Saturday, September 14, 2013


At the beginning of August I was able to go to Thailand with some people from work.  The summer legal intern, John was leaving to go back to the States and he wanted to go on a vacation before he left. So Laura, Jon, John, and I decided about a week beforehand that we would go stay in Bangkok for a long weekend.  We left really late Friday night and arrived in Bangkok at 6am on Saturday morning.

The first thing we did was get a taxi and head to our guest house.  We stayed at this wonderful place really close to public transportation called Bangkok Christian guest house.  It was nice and clean and we got a discount because we work for a Christian NGO.  After we left our things there we went to Starbucks which was within walking distance to our guest house.  We sat there and had coffee and enjoyed time just sitting in a peaceful environment drinking awesome coffee.  From there we all went to McDonalds to have actual breakfast.  After that we went on a boat ride to see the Golden Temple and the reclining buddha.  It was really hot and we were getting pretty tired because we hadn't slept all night  so we decided to go get lunch.

Laura had looked up places to get the best burger in Bangkok and we spent the next hour searching for it with no one knowing exactly where we were trying to go.  Unfortunately the place we were going was right in the midst of a 'massage parlor' and 'peep show' neighborhood so we were able to see a lot of that stuff happening.  Other than that aspect we were happily surprised by the awesome burgers we had.  After lunch we went to Starbucks again and then decided to go to JJ market and do some shopping.  It was pouring rain (hello monsoon season) and we were really tired at that point so we didn't spend much time there.  It was a huge market though and we were able to buy some things.  It was really cool because it was an indoor and outdoor market and tons of street food and lively things happening.  It was nice to be outside and to be doing something that seemed much more normal.

After we left there we decided to go take a nap because we were all really tired at that point.  We took two hour naps and then got up and got ready for dinner.  We decided to go get mexican food near our guest house.  The food was delicious and we were able to get cheese dip and margaritas so it was perfection.  After dinner we decided that we wanted to go and walk through the prominent red light area that was by where we were staying.  We did a walk through and then went back to our hotel and called it a night.

We woke up really early Sunday and had some more Starbucks and Au Bon Pain, and then we had a car drive us a place called Hintok River Camp that was about three hours outside the city of Bangkok.  It was so much greenery everywhere and it was on the river and had a pool overlooking the river.  Our 'rooms' were these big tents with outdoor bathrooms and a/c.

We all went swimming and just hung out there during the day and read.  We had an awesome dinner, and then we went down to the dock to watch the stars.  We went to bed early that night and prepared for a boat ride the next morning.

Monday morning we went on a two hour boat ride up to see some waterfalls.  It was really beautiful and a nice time spent on the river.  We got to get out of the boat and go walk through the water.  After that we got on the boat again to ride back to the river camp.

We left the river camp and headed back to Bangkok because we had a flight to catch late Monday night.  I was able to get some bubble tea in Bangkok that was delicious.  I did some shopping while everyone else ate dinner and then we sat around at Starbucks until we had to leave to go to the airport.

The trip was quite a whirlwind but it was really fun and I am glad that I got the chance to spend time with that group of people.  I do plan to write more about visiting the red light area and the impact that had on me.


*This is a preface that this blog is from April and I have just yet to publish it because it was unfinished and not on my priority list clearly.  However, because I did want to have it written about, here I am posting a forever old story.

Going back to my trip to Darjeeling.  It was a really an extremely different place than Kolkata and a wonderful escape from the city.  Our 'hotel' was terrible, and I don't think I have very high standards of a hotel.  It was just really gross and nothing felt clean and the door didn't lock.  In addition to that, it was clearly a honeymoon suite of some sort (it was Kristy, Jennifer, and I staying in there), and they had a mirror on the ceiling and heart shaped pillows on the bed.  Moving past that awkward aspect, we thankfully didn't stay in that room for longer than one night and didn't spend much time in the room at all.  The biggest tourist attraction is going to see the sunrise on Tiger Hill.  From that spot you can see the tallest mountains in the world (when the clouds are right).  We had to wake up at 330am to be up at the mountain by 530 so we didn't miss the sunrise.  It was about a 30 minute ride up and there were literally hundreds of people going.  It was super touristy (you could buy souvenirs, cha, and food) but it was totally worth it.  The sunrise was beautiful and it was so cold outside.  We couldn't see Everest that day but we saw K3 which is the third largest mountain in the world so I will take it!  We did some other touristy things after we left there but I wasn't really interested in that stuff.  Seeing a temple, and some railroad thing.  I have gathered in my travels here that I do not like doing typical, crowded, touristy things for the most part.

At that point we went into the town to have breakfast and we met up with everyone at a restaurant called Keventers.  It has this awesome roof top patio where you can have breakfast and see most of the whole town.  It was really great food and coffee and we sat for a while to talk and decide what we wanted to do during the day.  Kristy and I decided that we would walk around for a while and check out the town.  We ended up going to a tea tasting in a store overlooking a tea plantation.  I'm not usually one for hot tea but this was really good.  We went from there to have lunch at a bakery in town and then to tour the Happy Valley Tea Plantation.  After the tour, we had the chance to go and explore on the plantation.  It was beautiful and not too hot.  Kristy and I split up and went to read and be alone for a while.  I wrote a short bit while I was reading up on the mountain.

'As I begin writing this...I am sitting at a tea plantation in Darjeeling India. The city to my left, and nothing but tea, mountains, space in front of me. It is Saturday, the day before Easter. As I have been this entire time in India, I am constantly thanking and praising God for his provisions and allowing me to be here and be doing these things. Even more so today as I reflect on resurrection Sunday and the ultimate sacrifice God made for us by giving his only son. I sit here overcome with joy and gratitude.  The past few days have been a welcome respite from the normal hot India I know, as well as a good time for reflection and yet I havent come up with a ton of answers. I have no idea why I get to be here doing this but I'll take it. I choose it, even on hard days. Even on days where I don't want to.'

It was an amazing setting and just a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon, as well as the day before Easter.  After that we were asked to come into this woman's home who works at the plantation.  She was quite the character and half an hour of laughter ensued while we were in her house.  She had stuffed animals that she wanted us to take pictures with, as well as talking extensively about dinosaurs and how kids don't like to work these days.  It was yet another hilarious adventure in the people we encounter while traveling.  

We met back up with everyone else and went to a Chinese dinner at a place called Shangrila.  It was a really good meal besides getting everything in opposite order that we were supposed to.  The dessert came first followed by the main dishes and then the appetizers.  It was really only fitting for the way things work.

On Sunday morning we woke up early and had a time of devotion and prayer with the group since it was Easter.  It was a really special time of singing and worshipping with a group of people whom I have grown to love.  We then went and had breakfast at a bakery and went on the 'toy train' ride.  That was yet another experience, and not one that I would recommend for anyone.  It was really silly and a waste of money.  It rode backwards down part of the mountain, and then foward back up.

At that point most of the group was leaving to go to the town of Siliguri because they had to catch their train the next day early.  Jennifer and I were flying home and didn't need to leave yet so we went to a burger place for lunch followed by shopping, and more tea tasting.  We went back to the hotel to read/nap/freshen up and then we went to a happy hour at a bar nearby.  For dinner we went to a place called Glenary's which was really good.  After that we decided to go to bed because we had to get up early to head down the mountain and catch our flight.  

It takes two hours in the car to go from Darjeeling to Bagdogra on winding roads.  It was a short hour flight and then we were back in the City of Joy.

I really enjoyed Darjeeling, however, I would have to say that my time in Kalimpong and Padong were by far much better than Darjeeling.  They were less crowded and more of a small town feel.  It is very strange though because all three of the towns are far more Western and they are so much smaller in population.  

I would absolutely go back to all of the places.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Half year update

      So I have now been in the country of India for 6 months with 5 months left to go. I have done a poor job of keeping large groups of people up to date with the goings on with IJM and my work in India. I feel as though I never had a sound understanding of the situation (job, life, culture, city) and therefore was overwhelmed by my own lack of corresponding. I have since left the country three times since being here ( one unexpected and two planned) and I now think I have some perspective and understanding of my role here in the work, as well as feeling competent to speak on life in India and my experience thus far.

      As anyone who knows me can attest to, I think and contemplate things a lot. I have given probably too thought to my time here and what all of this really means for my life and future within the scope of Gods work through me for his kingdom.
      The work that IJM does is astonishing and an absolute privilege to witness and be a part of firsthand. I could not possibly say it enough. I'm consistently humbled by the work that the national staff here in Kolkata do on a year to year basis in restoring lives and securing freedom and justice for the girls and women oppressed and exploited in this city. I've never thought of myself as particularly spiritual but I've never once been in a place as oppressive and spiritually dark as Kolkata. The Lord called me here and has me here for a purpose but I would never have chosen the city of my own accord. At the same time, I have developed the kind of relationship with the city that is analogous to not letting others talk bad about your dysfunctional family, while I have free reign to speak on such matters.
       I've never felt such a combination of affection and utter distaste for a place in my life. It's not a pretty city and just about every building is falling apart in one way or another and yet I find beauty here in the most unusual places.
       I have also been incredibly fortunate to have made friends through work at IJM whom I know I will stay friends with even in the US. This fact is the most I could ask for. It's really a remarkable experience how such different people from all over the States choose and are chosen to come to Kolkata and work with IJM. I love hearing people's stories and how we all came to one place by way of so many different circumstances. I never went to summer camp but I liken it to that and sharing a once in a lifetime experience with a group of people and knowing you could always relate to something because of that shared experience.
      My work has been varied and recently changed in the middle of June. From February to June I was doing a variety of things from logistics of our aftercare team to trip planning to managing schedules and doing trainings. While I am good at structure and schedules, I am really glad to not be doing those things anymore. In June the aftercare department got an intern from Texas and she now does all of the administrative duties that I used to. I now focus my time on a few key things. Helping our caseworkers with writing and revising treatment plans for our clients and working on CTMS (case tracking management system). While those two things likely don't seem to take up a lot of time, I somehow find myself busy with supporting the team in many other ways at any spare moment. Due to the caseworkers not having a lot of experience or education with direct care service, I have taken on the responsibility of helping them, which I find really fun and I like it a lot. I love the idea of mentoring and walking alongside them as they work with our clients. I have had the chance to go to aftercare homes with them numerous times and to observe what they do with the girls and what sort of interventions and responses the girls give. I usually work from 10am-7/8 at night. However, I try to get to work by 830 every morning so I can check emails before work and get my coffee/get settled before the day gets started. At 9am we do 30 minutes of stillness/prayer time followed by 30 minutes of worship and corporate devotion as an entire office. At 10am our public work hours start. Our work day technically ends at 6pm but I can count on one hand how many times I've left in the 6 o'clock hour. People in our office work a lot, and it's the norm to be there until at least 7 every night.
      For the remainder of my time here, I hope to continue doing these sort of things as well as doing trainings.
      I think I have moved through the stages of culture shock and acceptance of where I am in an almost clockwork way. I went through the honeymoon period where there was a wide eyed wonder of discovering things in the city. This came with the addition of being tired and fatigued all the time and not understanding the ways in which the city takes a toll on me mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I have been through many days where I hated everything about where I was and why I had to 'suffer' through another 7-8 months in such a place. This time was accompanied with two good friends leaving, 3 trips from headquarters to our office, and some serious issues I was having to deal with in the office. The month of May also brought two good friends from the states who were a welcome relief but also made me miss home all the more.
      Thankfully at the beginning of June, when I was in the middle of all this, I was able to go on my visa run to Greece to meet my mom, brother and Daryn. That trip came at the best time and I am beyond grateful for the chance to leave Asia and experience a new place with people who really know me. It was just western enough that I felt at home and yet I would not have been able to go back to the States and have it be a good thing. My 12 days away were exactly the right mix of rest and activity that I needed to be able to go back to India with a renewed attitude. I didn't miss India while I was away but I really missed the people I work with.
      I think I was able to gain quite a bit of perspective in my leaving and I definitely have a new and reframed attitude in which I'm focusing on working from for the remainder of my time in Kolkata.
I also had the opportunity to do a trip with some of my favorite people in the office to another friends surprise wedding in the south of India in the state of Kerala. Following that trip I then went with two other expats from the office to the Maldives for a short weekend vacation, because when you're an hour away from the Maldives, it is best to go!
      I look forward to continuing to work in the last 5 months I have in the country! There will be more visitors from HQ, some people from home visiting, and new interns coming as well. Being in the field office keeps one thing constant, and that is that things change all the time. This is a good exercise for me to live out my attempt to love change.
      I want to extend a HUGE level of gratitude for the support and prayers that come from home! I would not be here or be able to do a single bit of this without it. I realize what a remarkable and unusual opportunity I have in being allowed to be here. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, and even when I was going through a difficult time, God was very faithful and clear on the fact that I am meant to be here and be doing this work. God continues to keep his promises and I am thankful for the growing and learning that I am able to do while I am still here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


So last Friday after fishing, we went back to Kalimpong and met up with Anju to head to her hometown of Padong.  We rode in a shared jeep and it should have taken about 45 minutes but due to the driver driving like a crazy person we reached in about 30 minutes.  Anju had stated before that we would need to walk for about 30 minutes once we got to the town.  She did not mention, however, that we would be walking directly uphill the entire time.  Turns out that her family lives at the very top of this mountain and it backs up to this cliff that you can see mountains in the state of Sikkim, as well as other mountains in West Bengal.

It was totally unreal that growing up she would have to go up and down the mountain everyday to go to school or anywhere else for that matter.  She also mentioned that in places where they had stairs, that they had been added within the last few years.  I cannot even imagine having to do that for daily life!  Talk about life being difficult!

Once we reached the top, we were greeted by her mother and uncle.  We immediately had lunch at her home, and were shown remarkable hospitality throughout our time there.  Her family is precious and so very kind.  We could only stay a few hours because it was very last minute and we needed to go to Darjeeling Friday night.  After lunch we climbed some more to the cliff that overlooks the valley behind her house.  We sat there for a while and chatted and learned some more about her life and just about growing up in India.  It was really a special time and I am super thankful for the opportunity to go to her home.

From there we went back down to the jeep and ended up having the same driver take us back to Kalimpong.  When we arrived back, we were looking for a taxi to take us to Darjeeling.  Apparently most taxis leave at 3pm at the latest, and it was about 6pm.  Some people wanted a ridiculous amount to take us there, and so we were trying to find a ride.  We ended up having to call Anju and she got some of her family in Kalimpong to get a taxi to agree to take us there.  Turns out it was the party taxi that we were riding in!  From the very beginning we were listening to all American pop hits and the driver was dancing in the front seat to all the songs.  It was so much fun!  At one point the hills were so steep that we were driving on that the taxi couldn't make it up.  The driver stopped and asked for all of us to get out and walk up the hill.  Of course it was pitch dark at this point and we thought he was kidding.  He most definitely was not, and so we got out and walked up this one hill.  It was really hilarious and indescribable because he was driving alongside us as if he was a trainer and yelling at us to move faster and clapping at us to do better!  When we got to the top of the hill we realized that there was another hill, so we in turn had to walk up the second hill as well.  It was the craziest thing ever...but one of those times that was just so much fun and really funny.

We made it to Darjeeling around 10pm and we went to our hotel to crash for the night.  I will update again about how the hotel was (read honeymoon suite), as well as the experience of being in Darjeeling.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A little trip to Kalimpong

So last weekend I went on a little vacation, which ended up being 5 days.  Because of the Holi holiday we were able to take Wednesday and Thursday off and we had Good Friday off work.  Kristy, Jennifer, and I decided that we wanted to go early to a smaller town near Darjeeling.  Our first day was wonderful, we had a very short one hour flight to Bagdogra and then got a prepaid taxi take us to Kalimpong which is a few hours from Darjeeling. We stayed there until Friday. The ride was beautiful and the weather was in the 70s which was fantastic!  The taxi driver was awesome as well because he stopped at random points along the way that he knew we would want shots of. We ate at this hole in the wall restaurant and I mean that so very literally!  We had amazing dal and roti though. The lodge we stayed at was nice and totally comfortable, and the owners are from Tibet. We had dinner at a great place in town about a 10 minute walk from the lodge. We also met a local who helped us set up some things to do for the rest of our time.

Thursday was a really nice day.  We got up around 8am, got ready, and went to have breakfast on the terrace (which was actually like a terrace). We had a nice conversation with this group from the States that is doing work with Tibetan school children. Oh the people you meet while traveling!

After breakfast we went on a 2 hour walk (read hike but on a road) up to the highest point in Kalimpong, which is also where the paragliding takes place. It was a really challenging but I was loving breaking a sweat for exercising purposes!  We saw a lot of the town that was very neat and I'm a huge fan of the place in general.

When we got to the top I determined that the paragliding was safe (due to the instructor not being Indian and being legitimately licensed in Sweden).  It was really the coolest experience. I was most nervous because I don't like stomach drops but I didn't have a single one!  It was just like floating through the was beautiful and quiet and just lovely overall.  It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip!

From there Kristy and I had an outdoor picnic lunch of momo's and coke while Jennifer was paragliding.  After that we were going to walk down to our hotel but we ended up getting a lift from our instructor back to the center of town, on the top of his SUV.  From there we went to this orchid nursery and walked around for a bit. After all of this adventure we ended our night by going to dinner at this place called King Thai, fun fact that it doesn't serve Thai food!!  We had an early dinner and then walked back to the lodge. 

Friday morning we got up early again because we were going fishing down at the river.  Our friend that we met said it would be a good time and we didn't have anything planned for the early part of the day Friday.  We had our taxi driver, an instructor and his daughter who went with us.  I don't really care anything about fishing but just thought it would be a good experience to be able to take pictures and enjoy the surroundings some more!  It was a good time, even though I'm pretty sure there are no fish in this particular river because all of the other people we saw fishing weren't catching anything either.  I had a great time even still.  

We left fishing a bit early because we found out that another coworker is from a town about 30 minutes away from Kalimpong and she was coming up early to take some vacation time at home with her family.  She invited us to her home to have lunch so we definitely didn't want to pass up that opportunity!  I will write about our time in Padong at a later time because it was a wonderful time!

I'm so glad we ended up going early and were able to go to Kalimpong.  The weather was amazing and the air is so clean!  Everyone there spoke Nepalese and are much more Asian looking than Indian looking. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm still alive over here!

I don’t know why I do this to myself.  I have a lot of great intentions about writing, and I do actually really love it and being able to express what I have been doing/going through in this crazy Indian life I lead.  One major roadblock to my blogging is just the sheer number of things that happen on any given day and the feeling of being overwhelmed in writing them all or conveying all that I want people at home to know and understand.

This here is my attempt at catching up.  I cannot possibly write everything that has happened but I will surely try to get a sense of it out there.

I officially have been residing here for 7 weeks and 2 days.  There was a brief 7 day stint at home in Atlanta for my grandmothers funeral but I don’t consider that time as time home.  I was still somewhere else in my mind, and tried to make the trip solely about grieving and spending time with my family.  I honestly didn’t really want to see friends.  Only because I had already said goodbye to everyone and I didn’t want to have any part of me that was going back to like I was still living there.  It was hard enough to be home and see my family and then say goodbye again.  Moral of the story is that I am really glad that I was able to come home and be with my family during that time, and I have no regrets about that decision.  My relationship with my family is the most important earthly relationship I have.

Moving on past that.  I had been in the country for 3 weeks when I left and I have now been in the country for 3 weeks again so I feel like I am finally getting settled into things here. 

We have had a trip heavy time since I arrived here.  There have been 6 trips total and 4 of them have been aftercare specific.  Since people like to come when it is not as hot, all the trips tend to be around the same time.  As of this week though, there are no more trips planned that I am aware of.  So from now until when I leave there will likely not be any more trips.  As of now I don’t mind that because the last 3 weeks have been 3 trips back to back.  One of those trips I was the leader and coordinator for the entire thing.  It was a group from Peachtree back in the states and I really wanted to be in charge of doing the trip.  I am definitely glad that I was able to do that, but at the same time I am still recovering from just the nonstop ‘hosting’ that I did for the trip.  In addition, I am a total introvert so being around people all the time is really draining for me.  The Lord was really gracious though and totally sustained me throughout my time with them.  I believe He gave me the words to speak, the patience for dealing with logistics in India, and the strength to be in charge of a group of 10 people for 7 days.

I have been able to get some work done for my job, and that is nice to have a sense of accomplishment.  I had been working on a case spreadsheet that is a compilation of all our clients in one place with what has been done for them in regards to resources by IJM and aftercare, as well as their respective homes.   Before this was done, there was no single place for how all of our clients were doing.  It was all kept separate by each caseworker.  The hope of doing this is to get a better understanding of all our clients and what we have already completed/and what we still need to do for each girl.

This week is already in full swing.  On Monday I had a half day, so in the afternoon I went to the consulate and sat by the pool and read for about 2 hours.  I then took a shower there for some great water pressure.  After that I went to Yoforia and had dinner before coming home.  It was a lovely afternoon off!  Today I worked from home because we are having some leaky pipes fixed in our bathroom and someone has to be here at all times to monitor the workers.  There is a sort of brief update of life here. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

crazy & chaotic

Time just really gets away from me here.  I can't believe I have been here for 15 days!  I decided I wanted to catch up because so many things happen here that it can get to be overwhelming to not post more. 

So to wrap up my first week here, I received my luggage after numerous phone calls, both from me and then from my mom.  It was a big ordeal but they finally arrived 5 days after I got here.  The first week was crazy but it was also really hard because I just didn't feel settled at all.  I know it's just stuff, but it's my stuff.  Friday night we had a mexican night at the flat with some people over from work.  It was really good food and a nice time to hang out with people from work.  After everyone left I stayed up extra late and put all my pictures up in the room.  There is nothing like pictures and letters from the ones that love me most to make me feel at home!  Saturday I went to see Les Miserables at the mall (what a western thing to say!)  After that we shopped some and just hung around at our flat for most of the night.  On Sunday we went to KCF and then lunch.  We went to the city book fair after lunch.  I was thinking it would be a small event that would be fun to walk around and see things.  I was totally wrong and it was really huge.  There were tons of auditorium size buildings that housed so many books!  It was honestly very overwhelming and way too many people.  They really like their books though so thats good to know!

This past week at work was very busy as well.  We had someone leaving the office so we had a farewell and other things that had to do with that.  I was able to do some work which was nice to feel like I was accomplishing something.  I was also able to visit an aftercare home (one of my favorites at that).  In addition, I was able to go visit two other NGO's.  One I had been to before called Freeset and the other called Destiny.  They both employ women who have gotten out of the life and now work for fare wages and creating something.  This was also the week for meetings.  Our department has more meetings than any other department.  They are all necessary, but they are also all long.  It can be hard for me to sit for that long, though I suppose that's a discipline I can learn.  

I was able to buy a Saree this week, as I am going to a co workers wedding reception and that is traditionally what one wears.  It was on my list of things that I wanted to do while here (buy a saree that is) and I'm so excited to get the opportunity so soon!  The whole office is going so it should be a really fun time!!  

This past weekend was the most packed weekend so far and so much fun but also super tiring!  On Saturday I went with one of my roomies on an all day shopping adventure.  We wanted to get some things for our respective rooms and just wanted to get it done as efficiently as possible.  Thankfully we were both able to find what we wanted.  I bought a mattress.  Yes I'm aware it sounds sort of extreme but I haven't been sleeping well and that was my option.  They aren't nearly as expensive, I will say that.  I was also able to get some things for my room to make it a bit more homey like a comforter and a floor mat.  I'm really pleased with it and how its turned out.  There definitely wasn't anything wrong with it before, but I'm glad I can be happy about coming home to it.  

On Saturday night the most amazing thing happened.  I went to dinner with two other interns and we went in search of this mexican restaurant called Amigos.  I had no high hopes about this place being good but let me tell you, it really was!  I love mexican food, and I was already really missing it, and this place was delicious.  It was expensive in terms of how much food usually costs here but not for US standard.  It has definitely been my most exciting find of the city thus far.  

I decided about a week ago to run a half marathon.  Lets just say that wasn't the smartest decision ever, but it gave the utmost crazy experience of the city thus far.  First of all, there were ton of people there running which was very cool to see that even this city has a running 'group'.  There were also a ton of people who came out just to see what all the people were lining up for.  There were no rules and anyone was allowed to come in the starting corrals which was weird.  

We started a little bit late because of a friend who was running late and there was also a group doing a 4k.  When we did start running, there were no signs and no direction as to which route was which.  So of course we ended up on the 4k route and almost finished it before we realized.  We turned around and ran about 3k back to where the half turned off and at this point none of the streets were closed, though I highly doubt they were closed to begin with.  It was the more unorganized thing ever, in true Indian style.  It was me and one of my roomies and then we met up with two other Indians who did the same thing and we ended up staying a foursome and running through the city like crazy people.  I thought people stared when I was just walking down the street, but I had no idea the extent of stares that could happen.  We looked like we were on the amazing race or something.  Besides the lack of running training whatsoever, we were running on sidewalks and stopping on almost every corner to ask for directions.  Since everyone knew they saw runners they were mostly helpful.  All I will say is that I finished and I can barely walk.  No big deal.  

Moral of the story is that I ran a half marathon in India...who gets to say that? 

After the half marathon, we decided to go eat at Amigos again, which I totally didn't mind.  Following that I was able to come back home and take a 3 hour nap that was much needed!  

On Monday we had a celebration day for all the victories and accomplishments of the 2012 year.  It was such a great day.  We went to a co workers house and were able to spend time with the staff and eat together.  In addition to that we got to see some brick kilns in the small town and the people working there.  Then we went to the river, followed by going to a park where there happened to be some rides like you would have at a fair.  It was such a fun time because we got to ride a small roller coaster and then a tilt-o-whirl.  I can't even say the last time I rode a ride was!  

That is a brief update of my life up until now.  Here's to my 4 day work week!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Arts therapy

For two days last week I was able to go to a different aftercare home I had not been to before.  I went with the team from the UK and it was such a great time.  They are very specific in their plan and objectives in the homes and spend so much time working on what exactly they do with the girls.  I am beyond thankful to be able to see them in action and to see the impact they had on the girls.  It was a big picture goal they were seeking, all revolving around self image and building confidence and their self esteem.  They all came with different skills, whether that is drama, dance, or voice.  They honed in on those specific categories so well.  The girls really responded well with all the different aspects, it was so cool to see.  I was able to help out with things and have direct contact with the girls which is definitely something that I love to do.  It is awesome to see a team with such skill that can use so many different things, but they all flowed well into one another and nothing seemed forced or like it didn't fit.  They did dance, and singing and crafts that all revolved around their main topics of instilling characteristics like strength, joyfulness, courage, generosity, perserverance, and other things.  In addition to being able to be there with them, I was able to speak to each one of them about their respective talents and how they go about planning and carrying out the services.  They never do crafts or games just for the sake of doing it.  Every single aspect of the day is planned for a purpose and for an overarching objective.  I appreciate that so much because so many teams can come and do random things but its so wonderful to see a team that spent at least 3 hours every night working on making the best use of their time and resources.

Additionally, they left their toolkit and information for every part of their trip so that we could hopefully replicate it with other groups.  It is such an asset to the team.  I was definitely sad to see them go! 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Feet washing

I am so thankful to arrive when I did.  It just so happened that two teams were in town, one from the states and one from the UK.  That also meant I really had no direction for the first week but it was ok because I was able to go to aftercare homes for 3 days in the week.  On Tuesday I went to one home I had been to before with one of the teams.  I love getting to see the girls and even just see more of the city in the process.  So initially I was just going to observe and see what they were doing and spend time with the girls.  However, there was a slight change in plans and because one of the team members wasn't there I was asked if I would help out with one of their projects.  The project happened to be was feet washing, followed by doing a pedicure.  I definitely love the imagery of Jesus washing his disciples feet and think it carries along with it some powerful lessons.  It was a very interesting thing to be a part of cross culturally though, and many of the girls were very uncomfortable with it and did not want to take part in it.  I definitely don't blame them and if they didn't want their feet done then we would wash their hands and paint their nails.  I have to think that in some ways the girls were feeling some of the same things that the disciples were when Jesus said he wanted to wash their feet.  It is such a tangible way of serving someone that makes much more of an impact than just speaking things.  There were certainly some awkward parts, but those happen all the time in India.  During the process, as I am continuing to try and be as present as possible in what I do, I kept thinking how grateful I was to be in India and being able to serve a population of girls that I love so much.  As much as I have gone back and forth about the implications and repercussions of the feet washing, I am left with the thought that it did no harm, and there is great potential for good out of it.  The experience was enriching for me and I was thankfully able to process it with my boss on the way back to the office.  For better or worse, I appreciate experiences to learn, be aware, and discern from.

Journey to India

So this is what happened…I had it all planned out and it was seemingly going to work out really well timing and cost wise.  When I was waiting at the airport for my flight on Thursday, I was noticing that they weren’t clearing people from the standby list.  They kept calling for last and final warnings and yet no filling of the 21 seats left on the plane.  At long last the gate agent comes on the intercom and says that they are not adding any non revenue passengers because of weight restrictions and they were going to leave with those 21 open seats.  Welp…that wasn’t what I was expecting, the flight looked so good and I was pretty confident I would get on.  I didn’t take into account anything about weight.  So on to plan B I went.  There was a flight leaving later in the afternoon for Amsterdam and on to Mumbai that I could list myself for, and that is exactly what I did.  I waited around at the airport and the flight wasn’t looking great but they were clearing people for the flight.  So they cleared 5 names and guess which one I was on the list?  If you guessed number 6 then you would be correct.  That was a highly unfortunate series of events that left me not on the flight.   At that point I had been speaking to my brother for over an hour about my options that at the very minimum looked anything like me flying from a variety of US cities.  I told him to just look up flights and see how much they were if I were to buy one.  Surprisingly they were only about $500 more than what I paid for the buddy pass…so I made the split second decision that I would buy a flight on delta for the following day from Atlanta to Paris to New Delhi.  From New Delhi I would do the same thing I was planning on doing from Thailand.  So I went home Thursday night knowing that I would not be doing the same the next day. What a tease that was.  It was an emotionally charged morning of dropping me off at the airport on Thursday and I felt extremely loved for all the words, cards, and encouragement from my family and friends.  The following day, however, was just my mom dropping me off to send me on my way.  Much more low key and tear free (almost). 

So I made my flight to Paris with no problem and it was short and I had an aisle seat.  A win-win if you ask me!  Also, it was snowy in Paris and oh so pretty!  So I was there for about 4 hours and I indulged myself in a chocolate croissant, cappuccino, and fruit juice, because when in Paris right?  We got on the plane headed for Delhi and I had a window seat (not my preference on long flights) and it was a 3 person row.  Additionally, there was a baby that was crying from the very beginning 2 seats away from me.  So here we are at the gate and the Captain comes on and says that we are going to have a slight delay due to the weather (oh snowy goodness you forsake me!)  A slight delay turned into an hour sitting at the gate…and let me mention that this child is screaming and crying pretty much half of the time.  Once we are cleared to taxi, the captain comes on again and says we will have another slight delay while we get our wings de-iced.  Well if there is anything to makes one feel solid about the upcoming flight, it’s when there is ice on the wings.  Of course we all know I make it out alive off that flight so don’t worry!  So that is going on outside my window and the baby is still crying and at this point has made himself cry and scream so much that he is vomiting all over his seat and tray table, not to mention making some really lovely gagging noises.  The girl who was sitting on the aisle next to him was seriously grossed out and holding her nose and let me tell you that part of the cabin REEKED!  She asked to be moved seats but there were no more open seats on the plane, and it was a full house in there!  Oh my word…I don’t even know what more there is to say about that except the flight attendant was awesome and was trying so hard to clean up and spray stuff to make it smell better, which we all know is just a cover up of vomit smell.  So after all this we taxi and take off.  The flight seemed to take forever and for some reason I wasn’t all that tired.  I slept for the last half of the flight because I knew I was going to be so dead when I got to Delhi. 

Bum-ba-ba-bum….arrival in India!  How joyous to be welcomed back to India the only way India knows how.  Mass chaos…lost bags…and a “line” concept that is foreign.  So I went through customs and onward to find my bag.  Low and behold neither one of them are there.  Initially I was freaked that someone had taken my bags by accident or on purpose.  However when I asked someone and they told me to go to the “baggage inquiry” counter and there were about a hundred other people over there from a variety of flights including my own, I realized that it wasn’t the most likely case.  Apparently there were 39 bags that were not put on the flight from Paris and my 2 were some of the lucky ones.  It took over an hour of standing in line at 2am Delhi time to get a form, filling out form, taking form back to counter only to be told to take it to get it signed by a customs official, only to come back and have them tell you you need to write your name out a little better and you should just start a new sheet (to which Kimberlie said absolutely not in the most polite way possible)  to lastly being assured that I would be getting my bag back before 2 days and they would deliver them to my flat.  The flight from Paris was admittedly a disaster, but it was so ridiculous that I just laughed at all the craziness.  I knew there would be bumps and I appreciate them for what they teach me (hello patience).

My flight from Delhi to Kolkata was seamless and we made it there in good time.  I was happy to at least have no bags to worry about when I got there.  My roommate and another intern came and picked me up from the airport.

It was around 8 in the morning and I was wide awake somehow.  I totally believe the Lord had sustained me throughout that process and even up until now because I have been running on fumes!  From the airport we went to the flat…my new home…and dropped my things off.  From there we got ready for church at KCF (Kolkata Christian Fellowship).  I was able to meet a lot of the other staff of IJM and intern/fellows.  Post church we went to eat at the mall and go shopping some so I could get some things.  We were really out and about all day which was definitely tiring but I was glad to be out rather than just sitting at the flat because I wanted to try and stay up all day and just go to bed that night.  

I was able to stay up until 9pm and skype with my mom.  I was not required to go to the office the next day but I woke up ready to go at 7am so I decided I would rather go and meet people and start my time there.  It was a bit overwhelming because of meeting so many people at once but I like everyone in the office and it’s such a fun environment.  I was able to go to lunch with two of my coworkers in aftercare and get an initial feel for what that department needs and what its strengths are at the current time.  That really wrapped up my first day in the office.  I appreciate all the prayers and support I have gotten since being here!  I will try and update this more!