Saturday, March 31, 2012

Some Kolkata loving

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” — Mother Teresa

Monday, March 19, 2012

"He takes no pleasure in making life hard"

-Lamentations 3:33

So I've been blatantly ignoring the pull/urge/need to write this blog.  It has been festering in my mind for over a week and yet I still have resisted.  The reason being is I have been happy.  I didn't want to sit in sadness or loss or pain.  I think that is pretty great reason because I don't actually know many people who enjoy feeling those things.  Honestly though, sometimes I don't mind feeling those things because it makes times where I feel happiness all the greater because I have experienced the other end of the spectrum.  This was not one of those times though.

Here in Atlanta Spring has sprung in its fullness and utter beauty that just makes me grin from ear to ear.  I don't have allergies so I welcome the onslaught of new life and new blooms with very few grumblings (limited to there being an endless supply of pollen on my car at ALL times).  This is, however, a different kind of spring that I do not recall ever having gone through so much all at one time.  I think I am in a sort of season of loss, which juxtaposes quite nicely with the new birth of all the beauty around me.  Hence the lack of desire to write this blog on loss because I am also overcome with joy and love for all that is going on around me and within me.

Maybe this is just a part of getting older, but I have been privy to a lot of people around me dealing with death/loss in one way or another.  I feel the need to compile a list...not because I want to complain, but because I want to actually do the opposite.  I want to name and give 'voice' to what has been bubbling beneath the surface.  So here goes...I lost my computer with all of my memories for the last 4 years on it; I had to put my dog down after 12 years;  had to let go of a situation; a friend's cousin is very ill; a female client lost one of her best friends to a freak hiking accident; a male client lost his father after many years of not speaking; a woman who worked at Sari Bari passed away after a long fight; a friend is getting a divorce; one of the girls from Wellspring left unexpectedly; a friend lost a baby; and another friend lost the hope of adopting a baby.

I could go on, but those are just the major things that are happening to people around me or to me personally.  There is so much hurt going around with the people that I deeply care for and that is just a fact of life, there is nothing that I can do to change those situations.  What I can do is pray, be present, listen, and hope...all things that I am good at (I could be much better at praying, but I'm trying).

In contrast to all of those things that are 'going wrong' though, I really could make a list that was 10 times as long of things that I am thankful for.  I understand, so much better than I used to, the promises God made us, and what he did not promise.  I read about that in Larry Crabb's book The Pressure's Off, and it significantly impacted the way I view 'bad' things and God.  With all that being said, what is a girl to do with all these contrasting feelings and emotions.  Part of me wants to sulk in the sadness of some of the events that have happened, while the other part of me just wants to go on walks in the park with friends and enjoy nature.

You know what I have realized though (through much help from my awesome therapist), is that I feel things very deeply, and it does not take away from my happiness to experience and sit with the sad feelings; just as it does not take away from the pain when I want to be present and live out my joy.  I am able to do both, it is just a matter of navigating and holding those deep emotions at the same time.  My therapist once told me that the ability to 'hold' and 'experience' many deep and contrasting emotions was a sign of maturity (brain wise) because younger people generally cannot juggle such vastly different emotions at the same time.  Well...if that's what getting older looks like, then sign me up.

As much as I run away from my less than awesome emotions, (which doesn't last long, because they find me) I can't imagine a life where I don't feel all the ranges of my emotions.  That is how God made me, and that is a big, huge, splendid thing.  This past year, and more specifically the last 4 months or so has been an unbelievably stretching experience, and yet if someone would have asked me a year ago if I could handle what I am currently juggling I would have said no.  God has filled in that gap and provided in ways that I could never have been prepared for.  "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done" Luke 22:42.  This world is drenched with joy and sorrow, and I'd rather have both than neither any day of the week.

So in the spirit of this year, I am surrendering.  Conscious effort daily.

"But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand" Psalm 10:14   

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"she has on my shoes"

Our last day in Kolkata we had to get up earlier than the other days because we were supposed to be leaving at 830 to go to Mahima home.  We were all also moving into one hotel room because we had to check out of the other ones but we wanted to keep one to be able to get ready in that night.  Our driver was running late but it all ended up working out fine.  Mahdu was coming with us again and I was really happy about getting to spend some more time with her.  She is really so awesome.  Chris got to come with us to Mahima because they allow men to come and volunteer.  We were not going to the same home as last year but the transition home instead and all the girls from the girl home were being brought over.  It took about an hour to get there from our hotel because of traffic and the small roads.  There were some of the same girls that were there last year and a few of them remembered Julia and I. 

Julia’s friend Kari who used to live in Kolkata and work at Mahima had made a quilt that she sent back with us, along with a card.  Julia showed the quilt and read the card for all the girls.  Julia didn’t know what the card said or anything but it turned out that it was a total tear-jerker and almost all the girls were crying or tearing up because they love and miss her being there. 

We started by doing the quilt squares, which they seemed to really enjoy.  They were all so talented and almost all of them were stitching and doing beading that was really just so impressive.  It was really so cool to watch and be a part of.  Because we had some left over, the 5 of us got to do a square as well.  I had never sewn before but I decided that I wanted to do my initials and it was really so much harder than I imagined it would be.  The attitude and atmosphere in the home is just so much different than Sanlaap.  I knew that Mahima was better than any of the other homes but it is just really shocking seeing it again.  Mahima would be more like Wellspring than any of the other ones.  The girls were sharing their beads and not hoarding them all, and they could more so be trusted with the needles and voluntarily came up to us and gave them back.  It was just a totally different experience for sure. 

We had some lunch at the home after the quilt squares.  I can honestly say it was the best meal I had while in India.  It was just really tasty but not super spicy (my favorite kind of Indian food)…and in addition to that we had some Indian style French fries.  The hospitality that we were shown not only at this home but everywhere that we went was just so much more than needed but so kind.

The next craft we did was the dream catchers and some of the dreams that the girls put were really cool to read.  One girl put that she wanted to work for the IJM office when she was an adult.  I thought that so really moving and another different between those girls and the girls at the other home.  They are given so much more attention and not as starved for love as it seems Sanlaap is.  I think they really liked the dream catchers…and really both activities that we did with them.  

When we had finished them both we decided to go ahead and tie the quilt together and do a reveal for the girls.  They seemed to really love getting to see it all together and it looked so awesome to see all their work in the quilt.  We had them do 2 squares each so that they could keep one and we could take one back to the states to make a quilt. 

Probably my favorite part of the day involved being able to give the things that the girls at Wellspring had done for them and being able to share some of what I do with those girls there.  I didn’t hand out the things, but just read through the poster that one of the girls made and the girls really seemed to love it.  The poster just said some things about how even though they didn’t know them how they understood and were going through the same thing.  A few of the girls were crying and it was just such an amazing time.  The girls told me to tell the girls in Atlanta that they loved them too and to try and keep in touch.  I loved being able to link together the issue in a domestic and international sense because it definitely combines my passions for the issue.  They asked me questions about Wellspring and it was nice to be able to share some of my knowledge with them about what I do and why I love it.  I obviously had a translator for the whole thing because the girls only know a small amount of English, and I wanted to make sure they understood what it was that they were getting.  We decided also that the quilt that we were taking back to the states was going to be given to the girls at Wellspring because they wanted to be able to do something for them and that turned out to be a perfect way.  It really all just made my heart so happy, and it was all such a sweet moment. 

After all of that we were all pretty spent and just really so thankful for the day and really humbled for being able to be there with those girls and hang out with them for some time.  We left and headed towards a place that Mahdu wanted to show us, that was another place for shopping near where she lived.  So we went to this local place called Sienna that is all locally made.  From there we parted ways with Mahdu until later in the night and we headed to Anohki for our last “event” of the trip.  It was one of my favorite places to go in the mall for things last year and it is just such a cute store.  We spent some time in there and then got some coffee…I actually got an iced chai latte, which was amazing (though not as good as the sundae).  We headed to dinner from there because it was right across the street.  We went to this place called Kewpies.  I hadn’t been there before but we essentially got this feast of a meal that consisted of about a million small little bowls that had all sorts of things in it and of course we had rice and poori and it was really a great end to the trip both location and food wise. 

From dinner we got our driver to bring us back to the hotel and we all took turns taking showers and finishing up packing.  Julia and I went first because she had wanted to go get henna and see Khushboo.  So we went to her house and she was there with her family and she was so sweet…she gave both Julia and I presents and of course some food.  She was mad that we hadn’t come the previous day, which we both felt really bad about but time had run out and we had not been able to make it happen.  I had written her a note with my number on it so that she could keep in touch if she wanted.  We asked her if she wanted to go to get henna with us and we were meeting Kelly and Leslie so we could all go together.  The 5 of us went to get a cab and we went to ghariahut to get it done and they were closed but they said they would do it for 400 rupees for just one hand…well clearly Khushboo was having none of that so she was just talking and we were walking away and then after much bargaining by our awesome friend, she got them to do all 4 of our palms for just 400 rupees total.  Even then Khushboo was unhappy that we were paying that much for it all.  She does not like that Indians always try so much to rip off westerners and she definitely tries to let that not happen when we are with her.  It was a fun experience to be with her again though, especially because we had to leave shortly after that.  

When we got back to the hotel we had to say goodbye to her and then get all our stuff ready to go to the airport.  It was a relatively quite trip to the airport as well as waiting for our flight.  I was really hyper before we got on the plane but once we got in our seat (Julia and I were in the very last row on that flight) I was asleep before we even took off and I slept for about 4 hours and then on and off for the next 2.  I was clearly in need of sleep. 

We had about a 4 hour layover in Germany where we did some picture swapping, and ate at Mcdonalds.  We were all pretty tired and ready to get back.  The flights were not bad though and they went by relatively quickly (most likely because there was so much sleeping going on).

 Our henna

The quilt Kari made for the girls at Mahima

Our awesome quilt squares

Delicious food

letters for the girls at the home

The finished quilt the girls made

Our final indian meal

"that tasted like alka seltzer"

So today we had a bit of a touristy day...we had our breakfast and then went to the IJM office for master game and devotion.  Julia made the master game and separated the teams and of course my team won.  Kelly led the devotion in the office and that was really good to spend that time in prayer with the office and to continue sharing experiences with them.  After we left there we went to the mother house (the sisters of charity where mother Theresa lived. We went there last year as well but it was still really nice to go there and its just such a peaceful place within the city.  Also when we went there last year it was really crowded because there was a mass going on so it pretty empty there this year and easier to walk around and experience the place. 

From there we went to see the Victoria Memorial and St. Johns cathedral just to take some pictures.  I’m not exactly a “touristy” person, it was cool to see all the things but definitely not a highlight of the trip.  Julia and I wanted to have some sweet lime soda from the street so we got this man to make us some.  Let’s just say that it was not up to par with any of the places that we had previously had it.  It had some masala spices in it and it kind of tasted like spicy alka seltzer.  It was really bad and although I was trying to be nice and drink most of it, I really just couldn’t handle it.  Julia was smarter and tried to pour some out behind a tree but she ended up pouring a lot of it on her feet so they were sticky for a while after we left.     

We headed back to the hotel after that and then went to meet Rupa for lunch at Udipi.  Rupa is Nepali and does ministry work with professional people about leadership as Christians.  She also does aftercare things with girls from Nepal and working to do prevention work in Nepal.  She is such an amazing woman and has an incredible story of her faith journey.   It was really nice to get to visit with her and hear about what she has been doing and keep up with her life. 

When we left lunch we went to fabindia to do some shopping, followed by going to Dakshinapan.  Last year we went to this team room called Dolly’s and I had this chai tea sundae essentially.  It was so delicious and I had been looking forward to getting another one in this year.  I had not hyped it up and it was just as delicious as I remembered.  I really like chai, even though I used to think that it tasted like insence in my mouth. 

Biju and Ana invited us to dinner at their house that night and so after we left there we went for dinner with them and some of the interns.  They got take out from Tamarind (a place we had eaten at a few days before) and it was delicious.  It was nice to get to hang out and spend more time with the interns and converse with them some about life and all that.   We had the idea to do a prank on Mahdu while we were there because we heard that she really liked pranks and so we had a faux group photo op and had Gabriel pick her up (because she is tiny) like she was simba in the Lion King.  It was hilarious and she was so mad about it.  Well she wasn’t really mad but only kind of mad. 

It was pretty late at that point so Biju walked us to the cab and was telling us about an operation that had just happened that was successful and how the girl had run away to the police station and the man at the police station had been at the training that James did when he was in India.  To be able to see something that was tangible and evident of how important it is for the training and just seeing an example of how it really is working was awesome.  After we left we pretty much all just crashed after our devotion time.  

Last day in the office

Mother Theresa's tomb

Victoria memorial

Our "yummy" sweet lime soda

My delish chai float

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"have my baby"

Well today was no different from yesterday in terms of being totally pooped.  We continued our morning routine, and at this point its like we're in the movie groundhog day.  The only bad thing is that they don't like to bring the coffee until the end of the meal and because we are usually running late I never get to finish it and it is so delicious...but that is neither here nor there.

We left the office and headed to Sanlaap again today and we had one of the aftercare workers from the office coming along as well as Mahdu.  When we got there we set up right away and we were in the same setup as yesterday because we wanted to be with the same girls.  Since 2 of the groups had already gotten to do the dreamcatchers, they just did the beading and then did finger painting before lunch.  My group and another group needed to do the dreamcatchers so we did that and the beading before lunch.  It was really neat because Mahdu stayed in my group for most of the day and after we finished them she explained what they were and we handed out slips of paper and asked the girls to write down what their goal or dream in life was.  Some of the girls could not write, so Mahdu wrote for them.  It was just a really cool experience to see what these girls had envisioned for their lives and what dreams they wanted for themselves.  I feel that it gave us a better picture of the girls personalities for sure.  Also, yes I realize we changed what a dreamcatcher was originally used for but that is beside the point.

After that we had some lunch and I got to talk to Mahdu about Wellspring and we talked about similarities and differences between the girls and how they act and respond to things in their lives.  It was a really good conversation and she is just so very awesome.  She is from Chennai and has been in Kolkata for about 4 months working with IJM on the aftercare team.  

Our next activity after lunch was to decorate fabric squares that were meant to be tied together to make a community quilt.  We had paint, fabric markers, beads and thread for them to use.  It was a little bit difficult because Mahdu was going to help Julia with the project and so she gave the instructions but then left so I was left for a little bit trying to sign language with the girls (which always turns out to be funny).  The girls were not exactly understanding the concept of sharing, although I don't blame them because it is not that often that they get to do crafts like this so I understand why they want the most beads or colors or paint.  I am always amazed by how crafty the girls are, and am just in awe of how they are able to do all the creative things they come up with.  One of my girls who I found out she was just 10, drew a picture with my name on it that was so sweet.  She put her name beside my name with our ages next to it as well. 

I also had this woman ask me to hold her new baby which was awesome but I also think she just wanted to not hold her for a few minutes because she would not let me give her back and my arms were sweating from holding her for so long.  

After they finished with those, it was time to set up for their "exhibition"...we moved tables and hung some string around the outdoor pavilion and hung their work on it.  Because we can't take pictures of the girls, we knew we wanted to have some pictures of the work that they did and it was just amazing seeing it all there together and completed.  They seriously did such a great job with all of it and I was so impressed.  That lasted a little bit of time but then it was time to say good bye.  We gave the girls hugs and thanked the staff for allowing us to come and experience the home and do that stuff with the girls.  It is such a touching experience to only be with some kids for a short amount of time and to see some of them begin to attach to you and want to hug you or touch you.  It makes my heart so happy, I could just do that all day long.  I know there is so much that can be communicated just by attitude and body language.  It was sad to go but we were all very tired after being there all day.

On the way home from there we were talking in the car and we found out that Mahdu had been kicked out of her home because she was a Christian.  She was talking about how it was so nice that our families let us come and take a week off and things like that, and I was thinking well of course they let me come because I'm doing something kingdom related.  I know that there a probably many different people with stories like that but this is the first one that is so severe that I have heard and it just made me so thankful and grateful for being a part of a family of Christians and that we are so close and love and support one another.  Knowing that they are a kind of safety net is very comforting, especially being far away.  

When we got back to the hotel we did a quick freshen up and then went off to dinner with some of the IJM interns at a place right near our hotel.  It was nice to have a chill dinner and laugh with them about our day and just life.  Chris came back from his day with the investigative intern and it sounded like he had a productive day as well so that was good to hear.  We had 'chinese' although it seemed more like thai food and it was really good.  After dinner we went to see Khushboo and her family for a little bit.  We came back to the hotel and did our debrief time and then just all came to our own rooms cause we were so tired.  We are doing some touring around tomorrow so I can't wait to write about all that tomorrow night!

me with the random baby :)

All of their great work

My little friends piece with my name on it

the girls with Mahdu

visiting with Khushboo and teaching Julia how to make chapati