office notes

In case you've ever wondered what our office here is like, I am typing up what our service was like today. We really enjoy this office, and even though not more than maybe 2% of it is in English, it's a great time to get involved with other cousins, try to catch a bit of language learning here and there, and send money for these cousins and their office.

11:00 - The time it's supposed to start.
11:07 - We were sitting with the shepherd and another leader in his adjoining room/house, discussing someone to help our summer students get around easier through the villages.
11:10 - the service began with only about 5 of us sitting. Everyone quietly sent money.
11:15 - We sang our first song. The songbooks are not only in the national language but in the script as well, so husband and I stumble through them. Sometimes while having to think quick, I'll mix up N with G, or some other letters. S is always the most fun mistake because it's so easily heard. Also, there are no directions or notes. Sometimes they start with the chorus, or sometimes they repeat only half the chorus, sometimes a high note comes out of nowhere, etc. You just never know.
11:20 - a girl gets up and reads a certain passage from the ot. We sing another song. The man who usually sits in front of us will point us to the song even when the leader says the song number in English.
11:25 - the same girl gets up and reads a certain passage now from the nt.
11:26 - during a very familiar song to us, we began with the chorus. After the chorus, I then started on the first verse wayyy before anyone else did. Yep, I was singing, quite offkey, all by my lonesome. Not even the tambourine guy or the drum guy was there to play yet.
11:27 - husband and I are still laughing, and trying to hide our giggles. This makes us giggle even more, and before you know it, tears are streaming down our faces. I have the songbook in front of my face in a feeble attempt to cover up.
11:28 - Yep, still laughing.
11:29 - By now, about half of the people have arrived, and are probably wondering why the white people are crying.
11:31 - More money time. At this time it's always the same guy who stands up and does the money outloud. Bless his heart, this man is more wordier than my blogs. Last week, we timed him, and he actually kept going for 13 minutes.
11:47 - "Amen." Whew, 16 minutes. If he keeps adding on 3 minutes every week, we're in for a doozy by New Year's.
11:48 - Shepherd begins his speech. By now, everyone has shown up.
12:05 - my head covering has been blown off by the fans for about the millionth time.
12:25 - Speech is over and we are having more money time.
12:28 - Collection time.
12:30 - We send money over the collection.
12:32 - sing one last song. This one is usually a bit slower so it's much easier for us to keep up.
12:37 - two weeks in a row, a non-cousin has had a special request that we all send money for, out loud, at the same time. I'm not exactly sure what her request was, but I know the boss knows.
12:40 - the service is over.
12:41 - We sit in the shepherd's adjoining room with his family and about half of the people. We all chat and have chai together for about 20 minutes and then leave.

Now before you go wondering if I sat there and took notes, I must say I did not. These are approximate times. Except of course our longwinded friend, who we did shamefully time. I haven't had quite the crazy experiences I had while I was attending West African offices in Paris, but you never know. Maybe here, too, we'll unexpectedly be forced to stand up and sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." We still have a lot of Sundays left to be utterly humiliated.


barriers and breakthoughs

The other night we went to Deepak and Naina's for Naina's birthday. They actually called us a few hours before and asked if we were coming. Even though we didn't even know it was her birthday, we said, "Of course we're coming!" It was a good thing we weren't busy, because it was only those 2, us 2, and Naina's cousin-brother. (that is not an Arkansas joke...even though they have like 8 words for "aunt" or "uncle", they don't have a word that differentiates between cousin or siblings because they consider them to be pretty much the same thing) Naina has told me several times how lonely she is because her parents are deceased, her inlaws don't approve of her, and really her only friends are Deepak, husband, and me.

She made us a big dinner, which was so tasty. I tried to help out, but probably ended up making a big mess of her kitchen. Do you know that the common flatbread here is first heated on a flat griddle-like thing, then they heat it directly on the stove burner? And she doesn't even use tools, like a lot of women I've seen make the bread, but instead uses her bare hands? Ouch.

Well I think I see a breakthrough beginning to happen with Naina. Deepak and Naina both have heard the good news several times and understand completely what it means to be a true believer. They want to accept, but their culture is so rooted in their other beliefs that they are having a hard time giving that up. Not to mention the persecution that will follow, given that they are high class. Deepak once wondered if they could inwardly serve the boss, but outwardly pretend to remain how they are, so as to avoid persecution. So they understand the costs, but it's hard to for them to see even though they would be sacrificing on earth, they would gain so much more in the hereafter. Also, since Naina's parents are both deceased, if she acknowledges that her belief system is not true, she will have to acknowledge where her parents are now. That must be a hard thing to grasp. When the timing is right, I will show her the story of the man who asked Lazarus to tell his brothers the truth, to show her that right now, her parents want nothing more than for her to accept the boss as Truth. But until then, it will force a barrier between us if I tell her too early.

Well anyway, she told me about this part of their money time, where they offer food to their bosses. (Warning: Fairly Controversial View Approaching!) She told me that earlier that day she had offered sweets to the Boss and to her other bosses. Am I making you uncomfortable? Don't get all itchy and nervous, I know this is not the ultimate goal, but I think it's a breakthrough that she's beginning to see his authority. I'm sending money that she'll soon stop this business with her other bosses, and realize there is only one true boss.

These are examples of some of the opposition facing these people to accepting the Truth, and hopefully it will help you know better how to send money for them. Warfare is definitely alive and kickin' here in peaceful South Asia.


more post office stories

Back in January, one of the fam, Sudoo, sent me a Christmas package. It arrived in March with chocolate cookies (or biscuits as they call them here), and chocolate chips, among other awesome things. Well a couple of weeks ago, Alison and I went to the post office to collect another package. These post office women either love me or love to laugh at me, I'm not sure which one it is. My name sounds a lot like the word for sour in this language, and so every single time I go in, they have this joke where they call me sour, and then I have to reply, "No, I'm sweet." And they laugh raucously and shout through the office what I had just said. I play along, because these ladies are in control of my chocolate supply.

When Alison and I were there, after the obligatory sour and sweet talk, they handed me my package, a great one from friends of the family. One of the women walked up to me, and said, "Why haven't you brought us any of your chocolate?" I was surprised, and am sure I looked confused, because she continued, "In your last package, you received chocolate biscuits and we want some!" I love how she unashamedly admitted that they rifled through my package and then insisted I share! So very South Asian. After a few of the ladies told me how much I needed to share with them, I promised that the next time I came to the PO, I would bring them some chocolate. Alison told me I had better share, since once again, these ladies are in control of whether or not I receive my great parcels.

Also this past week, I went to mail my mother's day gifts, and had to go to the main PO, which unfortunately is not the one with the friendly ladies. I don't know what they're doing at the PO now, something like cashing checks or bank accounts, but lately it has been beyond crowded in there. I think it looks a lot like what the Great Depression must have looked like when men lined up for jobs every day. No one talks to each other and there are no lines, just a horde of people. People will dart back and forth, looking for a window that has the smaller amount of the mob in front of it, and even if you've been waiting for a longer time, it doesn't matter. Actually, it seemed to not matter to anyone but me. I, the ruly American, was already prepared, in my limited language knowledge, to say, "Excuse me, I am next," or "Sir, the line is there." But like I said, it's pointless. Everyone looks around nervously and stressed, and just politely pushes their way through. It's in constant movement. Have I described it enough? Well I waited. And waited. And waited. The number of people didn't change at all, with men still bobbing around windows. Then finally a woman pointed me to the front of the horde and said, "Ladies." I walked toward there, and the man behind the counter called me forward, and I got to cut in front of all the people waiting! Apparently, in this man's society there are some benefits to being a woman. No wonder the "line" wasn't moving. None of these poor men would probably ever get to the front. I felt justified though - I was at the post office with actual mail.


the small things

Today as husband was flipping through the channels (because, you know, can't stop until you've seen what's on every channel :) I caught something weird. "Turn it back on Cartoon Network," I said, bewildered. He flipped it back to where Scooby Doo was showing. We listened for a second before we realized what was so weird - it was in English! Husband's face lit up like a kid on Christmas Day. He has remarked a few times how much he wished Cartoon Network was in English, and one time we even watched the end of Scooby Doo in the national language. It was funny because we caught the bad guy saying, "If it weren't for those meddling kids..." I never caught how they translated "Jeenkies" or "Yikes" or "Zoinks," but whoever does the Scooby voice is spot on. Ruh-roh!

But today, we get to watch them catch that villain in English! Oh the small things...


meet chini!

Meet the new addition to our household! Since she's all white, we named her Chini (means sugar in the language we are learning. It also means a Chinese person, but most everyone knows we mean the sugar definition :) She's an Asian pomeranian. I say Asian, because all the poms we've seen here look like a slightly larger version of the pomeranians I've seen in America. And they're also a bit less furry. (Chini rhymes with genie)

So in naming her, we found a few names we really liked. The problem was, they were human names, and after talking to Priya, I found out that dogs are considered low animals and naming them after a human is an insult to any human who has that name. Or even any fictional character. Yeah. That one really got me too. When we were looking at male names, I liked the name Raj, and asked Priya, to which she laughed and asked me, "What would SRK think?" See, SRK is a very famous actor here, and in a lot of his movies, he has the name Raj. Wow lots of rules and customs! *As a side note, seeing as SRK is my fave actor here, I wouldn't want to offend him anyway. That may kill my chances of being in one of his movies! And as my chances are pretty much slim to none, I can't afford to lose any.

Well anyway, here she is, our little bundle of energy. :)

Snuggling at husbands' feet

Right: We were trying to get how funny she looks hopping around after the ball. This is the best we got.