Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter and some thoughts.

HAPPY EASTER PEEPS! So, I didn't wake up to an Easter egg hunt this morning but I did get a nice surprise plate of goodies. Our National Directors were in the states 2 weeks ago and picked up some Easter candy to surprise us with. I was grateful for it not only because it's a taste of America but also because the driver woke me up and I had to run to the door looking like a monster- let's all be grateful I was sleeping in pants and a t-shirt. He probably would have been scarred if I was wearing anything else. Luckily, my rude awakening was fixed with the plate of chocolate eggs for breakfast.

I've been so busy with work that I haven't really been in the Easter spirit and I had hoped church would really do it for me but church could not have been more chaotic today. Sacrament meeting was great, as usual, but then the bishop told me he couldn't do my ecclesiastical endorsement because he wouldn't be getting a password for a month for the website. Soo, I'll be registering for my senior classes with freshman. Then, Primary.... so much screaming and wiggles. The very long ride home was me trying to get over my headache.

I got home and decided I need to be less grumpy on this holiday so I went to play with the kids and they just humbled me to pieces. Not only today but all week long. I got so many notes this week from kids telling me how beautiful and wonderful I am. The house mothers made me gifts from palm leaves and asked me to wear their really nice sarees for events like church. Everyone is so selfless and willing to give and these people have NOTHING. I feel so bad taking things from them but they absolutely insist. One boy, Praveen, cut the pocket off of his only nice button up shirt because I keep telling him how much love the pattern on him. He only owns 2 shirts. He wears the same outfit every day so the shirt I love only gets worn a couple times a year, for nice events. I felt so bad when he pulled the fabric out of his pocket but he was so excited to give it to me that I couldn't help but love it. It has been the background of my phone for 2 months now so I'm really happy to own a piece of it. I just wished he didn't have to ruin his shirt in order for me to have it.

Another example of adorable children which is a bit of a tangent: All of the kinder-gardeners picked flowers from the bushes on the school grounds, which is allowed here, during their play time and they just kept handing them to me. I didn't really know what to do with them and I definitely did not want to throw them away because it was too sweet. One of the ladies approached me with some string and she made me a flowers string to put in my hair. All of the kids were so excited but not as excited as I was for their gift. (Here in Tamil Nadu all of the Indian ladies wear flowers in their hair.) Isn't it funny how the smallest things can make us so happy?

I think today is a good day to reflect on the important things in our lives regardless of our religious beliefs. Easter is a time to be grateful for what has been given to us here in life, whether you think that come from Christ's atonement or from Krishna/many other Hindu Gods. These children and patients are so grateful for the little they have and are so willing to share. I think they understand what has made them happy, they're grateful for it, and don't really worry about things beyond that. It's refreshing to be surrounded with that kind of humility and love. I hope you all  remember the important things in your life and have a happy happy Easter. Also, eat tons of chocolate/delicious Easter meal because I am really missing that aspect of this holiday.

Also, also, the locals celebrate the holiday by parading down the streets with a man on a cross, splattered with blood, in the back of a truck. It's not enough to visualize it in your head I guess.

Here are some PHOTOS. SO fun.

Me and Praveen enjoying our Easter playtime together. 

Here's a close up of Praveen's shirt which is now missing a pocket.

The small shoes are from a woman who is about the same size of the man who owns the other sandals. She has lost most of her feet due to the leprosy but still is a happy camper when volunteers come. 

Ezak. Such a sweet man. He just got eye surgery to help him actually see and he is so happy all of the time. Rising Star paid for it which is just the blessing of his life because there is no way he could have afforded it. 

Children using me as a mattress for our Saturday movie night. I will miss it. 

One of my favorite students! I had to share this photoshoot. Cricket helmet while pretending to play guitar. Such a goon.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Golden Triangle

So many things have happened in the past two weeks! Work has been great as well as my mini vacation to the northern side of the country. We visited 3 places, Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (the golden Triangle). The differences between these districts is like night and day. Being here really helps me understand the history of this region of the world. So many little countries forced to group into larger ones over the years except, here in India, they kept so many of the traditions and languages. They even look different.

First, of all I cannot even tell you how AMAZING the Taj Mahal was. It honestly was the only building I have ever seen in my life that has made me gawk with my mouth open. Erin and I were getting emotional about it, which is just funny to me now, but in the moment it was so overwhelming. Everything about that visit was beautiful, the building, the weather, the grounds, the mosques next to it. So, so wonderful. You HAVE to put that on your bucket list in life (I will gladly go with you). I spent an hour there and I was so focused on it that I did not notice the time passing or the 1000s of people around me. The detail of that building is so incredible and if you really want to know the specifics of how they made it I can tell you but it would take too long to describe. Just imagine 17 years of 100s of workers hand-carving marble pieces and gemstones and gluing them together and you've got a pretty good idea.

The rest of the trip was fabulous too. I went with our good friend Benson Massey who has worked with RisingStar Outreach before and has a travel company up North. It was so much fun! So if you guys are planning a trip to India, he's your guy (Abish Travels).

We went to beautiful palaces and forts in Jaipur and visited an elephant village- yes, a village of 120 elephants and adorable children. Erin and I visited the place with Benson just so he could show us what things he was planning for future groups and I demanded we go too. We got to ride one, named Chanchel, and paint our names on her later. The best part of the visit was climbing the elephant by his trunk and then ungracefully getting down- it's a lot harder than it looks! I will warn you though, while riding the elephant our driver who was probably my age told us to hop down and ride on the elephant head so we could get an idea of what it felt like driving one... I'm pretty sure he just wanted an American girl right up on him because that's basically what happened. I sat down and then he scooted backwards; I got the wonderful opportunity to sit snug against a professional elephant trainer for a whole 10 minutes. That never would have happened down south, some old lady would have smacked him. People, I'm living the life. Also, enjoy this video... it captures a lot of my experience here. 1. Snug against Indian man on elephant. 2. Cute ragged children everywhere. 3. Anita (Anitha) is an Indian name and that makes them really excited so I hear my name a lot because they actually remember it.

Imagine seeing an elephant trunk waving outside of a window.... This is baby elephant. She's all sorts of trouble. 

I got to paint my name on Chanchel after I climbed her face.
I don't remember this one's name but she sure liked the sugar cane I gave her. 
I know this is blurry but it captured the moment. Baby elephant tore my flower necklace because I didn't give it to her. She then threw it over her shoulder as I scolded her... THEN she looked sad. Elephants and human children aren't that different. 

We went to a spice market in old Delhi and I was coughing, more like choking, up a lung. The spices are suspended in the air and it's like throwing tear gas into a crowded market. Everyone was covering their faces as we walked by... I should have followed their examples. I had a hoarse voice for the rest of the night. The rickshaw ride was also something I will never forget. Imagine (again) a bike with a cart on the back of it, carrying two people, and then riding it through markets with streets big enough for 3 people to walk side-by-side and then having a population of 20 million + in the city. I do not know how my driver got through that without harming someone or me. I wont even talk about driving through the streets... I had to shut my eyes. I can't write in detail everything we did because it would take me too long to write and you would probably stop reading right about here so I won't kill you. It was great and I'll tell you stories when I get home. But Delhi was so fun.

Roof of the spice market. 
Work has been awesome. I have made it several weeks without holding a foot full of maggots. I did have to take a glucose test on a person with no fingers this week- it's as complicated as it sounds. I also carried a sleeping  boy back to his hostel today and he had peed his pants but I didn't notice. It was dark... As you probably know, I had pee on me as well as the poor lady I handed the boy to. I thought it was funny... she wasn't as entertained by it. I also got mauled by red ants and had a terrible allergic reaction AGAIN. I have never wanted to scratch my foot off before. A few days later the temperatures increased by a few degrees Celsius and I developed a heat rash. Too much running with kids in the sun and sitting in hot cars.

I've been here three months! I'm sad that I only have a few more weeks left. The time is going so fast! But I'm really excited to finish school and finally graduate so it's not as sad of a farewell as it could be. Well, here are some more photos so enjoy!

Jaipur: I wouldn't have minded living here. Especially if I had personal maids to carry me and my 20KG worth of jewels around the palace. These people had to have been fat...

Some pretty paintings that were were made with crushed gem-stones.
Floor of the baby Taj Mahal. Erin and I enjoyed our bare-foot walk around the mini palace.
Monument dedicated to the Indians who lost their lives in the World Wars... I must have been asleep during that  part in my World History class. 

One of the many disgusting monkeys I live with daily. 

Delhi's roof tops. 

Inlay art at the Taj Mahal... so incredible. The orange glows when you put a flash light to it. 

All of that is hand carved inlaid art... 17 years, people. 

Imagine walking through the desert between Jaipur and Agra and stumbling upon this old well from the 9th century. It was ENORMOUS and literally in the middle of no where. 

ALSO, that was the closest I'll ever get to Pakistan. :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Northern India vs. Southern India... OH, and my week.

So, this week was a little more difficult than the others but that happens-lots of miscommunication and awkward moments. However, I did get a package full of American food from an awesome family in California. Not to mention the bags and bags of chocolate a nice couple picked up for us when they stopped in the states. The Indian food is starting to get to me. Also, eating only rice every day does weird things to your body.

I do get a nice break next week because I am going on a weekend getaway to Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi!!! Yes, I am missing the festival of colors by a few days... I'm really sad about it so don't remind me.  I will give you a fun update when I get back. It will probably be all about food because northern Indian food is the best thing that has ever happened to the world. I go to Thailand in a couple of weeks which is the second best thing that has happened to world food. Also, random thought, pinterest is TORTURE because I don't have an oven or access to any ingredients so all of those posts make me so so hungry- especially Mexican food. People, we are going to Cafe Rio and Diego's Tacos when I get back to Provo, you are all invited.

I have one and a half fun stories that I can think of from the week. In the beginning of the week I got mauled by some red ants because I was running around without shoes and landed in a ant farm... it hurt. I then had an allergic reaction so I was put on some mystery medication and had to put pink lotion on it- which smelled and looked like pink paint so I'm still not sure if it actually was medicinal or if I was being tested for the placebo effect. I survived but I was a little bit miserable mentally and physically. Imagine the itchiest foot you've ever had in your entire life and you're cleaning leprosy wounds and poking people with needles all day so you're afraid to touch anything especially scratching open your skin.

 I also got mooned by a 5 year old during play time.

I want you all to fully understand the shock I've had when I came here so I have something fun for you to watch. Prior to this trip I didn't realize how different every region was in India (which is stupid, I know, but sometimes we don't actually use our heads). I was expecting Slumdog Millionaire, minus the guns, and a lot of really really good food. Well, I'm sad to say that didn't happen.  Here are some examples of the differences.

1. Movies.

Above is a clip of a cute love song in a Bollywood film, also known as a Hindi/northern India film. These movies are still really strange sometimes but they've got some good dancing and music and I genuinely enjoy a few of them. You don't need to watch the entire song if it kills you but watch at least a minute of it so you get the idea.

The link below is what I discovered in Tamil Nadu. I don't mean to offend anyone but this is the only way I can explain these movies- Bollywood with a learning disability. Please compare the two love triangles... it's hilarious. Not to mention that Tamil movies are extremely violent...blood spewing everywhere always. Click the link below for the clip. The blog wouldn't let me put the video straight on here because it's just that awful. you HAVE to watch the whole thing. It's so bad it's funny.

2. Food

Chicken Tikka Masala (Northern) vs. Tamil Nadu Briyhani and Curd (Southern). If I were to die and go to heaven right now, my first meal would be Chicken Tikka Masala and naan. I may even have it for the first two meals I love it that much. Briyhani? I'd rather eat dirt and grass for dinner than curd and Briyhani. Yep. There are a few things that are really yummy here but I get them really infrequently so I eat M&Ms/peanut butter after every meal. I'm not going to come home a skeleton because I eat junk, a lot. And the few meals I like I'm usually coughing up chicken skin, cartilage, fish bones, and other mystery items so I lose my appetite quickly, hence, the candy addiction. It clears the pallet.

Well, I hope you enjoy the video clips as much as I did because I was laughing hysterically in my bed as I posted them.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Curry Fever: Half way?!!

There's something magical about living in the hidden corners of the the developing world. I've officially passed my half way mark and I'm already starting to feel nostalgic. I'm so attached to these children and patients! I mean, how could you not get attached?

For my two month mark I decided I would start eating with my hands for every meal but I started that a few weeks ago. So my new resolution was to wear a Sari every Sunday until I leave. I thought I would want to wear a sari all of the time while I was here but I wore one once and I hated it. 7 yards of fabric in 90+ degrees is miserable. Also, trying to walk is just comical. Anyway, I started today and let me tell you, if you need a confidence boost in India, wear a sari. I got a compliment like every 10 minutes at church, school, and even the local grocery store. They all told me I looked like an Indian girl. One new missionary came up to me after sacrament and asked if I was from Delhi and he's from Delhi. I'm not entirely sure if I actually looked Indian but it was nice nonetheless. All of the little boys at the school just stared at me and kept telling me how beautiful I looked. I just laughed because I didn't do anything different besides change my clothes. Even the troll house warden told me that I walk like an Indian girl because I don't trip on the fabric. She must have only been watching me for 3 minutes because I was definitely tripping on it all day. So, more saris for me.

Also, I'm not sure if I've just been in India too long but the men are starting to look more attractive. Some people use the term jungle fever for those missionaries who come home from Africa and only want to marry dark girls. I think India gives you Curry Fever.  I'm not sitting outside staring at all of the men thinking about this all of the time, I promise. I was watching one of the horrible Tamil movies the other night with the kids and I shocked myself because I thought the main character was actually attractive. They're fat, dorky men with nasty mustaches. Who am I? Seriously though, look up on Google images Tamil Movie Heroes.

I think something more meaningful that I have realized here is that you can spend so much time with people and not really know them at all. There's a patient at one of the colonies I visit who I adore. I'm currently helping out with patient profiles so we can have a basic biography for everyone and it's a tough job. You have to hear these sad stories all day long- it wears you down. Subramani has the saddest story of all and I never would have known it. I sit and flirt with this 75 year-old man once every two weeks as we give him treatment. He has this big toothless smile and is always laughing at me but he spends a lot of time alone.

He noticed the first signs of leprosy when he was 5 but no one realized it- his family thought he had sensitive skin. His parents died not long after that and he moved in with his single grandmother and helped her on the farm. At age 18 his grandmother passed away. Fortunately, she had taught him to weave mats and he was able to live alone until he was 20. He then moved into a government home for leprosy patients which was awful. It was overcrowded and seething with disease. He married a young woman when he turned 22 in the government home but 5 months later she died of an unidentifiable illness. He never remarried. Hindus and Indians in general are very sentimental people when it comes to love and relationships. I wasn't even able to ask anymore questions about his wife because it was too hard for him to talk about. After his wife died he spent a few more years in the home until a man from an NGO told him about Barathapuram, the colony we now work at. Subramani moved here in 1965 and hasn't left since.

 I then asked him about his life and what he thought about it. He's just numb. His best friend just died and he said he's just waiting to die. Risingstar Outreach volunteers are his family now because they take care of his needs. He is severely crippled due to the leprosy. He has no fingers, a few toes, and has to use a crutch.  I was so impressed with him and how he has handled everything. He worked until he had no more fingers and he still loves all of those who were in his life. The saddest part of our conversation was when we talked about the afterlife. He said that he prays every day that the Gods don't make him a human again because he couldn't handle it.

I sat with him the other day at the art school after this conversation and just saw him in a whole new light. Everyone has struggles in their life even though they don't talk about them but they just move on. He's also one of those people that make you realize that you have such a wonderful life! I mean, I didn't even know leprosy still existed until I came here let alone the persecution associated with it. This guy has had a tough life but he's one of the sweetest patients we have. Here are some photos for you to enjoy! Also, I've had some of you ask about the organization I work with. If you want to donate, sponsor a child's education, or anything along those lines here's a link.

Also, here's the blog I sometimes appear in/write for.


Goutham, He could use a sponsor. :) Kindergarten (UKG)

Gokul: Kindergarten (UKG)

Seriously though, if you want to sponsor a kid let me know and I can help you pick one out. It's $30 a month and you get to write letters back and forth and send treats if you want. They LOVE their sponsors. The kid I sponsor keeps my letters in his pocket until it's a folded moosh. He has every letter memorized. You can also donate money to the organization for stuff for the colonies such as medical supplies and food, etc. Take a peak at the website.