Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Udhagamandalam, Say What?

We have a pirate in our house this very moment.  He has a black patch on one eye and walks with a limp.  He has been sleeping under our washing machine and is a bit nervous.  He is also our cat, Pirate.  Pirate got dropped off at our house yesterday, and we again, like with Obi, had absolutely no clue what to do with him.  I actually have not even petted him, afraid of the itchy eyes and stuffed sinuses.  I just outsource the petting to my children.  So, there you have it.  It’s a regular petting zoo around here - at least for this family.

It was a busy weekend in Udhagamandalam, India (affectionately known as Ooty, because the formal name is quite the tongue twister).  It’s the annual flower show, and boy does it bring in the tourists.  Approximately 100,000 people live in Ooty, but the smallerish town feels more like 30,000.  Anyway, the flower show says to bring in 200,000-300,000 people in a matter of one week.  The police and other town officials try to bring as much as order as they can, but the town just feels swamped.  Today when I was driving through the madness, a police officer stopped me and yelled at me for what seemed like an hour (probably 2 minutes).  He was yelling at me in Tamil and from what I could gather my offense was either that I was using the horn too much or too little.  Hmm, I  guess I will never know.  

I took a few pictures of our usual walk into town and also some pictures of the front of the house and our neighbors house, so you can get a bit of feel of what we see on a daily basis. When we do walk, Sydney’s and Jovie’s cheeks get pinched by the locals or the tourists (and sometimes right after they get pinched, they also crack their knuckle on their head - kind of, umm, different) and after a bit their cheeks turn red.  So now, Sydney merely covers her cheeks when she walks - it’s quite cute of her.  

Another fun fact about our daily life is that the end of our driveway is the local urinal.  Yes, you heard it right folks, the local urinal.  And there isn’t an outhouse, it’s just our shrubs.  Mostly men, but occasionally I do see a woman hike up her sari.  At first, I was not amused at this local landmark, but now I am disappointed when I drive in and there isn’t somebody there to greet me...  

Changing subjects, I am going to pass the keyboard over to Jayson to have him write a bit about his trip up to Mumbai and then the camp that Freedom Firm hosted for rescued girls that are living in aftercare homes across India.  Take it away Jayson.

My first trip for Freedom Firm was to Mumbai and Pune this past weekend. We have five staff between the two cities and an operational office in Pune, so I’ll be traveling there every now and again to meet with these staff. On this trip, aside from meetings, I spent time with Brian Mann, a brilliant media guru from Houston, Texas, whose church sent him here to tape a new FF video. We got footage of the red-light areas - undercover style, except that we got caught and then got a talking-to from the local police - and got hours of footage of staff interviews and everyday India life. 

When I returned to Ooty I had the privilege of visiting Avalanche, a camp Freedom Firm puts on (staffed by a number of wonderful volunteers from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis) where rescued girls from all over India come to simply be teenage girls and have a ton of fun. I got to be a fly on the wall for a day and watch these girls get loved on, laugh til their stomachs hurt, and hear about the God who loves them dearly. It was amazing to see, and even more amazing to hear from Mala, FF’s Aftercare Director, when the camp ended that from her perspective it was an unprecedented week and that two girls from the camp might move from their government aftercare facility to our aftercare home in Ooty. 

That’s it folks for this week’s edition - thanks for reading and we welcome any and all cat care tips...

(And if you see my dad, Curt, wish him a happy 60th birthday. He turns the big six oh on the 30th.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

What in the World is Sydney Doing?

Our Garden - Two Really Big Carrots and a Whole Bunch of Cabbage

Ani Took About 40 Pictures of Horses Outside Our House

Get the Cockroaches to Stay

I live in India.  There is a new phase of culture shock that I am experiencing right now.  This terminology will not sound academic, but I think it will be easy to understand.  This is what I will call it:  “The newness is wearing off, the things that were completely bizarre are now normal and I can’t hear the blasted horns anymore because they’re as routine as breathing” phase.  Good grief.  I am also nervous that the material that I have for a great blog will start waning because I don’t recognize the things that are just so ridiculous. 

Okay, I just needed to get that out there.  This is where I am at today.  A few of you asked how Mother’s Day was for us.  Well, besides missing our moms and me being sick in bed all weekend, it was great :)   Also, that day had another funny moment.  We were planning to have a family over on Mother’s Day evening.  Well, we left a message that morning, saying that I was not feeling good, so let’s reschedule.  They never got the message...  So, thankfully I had showered and the house was reasonably tidy when the knock on the door came.  I didn’t completely melt down.  The only quick, vegetarian that  I could make was french toast, eggs and fruit.  Not very dinnery or guest-appropriate, but hey, we had a nice evening and they didn’t even know that I wasn’t feeling great.  I did fall into bed the moment they left though...   

Jayson had his first trip this past week.  (That is why we are bit late in sending the blog - I have absolutely no idea how to post it and Jayson is a great editor.)  He went up to Mumbai and Pune, Thursday to Sunday.  It was a great amount of time for the first trip.  He had some staff interviews up there and also went to meet a few new volunteers that were arriving from the States.  He will write these stories in our next edition.  

Our time without Jayson was fairly uneventful, other than almost having a nervous breakdown when I thought the computer was broken on Thursday night (a DVD got jammed and didn’t allow the computer to work, I shoved and wiggled a butter knife into the computer - and out popped the DVD. Jayson would have been horrified to watch me do that, but desperate times call for desperate measures).  Also, Friday morning I awoke to two HUGE cockroaches in our sink.  Like as big as my thumb.  So gross.  Ani turned on the water for me to get the cockroaches to stay in the bottom of the sink and then I whacked them with a frying pan - almost as if they were burglars.  A frying pan Tarrah... was that really necessary?  Yes.  I heard them crunch, but they were still wiggling, so I put a bowl over them and left them for our housekeeper, Josephine, to finish up with.  When I showed them to her, they moved, I jumped and screamed - she laughed.  I think she likes that she rescues me on a daily basis in some capacity...

I have been trying to embrace the reality that my life is downshifting into a slower-paced life.  For the past year, we were finishing up grad school, graduating, deciding about Freedom Firm, getting our house ready to sell, selling it, packing, having a baby, moving, preparing for India, saying goodbyes, moving to India, unpacking and getting settled - all while having 4 kids, 6 years and under.  I say this not to get any sort of kudos.  I really don’t recommend it, it’s not sustainable and I always felt a bit edgy.  But now our life is pretty routine, slower and not a whole lot of drama.  One would think that is almost like the promised land, but its been harder to adjust to than I thought it would be.  The events of my last year kept me going, there was no option to stop.  The events of my last year always gave me something to talk about, there were very few lulls in conversations.  But all that is done with.  And now there are large parts of my days or weeks that are really quiet.  Because my days are so quiet, there are lulls in conversations.  We’re now living in what we’ve been working toward - meaning we’re done figuring out how to get here.  I say all this wanting to embrace the slowness, the greater time to spend just playing Legos with James, making crafts with Ani, playing make-believe with Sydney and watching Jovie grow.  And Jayson and I spend sooo much more time together.  We are able to have way more people to our house now - because we simply do not have full schedules.  I am a curious duck by nature, so I have really liked getting to know people and I have time to ask my million and one questions.  I am working at simply being content at where I am at and not looking for what’s next.  And I think I am soaking up more with all that is new and trying to fully process all the changes.  These thoughts have been simmering now for a month or two...  if you have any of these thoughts that you can identify with or speak into, I would love to hear from you.   

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our Spring Cleaning Helpers

We Appreciate the Honesty of India's Signs

A Brief Encounter with a Possible Complete Disaster

Yo Yo party people.  Jayson and I are in a total snack mode...  and there is nothing in the house that is ready made.  I was thinking about pudding.  Chocolate. But I would have to make it... I know all of you can identify with this particular conundrum that we are facing.  Time zones do not separate the evening munchies.  

Update on the bruiser.  James is healing very nicely.  Stitches are out, and it looks great.  The ace bandage comes off tomorrow.  Which is welcome relief in many categories.  Especially because he has not had a fully immersed bath in two weeks.  That’s a bit frightening for a 4 year old boy who plays hard from sun up to sun down.  

We celebrated Cinco de Mayo this week.  We had some friends over and their parents who were visiting.  It was a yummy feast with very little mention of Mexico’s victory over France, but we tried.  I made Pico de Gallo and because there are no tortilla chips here - well maybe there are, but it would cost about $1000 to buy them - we scooped with Pringles.  Not an exact representation of the much loved tortilla chip, but it crunched and it scooped - a lovely combination.

So, Monday, I had a brief encounter with a possible complete disaster.  It was raining quite a bit, no, a lot.  Like really, really hard.  Well, I have only ever driven in a downpour on flat surfaces, not on steep hills like the ones we are now surrounded with. And when rain comes down hills...it’s quite whooshy.   I’ve never been to Universal Studios, but I have seen commercials of the movie set that all of the sudden has a river coming at you... Well, that is what it was like.  And our car/van/can, as mighty as it is, could really get swept up in the mass of water.  And we do not have any sort of defrost.  And I always drive with the window down, because the horns on vehicles are not just for sport, they are crucial to staying alive.  So, here I am, trying to avoid serious rivers, wiping off the inside of the window with a rag, while having the window down a titch (being splattered with rain) so I can hear if another vehicle wants to tell me something.  Meanwhile, having the thought of, maybe I am not supposed to drive in this...  

Hey everyone. I’ll (Jayson) give you a quick Freedom Firm update. One of my projects right now is overseeing the Roja aftercare house building project. They’re digging a well (Roja hasn’t had water all month), building a security wall and making ground usable for a garden.  So I’ve never even heard of a “diviner” before last week. But in order to find water, they have this guy come to the land, coconut in hand, and walk. (Oh, and a diviner’s blood type needs to be O+. Is that an India thing or worldwide?) So he told me to watch, he walked, and as he came to the area where they had found water, the coconut moved. It moved! Everywhere he walked, the coconut pointed toward the same spot. Crazy. 

Each week I get to do lunch with all the staff and rescued girls. This week there was a huge cake on the table when we arrived with the name “Mary Magdalene” written on it. As it turns out, one of the girls decided that she wanted to separate herself from her hurtful past, so she asked if we could give her a new name (which she picked herself). It’s an amazing story of change and growth for one of our girls. 

Well, that’s it folks.  I hope you’re doing well.  I hope the kiss of spring has finally met you all.  We do appreciated all your blog comments and emails sent.  As much as we are glad we are here, thoughts from “home” continue to encourage and fill us up.  Oh, and just so you are not tossing and turning tonight, wondering what snack we decided upon, Jayson had a cinnamon and sugar tortilla with a cup of tea and I had curd “yogurt”and mango with a cup of hot cocoa.  Pudding called for corn starch...  and there was not a trace of corn starch to be found.