Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our year {so far} in photos...

I haven't really posted very many photos lately, so I thought I would just fill a 
whole post up with all the goodies.

We recently hosted an event on campus where 15 artists from the Bindu Art School came and painted. The art school was founded by an Austrian artist to teach leprosy patients in one of Rising Star's colonies. It is an inspiring thing to watch these men and women paint with missing digits and clawed hands.

Everybody there wanted this painting when she was finished. It was amazing!

 This is Velu, one of our drivers, who absolutely loves Cohen
...he calls him 'Cohen, my friend' whenever he sees him.

One day out on Medical, Velu picked up this little goat for Cohen to hold. Cohen was in heaven!

...and here they are playing around with Cohen's rubber snake, Rattle. Velu thought is was so cool and wanted me to take a whole bunch of pictures with it.

Avery with the same adorable goat!

Liberty with Vaishnavi K. out at playtime.

This is Durga Devi and everyday Lon tutors her after school.

The girls and I out with the Mobile Medical Clinic...

The kids absolutely LOVE to play with our kids.

Camry with Vignesh N. and Priyadarshini P.

Cohen and Avery have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED playing soccer with the boys every day for the last month. They can't wait for 4:45 pm to roll around.

 That's all for now....but there are many more to come as we now take our camera everywhere so we can make sure to record it all before we get on that plane to America. ; )

30 days and {sadly} counting...

Believe it or is HOT here already! Like, 90+ degrees every day. Crazy. That is the only thing that makes me feel like I want the days to go quickly--we gotta get out of here before the awful humidity comes back.

But everything else makes me wish for the days to last longer and the weeks to 
stretch out so they will stop flying by.

We have 30 days left.  Even as I type it, I think, "How is that even possible? 
How have all these months gone by already?"

My plan is to soak up all that I love about India, to drink in the beauty, the beautiful colors, and all the crazy sights. To love these kids with all my heart, to cherish the time I have left associating with all the amazing staff here, to hope and pray that the Lord will give me a way to return. Soon.

(This is what the sky looks like every night as we walk home from playtime.)

I really want to just focus on the good, on the blessings that we have had here. 
Because, of course, there are some days that are just hard.

There have been days when I have longed to be home...wishing away the noise and the chaos and the inconvenience that life can serve up over here. As my very wise husband said just the other night, "Life her is definitely simpler, but it can also be harder."
One of those days, a couple weeks ago, put me into a rut for an entire week.

Camry and I had just endured a long and grueling day at the hospital. Months 3 months ago...she had started getting an ingrown toenail that got really infected and we were unable to fix on our own. It had gotten so bad that we were actually ready and willing to go to the hospital (eek!) and have it cut out. (Remember...all the doctors are at the that is where you go even for just a normal check-up.)

It is always a long day with lots of waiting and inefficiencies. The hospital is NOTHING like our American hospitals. It is dark and not anywhere near American standards of cleanliness, though, I admit, it is way above regular Indian standards.

I will try to make a long story (and a long day) short...

We saw a doctor over in Block A (which unbeknownst to us was the "posh" area) who said he could operate the next day and that she would need to be admitted into the hospital for the day. We said, "Great". Then we found out the cost: 20,000 rupees.  (about $330--which is an absurd price)

When we told them "No way," our nurses took us over to Block D--the "poor" block. After more lines and more waiting and more consultations, we were told that they could do it for 3,000 rupees but that Camry AND I would have to stay in a common ward in the hospital for 3 days.

(You see, when you are rich, you will be given an appointment for your surgery, but when you are poor, you must be admitted into the hospital and ONLY THEN can you be put on the waiting list for your surgery...and it normally takes 2-3 days for your name to be called.)

So after we told them "NO WAY" again....we headed home.

We were hot and exhausted and so discouraged. On the way home, I could tell we were both so bothered by the raucous horns, the stop and start traffic, the bumpy roads, and the noise and crush of humanity all around us.  I found myself, on that day and the days following, dreaming of the quiet, smooth roads of home...thinking how nice it would be. I noticed that the feeling started growing in me...I would smell the all-too-common sewage smell and think, "Ugh, I can't wait until I don't have to smell that anymore!" or I would eat another plate of rice and just be dreaming of salads and pasta.

It lasted for nearly a week, until I realized--this is not how I want to spend my final weeks here. I do not want to feel "sick" of being here and anxious to be home. I don't want to wish any of this away because all too soon, 
it will be over.

Luckily...both of our stories have happy endings!

Camry was able to have her toe operation just two days later and she was at the hospital for a total of 2 hours and it was free. Our own little miracle...and a total answer to prayer and fasting! 
(One of Rising Star's Board Members is a director at the hospital and within ONE HOUR 
of arriving at his office, the surgery was done!) 

 God watches over us and can work amazing miracles!

And me? Well, I woke up one morning and headed to the roof for yoga...and somewhere between my sun salutations and savasana--gratitude and I reconnected. There is nothing like an open sky and palm trees swaying in the breeze to bring you back to where you want to be!

I am so grateful for this life-changing experience. I expect that we will see the fruit of our sacrifice for years to come. I hope that my kids will always remember the serving and the loving and the blessings...even though right now they sure are getting excited about visiting a Wendy's again!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Lucky Ones

Yep, that's us... we are the lucky ones

I know that some of my friends feel that this is a crazy huge, who takes
their family and lives in INDIA for a year? : )

But, I have to tell you...I just feel so dang lucky.
This year has been an incredible and amazing GIFT.

And sadly, it feels like time keeps speeding up. The days and weeks are passing and I just want to hang on to them a little longer. There are many things that I will be so glad to
return to in the States:
smooth roads
our own car
family and friends
MORE SALADS (I'm not kidding!)
and PUbLiC SChOolS!
(Oh,yeah! Can someone give me a Hallelujah?)

But there are even more things I will miss:

the simplicity of life here

the time to just be together
the beauty of this campus and the surrounding villages
LIFE everywhere
...the villagers, the goats, cows, ducks, and birds
how amazing is it that every few weeks we get to meet another group of people that would sacrifice their time and money to come here and serve?
our cRaZy India FaMilY
 these wonderful long-term volunteers who have truly become our loved ones
and ThE ChiLdReN! heart hurts every time I think of saying goodbye to all these beautiful little people. There are so, so many of them that I have come to know and love and I will be leaving many pieces of my heart here with them.

On Friday, I went on a bike ride with Cohen, Avery, and Liberty to "the junction" intersection of two larger roads about 2 miles away. Cohen is too small to ride his own bike, so he straddles the little luggage rack on the back of mine.
(YES...that is about as comfortable for a little boy as you are imagining!  ; )

Even though the roads are bumpy and the bike seats are terribly uncomfortable, I love being out on a bike in the Indian countryside. Especially on breezy, cool days when the sun is hidden behind the clouds. I would love to say that is it all peace and palm trees in the breeze...but it's not. One thing is for sure, though--it is ALWAYS an adventure.

To go out as a white-skinned person means you will be stared at and at least half of the people will yell, "Hi. Bye. How are you?" as you go by. I have had men riding on a motorcycle speed by me saying, "Hi. How are you?" as they race on. It's as if they have to cram all the English that they know into those few seconds.

You never know what you are going to see when you go out in India. Groups of sari-clad women walking slowly with sheaves of wheat balanced on their head, 4 men straddling a motorcycle zipping by, a cotton candy peddler on a bike with a fluffy pink tower of little baggies on the back...and huge trucks zooming by literally 2 or 3 feet from your handlebars. It was pretty unnerving when we first got here, but now we are old pros. : )

The best part of the ride is that Cohen becomes a chatterbox on the back of my bike. His little disembodied voice is the soundtrack to all our off-campus adventures. India is the perfect place for Cohen...because he LOVES animals. So, to take Cohen into a village means he will
have his heart melted every other minute by some adorable baby animal.

"Oh, mom...look at that little tiny puppy. He's so cute!"
"Aaaaah...look at that little baby goat with his mommy"
"Oh, I love that little brown and white cow...he looks so soft"
..... chatter, chatter, chatter....

On the way back home through our neighboring village, after seeing more baby animals than he could stand, he asked, "Mom, how much does a farm cost?"
(This is not a new thing...he has been adamant that we need to buy a farm when
we get home for many months now.)

But now he's working out some of the details...
"The land, the house, all the much would it all cost?"

"Well, probably around 200,000 dollars", I say.

"What? But Avery's friend has a farm and I didn't know she was twice as rich as you!"
(Huh?? I have no idea why he thinks I have 100,000 dollars.)

"Well," he reasons, "I guess they only have sheep in their backyard."
(so, I guess that means they aren't twice as rich as us? ; )

His wheels are turning, so there is about 4 seconds of silence before he asks,
"Can we have sheep in our backyard?"

"Nope. Sorry, bud. We aren't allowed to have sheep."

"Uh...but why not," he whines, "They only 'maaaaah' a little and it's not even very loud."

Again, two beats of silence while the wheels turn...

"And if any of our neighbors complain, we can just make them fuzzy earmuffs out of the wool!"

That boy just makes me laugh!

Another India moment that made me laugh until I cried...
Yesterday, I was out on another bike ride...this time with Lon. Months ago, in the summer, we had gone on a long, long ride together and I wanted to do it one more time before we leave. It was a beautiful morning and the fun thing about this route is that it takes us through 2 villages that pretty much NEVER see white people. So, the looks on their faces are pretty much what you would expect if a two-headed alien rode by. : )

We had looped around and were out on the larger road headed back toward our local village when to our surprise, an Indian man passed us on his bike. This does. not. happen. We were going at a pretty good speed and Indians NEVER hurry anywhere. As he passes to the right of me, just 18 inches away, he stares right at me the entire time and does the little Indian head wobble to say hello. He then does the same thing to Lon 4 feet ahead of me.

"Oh, I see" I thought to myself..."he was just curious and wanted to see us." Not even 2 minutes later, we passed him up again and that was that...or so I thought!

We had been riding side by side and chatting for at least 5-10 minutes more when I happened to glance over my right shoulder and there he was...his front tire less than a foot away from our back tires. I said to Lon under my breath (though I'm fairly certain the man spoke no English),
"He's right there!!"

Now, in America, someone would have to be mentally impaired to act like this...but here in India, there are none of those social conventions. He had just decided to join us on our little bike ride. And it is not the prerogative of Indians to have any personal space!
So we aren't given any personal space either. : )

We tried everything....we sped up and sure enough, there he was pumping harder than I've ever seen an Indian pump.  Then we slowed down and he happily passed us again, head turned over his left shoulder to stare right into our faces, then wobble-wobble goes his head with his toothy grin beaming white against his chocolate skin.

But then once he passed us, he slowed and every few seconds checked over his shoulder to see if we were coming yet. Like he wanted to say, "Come on, guys! Hurry up."

Lon even stopped and pretended to fix his shoe and the man started coasting along not willing to lose his unwitting riding companions.

When we started riding again, he was about 30 yards ahead of us still craning his neck around every few seconds to see where we were. We came to the spot where we would turn off the main road and right then he looked back at us and I gave him a huge wave and his face lit up and he waved back like we were the best of friends and he wasn't just totally stalking us for the last mile and a half.

Crazy just gotta love it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Fog of Time

We have been waking up every morning to a thick blanket of fog over the jungle in every direction. It reminds me of home. Not Utah "home", but California "home" where I grew up and where every winter we had thick "pea soup" fog that would roll in at night and hang around to greet us in the morning. 

I used to love to go walking in the fog. I loved that feeling of being wrapped up and nearly invisible. I loved that you couldn't see anything --even just a few feet ahead of you. It is, admittedly, very scary to drive in that same fog...but to walk in it is just peaceful to me. So it has been making me feel happy and nostalgic to wake up every morning and greet the fog once again.

Today is our 7 month mark! It is unbelievable to me that we only have three more months here. 

I couldn't fall asleep last night and so I laid in bed thinking about TIME. About how the time here has been speeding by, even though each day feels like the normal 24 hours. But I think when life gives you a distinct experience like this...a time that is bracketed and separate from your regular life...time ALWAYS speeds up. The clock is always ticking toward those final moments when it will all be over and you will step back into "reality".

I am sure that it will all seem a little surreal to us--that we actually lived in India for a year at one time. It is so different from the life we will return to and probably not something we will ever have the chance to do again.

It was an unexpected blessing and a singular gift to have this opportunity. 
I will be forever grateful for it.

I was also thinking about the TIME we have with our children. I feel lucky to have Brooklyn back "with" us (even though she lives next door) for another year. Because she skipped kindergarten all those years ago, she left home a year early and it feels like another little gift to have that year back together...for my other kids to have her in their life again on a daily basis.

I was thinking about how different our lives have been for these months. How we spend all of our time together. How I am actually doing better than I thought I might do...I was honestly a little afraid that I would end up in a straight jacket after all our "togetherness". 

Anyone who knows me well knows that I L.O.V.E. my alone time when Lon and the kids are all gone to school! ; )

I was also thinking about the TIME we have until another child leaves for college.My heart sunk to think that we only have 18 months until Camry will also fly the nest. And I know how fast that Senior Year goes by! 
It was one of those moments that made me think, "Where have all the years gone?" And it made me realize that I will always be nostalgic for the time when my girls were little. 

Potty trained...but still little! ; )

We are happy for this new year. It is going to be a great year! We did some counting and were surprised and delighted to realize that we leave here on the 100th day of 2015. I don't really know why...but I thought that was kind of cool. ; ) So my kids have started counting down and each day it makes me a little more sad at the thought of saying goodbye to these adorable kids that I have come to know and love.

These girls are my little sweethearts. I love their bright, smiling faces and no matter how my day is going, it is always better after a rambunctious little hug from one or all of them!

We had a special opportunity to get to know two of the students really well over Christmas Break. Elina Mary and Praveen are brother and sister and had just returned to Rising Star from their home in Delhi (8 hours away) about a week before the holiday, so they stayed on campus all during the break.

We were able to go play with them every day and it was a rare privilege for my kids, Cohen especially, to have some one-on-one time with kids here. He had a blast and everyday would be ready to go over there with his bag of Christmas toys and books and the frisbee.

Another long-term volunteer and I went and did some shopping for them and the housemother that was caring for them so that they would have Christmas gifts to open. 
Here's the cute little outfits we got for them...

 Praveen is BRAND-NEW at Rising Star. His sister has been at Rising Star for a number of years, but he just arrived a week before Christmas. He is in UKG (upper kindergarten) and he is 5 years old. He is so delightful and just bubbling over with personality. We love him. (Since he is brand new, he has 4 open spots for if anyone is interested, let me know!!)

Elina Mary is a beautiful young woman. It was great to get to know her better and have more time to visit and enjoy some quiet time together.

Lon and I had a wonderful New Year's Day which included a long walk out to my favorite spot in the Indian jungle. It is a peaceful and beautiful spot on a raised path surrounding a small lake. There were the most adorable baby goats and cows and countless birds. And there happens to be a temple nearby that was broadcasting Hindi devotional music. So much sound in the jungle. It is something that I will miss, I think.

It was heavenly...and a great way to begin our year together. 
Our 21st year about time speeding by! I have now spent more of my life with Lon than without. ; ) Crazy! ...and wonderful, too!

It is always a rare treat to get a little alone time here. 
We even held hands and sneaked in a kiss since no one was looking. (shhh! don't tell!)
(There is NO public display of affection allowed here.)

This has been a great adventure for us and I am grateful for the things we have learned.
20 years in...and we might actually be figuring each other out. : )

Happy New Year Everyone! Make it a great one.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Our Christmas with Palm Trees

It has been a strange holiday season...with lots of sunshine and too little Christmas music. I normally have my Pandora station running nearly non-stop all through November and December...but Pandora doesn't work on this side of the world. (boo.) And while I certainly DO NOT miss the snow, it is strange to have the days be so balmy and bright. 

Our Thanksgiving a beautiful event...with fabulous volunteers and good food. Sadly, we had no pumpkin pie (no canned pumpkin can be found anywhere here) but we had rolls and mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and apple pie.  And most importantly, deep gratitude for this experience and the peace of shared serving and giving.

NEVER in my life have I had a month fly by faster than November did! Maybe just because I could not wait to get to December and finally have it be time to fly to Delhi and BE WITH MY SISTER!!
What a blessing that was.

And then came Christmas...

With a little help from Pinterest, we decided to save our toilet paper rolls all fall in order to make a Christmas Tree to hang on our wall. It is small and pretty flat...but we were excited with how it turned out...

Seriously...these kids are so kooky sometimes...I just love 'em!

 The cleaning ladies made beautiful "Rangolis" for us outside of our door and Dr. Susan's door.

 We had a peaceful Christmas Eve with our family and Ashley (another year-long volunteer). We did a White Elephant gift exchange, a "for-reals" gift exchange, and then our family homemade gift exchange.  
Our homemade family exchange is my FAVORITE thing every year. My kids were in weird moods when we took these photos.... Avery was grumpy and so was Cohen...which is why they both decided to wear things on their faces so they wouldn't actually have to smile. Ha!
The mask was a gift that Avery found months ago and hid in her suitcase to give to Cohen for Christmas.

Cohen made sleeping bags for Avery's two dolls.
Avery made an agility rope ladder for Liberty to work on footwork drills for soccer. (And also an iPod stand for Camry...that is what is in Camry's left hand. ; )
Liberty made a tea mug cozy for Lon (not pictured).
Camry made a beautiful painted peacock mug for me (also not pictured).
Brooklyn made a secret compartment book for Camry.
I made a toilet paper tube rocket for Cohen.
And Lon wrote a beautiful poem for Brooklyn that is on her iPad...lucky girl!

I just love seeing what everyone comes up with each year to personally make for their person. It will always be my favorite tradition and my favorite time spent together each holiday season.

It was nearly eleven when we got the kids in bed...just in time for Santa to come!!
 The big sign was from a teacher meeting on the last day of school.

Avery with her new Michael Vey book. 
(notice her maxi-pad slippers...her score from the White Elephant exchange!)

Cohen with his Webkinz Hedgehog. He LOVES him and named him Hedge.  
Yeah...I know, original, huh? ; )
This little boy has such a soft spot for animals! He says it was his Best Christmas Ever! He got four little carved necklace charms...a gecko, a penguin, a turtle, and a cobra. He got a wooden alligator from Sri Lanka, a stuffed animal turtle (that he named Shelton--which is actually pretty cute for a turtle), and a large plastic rhino (now named Horton) that makes a noise like a cow which was his White Elephant winnings. ; )

And after exactly 3 photos on Christmas morning, my camera got set down, I was distracted watching everyone open presents, and I never once picked up my camera again. ; )  Oops...thank goodness Ashley had her camera out and after she gets back from her New Year's trip (she left today) I can get more photos and pretend like I was a better mom and diligently recorded it all. : )