so busy!

Well we've had an interesting and busy last few days here. Most exciting was going to the national office on Sunday. I don't know if I already blogged about this or not...? My internet is too slow to go back and check, so if you read it twice, sorry. I guess it's just twice as important of a message? Not sure on that one. Anyway, the office. It was about 45 minutes away from our house, and in an area of slums. I mean, the office was only one rectangular room, with no AC and a thatched roof. Looking up, I understood then how a paralytic could be lowered through it. There were probably 4 or 5 fans, though. That kept us cool enough. Well, that's a pretty half glass full way of describing it, but we didn't get close to having a heat stroke, so we were okay. Oh, did I mention there were no chairs? It was Indian style for all 3 hours. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention the 3 hours part too. Also, the men sat on one side, and the women on the other. And the women needed to keep their heads covered, as well. And of course, no praise team. Yeah, right. There wasn't even any English spoken! It was all in native language, and the music was to a jimbae drum and tiny hand cymbals. Man, they had a great beat going. No slow songs for these guys! And their voices were amazing, they filled the building and poured out the windows into the surrounding community. What an impact this office must have on that community! I mean, if only you could have heard the praise coming from this building. There was plenty of money time mixed among the singing, as well as sharing of personal stories. The leader then called on the couple who had brought us there, and they shared a bread story with the people, with the intent that they would learn the story, and tell it to several others. The leader called on volunteers to repeat the story back, while the others corrected as needed. They were so excited; there was never a lack of volunteers. One boy, about 12 or 13, had already told the story to 6 people that weekend! This story telling is a big focus of our company. Then, afterwards, we went to the front to send money to whoever came to ask for it. One woman broke my heart. She was there by herself, because her husband did not want her there. Every week, he caused trouble for her, in hopes that she wouldn't be able to come to the office. And if she ever dared, he beat her when she returned home. I asked my husband later that day, if I knew I would be beat everytime I went to the office, I wonder if I would go?

That night, my husband and I went to meet with his national friend, Raghu, at his house for dinner. Raghu's wife, Yatri*, had made us a complete meal, including sweets. In this country, it is customary to arrive a couple hours before dinner, while it is still be prepared, to socialize with the hosts. And when dinner is over, that is time to leave, almost immediately. Knowing this, we were prepared to head out after the dinner, but we didn't know that the hosts would go through a polite refusal of our leaving. So we hung out a little more, and finally insisted on leaving. We were told later that they always go through that, so as not to appear they are kicking you out! Oh well. Now we know. It felt so weird to just get out after Yatri had fixed us all this food, but that's my American mindset, and I need to remember that it's rude of us to stay!

Their son was so cute. He's 7, and called us Uncle and Auntie, but put the terms after our names. He also asked why my hair was the color it is, to which his father had to explain that people from our part of the world have this color hair. It was so interesting to see this family interact. Today, Raghu sent an email to husband, and in his typical formality, included this:

"at the risk of repeating myself i must say that [wife] and you make a charming couple. [wife] with her grace, ready smile and bright countenance brings sunshine wherever she goes. while you are the solid, steadying anchor willing to reach out to people in order to expand the scope of your influence. "

He writes so fancy!

I know more has happened, but I'm so busy that I can't take time to remember what I should type up. I guess I typed up enough for one night, anyway. Now it's on to language study. It's back to 1st grade for us - we are practicing writing the letters of the alphabet. If only they had handed out some Big Chief, we'd be having ourselves some real fun.


resting day

Ahhh...Sunday. With all the crazy stuff we do during the week, it's so nice to know that Sunday is just around the corner!

This morning, all of us were planning on going to a local, more indigenous church, but true to our country's culture, the time changed or the place changed, or something, so we weren't able to meet with any church by the time we found our ways back to our friends' house. We ended up having a small group at their house, which was nice, and was topped off by a fantastic, homestyle lunch. I've always loved mashed potatoes, but man, after living in a place that doesn't make anything blander than habaneros, mashed potatoes make my salivate.

I should have written yesterday about some conversations we had with some of the people we met. At the very first place we went, one of the "volunteers" there came to meet us and somehow we ended up talking for almost an hour about our boss. She was actually from Lebanon and came on a 2 month volunteer trip to stay at this temple. It was very moving to see such darkness and blindness on these people, and we are sending money to our boss so that hopefully he will heal these workers.

Also, the naked monk was a seeker. He'd eaten many different types of bread, but never our bread. He actually asked us several times to bring him our bread because he wanted to know how it tasted. We were floored, but definitely sent one his way as soon as we got home. Can you imagine the impact that would have on him and his many followers?

And last, the man who paid my husband and I the huge compliment actually invited him to a conference today about wellness and finances, by men who really follow Paul Zane Pillser, who I had never heard of until yesterday. Anyway, it's a great opportunity for my husband, who of course accepted, and will be hoping for many chances to share the truth with this man, Raghu. (pronounced like the spaghetti sauce that I oh so miss. I had spaghetti the other night, and I could only take about 5 or so bites before I couldn't feel my lips anymore. Even my husband said it was really spicy)

Now it's time to take that Sunday nap...


hands down, the weirdest thing i've ever seen

Today was our city tour. We went to a couple of temples, had strangers drink my water, saw some bodies cremated, talked with a naked monk, ate with MPs, saw several monkeys (one of which was wearing a skirt), and watched a snake charmer. Yes, I said naked monk.

Ba'hai Temple - After we got back from the temple, I noticed that my water bottle was not where I had left it in our tour bus, and the cap was half open. (don't get the wrong impression - tour bus means it hold 14, including the driver and passenger) After our next stop, we got back in, and my water bottle was more than half empty! I couldn't believe it - the drivers had been drinking my water while I was looking at sites. In this culture, it is not rude at all to ask someone for water, even from their water bottle. But I was ticked that I wasn't even asked. Culture shock experience #593: get over it!

Crematorium - our tour guide (a cousin) told us we could take pictures. The family members of the cremated did not like this too much. It was pretty interesting, and sad, to see them perform rituals and chant prayers in vain.

Traffic - on our way to the see a huge fort, we hit a major traffic jam. Words can't describe for you the commotion. There must have been 200 cars in this clogup, and who knows how many bicycles, carts, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Men were trying to direct, so they'd bang on your car to get your attention. Everyone was honking their horns to no avail. Cars were pointed north, south, east, and west. It was a state of mass confusion. We must've sat there for a good 20 minutes without really moving anywhere. In this city, if there's an inch of space, cars will fit in there, so we did move, but it was pointless. Then, out of nowhere, we honked and pulled a 3 point turn. I mean, picture that. In a layer of probably 10 car/bikes/carts on each side, and probably 50 in front and behind us, all of which are facing every which way, and here we are in this "huge" tour bus, conducting a 3 point turn. The funny thing is, we pulled it off. The other funny part was, when we began turning around, my husband asked our guide, "What's happening?" and the guide simply shrugged, and said, "There's some traffic."

Naked monk - OK, the curiosity I'm sure you've all been waiting for. Our 2nd temple was Jain. Our guide told us there are monks there who deny themselves water and food, except once a day, go naked, and torture themselves by pulling out their hair. We were walking around the area, and were actually allowed to go in and talk to a monk. So we went up to his room, and there he was, all scrawny and little, perched on his cot in a meditation pose, butt naked. I mean, not a lick of clothing on this guy. I'm sorry, I'm just not mature enough to handle this. He invited us to sit down in front of him, so we all did, and the 8th grade boy inside of me found the extreme humor in this. One girl and I couldn't make eye contact because everytime we did, we started giggling. And we are the two married ones. This monk had no shame in spreading his legs, sitting Indian style, or getting up and walking around. It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen, a naked monk with a bunch of coworkers sitting around him, pretending there was nothing unusual with the situation. Then he invited us to ask him questions. My husband asked a lot, but no one asked why he was naked. I think I finally figured out why. The answer is obvious: it's just so dang hot here. Anyway, at the end, he invited us to take pictures (oh yes, I got plenty) and my husband wanted one taken with him. He sat down on his cot, and this made the guy and his followers flip out, so then my husband had to squat to take the picture. After it was over, the monk told a prophesy to our guide about my husband: "Your wife is very angry. Obey her or she will leave you." So weird!!

Lunch - we had lunch at some parliament cafeteria. We sat down, and turns out, our table mates were MPs. Another guy at lunch told me and James that other than Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, we were the "handsomest" couple he'd ever seen from America. Too bad they haven't been a couple now for 4 years. Maybe Tom wouldn't obey an angry Nicole, so she left him.

Sikh temple - we went to a Sikh temple. Nothing too interesting.

Last thing we did was go to a major memorial here in the city. It's a very touristy area, and the people here will do anything to get the tourists' money. Our guide told us when we get there, a man with a snake and a man with dancing monkeys will try to get us to take a picture and then charge us for the picture. (that we take with our own camera!) Sure enough, our big Tour bus pulls to the curb, and a man runs over with his basket, sits down, plays some instrument, and this cobra comes out. He's shouting at us to take a picture. Then a man runs over with two monkeys, one in a pink dress, and plays a drum and they dance. He's pushing us to take a picture as well. We didn't, but it was still pretty entertaining.

Okay so that brings me here, tired, sore, hot, and glad to be home!


fried chicken and buttermilk pie

Yesterday we had an adventure. A family (some coworkers) invited us newcomers for dinner last night. So, although we didn't know exactly where it was, we had the address, and our experience so far has been that if you have the address, the auto driver will get you there. (not that we had another option except "find it") So we told our guy the neighborhood and that the house was on the M block, M-143. After bargaining on the price, we agree on 30. (he really wanted 50) So, he proceeds to get us lost, poor guy. We know the area fairly well, only because there is a restaurant there we've been to twice. So he takes us round and round, and finally we, not the driver, mind you, notice a sign that points and says "M102 - M160" on a street. He turns there, because the third guy he stopped for directions told him this was the way to go. We tottered down the road, and stopped between houses M-142 and M-144. There was no house in between them. The driver then tells us it will be 50, and my husband told him, No, you agreed on 30, it's not our fault you got lost. He only had a 40, and of course the guy told us he had no change. So here we are, paying 10 extra for a destination that is wrong, knowing none of the language and feeling like our friends' house exists in some time warp. Our boss was there with us, and I asked him for help. There was a woman standing at her gate, and so I asked her if she spoke English (in her language...gotta be prepared!) and she said a little, and I asked if the Americans lived on her street. Everyone in this city seems to know the whereabouts of all the other Americans, so it was a valid question. She said no, no Americans lived on her street. (by the way, my husband and I are just laughing through this whole ordeal, because our sense of humor is the only thing we had at this point) The woman pointed at someone behind us and spouted off something in her language, and I looked behind me and there was another woman taking a walk. She walked right up to us and said in perfect English, "Yes what are you looking for?" Our boss came through! Perfect timing, as usual. She told us the numbering in their neighborhood was terrible, and M-143 was on a totally different block. She gave the auto driver directions, because he knew suckers when he had them at the wrong destination, so he had actually turned off the auto and waited for us to ask him to take us somewhere else. Then our heroine gave us directions, then said something to him in their language and turned to us and said, "Don't pay him anything. He's taking you there for free." We were there within 5 minutes, only 30 minutes late. haha! He made our paths straight last night!

Man it was all worth it, too. Fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, buttermilk pie and banana nut bread. Oh yeah. And we made it home without a problem and for only 20. Great night.

Today I got to talk a lot with the housekeeper at the office, "Monica". She is a new cousin of ours, and 21 years old. Sweetest girl ever. Anyway, we talked a good while about the boss, marriage, America and India, and fashion. Twice during the conversation, she grabbed my hand and held it! I couldn't believe it! That is what they do here between the same gender, so I had learned about it, but I was not prepared. I thought I was, but my American mindset came in and I kept thinking, "Is she waiting on me to let go of her hand? Is she getting uncomfortable with me?" haha We had a great talk and she told me several times thanks for talking with her.

Well I need to go. I'm going to try to reach my brother since today is a brother-sister festival here so I can feel like I've participated.


with the goodness of coconut oil

We started our training at the office on Monday, and so since nothing too interesting was going on this week, I haven't blogged. However, today was a different story. All kinds of interesting things, starting off with seeing two monkeys on our way the office. A guy on a bike had one monkey on a leash on the ground and another was on the back of his bike. One of the strangest things I've ever seen. I have a feeling it'll soon be relatively normal.

(as a side note, my husband just brought me 6 pink roses. Isn't he the sweetest? and they were only the $1.50. I love this country!)

This afternoon, we broke up into two groups, girls and guys. (there are 3 girls and 2 guys that are training, and 1 main girl and 2 main guys teaching) We had to go do ethnographic research, which I was so excited because it's what I did in Europe! Anyway, the first funny thing that was the girl trainer told us that us 4 girls were going to take one auto rickshaw. Haha! I didn't think we could do it, but we did! We sure were struggling up the hills, though! She took us to this real market, not a fancy one by where we live, and we broke up into pairs. A was my partner. This market is exactly what I pictured our country to look like. Narrow walkways, tons and tons of people, tiny shops with yards of fabric, jewelry, home decorations, etc. A and I went into a shop called Miss [country name]: the Dreamland of She Fashion. I think the name is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was fun to ask the shop owner all kinds of questions. We figured it would be easiest to strike up an informative conversation about clothes. You know - is this everyday or special occasion? what is a special occasion? are their parties here? what kind of parties? what do you wear to weddings? etc. This poor man was trying so hard to make a deal with us, but since we didn't begin bargaining with him, it was polite to not buy anything. We later went to the country's equivalent of Starbucks, grabbed some very tasty cold drinks, and sat by two girls our age who were very modern, in jeans and tank tops. They were college students, and were extremely nice. That's pretty much the way everyone is around here - so conversational, helpful, and just plain nice. They just thought we were so curious, with our white skin and our interest in their country. When the other 2 girls walked towards us, the two local girls said, "Are those your friends?" I said, "How could you tell?" and they bust out laughing.

THEN (I'm telling you, it was an interesting day!), us girls needed to go clothes shopping, since we are going on a citywide tour this Saturday, which includes temples. In temples, we need to cover our heads, and we really need to wear national clothes and not American stuff, so as not to offend the locals. So A and I went to a new market that is REALLY nice, and I found a suit (which is 3 pieces) and 2 tops for so cheap. That's all I'm going to buy until we get to our city because fashion is slightly different all over the country, and apparently, it's very important to get the style just right, or else they'll laugh me out of their homes. We also went grocery shopping! Let me tell you, anytime you can get a loaf of bread, eggs, 3 apples, a papaya, and butter for 25 cents each, it's a pretty pleasant experience. Even when you had to walk home. In the sweltering heat. In layers of clothes. Seriously, 25 cents?? (I did end up paying a total of $15, but that's because I splurged on honey bunches of oats and skippy peanut butter.) I also got milk (which was boxed, of course) for 50 cents, strawberry jam for $1.50, and 1 kg of laundry detergent for $2. Once again, I love this country! I know I'm being technically rude by discussing money so openly, but hey, we women love to brag about our bargains.

There is so much to do here! I need to go, since tomorrow is an early day for us.


auto rickshaw all by ourselves!

So today is Sunday and it's been very interesting and eventful. First of all, since today was Sunday, I got to wear to a national outfit! At the house we're staying, there are quite a few "suits" left over from girls who didn't need them after leaving the house, and so we got to borrow them. Mine was turquoise and blue with a little flower/vine embroidery on it. I love it!

Second, we were picked up this morning in an auto rickshaw to go to church! Our first experience in one. It's actually not too bad. It's a very small 3 wheeled "vehicle", with the driver sitting in the front, and a bench in the back that seats 2 but will hold 3. They kinda look like the cars you get in at amusement parks that do the high wire across the parks. That was a messy description, but it probably helped with a visual. Anyway, we had 3 in the backseat. The church met at an auditorium that held about 200 people, and I think almost every seat was filled. It was funny to walk in there, because it looks like a church straight out of Anywhere, USA. A cross on the pulpit, a keyboard, a p&w team, etc. I mean, it started off with a guy playing the saxophone! haha There were probably around 20 americans there, and also about 20 asians other than south asians. We sang hymns and praise songs ("here i am to worship", "draw me close" were the only 2 songs I knew) and there was a baby dedication. I tell you what, though, seeing people in another nation worship the Father is something that I hope always brings tears to my eyes. It's a humbling experience to know he is all over the world. The message was great, oh and by the way, the whole service was in english, and it ended after only about an hour and a half.

We ate at the same restaurant we had for lunch yesterday. I know, not very adventurous, but this was not our choice, it was the people who took us this morning. After still not knowing much about the food (I just eat what's in front of me), we've been trying to order on our own so we can learn by experience, mistakes and all. It hasn't been able to happen yet. The people who go with us assume we want their help in ordering (and by help, I mean full decisions) and so we still haven't been able to try out stuff. I mean, everything everyone orders is delicious, but it would help for the next time if I actually knew what it was called! So I think the next meal we're going to try eat by ourselves, which is great, because, hey, date night!

So, at the restaurant, my very smart husband asked the waiter what an auto rickshaw would cost us to take to where we were going, and he told him 15-20. Since we're white, we get charged out the wazoo, so he thought it would be wise to find out what a national pays to help us get an idea. I agreed. So we found one auto driver who told us 5o. Ha! No thank you, sahib. Then we found another guy who my husband offered 20, the guy said no, and they ended up settling for 30, which is what our friends had told us is the lowest they've ever paid. Great job, Hubby! Lowest on first try! Maybe when we speak the language, we'll one day be able to get closer to the nationals' charge.

Well I'm getting more and more used to it here. Except for the extreme heat, I would say my satisfaction is 100%. This morning, I had some quiet time on the roof of our house, and I glanced over and saw a peacock on one of our neighbors' roofs! Everything's so strange and new and exciting.

My husband just told me his stomach isn't feeling quite right. That sure didn't take long, did it? I think it's time for a Sunday nap.


we made it!

I still can't believe we're here! We were delayed about 4 hours in London because of a fuel leak, but man, am I glad it was only 4 hours and not the craziness the poor people are facing there now with the strike and all. We missed it by mere hours - thanks to all the money people sent us for the flight, although we have a few coworkers who are stuck in London as I type this. I feel bad for them!

I love the city we are in right now! We're not where we will be living permanently yet, but this city is great! It's bustling and cheap and has everything we need. Seriously, we even had Aquafina at lunch today. I almost took a picture of it to show my sister in law that she can come visit us now. :) There's a fun "market" a couple of blocks from here. I use quotations because it's more like an outdoor mall and not a place that sells fruits and veggies like I had pictured. If it weren't for the stifling heat, that wouldn't be so bad if there was A/C as available as I am used to, I would definitely be out exploring right now. Instead, we're waiting until about 7 or so before venturing out again. We went out this afternoon, and that pretty much took a lot out of us. Luckily, our house is extremely well ventilated, and it really feels more like a palace to me than a house. I mean, marble floors, high ceilings, large rooms, flowy curtains, arched doorways...this place is gorgeous!

We have already noticed the different culture we're living in, obviously. The morning/night we got here, I thought we were about to be kidnapped, until I saw it was only our street sweeper who was crawling under our window. And James constantly tells me to just not watch while we're in a car because the people here drive like maniacs. And we almost ran over 5 cows on the road today after lunch, so I'd say there are a few differences. I'm taking pictures now before it becomes so second nature that I don't even notice the weird things anymore.

I've been on long enough - I'll probably go back and hang out with our coworkers for awhile before we go exploring again.