Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Invading Every Crevice of Our Home

"I'm so cute."

I am sitting here trying to not eat a whole bag of Jelly Belly’s that a friend just sent me. I often think that when we go back to the States next summer for a visit that I will spend my entire time roaming from grocery store to restaurant to a friend’s/family kitchen - only stopping to breathe and buy bigger pants. Living in India has definitely helped my cravings, because there is little here that I crave. I find myself dreaming of Chunky Monkey Ice Cream, a giant-sized Diet Coke from Costco, Nachos from The Good Earth, (I need to stop, this is painful) my grandmother’s sweet rolls, Balsamic Vinegar, a fresh loaf of french bread, fresh basil (I’ve tried to grow it twice, but alas, its turned into, well, nothing) and my mom’s Special K Bars... If you have any of those items this week, have an extra one for me.

I had my final Aftercare meeting today. It was really great. We celebrated Mala (back from her sabbatical), the new Aftercare Staff Manager Anik and me leaving. I felt truly blessed to be a part of something that does such quality and necessary work. The staff put their hearts and souls into walking alongside these girls - working towards health in all areas of their lives. There is so much hope to be had for these girls... And we all need someone walking alongside us cheering us on as we turn hope into reality.

Jovie celebrating today at the party. (We obviously promote healthy eating 24/7 in the Palm house.)

My season with Aftercare is not finishing, its just continuing, but in some different ways. I’ll do a weekly parenting class for the women with children. I am truly excited about this new path. Freedom Firm is not only rescuing girls and helping them turn their awful past into a life-giving journey, but now that young children are with us, we also have the opportunity to help these moms give their kids a different story than what they had growing up. I am consistently challenged with all the resources we are given in the West in regards to, well, everything. But particularly, right now, in the area of parenting. We either had great role models in our moms, grandmothers, aunts, or friends or we have so many class/book/church resources in the ways of parenting. But these girls did not have a healthy model or any tangible resources in the ways of parenting. So, I hope, together, the girls and I will try to figure out how to courageously love our kids through even the most adverse times.

Phase one of the Roja aftercare home project is done. The goal was to transform the non-secure, rubble-yard-filled home into a safe, restful home with an area ready to be gardened. The girls and Aftercare staff are ecstatic about how phase one turned out! Now we wait for government approval to start phase two. They’ve been dragging their heels, taking longer than expected to give us approval to build a second floor on Roja. And that’s our ultimate goal: a healthy, safe home where not just five, but twenty girls can be loved, taught, modeled to, given a chance at life. Please pray that the government will approve the orders and then the permit will be approved quickly so we can get started on phase two!

Roja as the work began in April - no security wall, no garden

The wall being built, Roja in the background

Same wall as the previous picture...completed.

Secure wall. Not-so-secure scaffolding!

It’s still very much raining here. The smell of damp is invading every crevice of our home. It’s rather disgusting. I wonder if I unknowingly walk around smelling like a cabin that has been closed for the winter. Or camp bunk beds. Or a sleeping bag that was stowed away improperly. Or tupperware that was put away wet. Or used bookstores. You get my drift.

We got a package this week. A mouse got it too somewhere along its journey.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mohammad...Cooking for 15

Waiting for friends to arrive.

Let’s see, where to start. Let’s start where we last left off. Seems reasonable enough. We had a great but drizzly cross country race last weekend. Ani and James did great, both showing there own personalities... Ani stopped in the middle of the race to help a classmate who was crying and she went to go find an adult to help him out and then kept on running once he was taken care of. James lumbered along - slow and steady doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to win the race, in James’ case, it means that you just finish. Sydney kept on waiting for her race, but they hadn’t organized one for the preschoolers, so we quick rounded up the nearest 2 & 3 year olds and they had a race on the tennis court. Cute.

Strong finish Ani.

James... definitely lumbering along.


Runners, take your (very cute) mark.

False start.

And they're off!

Friday night, my friend Bec invited me to go with her to a party to welcome the next GM of the Holiday Inn in town. All the ladies were dressed in beautiful sari’s... and I was in jeans. It doesn’t matter if I am in the States or in India, I always find myself underdressed. Why is that? Anyway, I got to chatting with a few doctors, one of the them being a cardiologist, and they were intrigued with my Lost Kilos class. Nalini, one of my LK gals, was there looking quite trim and they were amazed. They wanted to know all the details of how the diet works, which I then said it was nothing special. Just eating healthy, watching portion size, exercise, expending more calories then they eat... nothing special. And the doctors kept on going on and on about it and at one point I thought to myself, “You are a cardiologist, do you think it’s weird that you are so amazed at this?” Anyway, it was a fun night and it was so great to meet more Ootans - or would it be Ootites?

So yesterday was a day that I was constantly perplexed. Furrowed brow and all. It all started in the middle of last week when Freedom Firm’s driver, Susai, asked Jayson if his mom could bring us some of her Chicken Biryani on Sunday. Jayson said great. Susai said he would be over at 11 a.m. At this point I started getting puzzled, because Indians traditionally have lunch between 1 and 2 p.m. But I thought alright and kept on moving. At this point we should have asked some clarifying questions. Because when Susai (with his brother Umbruce and son, Martin) came at 11 he asked to borrow our car and (previously we told him we would pay for any expenses) to get some money. Alright, we gave him the keys and about 1 1/2 hours later they came back with all the ingredients needed and with a guy named Mohammed who was going to cook. Okay. Maybe when we thought Susai said mom, he really said Mohammed. Okay. They then bring out a few of their cooking pots from home and proceed to ask for some bricks and wood and they were going to cook in our driveway. Okay. So they built this grill (brilliant I know, we thought we would actually need a grill, but no, no, no, just some bricks and wood - we are not very clever in the realm of making due...) and away they went. Building, chopping, rinsing, cooking, steaming... all in our driveway, with some bricks and wood. Brilliant. So, we thought their family was all coming over because when they first came to get the car they said they were cooking for 15. We thought that meant that they were bringing over the rest of their family, so we tidied up a bit. But when no one came, we thought, hmm... maybe he meant there would be enough for 15 - they supply the food, we supply the friends - gotcha. Oh and in the middle of this, I went to go drop James off at a birthday party at 2 p.m. and the mom came out and said the party was at 4. Oops. Really? Alright. So around 3:30, we, the Palm Six, Susai, Umbruce, Martin (not Mohammed, its Ramadan, so he doesn’t eat from sun up to sun down) ate very large portions of Chicken Biryani. Beautiful. We have been sharing Biryani with everyone who crosses our path since. We’ve got two more containers full, so if you are in the area, stop on by...

Rinsing the chicken.


Grills. Totally brill.

Finished product.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Veganism or Bust Baby

Our power has been off so much this past week. You now see why.

It occurs to me that it is Labor Day Weekend this weekend. Happy Labor Day - Merry Labor Day - Go Labor Day - Not quite sure on how to accurately send you our Labor Day love. I am continually amazed how much the rhythm of our days/weeks/months/year has been turned upside down since we moved here. I did not realize on how much the rhythm of weather seasons, holidays, birthdays and the nine month school year set the course for proper preparation for various events. Does that make sense? Labor Day weekend reminds me to dash to Target to get school supplies. Tree leaves turning reminds me to call our friends the McCarthy’s to see if I can come hijack some apples off their trees. The first frost and dusting of snowflakes reminds me to get out our winter snow gear and see which kid needs new boots and hats... and so on... But here, especially in our first year, what am I to think? Oh, it’s still raining, time to dash to Target and get apples to play in the snow.

I am mourning the loss of variations of protein in our diet. I will say this first before launching into my clothed-in-black mourning reflections. I am completely grateful for the protein that we do have, there are many people all over the world that live on very little. But I am wondering if there will come a day that I will look at chicken and conveniently claim veganism as my diet of choice. Seriously, I tried beef last week and nearly chucked all over the dinner table. And I am not sure if I can try again, the subtle taste of garbage is just a bit too much. You are what you eat, even for cows. There is mutton and fish in the market, but again... veganism or bust baby. So, chicken it is. We do have our fair share of legumes throughout our week. But thoughts of my dad’s fish fry, venison stroganoff, farm fresh bacon, HoneyBaked Ham or a juicy rump roast nearly brings tears to my eyes. Please send me your favorite chicken recipe, I need to replace my black mourning clothes with white linen and sing the praises of chicken once again.

It was an amazing summer at Freedom Firm, with the total number of girls rescued reaching 34 in 3 months. But the excitement didn’t end there. Geeta Tamang, the brothel keeper who held Sajni and took her 4 year old son away from her (they’re both now in our Ooty aftercare home), was recently sentenced to 7 years in prison. I asked Sajni what she thought of the conviction and she said with a huge smile, “I’m happy. I’m very happy.” In a conversation with one of Freedom Firm’s lawyers, a Pune judge said that before we began work in Pune one year ago, brothel keepers were never convicted when on trial. Bribes always secured their freedom. He said Freedom Firm is changing that, and he is very pleased that change is happening.

Other weekly plans include our Friday night tradition - Friday Night Pizza and Movie Night

This weekend, the kids are participating in Hebron School’s cross country races. James is to run around the Big Pitch (cricket/soccer field) once and Ani is either running one or two miles. I’ll let you know. There is also a new wave of FF volunteers coming into town, so we are going to have them over on Saturday evening for dinner. I am thinking I will serve them, hmm, let’s see, chicken.

More Goa pics

Yes, we know, James has pink pj's.