Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Day: India with hints of Thailand :)

Major hints, that is... :)

Last night I meant to finish this but fell asleep trying.  It was a great first day in India - and I can tell there is much for me to learn from this wonderful country, people and culture.  And we have an awesome group - and it's neat how each has had a strong desire to come and has a story on how they got here at this time.  There are other more long-term volunteers at RSO as well.

Our group leaving the hotel :)  We have Kay, Toni, Cassidy, Allison, Nusly, Marilyn, Birdie and me
First off, I flew from Seattle to Frankfurt, Germany to Chennai, India.  That was quite fun - awesome folks on the flights - people from so many countries around the world - so many fun languages filling my ears throughout both flights.  One of my favorite scenes from the Frankfurt airport was watching a little family as I walked behind them - with I'd taken a picture.  The man was in his native dress, a full white colored, long shirt type outfit that went to the ground, his young son in a similar white long shirt/outfit, and then the wife/mother, in her black dress, long sleeves, outfit to the ground, head and face covered except for her beautiful eyes, all in black.  I don't remember if the dad wore a white hat-like thing or not, but I just remember feeling great vibes from their little family conversation that all three were having with each other, happy, friendly, loving and a little funny.  They all three walked together, side by side, and I appreciated seeing that.  
After arriving in India and getting through the fun airport pickup experience, Allison,  Nusly, Cassidy and I all made it to the Marriott hotel where we had a wonderful room with a hot shower and very comfortable beds.  Such a great set up!  In the morning, we ate an amazing breakfast, and then headed off to the Rising Star Outreach campus, a couple of hours from Chennai.  
As you'll see in the pictures, it is a fun place.  And man, it reallllly reminded me of Thailand...except with folks from India, not Thais :)  So fun.  I truly can't believe I'm here.  I've wanted to come here for so many years, always feeling a tug in my heart to come, so many times praying that I could find a way, and here I am, so humbled and grateful to get to know a little of this blessed spot on earth, and especially, to finally meet the beautiful leprosy affected people I've read about and longed to meet for so long.  We all literally are a family on this earth, and there is something amazing about meeting family that you've perhaps not know in this life, but who is filled with light and love that is so familiar.  More on that later.

Love this woman on the back of a motorcycle as they weave through lanes of traffic :)

They have tuk tuks here!  Some call them tuk tuks and others call them rickshaws.  So fun!

Good times and big fruit :)

Beautiful souls - Nusly and Alli

We stopped for gas on the way to RSO and these folks were super fun to smile and wave at - they were probably headed to work or something.   Look how fun and bright their clothes are!  Well, the women's clothes are bright - they are such beautiful people!  Happy smiles :)

Yep :)
There are fields like this everywhere.  The cows are also everywhere :) 

Gotta love this little shops - they are everywhere!  So reminds me of Thailand, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other places.  So great!

As we arrived at RSO, we were oriented by Callie and Julie who are over the work we're doing here, and then we got settled in our rooms.  We had play time with many of the 235 students/kids after that - so great.  There are so many children here...and I'll have pictures of them later.  They are beautiful.  Many have parents or grandparents that have leprosy and so they live here in this gated campus like they would at a boarding school.  There are house mothers for the kids and they do a wonderful job of keep order and love here at RSO.  And that is the theme here.  "It's all about love."  That is so good for us to remember.  It isn't about being perfect or doing the fanciest thing around, but it is about truly loving each other, treating each other as the Savior would treat us.

At dinner time, which is on our roof top, our director asked each one of us to state the "high" and "low" point of our day. A volunteer shared that his low point was that today, he went to one of the many leprosy colonies and saw some of the people who had lost their legs and thus had to drag themselves across the ground to get assistance. He said he felt so sad that we couldn't get these individuals wheelchairs. Then one of the other directors said, "Well this session isn't doing construction. Usually a portion of the program fee that you pay goes towards construction. That money went to purchase 3 new motorized wheelchairs for these people. So your low point just turned to a high."  That really was neat to hear and it was obvious it touched and excited everyone at the table.

Before going to bed, we split up into "families".  Mine was a house (3 connected rooms) of boys.  That was honestly one of my favorite parts of yesterday.  I felt like I really connected with them - they wanted me to throw all types of math problems at them for our time together (7:30-8:30pm).  That's the type of "playing with kids" I can do well at - learning activities.  Their beautiful faces were eager to get the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems correct.  It was all in our heads, or sometimes they would draw with their finger on the ground so they could see the problem better in their head.  They are so smart and their eyes danced excitedly as they successfully worked out the math :).  Note: In that picture showing my hair, they gave us Jasmine flowers as we arrived and put them in our hair.  So fun, and they smelled soooo nice!

Alli and I
It was sobering as we sent them to bed as I looked in the next room and all they were sleeping on was a covered cement floor with a few thin blankets to kids slept on, but even then many didn't have that.   Sometimes cloth was used as a pillow...and I realize they have it good compared to everyone in the surrounding villages.  It was just a little reminder of how blessed I am.  I have sooooo much to be thankful for - and these kids, they have so much as well even though they have so little compared to me.  But they don't see it that way.  Like I said earlier, the school here has about 235 students from standard 1-10 (kind of like 1st - 10th grade...but some kids get in early because their parents' lie about their age so they can join early).  And the school boards most of them because they often times can't live with their families or they'll most likely eventually contract Leprosy themselves.  Here their bodies area much stronger and more healthy - and they are really trying so hard to learn all they can because they realize that it will free them from the poverty cycle...or at least help them :)

Alli, Nusly and I room together in the Elephant House.  I really admire them and their desires to love and serve others.


Stephanie C. said...

What wonderful experiences you are having, I love all the fun little stories you shared! I agree, the people are so beautiful and I also agree that we are super blessed. :) Wahoo for awesomeness!
PS- LOVE LOVE LOVE the animals!!

Laura said...

I am so happy that you have arrived, and are already fitting into the scheme of things :)
The pictures you have posted are just great!
I like the rickshaws...fantastic mode of transportation. Probably a lot easier to get around in, than conventional cars/trucks.
I'll keep watching for your latest and greatest!
Love you...AALaura