Do you ever do something where you aren’t really sure if you have the confidence to do it, but then when you actually do do it you are so darn proud of yourself? Not like a bragging kind of proud, but like a wow, I actually did it! kind of proud?
I mean, I’m talking that feeling were you are crazy nervous and anxious to do this one thing that you don’t even realize you are doing it. THAT kind of proud. The kind where you’re like woah.. did I seriously just do that?
Right now, I am sitting in Café Coffee Day (shocker that I’m in a coffee shop right?) with the leftover nerves and anxiety streaming through my veins. Or maybe that’s the chocolate ice cream and coffee I had for lunch about 30 minutes ago…
ANYWAYS. The point is, I did it. I accomplished a fear! I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone! You’re probably so excited for me right now… don’t you want to know what I did?? Okay… you talked me into it, I’ll tell you!
As you know from my previous posts, I am living in India right now. I was here before, but when I was here before I was scared to even walk to the grocery store alone. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was afraid I would get hit on, or just hit in general in attempts to cross the street in this crazy traffic.
But this time, I’m not as scared. I feel confident in walking to the grocery store, and even crossing the street. I think that it’s because of one thing and one thing only… OLA. Ola is like the cheap Uber of India (although they still have Uber). It’s just a simple app where no matter where I am, basically, I can get an auto or car ride for a decent price. WOW. Can you say life changer?
BUT here’s the thing folks. Ola is great, but not everyone uses it. In fact, while it is cheap to Indians even that can be pricey. Why would you take an Ola auto when you can take a Share auto for only 20 RS, or the bus for 15 RS.
This is the dilemma I am in. I have enough money to stay here for the rest of the time I have planned, if and only if, I live the Indian way. This means, it’s okay to walk or take the bus. That’s the problem. I don’t have the confidence to take the bus on my own… or at least didn’t.
I woke up on this humid and hazy Sunday morning at about 10:30AM. I’m a bad girl and didn’t go to church. Actual, I have a valid reason for that. I’ve been very sick and coughing up a storm, so I didn’t want to go to church and disturb the sermon every three seconds because I needed to clear my throat. I also thought it would be good for my body to catch up on some zzz’s.
So I woke up, took my cold shower, and went to lunch with another American bloke that’s here. We went to one veg restaurant with a hankering for a Masala Dosa, but they weren’t serving them at the time. Naturally, we left and went to another veg restaurant, a little further away, to get our dosas. Only to find out this place didn’t serve dosas until after 4pm… hence the chocolate ice cream and coffee for lunch.
After we finished the food that we did end up getting we walked back to the main gate of the college. Across the street from the main gate is a bus stand and a share auto stand. My plan for the rest of the day was to get a share auto to Café Coffee Day and spend the day slaving over my computer and textbooks with a hot cup of Joe (yes, another cup of coffee).
I asked one Share auto if he was stopping in Sembekem, the place where Café Coffee Day was. He did the weird head bobble thing that I recognized as a big fat “no”. I started walking through the bus stand to get to the auto stand. Then, another auto drove up next to me, clearly seeing that I was just rejected, and asked where I was headed. I told him the location and he just laughed in my face and drove away.
COOL. I thought to myself. We continued to walk through the bus stand and there was a bus that said 95 on it waiting to take off. Without hesitation I walked to the front of the bus and through the window I asked the driver if the bus was stopping in Sembekem. He did the head bobble thing that I took to mean “yes”.
I was like see ya later Gary, I’m hopping on this bus and going to Coffee Day! So I did. I sat down and waited for the bus to leave and my mind was like what am I doing??!?!?!? I don’t even remember what the Sembekem stop looks like! I’m going to miss it and embarrass myself. I DO NOT have the confidence for this!!
When the conductor (is that what they are called? Or is that just for trains?) came and I paid, again without thinning I said, “Sir, can you tell me when we stop at Sembekem?” He rambled something in Tamil and I was like thanks man.
Sure enough, he mentioned to me when Sembekem was next. I even started to get off the bus before the bus was fully stopped! Okay cool, so I took the bus. No biggie right? Except for the fact that now I had to cross the street!
I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl pants and just walked into the road. I waited for these slow as all get out bikes to pass and made my run for it. There were two bikes waiting at the median to turn, so I waited with them and as soon as there was an opening in the traffic I skedaddled my little legs as fast as I could across the street!
As I finished the short walk to Café Coffee Day it was like I had two little Jenny’s sitting on each shoulder. One was like who do you think you are young lady? You could have died! You could have gotten on the wrong bus! And the other was like I am Jenny Freaking Bushnell and I just conquered the only fear I have in India. I am victorious. And then a bike drove through a puddle next to me getting my feet soggy. (insert face palm emoji here –>).
Anyways, I know that was a long story for such a small punchline, but c’mon folks! If we don’t conquer our fears with confidence and poise, aren’t we letting the devil get the best of us? I could have very easily just taken and Ola auto back to my little place and end up losing my motivation to blog, or do any type of work, and just binge watch “The Good Wife” for the rest of the day.
But I didn’t! Because instead I said not today dear Satan. I walk with the blood of Christ covering me and I am victorious because of it! What is holding you back from conquering your little fears? Are you afraid to admit that you even have a little fear like I did? It’s OKAY! Just let it out and then stomp it out! You got this! Start living your best life today!
I have not blogged in a very long time- obviously. But there’s a reason for that. If you look at my past blogs, they are all about my time studying abroad in India. Around the time when I stopped blogging, is around the time when I had about one month left in the amazing country. Now, it has been a little over a month since I have been home, and I still have not blogged.
It’s not that I don’t have time. It’s not that I don’t want to. You see, the thing is, I don’t know what to write. I didn’t want to write an “ending” to my time in India. I didn’t want to write about all the goodbyes I had to say, my airport stories, or how excited my family was to see me when they picked me up from the airport. Honestly, there are just not enough words in the English (or any other) dictionary for me to describe the experiences I had.
Now that it has been a little over a month, I have had time to reflect more on my time abroad. I have re-integrated into my complex American life and now it is time to share a little bit about what is going on in my heart and head.
If you read my first few blogs while I was in India, you know that I had a rough time. I was sick, I was missing home and my family, I was not very fond of the bugs, and overall, the culture shock got the best of me. Fortunately, as I spent more time there, I developed amazing relationships with locals that love Jesus and have compassion for community. These were the people I clung to.
I started being more intentional about my relationship with Jesus and allowing Him into my everyday life to cleanse me and heal me of past issues. When I started doing this, I was filled with so much joy and I became so content with myself and where I was at in life. I began to fall in love with the land that I had convinced myself previously I hated.
One of my closest friends began tutoring me in Hindi. We would have “tutoring” sessions at the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) down the road. We had a deal. She would tutor me and I would buy her coffee. Sometimes, we just got so caught up in talking about life that we never got to Hindi. Either way, this was one of the sweetest friendships I have ever made in my entire life. I learned so much from this girl and cannot wait until our paths cross again.
When I hopped on my flight from Cleveland Hopkins Airport with the intention of landing in Chennai, India three days later, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I would learn, but I didn’t know what I would unlearn. I knew I would struggle, but I didn’t know how I would succeed. I knew I would grow, but I didn’t know how I would learn so much about myself. You see, I learned more about myself in these 3 1/2 glorious months than I have in my entire life.
Being in another country stretched me thin and pushed me to my limits at times. But ya know what? I think we all need to experience that in our lives. We all need to be tested and put on trial in a land we are not familiar with. That, my friends, is how we grow. I want to share a few more things…
In India, I became another person. I gained more confidence in myself than I ever thought possible. I learned to accept who I am and who Jesus wants me to be. And through that, came a wonderful fullness of joy.
I learned patience. I learned that you do not always have to be doing something crazy and adventurous. Want to know why? Because being a foreigner in such a “hectic” culture is adventurous enough… I mean, getting on the right train and bus is crazy enough!
Lastly, one of the most important things I learned is that it is okay to not know what is happening next. From day one of walking around nearly unconscious due to the horrid affects of jet lag, to the very last day trying to say goodbye to newly found lifelong friends, I was always in a state of not knowing. Now, if you know me, you know this is completely against what I stand for. Everyone knows that I have my life planned out 5-years in advance. But that was nearly impossible for me to do in India.
Indians are very flexible people. They are people that are adapted to change wherever, whenever. This grew on me. The whole time I was so scared of going home because I didn’t know what to expect. My parent’s house had caught on fire and they moved to a new one while I was away. I was graduating college, trying to find a job, trying to figure out if and how I would go to graduate school. At times, it spoiled my attitude and left me bankrupt of the contentness and joy I had just found.
Now that I am home, I have found that I’m actually okay when I just go with the flow. I CAN find contentment. I CAN adjust. I CAN succeed. And you know what? I actually kind of like it. There is something adventurous about being spontaneous that reminds me of my life in India.
Folks, in no way, shape, or form, does this blog post shed the slightest light on my time in what has become my most favorite country on Earth. But, I can tell you this, my life has been forever changed and until the day comes when I venture to that land again, I will do what I can to get my “India” fill. (Yes that means every time I see a person from India in public I will say “Namaste” and attempt to speak in the little bit of Hindi that I know).
To sum it up, my time in India was “a beautiful one”.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
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?
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 an 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.
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.
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 have 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 about 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…
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.
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.
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.