Thursday, February 10, 2011

Through the Eyes of My Children

Workers digging a well at the Roja aftercare home in Ooty. We're expanding the home to house 12 girls. It currently can handle four girls. 
35 rings needed so far (totaling 45 feet down!). Still no water. 
An overhead shot. This is the space where a dormitory-style room will be built. 

I am eating a dark mint chocolate that has just come out of the freezer.  I am in love.  I have this memory of either visiting someone, babysitting, going to a party, etcetera, I can’t really remember.  But I was at someone’s house and they had Andes Mints in the freezer and I think every so often during the night I would go in a grab a few and by the end of the evening I had eaten the whole package. (Not the wrapper, but the chocolate, lest you be confused.)  Mmmmm, that was a really nice night.  I am sure you are feeling very satisfied with that story.  More intelligent.  Curiosity quenched.  Heart filled.  Done.  Go home.  Pack it up.  With that story, you are finished for the day.
I was thinking that it may be interesting to write about India and our life here through the eyes of my children  I have been thinking about it for a few days, wanting to put more thought into it than just my stream of consciousness.  I also need to say that because of the ages of my kids, their comments, ideas, assumptions deal very little in the abstract.  What they see, hear, smell is well, what they see, hear, smell.  With that comes very blunt and sometimes coarse feelings.  I risk being a bit offensive by letting you in on their perceptions, but their story is as much a part of our story as Jayson’s or mine.  We have given them the space to have really hard feelings, and not trying to quickly tell them more of the why behind a certain situation.  But there have been times that I’ve felt scared or embarrassed about some of their words about India.  I find myself wanting to  rush and try to convince them that their feelings are wrong.  But that’s not usually very fair of me.  So, I hope you find it interesting to hear their musings.

Jovie.  Age: 2 1/2.   India is what she knows.  She delights in all the random and numerous animals on the street.  She does not shout at people when they pinch her cheek.  She would prefer rice and dal over pasta.  She drinks chai tea like it’s water.  She eats with her fingers like the locals and can handle more spice than anyone else in the house.  Adults included.  She interacts with local people with ease and the guys at Modern Stores carry her around while I shop.  She is so comfortable that she often wanders off, which was a bit nerve wracking for my mom when she was here.  Because Jovie is so young, I wonder what she will remember about India and what from here she will carry with her.  

Sydney.  Age: 4 1/2.  When we moved here, Sydney was 2 1/2, so really, India is what she knows as well.  But because she is a bit older, she is more influenced by Ani and James and their memories of the States.  All that being said, Sydney being Sydney has a confidence about her here.  She will go up to anybody and ask them anything.  When we were on holiday, we went back to the hotel after dinner and she pranced into the lobby and said with her hand on her hip to the three employees there, “Hi boys, I am back.”  That’s her.  She handles the food fine and doesn’t think much of all the different sights and smells to be seen and smelled.  It is what it is.  She does miss her grandparents and Nana and Papa dearly.  So there is a miss in her for our family, which at times does affect her outlook here.  She is aware that there are huge gaps of time between seeing them.  She has picked up more of the British lingo than any of the other kids.  Uses words like “straightaway”, “proper”, “trousers”, and “knickers”.  India is a colorful country that has poured its color into her.

James. Age: turns 6 in 4 days.  James came here shortly before his fourth birthday.  He is more grayscale compared to Sydney’s vibrant color.  That being said, he has transitioned here a bit more stealth than the other kids.  He moved here with a bit of concrete information about the States, but not enough to be solidified in things.  Like knowing a bit about different sports, currency, clothes, etc.  So, when he came here, he was inundated with new information.  Of course he was, we all were.  But because his foundation of what is “normal” in the States was not yet solid, he gets the components of life here mixed up with the States.  Maybe more in the first year than now, but it still shows.  Like soccer and football.  To him they’re essentially the same thing, yet he knows somehow their different.  Considering he’s never been in the States for a football season, he doesn’t know how it’s different.  The same with cricket and baseball.  There is a basket by the front door holding both a cricket and a baseball bat.  To him, as he reaches for either bat, it doesn’t matter which he grabs, so long as he gets to hit something. 

Ani. Age: turns 8 in 2 days.  I have saved Ani’s for last because she is the one that has been both the most delightful and the most painful to watch take in all that is different here.  My Ani girl is full of questions. She has had a hard time not asking sweeping questions like, “Why are Indians so rude?” (because she loathes it when they touch her, tweek her cheeks, and take photos of her) or “Just because I have white skin, why does everyone think I am so special?”.  She has asked Jayson and I, “Why in the States do we have a lot less than some people, and here why do we have more than most everyone else?”   Or “Mommy, why do Muslim women want to cover themselves?” or “How come Hindu people worship something that looks so weird?”  These types of questions come all the time.  Some days, I don’t know how to answer them.  Some days I do okay.  Explaining poverty, skin color, and different religions to a child is hard.  Living in the tension of poverty, skin color, and different religions can be a bit overwhelming.  She is the most patriotic child I have ever met.  She has a warped perception that all things good are in the States.  I get really wound up when she goes there.  But she does not like that she is so far away from her family and dear friends.  She does not like the fact that she gets the runs quite frequently.  She does not like the fact that she feels different here, that she stands out.  So, I give her space to hold the States up a bit higher than she should.  Even though she struggles here, she is the one I most foresee living in a cross-cultural setting when she is older. She’s really compassionate.  And she feels sad that there are a lot of people that “go without” here.  She feels like it’s really important that we are here doing the work that we are doing.  

Whew, I made it.  This blog is really long.  I don’t know how to make it shorter though. The length being what it is, I am sure I have left some major gaps, but it’s a good start.  And with that, I say goodnight dear friends.


Tom said...

Hi Tarrah,

Great post, very well written AND interesting. I appreciate the awareness of and sensitivity to each of the kid's individual cultural struggles (or not).


Sarah said...

This is one of my favorite of your posts. I feel like I know your kiddos better.

Anonymous said...

Tarrah I loved getting a glimpse into the heart of each of your kids. So precious. It was a good reminder for me to pray for them too. Miss you all!! - Marsha

Jen Allen said...

Tarrah, Thanks so much for sharing all of this about your precious kids. It is so insightful and helps me to analyze the ways my own boys are taking in their new culture/country....

Much love to you all!

Adrianne said...

I love this post, Tarrah. Thank you for sharing your musings with us. What a gift, to see things through the eyes of children - especially your delightful crew. :)

Blessings to you, Jayson, Ani, James, Sydney and Jovie.

Jenny Childers said...

This is great, Tarrah. I think it's great that your kids have you and Jayson to process all this with. Growing up in a cross-cultural setting definitely changed the way I think about most things. The pros have definitely outweighed the cons for me, and I think it'll be the same for your kids.

Miss you all lots!

marcia said...

Fantastic picture into the lives and minds of how little people process these changes. Now, it will be interesting to see how they process "home" in the states.
Marcia Weimerskirch

dawnette said...

I have talked about this post with several people... because of the distinct beauty, sensitivity and awareness expressed here. I love that you know your kids like you do. I don't have any more words. Well, except "love". :)