today to prepare).
Please continue to pray for health for the team. The weather is notnearly as cold as last year, but the air quality is quite poor. Weare all doing well so far, though.
I should sign off as I need to visit the tailor and then meet up withthe team for some dinner and some preparations for the rest of theweek.

January 9
We have actually been ableto now connect to the wireless connection at our hotel on our laptop!It is a bit slow and sometimes doesn't work, but overall, it's veryconvenient! The hotel manager said yesterday that we can pay himwhatever price we think is fair. Not exactly the way we're used tobusiness operating in the U.S.
So, a quick note from my previous email about Abheet (the little boywith the bump on his head)...John and Patrick went to a home group athis family's house this evening, and he is doing just fine! The bumpis barely even visible, and he's had no ill effects. Part of being alittle boy is the bumps and bruises, I guess.
Yesterday, after scrambling to pull together some supplies for thechildren's outreach in the village today, we found out we won't bedoing that until Friday. At least we're prepared. We still went tothe village today. When I talk about "the" village, there is one mainone (Mothrowala), but it is actually a series of home clusters invarious spots. I don't actually know the names of all of them, ifthey even have official separate names. We started at Sanjay's home,who is the pastor of the village church. His is also the home wherewe set up the water purification system last year when we were here.There is one part on the system that just broke, so we will replacethat while we are here, but it seems to be working well. Sanjay is avery charismatic and wonderful guy! We very much enjoy spending timewith him and his family, though there can be some communication gapssince his English is limited, and my Hindi is pre-beginner! Johnasked him this morning, "So, Sanjay, whose homes will we be visitingtoday?" He paused for a moment to think of how to respond in English,and then he said, "All." Hmmm....
Well, we actually did visit more homes in one day than I probably everhave done anywhere. So, perhaps "all" was not that bad of adescription. We went to a more village cluster than I had evervisited before. Sanjay was directing the taxi driver (who is from thecity part of Dehradun) on how to get there, and we basically came tothe edge of a river (small one, but still seemed a bit more than acreek to me). Sanjay was directing the driver to go on, and Ithought, Surely we are not going to actually drive across this water.Wrong. After some skepticism from the driver as well, Sanjay directedhim to follow along certain rocks, and we drove right across. Sanjaygrinned and said, "No water."
After visiting a few homes in that village, we went on to a clusterwhere the majority of the people either are or used to be snakecharmers. (Side note: I hate snakes! Luckily, none of them came outtoday! Last year when we visited one guy's home, he poked the basketwhere the snake was sleeping. He looked up and said, "He angry...Youhold him?" Angry snake?! No thanks!) We visited many homes thereand then ended our time at a home a little ways away where fourbrothers and their families all live that we know quite well.
Every home we went to wanted to give us chai (tea). We had it severalplaces, but luckily, Sanjay told many of them we had to move on, or Ithink we'd all be floating by tonight. In so many of the homes wevisited, many people had "fever." Since most don't go to doctors formuch, they tend to have rather generic descriptions of illnesses, soit is hard to say what was actually going on for many of them. Pleasepray for their health. Most live in rather sparse conditions, so itis hard for them to get over even a basic cold when the weather isless than ideal. Please also pray for protection over the health ofour team as we spent much of the day in small homes with many who wereill. We are trusting God to protect us as we know He was with us, butplease just keep it in your prayers for us to be protected. We reallydid have a wonderful day visiting the homes, and I think the teamreally enjoyed the experience of visiting the homes of these familiesthat live so differently.
Well, I am fading quickly this evening, so I'll sign off.

January 14
So, we're on our last couple of days in Dehradun, and then we'll headto Delhi for a couple of days before returning home on Saturday.Sunday morning, John and Michelle went to the village church whereJohn gave the message, and Patrick, Emily, and I went to the citychurch. I played the keyboard and sang with them for worship, which Ialways enjoy. The worship leader Pinto is a good friend of John andmine and is an amazingly gifted worship leader and just a whole lot offun, as is his wife Mercy. Then I gave the message for the morning,which several commented to me that it was timely and significant forthem, which I am glad about.
Then, Sunny had arranged a trip to the "jungle" for us and some folksfrom the church. Details and communication were rather vague, so wewere all wondering exactly what the experience would involve. A pointworth noting is that the place we went, we would more likely label aforest. Well, there was a comfortable guesthouse there that we allstayed in. There were 23 people, including kids, that all fit inthree vehicles with gear to go there. We also only had 2 bedrooms, sothe whole floor of the main room of the house was covered in sleepingmats and filled with people. Our Indian friends do far more extensivefood preparations than we would think of at a pseudo-campingexperience, so we had several hours of prep for each meal. They wereall very tasty and wonderful, though, so we ate well. We didn't seequite the extent of animals we expected, but we did see monkeys, wildboars, and quite a few deer. Oh, and tons of termite mounds, if thatcounts. Today while we were eating lunch, two of the kids popped upfrom the stoop screaming hysterically. A big monkey had come over andwas closing in on their lunch. Monkeys get rather aggressive here, sothe kids had reason to be scared, but they scared us far more than themonkey did. Pinto kept a baseball bat handy to chase them away asthey kept coming near. :) All in all, it was a fun adventure, and wethoroughly enjoyed some time away with some friends from here.
We're back at the hotel tonight. We have one more full day heretomorrow. John will give a devotion for the staff in the morning.I'll connect with Vika about some things for the Women's Care Project. We all have plans to meet up with various people tomorrow, and thenwe'll have a dinner with the whole core group tomorrow evening. Ithink we may have a little birthday celebration at that time, sinceAbheet (little boy with the head bump) has his birthday tomorrow, andI turn 30 (whoa!) Wednesday. Then we will leave on a train Wednesdaymorning to head back to Delhi. We may try to attend a home groupthere that evening. Then Thursday, the team will visit the Taj Mahal. I've had more than enough Taj to last me a lifetime! :) John and Iwill meet with the staff of the Delhi Vineyard for the day and do someteaching for them. Hopefully, we'll also have some good time to talkwith Rick and Ellen (the leaders of the Delhi Vineyard and key leadersfor the Vineyard in India) about the Vineyard India partnership.Friday will be a free day for some shopping and sightseeing in Delhi,and that will wrap up our time.

January 18
Well, we are wrapping up the trip today, so this will be my last emailfrom India. Our flight leaves tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and we'llarrive back in Los Angeles late Saturday afternoon--gotta love theInternational Date Line when it "gains" you time!
We had a really nice finish to our time in Dehradun. Tuesday we hadtwo friends join us for lunch, Mercy and Lalmony. It was one of theonly times (if not THE only) Lalmony has ever been in a restaurant!She lives in Mothrawala village but came into the city to say goodbyeto us, so we were glad to be able to invite her to lunch with us.Mercy is a dear friend, and I very much enjoyed some time to talk withand pray with her. She is a unique blessing, and I am so thankful forfriendships like this and the chance to deepen them in coming tovisit!
Tuesday evening we had a dinner with the core group for DehradunVineyard. Since Abheet's birthday was that day and mine was the nextday, they got a birthday cake for us that had little race cars on itwith each of us sitting in one of the cars. It was really sweet!I'll have to send pictures when we get back.
John had a rough day Tuesday with fever and stomach problems but seemsto be doing fine again now. We arrived in Delhi Wednesday afternoon.That evening John hunted down some chocolate ice cream in honor of mybirthday. It wasn't exactly the taste we're used to, but it was a funthing to have.
Yesterday, the rest of the team went to Agra to see the Taj Mahalwhile John and I spent the day with our friends Rick and Ellen Coffinand their daughter Amy. Rick is one of the primaryleaders/facilitators for the Vineyard India partnership, so it wasgreat to have some time just to talk with them. Then in the eveningover 20 people from Delhi Vineyard came to the Coffin home to hearJohn give the "Story of the Old Testament." He did a great job, andthey seemed to enjoy it.
The travel back to our hotel that evening was...interesting. We weregoing to take the metro back, and Rick said the metro stays open untilmidnight. We left their home around 10:15. Well, in order to getback to our hotel, we needed to make two transfers. Once we arrivedat the metro station, the guy said, "No, not possible. Too late."Well, since that neighborhood would've been hard to find anautorickshaw at that time, we decided to at least go ahead with thefirst leg of the metro, which we could do and would take us to ahigher traffic area. Well, the basic summary of our experience ingetting an "auto" back to our hotel from there is that four whitepeople late at night have limited bargaining power! :) They wereasking way too much, and while the amount of money doesn't seem likemuch when you convert, it is frustrating to know it is more thandouble what it should cost. I tried to utilize my Hindi, but itdoesn't really hide the fact that I'm white! :) Emily and I startedto get in one auto that seemed to agree to our price, only for us tohave overly friendly hands roaming, realize he was drunk, and stillhave him asking for more money. We quickly got out!!! We finallyagreed with one that we would just go on the meter and pay doublewhatever the meter said. It's ridiculous because they always say it's"night" rate (as if petrol costs more at night) and charge more for"extra" people (though we frequently see autos filled with 10-12Indians). Anyway, we just wanted to get back. When we arrived, themeter said 48, so we gave him 100, and he tried to tell us we owed him30 more! He was arguing all about night rate and all. It was ratherfrustrating. Our hotel, however, is very good to us and took over theconversation with him. They told us we had paid him plenty and tojust go on upstairs and not worry. Ah, transportation in Delhi!
Well, we got an easy start today, spent some time shopping, and hadsome South Indian food for lunch. The poor team hadn't gotten to trySouth Indian yet this trip because I had been rather burned out on itfrom having it every meal during the conference in Mahabalipurim! Idearly love my South Indian friends, but I have to admit that I preferNorth Indian food. :) Dosas and Uttapum, however, are tasty treats,and we got to have some today. Both basically consist of a pancakemade of rice flour. Dosas then are wrapped around filling and arecrispy, and uttapum have the filling cooked into the pancake or ontothe top and are flat.
Anyway, we'll have dinner, some debriefing, and prayer tonight withthe team. Then we'll have an early morning and arrive back home.