Like a Local

It has been a few weeks since I have written about my adventures in India. I would like to say that it is because I have been busy, but in all honesty, I have been just pure lazy. Not only that, but to find the correct words to string together that describe all I am experiencing here is just no task man can handle alone. Not only have I been too lazy to write, but unsure of what to write. Now… where did I leave off last? Oh yes, I ended my last post with something about God’s strength being what I needed to survive here.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my last few weeks. Shall we proceed?

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We were excited to be on the train!

Before we jumped into our field placements, we went on a trip with the other social work students to the west side of South India. We took a train for 7 hours, then got on a bus for another 3 hours, and then walked for about an hour through hilly lands. We were staying with an NGO that worked with tribal families in the area.Throughout our visit there, we spent time meeting with, collecting data, learning from, and talking about the tribal groups. We learned that they are being exploited and had several debates on how we, as social workers, can help stop the exploitation. No, we did not come to a conclusion.

 

On one of the nights we went to a village deep in the Western Ghats and spent an19554622_1977734132465993_5330674345268272945_n evening with a tribal family. The other students put on a program for them. We slept on the cold hard floors in a school building (one room) with about thirty other people… and spiders. But let me tell you, it was rewarding waking up to the sun rise over the mountains. It was one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen.

Meeting some of the tribal families was at times uninteresting for me. This is mainly because of the language barrier. Not only did they speak a different language, but some also spoke a different language then the students I was with. This made it very challenging for me to do anything other than sit and watch. But then again, when else would be a better time than to practice the spiritual discipline of silence and to just observe and breath in?

I was expecting to leave there feeling very guilty about my choice of lifestyle at home, but honestly, I didn’t. Sometimes I feel guilty for not feeling guilty, but then I have realized something. I have realized that they are content with what they have. The tribal people don’t worry and fret about eating the next day and only worry about a single day’s wage at a time. They do not usually save either. I come from a culture that plans weeks, months, and sometimes even years in advance. I do not feel bad about it, but am learning to accept this cultural difference.

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Mysore Palace

To get back, we hopped back on the bus for a three hour ride. Then, we departed from the rest of the students that were heading back to the college campus. We were going to do some touristy sight seeing the next day and then head back. We went to a palace that was beautiful. Then, a few temples. We took a sleeper train back to Chennai the following evening. Now, I had never been on a sleeper train before, but it was so cool. There’s little beds everywhere and they hang off the walls, mostly bunked, and they give you a blanket, pillow, and sheet and you basically just sleep until they reach your stop.

Even though we slept on the train, we were pretty much exhausted when we got back. We took the whole day to recover. Then, the following day, I started my field placement.

I have chosen two agencies to intern at. One where I will be with four other students from the college and we will write grant proposals and create programs to help out the tribal groups just outside of the city. The second is with my classmate from home that is here with me, Abby. We will be teaching at-risk students life-long skills.

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Because Bae deserves a shoutout!

As the weeks have passed we have gotten into the routine of our placements and are finally getting a sense of what our lives for the next three months in India will be like. I am proud to say that I have successfully crossed the street and gone to the grocery store by myself. I am also excited to say that we have found the nearest Starbucks and it is just train ride, then an auto ride away. But if you know me, you know I’m willing to do anything for my Starbucks.

That’s exactly the thing though. I am learning how to do things and live life like a local. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I mean, I have never ridden a train before… or not been able to just get in my car and drive twenty minutes down the road to get my Starbucks. I have never walked from place to place more than I do now.

There are little things that I get frustrated about doing too.. For example, bucket laundry. My clothes hang drying  I cannot simply put my clothes in a washer and dryer. I 27067227_1977730349133038_3097089825883903070_nhave to make a bucket of water and then let my clothes soak for 30 minutes, then proceed to rinse. I’m not gonna lie though, I’m pretty sure all of my clothes still have laundry detergent in them because I am definitely not wringing them out enough. After you hang them to dry and turn, you can then proceed to take a bath in the same bucket. Remember when you were a kid and you would take a bath and to get the soap out of your hair your mom would dump a pitcher of water over your head, covering your eyes? That’s basically what you do, except Mom’s not here doing it for you. It just gets exhausting and makes you question how bad you need to shower… then you remember that your clothes probably aren’t very clean and see how the bottoms of your feet are basically black… so you shower.

one Sunday afternoon all I wanted to do was just do my work, alone, at a coffee shop. Can’t be hard right? I just needed a little introvert time. So, I got my stuff together and was planning to check out this little coffee shop called Cafe Coffee Day. I knew I would have to take an auto-rigshaw from the campus gate to get to the road near it, but that was only 10RS. I could handle it.

So, I flagged down one of the buzzing, yellow tuk-tuks and simply said “Camp Road” to the driver. He knew exactly what I was talking about26168885_1971790303060376_1410854462279996767_n and motioned for me to get in. Luckily, my program direction, Anu, who we have been calling our Mom of India, taught me that you don’t get into the auto until you know how much they are charging. And you always go to them with a set price in your head. So I asked the guy, “how much?” He says “10RS”. So, I got in.

I was trying to keep track of how far we were going in case I wanted to try to walk back. After awhile, however, I realized that it was further than I remembered. Then again, I hadn’t been there since my first day of being in India, so that was understandable, or at least I thought. He pulled off to the side of the road right at an intersection. I knew it was the right spot because of the giant green sign that said “Camp Road”. Some things never change between cultures…

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To be a local, you have to take a lot of selfies!

I knew I would need to walk a few minutes to reach a corner before I got to the little shop. I also had landmarks to look for. I was told there would be a KFC a little ways from it on the opposite side of the road and a Papa Johns directly across from it. I started my walk and kept my eyes peeled for these places. By now, I was ready to sit in the cool air conditioned shop and sip some type of iced coffee beverage while writing my field log and reflection paper.

After a bit, it seemed as if maybe it was taking too long for me to get there. I pulled out my phone and tried to type the shop into my maps app, but it said it was no where close. “This has to be wrong,” I thought to myself in desperation for a cup of coffee. But as I kept walking, there was still nothing. I was becoming more and more disappointed. Finally, I flagged down another auto driver, giving up and ready to return to the college to pout.

When I asked the guy how much, I realized he did not speak English very well. He showed me a “5” with his hand and I hopped in. I thought it was a good deal… but after I got out and I handed him the coin that is 5RS, he laughed and then signed “50”. I said “you mean 50?” At that point, I wasn’t going to argue. I pulled out a 100 and he gave me my change. I walked away not knowing whether or not I had been jipped. Either way, I just wanted to get back and figure out how to get to this coffee place next time. But, it’s been a few weeks since that point of utter frustration, and I still have yet to go. Instead, I made the trip to Starbucks.

It’s little things like trying to saree shop in a four level building and not knowing how to say what you are looking for so the store clerk just keep sending you to other levels of the store hoping you find what you look for or when you are in the Big Bizarre (a store very similar to Walmart) and all you want is marinara sauce for your rigatoni noodles, but have to get pizza sauce because this week they don’t have marinara sauce that you just have to remain calm, and even laugh at. In that same trip to the Big Bizarre, the Indian Republic Day, that is, Abby and I were just trying to find the right food so we could cook in our little kitchenette because the Mess Hall was closed for the Holiday.

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We created “Panoodles”: leftover paneer butter masala and noodles

We finally gave up on finding some things because of how crowded the store was. Also, there is no such thing as personal space, being rude by walking in front of someone while they are looking for an item, or even problems with cutting in line. When we were ready to checkout, we hopped in different lines to get out of there quicker. I was third in line and the first person in line was almost finished. Then, out of nowhere, a woman comes with a cart of items and cuts me. I realized that it was her husband in front of me, so she was just finishing up the rest of the shopping while he stood in line. Then, as if that was not bad, their daughter comes with yet another loaded cart of stuff. Abby and I looked at each other from across the checkout lines, her being the next in line, and we just can’t help but laugh. How humorous this was. Eventually, I switched lines and made it out. We decided after that to try to never have to go back to the Big Bizarre and to try to maintain our stopping at the Pik-N-Pak or Fresh, which were smaller, but much closer to campus.

So friends, as one who is learning to live in the country of India, let me tell you that it is not an easy thing to do. I struggle with it, most of the time. Not because I dislike the culture, but because of how foreign it really is. It becomes less frustrating and less surprising each day, but that doesn’t take the difficulty out of it.

Some things I have had a hard time adjusting to. One of those is food. It’s not that I don’t like the food… it’s just really spicy and I don’t like spicy food. I have my nights in the Mess Hall where I know it’s food I will like and I usually always have some rice with gravy. But I don’t eat nearly as much as I do when I enjoy the food. I can’t always have rigatoni 😦

On another note, I have never been more sick in my life than I have been this past month of being here. Between getting sick the second day and random times of exhaustion and this past week (I mean like Tuesday night to Sunday night) of being bedridden with two trips to the doctors and a full round of antibiotics and not eating anything but a slice of bread for four days… I think I’ve got the rest of my life’s worth of sicknesses while I’m here too.

The one thing I love, however, is how easy it is to see God in the small things. While I am living here, I am almost forced to live in simplicity in some ways. I am actually enjoying it and God is opening my eyes to see Him in a new light in the midst of it. It’s like no matter how bad something seems to me, like being sick and missing three days of fieldwork, I just cannot stop falling more in love with God. There is no limit to it. If the reason He brought me here was to show me that, then I am glad I am here. I am blessed to even have this opportunity in my life and God is teaching me to cope and live life with the things He has provided for me, not with the things that I think are necessary.

That being said, I know I am going to struggle with the rest of my time here. I just will. But that is okay. God has never failed to pull me back to Him and remind me of His all-consuming love. I even could not contain the idea of not having my guitar to worship, so I splurged a little to buy a new one here. I don’t want to live my life in India as if God is waiting for me back in America. I want to live it as if Jesus is walking with me daily. That means, living in confidence, freedom, and contentment in all circumstances.

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I hope some of my struggles may have been able to speak to you today. Maybe you are finding things difficult lately and you just need to bask in the presence of Jesus. Let me encourage you dear friend, do it. He is with you through that hard time. He is sitting with you while you are sick. He is making dinner with you after your long day at work. He is jogging with you on your morning run. Just know, that you can get through it because Jesus.

In His Grip,

Jenny

 

 

 

Breaking “Naan” Together

I haven’t even been in Chennai for a full week, but I feel like I have months and months of experiences to share. On our first day here, we met with a lot of people. We had to meet the director of our program and the director of our department and everyone else. I honestly do not remember everyone’s name or what their role is and why they were important for us to meet. They were all very kind and asked us how we were doing in26168935_1971788559727217_1560699438504207285_n regards to jet lag. Honestly, It was so hard for me to stay awake towards the end of the day. I could barely keep my eyes open through one of the meetings.

By the time we got back, it was only around 4PM, but I allowed myself to lay down for just a minute and ended up falling asleep. After that, we decided maybe it would be best to just try and wake up earlier in the morning. I had an apple and went to bed around 6PM and got up around 7:40AM. I did wake up at about 10PM and thought I must have slept for four days straight because of how good I slept, but I still had a lot of sleep left in me.

The next day we proceeded to meet with a lot of professors and other important faculty members of the college. We were even invited to have dinner at the Principles house. Before that, we spent the majority of the day shopping for “kurtas” to wear to our field placements. There were so many options and so many beautiful colors and designs. It was very difficult to decide which ones I liked and to stay within my budget, although we did find some decent sales!

We left in our nice new kurtas for dinner at the principle’s house a little early to take pictures of the campus and with each other. Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped outside we realized that we would definitely need to learn how to use the flash on our cameras because it was dark! It wasn’t even 7:30PM yet and it was dark. Now, I realize that at home right now it gets dark around 5PM, if not earlier. But I guess we were just thrown off by the heat and expected that because it was so hot out, the sun would stay out later. But we were wrong! It was fun trying to take pictures in the dark though!

At the dinner with the principle another group of college students from the states joined us. They were taking a class for their “Jan term”. I did not get to talk with them very much, but I did get to chat a little bit with a faculty member in the social work department and a political science professor from Appalachian State that reminded me of my favorite political science professor from home.

So now you’re probably thinking, okay that’s cool, but what about the food? Let me tell you about the food! Honestly, I was a little afraid of Indian food because I knew coming here how spicy it was going to be and how I do not tend to eat very spicy food. However, we have been full blown thrown into the Indian food and you know what? It doesn’t have to be spicy! I really enjoyed a cauliflower gravy that we had on the first day. Then again, if anyone knows me, they know how much I love my cauliflower.

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One of the most important drinks besides water that we learned about is the fresh lime soda (pictured to the left). You can get this just sweet, or sweet and salty. Ironically, most students from previous semesters have only liked it sweet, but my small group loves the salty one! I have some foods pictured about with captions on what they are. One of the most 26169676_1971789799727093_6834011385391681998_npopular food items is naan (pictured to the right). Now, if you have never tried naan, you better go find a place where you can because it is the best flat brad I have ever had.

What I have noticed about the culture is how important meals are to the community. You eat with your hands and split dishes when out to eat.

26168400_1971789489727124_456591246775005378_nThe picture to the left is chicken tendoori. The sauce in 26733962_1971789546393785_8065471813138728710_nthe middle of the plate is kind of minty, but I loved it! In the other picture, the rice dish is called biriyani and is basically rice cooked with a meat. Underneath all the rice is a giant chicken leg! The other dish is a gravy called paneer butter masala. The masala was my favorite as well. Lastly, the picture with the little silver bowl that has little white dots in it, is sauf 26219515_1971789943060412_594420738681354459_nsugar coated fennel that tastes like licorice. It is given at the end of meals, just as we would get our olive garden mints. People take them in handfuls! They were very good! At another restaurant they actually gave us mini sugar cubes too!

 

 

As much as I would like to say the food agreed with me and everything was fine, I simply cannot. You better believe that on the second night at 2:30 in the morning I was sicker than a dog. Actually, I don’t think I have ever felt so terrible before in my life. As I laid on the bathroom floor I found myself thinking, this is it. This is the end. I am going to die because I tried to be adventurous and go to India for a semester, but my weak body couldn’t handle the food.

There was also a point somewhere between laying on the bathroom floor and in my bed that I thought I would not be able to survive the full semester here. In fact, I was one Google search away from finding the cheapest flight home. It’s not exactly “whimping out” if I’m sick is it? I mean come on, health should always come first. However, despite the fact that I was letting these negative thoughts overtake my mind while I was ill, God helped me through it.

After feeling defeated (I will spare you the details), I felt like God was saying “that is what the enemy wants you to think”. I thought about this for a moment. Then realized that I shouldn’t let myself give up so easily just because I got sick within the first week. Despite the fact that it felt like I was dying, I had enough strength to recognize that God was trying to tell me that I cannot do this on my own.

I cannot just go day-by-day in this foreign land and expect to be successful. I simply do not have enough strength to carry on in a place where I have to try extra hard just to understand what someone is saying. I need a supernatural strength, a spiritual strength. It’s the same strength that God gave me to get through all of the other overseas trips I have been on. It is the same strength God gave me through all of my other college semesters.

It was like God had to take away all of my strength to show me that I need to use His to get through this semester.

I spent the majority of the next 24 hours resting and when I was not, I was in class (which was held in our room so that I could stay in bed). It was the reminder I needed to keep inviting God into my daily life. Sometimes we forget to do these things when there is so much change happening in our lives. But God wanted to remind me that despite all of the change, He is that one constant.

There is much more I can tell you about my first few days in India for the semester, but I think I will save it for the next post. What I want to leave you with is to just bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God is good. He is such a giving God. When we are weak, He is strong. When our lives are forever changing, He is forever the same. Where our circumstances seem to defeat us, God reigns in victory because of these truths. It may be hard, but as my best friend texted me this week “Don’t give up!”

 

Saturate Me

// October 16 //

I know I have missed the past four days or so of blogging, but the truth is, I really have not made time for it. I let other things become the priority instead. But I guess we all slip into that at some point in our lives don’t we?

It’s a human thing really.

Today, I turn 21. It is my 21st year of being on this Earth that God created. 21 years of breathing, eating, sleeping… It feels like just yesterday my best friend and I were driving after a shopping trip saying how crazy it was that we just turned 16 and could drive ourselves.

The thing is, I never really looked at my birthday as a start of a new year or anything like that. Not like we do New Year’s. I’ve never really thought to myself that I had a goal before I turn the next set of digits and get another year older. But this year I was challenged to look at things differently.

This thought may have come up just because I am reflecting on who I was a year ago. I look back and see how much I have grown- both spiritually and personally. I look at the picture of who celebrated my birthday with me then and compare it to the friends I have plans with tonight- they are all the same. There is something about consistency in relationships despite personal change that really speaks to my heart.

It reminds me of our individual relationships with God.

Even though I am someone completely different then who I was exactly one year ago today, my friends are still the same people and those relationships have deepened.

In scripture we are constantly reminded that Christ is making us like Him in His image. He is working us to complete perfection for when we are to enter the gates of Heaven and see Him face-to-face. But despite our growth and changes, in an constantly changing world, God is always there with us. In fact, we even grow closer to Him. It is such a breath of relief to know that.

I have never set a goal for myself between birthdays, but this year I am going to. It’s not a goal like lose amount of pounds, less Netflix and chill, or stop spending so much money on unnecessary Starbucks. It’s a goal that actually has no end. It’s a lifelong goal, but I am setting in expectation that I will see growth in one year from today.

This next year, I want to grow spiritually. I want to be taken into the throne room with my Jesus.  I want to see HIS face and hear HIS voice. I want to be covered in HIS blood everyday of this next year and to recognize HIM. I want to be a person of peace that has faith in the LORD. I want to be saturated in the Spirit.

It’s not about being a certain amount of spiritual. It’s about becoming closer to Jesus, my Beloved and my Friend. I want to be so close to Him that I don’t miss a thing He has for me. I want to be so immersed in all that He has for me that I stop worrying about my future plans and finances, but give up control and trust in Him.

I want to know Him as the Good Shepherd, the Lord of Hosts, and my Beloved.

Isn’t this something you desire to? Don’t you want to be intimate with the one that created you? Think about it, we have the opportunity to be in unity and relationship with the creator of the entire universe- doesn’t that make you want to just seek HIM?

He is the only King that literally left His throne to die for us. He loved us that much. I want to love like Jesus. I want to be saturated in that love more and more each day.

Psalm 73.23-24 reminds us of Jesus constantly being with us:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.

Friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, people on the other side of the world that may be reading this, join me in seeking our Father in Heaven with all that is within me. Let’s be saturated in the Lord together.

Self Care

// October 7 //

This morning I woke up dreading the day. Another day of working until mid-afternoon and then an evening of school work. This routine gets old to me. I know that I signed up for these things but sometimes I just need to breathe and take a minute to recollect.

After asking God in many prayers to be sent home early from work, the Lord provided and my manager told me to leave and hour early. When she told me I nearly cried I was in such disbelief, it was incredible (God can truly work miracles).

I got back to my dorm room and was planning on cranking out some large assignments that are due this coming week and the next. However, after eating my leftover pizza and pumpkin bread I realized I was so tired that there would be no way I would get ANY work done. So, I did what any other college student would do, I crawled into bed for a mid-afternoon nap.

After laying there for a while, I got bored (I know, I’m crazy). I remembered it was such a beautiful day out as I drove home from work, so I had this spontaneous idea of hammocking. Not able to bare the thought of just laying in a hammock doing nothing, I checked out some of the reading assignments I have to do for this week and grabbed three different books. For some reason, I thought I was going to be super productive on this hammocking adventure.

I got my hammock all set up and finally got comfortable in a position to read and take notes on what I was reading. I read the first assignment and noticed myself drifting in and out of sleep. I thought, maybe I could just close my eyes for a second and be alright to continue working. BUT, I ended up just throwing the rest of my books and notebook to the ground and taking a nap.

When I woke up I could hardly remember where I was. But when I figured it out, I felt so soothed and “recollected”. It was incredible. Then, I packed everything up, went to dinner, got a coffee, and cranked out some school work for the rest of the night. It was great.

You see, one thing I fail to do is practice self-care. I fail to allow my body to rest, as well as my mind and spiritual side. I am a high energy, go-go-go kind of person (just ask my mom and roommate, they’ll tell ya!). But sometimes, I have to take a deep breath and realize that if I want to do even the slightest of a good job, or be helpful, then I need to take care of myself. Hammocking today was definitely a good decision to help me do that.

Do you have ways that you practice good self-care?

A Biblical way of looking at this is the Sabbath Day. We are called to take a whole day where we basically rest in the Lord. We can be reminded of this in Exodus 20.8-10, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”

 

To That College Student. . .

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As college students it is difficult to make that transition from being at school 90% of your time to moving back home, picking up a summer job, and trying to figure out who is and who isn’t your friend from high school. It’s hard to leave the people that you have been living with for the whole school year. It’s hard to leave a dorm room that you may have become so acquainted too.

And then, getting used to being back at home. Everything is different. Your morning routine is thrown off, you don’t do laundry the same, you don’t even brush your teeth the same! It’s certainly not an easy transition.

The most challenging part of this transition is when you head home from college for the summer, but there are still things that you want to do, goals you want to accomplish, or maybe the semester is just that great that you aren’t ready for it to end. This blog goes out to those that have struggled with the semester coming to a close for one reason or another.

To that college student that didn’t get to hang out with your friend group as much as you wanted to towards the end of the semester because you had the most difficult finals ever to study for… you get each of those friends numbers and find a specific time to hang out with them this summer. Make time for them, drive to them, Skype them! This is summer now, you don’t have another assignment due until next semester (that is, unless you are taking summer classes!).

T0 that college student that didn’t get a chance to get to know that guy or girl you’ve had your eye on the whole semester… don’t sweat it! Do not let it ruin your summer! If you have his or her number, send a text saying you hope they have a great summer, and then go do that yourself! Also, if they didn’t recognize you or take interest in you for a whole semester, you deserve better. There is someone out there that you don’t even have to try to impress. The key is patience my friend. It’s definitely not easy!

To that college student that is going home to a complete and utter messy family situation… I am praying for you. Take this time to be a light to your family and friends. I know that doesn’t sound as easy as it seems, but try your hardest. Keep your head held high and know that God has placed you where you are for a reason. Know that whatever is going on, God is still God and He is bigger! If there is negativity, be the positive! It’s just three to four months and if you can get through a week of finals on four hours of sleep a night, you can get through this summer!

Lastly, to that college student that didn’t do as well as you wanted to… This one hits home to me. I set really high standards for myself and get extremely disappointed when I do not meet them. From my own personal experience, this is what I have to say: so what? So what if you didn’t keep a 4.0 GPA? So what if you had to take a “C” or lower in a class? Did you try your hardest? If yes, then feel accomplished that you got that grade! If no, you have learned where you need to improve. Learn from your mistakes, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your identity does not lay in these things. Christ defines you. Let your identity lay in Christ and nothing else!

There are so many more scenarios that I could go through that speak to college students around the globe. You see, no matter what your case is do not let it hold you back from personal growth. Do not let it stop you from having a great summer. Know that you are not alone in this, but that most college students are making some type of big transition at this time of year. It’s okay to go through these hard times, but do not let them define you! Stay strong friends, and we can get through this together!