Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Weeks in India...

“Let’s spend at least three weeks in India, so we have time to visit family and explore other parts of the country that we haven’t seen before,” we planned.  That conversation took place before we left our home several months ago.  India was the fourteenth county on our itinerary.  We did end up spending three weeks there, but the plans for exploring the country quickly faded after we arrived.  Instead, time with friends and family filled our calendar.  That much time with family also meant that delicious Indian cuisine consistently filled our bellies.  It was a much needed time of rest - especially after touring so much of the world - as we enjoyed the comfort of being in friend’s and family’s homes.  It was treasured time as we don’t often get to spend much with our relatives living across the world.  

Matthew and I were both amazed when we flew into the Delhi airport at how different it was since our last visit four years ago.  The entire airport has been redone with beautiful artwork and statues all around.

Not only that, but the city has changed.  Since the Commonwealth games were held in Delhi, the city has been cleaned up.  No longer are there numerous cows, pigs, and other animals weaving the streets between the cars.  There are also no longer massive piles of garbage scattered along the streets.  There is now a clean and efficient metro system which we often frequented during our three weeks there.  Some things, however, have not changed.  The roads are still full of cars and rickshaws weaving between each other while only sometimes following the rules of the road, and your ears are still assaulted by the constant sounds of honking.  There are still wires hanging everywhere in a tangled mess, with monkeys sometimes hanging down. 

Vendors still stand by the side of the road offering sweet chai and cooking street food that makes your mouth water when you smell it.  Unfortunately, our bellies often do not tolerate it well (which we affectionately call, “Delhi Belly”) so we have to pass on partaking.  Matthew and I love Indian food and could happily eat it daily.  We can’t think of a single meal that we did not thoroughly enjoy.   “I could eat this every day,” Matthew said consistently, hoping that I would get the not so subtle hint that he would love for me to learn more Indian cooking.  :)

Although we didn’t explore many different parts of the country, we did leave Delhi to take a trip to a mountain town, called a “hill station”, named Mussoorie.  Our first trip to the mountains in India revealed a beautiful and peaceful location which also brought welcome reprieve from the heat and humidity of Delhi.  It was only after our five days in Mussoorie that I learned that my father had gone to school there when he was a boy.

The reason we visited Mussoorie was to spend the week visiting an office called eMi – Engineering Missions International – an organization that Matthew’s father started years ago in which engineers and architects partner with local churches around the world to complete all kinds of projects including water systems, hospitals, schools, bridges etc.  The staff at the eMi office in Mussoorie welcomed us with chai and invited us to observe and participate during the orientation of the interns that was happening that week.  They housed us, fed us, and shared their lives with us.  We enjoyed meeting and hanging out with the four architecture and engineering interns, one who lives in the same town as my parents and another who is from the same town I lived in as a child.  We were also blessed to get to know the director of the office, also named Matthew and his wife Ivy, as well as some of the other staff members Hubert and Sunil.  They are all amazing people and I hope that our paths cross again someday.  We were really encouraged by our time with them.  We also didn’t realize how much we needed to rest until we were able to do so in that serene setting.

Back in Delhi, Matthew and I had fun exploring the city via the metro, doing some shopping and putting my bargaining skills to the test to purchase and mail things home to my mother.  We visited many of my aunts and uncles enjoying time in their homes, seeing what their daily lives are like, going out to eat, and even spending a night doing karaoke with their friends.  My uncle also took us to his church where we met a young guy that shared his absolutely incredible testimony with us.  We are not used to hearing about people facing that kind of persecution for their faith.

We also spent our days visiting friends and trying to get our computer fixed.  Sadly, our water bottle had leaked on our computer, frying the mother board, at the end of our time in Rwanda.  Of all places in the world, one would think that India would be the place to fix a computer.  “If it can’t be fixed here, it can’t be fixed,” my uncle declared.  He was right, it couldn’t be fixed. 

One night, we ventured out by auto rickshaw to see a movie, which proved to be an adventure.  I was surprised at how challenging it was that I don’t speak Hindi because daily on the street people would assume I should speak and understand the language.  They were often confused and sometimes frustrated when I could not answer them if they used vocabulary outside my basic understanding.  In Hindi, our family friend gave the auto rickshaw driver a detailed explanation of directions to the theater as she sent us on our way.   We didn’t realize when the driver dropped us off that this was not the theater we intended to visit.  When we tried to purchase tickets, we assumed that the man at the counter said that our movie was sold out.  In actuality, he said that our movie wasn’t playing there (again, the language barrier).  Once we realized that we were at the wrong theater, some locals helped us explain to another rickshaw driver which theater we needed to go to.  We hopped on and rushed to the other theater hoping we would only miss the previews.  The driver dropped us off and we rushed up to the theater only to realize that he also had left us at the wrong theater!  Thankfully, the other theater was within walking distance so we headed that direction.  We finally made it to the right theater and incredibly after all that chaos, only missed about 15 minutes of our movie.

Our other adventures in Delhi included a day spent with a good friend from back home.  Satish, otherwise known as Dan, DSB, or “little brother” as I call him, left the U.S. and was passing through Delhi on his way to another part of India where he volunteers regularly.  It’s pretty fun to spend time with people from home when you are halfway around the world.  Our day was spent catching up on life, eating some more mouth watering food, and then ended with a metro ride back to my family’s place.  It was my cousin’s birthday and there was going to be a party at the house complete with a dance floor and DJ.  We enjoyed introducing Satish to the family and had fun chatting and dancing the night away.

Our friend Mary (who we spent time with in Rwanda) connected us with her cousin who lives in Delhi.  Anugrah and his family welcomed us to their home in Delhi.  After we arrived we realized that their home is located very close to the area where my mother grew up.  We enjoyed an evening with their family and loved hearing about their lives and ministry.  Anugrah and his wife told us stories about how they had chosen to live in one of Delhi’s slums to love the poor.  They spent time helping people with their basic needs and advocating for their neighbors to get things like medical care that they could not access because of their social status.  Matthew and I were amazed when we told them about our visit to eMi because Anugrah and his father both think they may have met Matthew’s dad years ago when he was still working with eMi.  It was pretty incredible to meet a family in India who knows both my family and my husband’s family!

Another dream come true on this adventure we are living, was meeting our sponsor child..

Asha was shy at first.  When they first brought her into the room to meet us, she quietly kept nodding her head from side to side in agreement with whatever was said.  Asha, the girl we sponsor through Compassion International, has grown much in the 3 ½ years since I started sponsoring her.  I was so excited to meet her.  Asha warmed up after her initial shyness after we walked with her to her home where we met her father and saw her family’s tiny two room house.  The two rooms were a bedroom and a kitchen, both rooms approximating 10x20 feet total.

The power went out after we arrived at her home and she quickly went to get a candle and matches.  Much of what she did that day showed that she is a caring and responsible girl.  We had given her a package of candies and instead of eating them, she gave every person she encountered a piece of the candy.  When I asked her if she had eaten any, she hadn’t.  The staff confirmed that she is a good student and is very responsible and has many friends.  Throughout the day she would go and bring her friends to introduce them to us.  Matthew played the guitar and we sang together in English and in Hindi.  Asha also showed us some of her Indian dancing and we were able to dance together.  The kids at the Compassion project had also prepared a program for us including singing, reciting scripture verses by memory, and Indian dancing complete with costumes.

While Matthew and I talked with the Compassion staff, Asha drew pictures for us with the letters A+M (Asha and Moni) and the words “I love you” written across each one.  During our conversations with the staff members, Matthew and I were encouraged and awed while we listened to them tell us about their lives, learning of the persecution that some of them faced for their faith, even being beaten by family members.

I cannot express how fulfilling it was to spend the day with Asha and the Compassion staff.  The office had a world map so we showed Asha where we live and how far away India is from our home.  The other amazing thing was that throughout the day as we talked about our lives and our families, we realized that many of our family members have the same names!  I just love that feeling of God connecting people’s lives from around the world.

After India, we headed to Kathmandu, Nepal...

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