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!”

 

The Journey

Two days ago I started this journey to an unknown land. Over a year ago I learned that I was able to study abroad and earn credits towards my undergraduate degree in India. If anyone knows me, they know I have a huge heart for this area of the world. Well, the plan was to study abroad spring of 2017, but it just was not logistical. So, I did what any planner would do, I planned to go the following spring.

Throughout the past six months I have been preparing for an adventure of a lifetime (I hope to be at least). There were countless email conversations with my resident director in India. I was filled with stress to make sure I got my student visa in time. And of course, the endless (and I do mean endless) applications for scholarships and five jobs I worked to pay for it.

And now, it’s here. I finally get to experience the very thing I have been dreaming of and raving about. On January first of 2018, I hopped on a plane to India for the next four months.

Before I get too carried away, let’s take a step back and look at the events that took place the past few days that got me to where I am now. . .

First, I did not start packing until Monday morning. Now, my flight did not leave until 8:30PM, but I still caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress. Then, as I was packing, I had to do some laundry to make sure I had clean jeans to bring. We all know that jeans take FOREVER (not just a normal “forever” but like a Sandlot “FOR-EV-ER”) to dry. Well, with my luck, the awful snow that has been sweeping across the midwest of the United States continued its course to ruin my plans.

Snow built up on our power lines, and the power went out. My jeans were still very damp AND I had to finish packing in the dark. Finally, I gave up the thought that the power might turn back on in time and hung them on an exercise bike in front of our coal burning fire. And of course, then, the power comes back on.

Yes, my jeans dried in time and I was able to pack them. Thank you for your concern.

NOW, the snow was still going strong, so we thought we should leave for the airport early to prevent us from being late. After trudging through the winter wonderland, we made it.

So we get to the check-in and get our boarding passes, then move on to give up our check bags. I somehow managed to heave my giant purple suitcase onto the scale. Fortunately, the Lord blessed and my bag was only 48 lbs, when the limit is 50. My friend that was traveling with me threw hers on the scale and it came to 49.5lbs. Then, the agent was worried she had too many batteries and we spent the next 15 minutes digging through her bag to find them… but then realized that they were not in there.

On the first flight I sat next to a guy that was pretty quiet. He only chuckled at some dad joke the pilot made about a famous person- or maybe it was when the flight attendant thanked us for flying Delta instead of American Airlines, when it was actually American Airlines. I just listened to my music and watched out the window for the 50 minute flight.

The next flight, form Chicago to London was a six hour flight. I had a window seat on our Boeing aircraft that would take us across the great Atlantic. Because our first flight was delayed, I was late getting on the second. Therefore, the people who were in the first two seats were already sitting. I immediately felt bad because I would have to crawl over them to get to my seat, and the chances of me getting up whenever I wanted were very slim. They filed out and let me in. The guy sitting next to me in the middle seat said,”Get in your prison”.

As the flight went on, this guy became very interesting. First, as I tried to rest after our meal he reached his hand in front of me and pressed the button to close the window. I opened my eyes and all I saw was his arm. Later on, after my first nap, I woke up to him digging through his bag with the reading light on. After that, I didn’t mind asking him and the other lady to let me out to use the restroom (I know, who uses the restroom on an airplane? Well, if you had a nine hour flight, you would too.)

One of the things I am trying to be intentional about throughout this journey, and maybe even a New Year’s Resolution, is to learn from other people, even strangers, and to be observant. Needless to say, I learned something from this man. I learned that it’s okay to not worry about disturbing other people to tend to your own needs. This all falls back on my other goal to not be such a people pleaser all the time.

On the next flight, I was in the middle seat between and Indian woman who lived in Montreal and an Indian man that was just on vacation in San Francisco. The man did not talk much, but the woman was very friendly. She seemed to know what she wanted in life and knew how to get it. She was also not afraid to continuously ask the flight attendant for water or ask the child sitting behind her to stop hitting the back of her seat.

One thing that I found myself doing on each of the flights was watch the person sitting next to me and observe how they eat so I wouldn’t eat the wrong way. The first guy was from London and I certainly did not want to offend him by eating the wrong thing first, or putting the wrong sauce on the wrong food item. In the middle of my meal, however, I realized that I don’t really care what other people think of me when I eat my meal. Besides, why would the man judge me if I ate wrong when I, myself, am not even from London?

I began my meals on the second flight with this newly found mentality. But as I was eating, I could tell the lady sitting next to me was watching me. She seemed to be very intrigued by how I cut my roll in half and put butter on both sides. I just brushed that aside and continued my meal while watching Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

My journey was not that extravagant, but it was still eventful. I mean, I did not miss my flight or anything crazy like that. It was the little things that made it enjoyable to travel for three days straight into the future without getting a shower.

As I continue to recover from my jet lag and get settled in my home for four months, I am reflecting on how I can take these small lessons from the passengers that sat next to me into my semester abroad. I have decided that while I am here, I am going to practice simplicity (which means I may not wash my hair every single day), not people please (I may speak up about what I want to do), and most importantly, be myself.

I am hoping to continue to give updates and share about what else I am learning here and through my journeys. Until then, I am going to rest up and learn how to say my favorite food in Tamil.

In His Grip,

Jenny