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!
Recently God reminded me of something very important.
If you have been following my blog/stories on here, you know that the past few months I have been praying for the Lord to grant me the desire of my heart to go back to the nation of India to serve in some way, shape, or form. You also know that the Lord provided in miraculous ways and here I am, writing this blog from the depths of my own place in my favorite country, my home away from home… literally.
Well, you see, it’s funny that we talk about how God answers prayer. I think there are so many times we focus on the prayers that God doesn’t answer. But I mean, come on, who else is actually thanking God that He didn’t answer the prayer for you and your high school sweetheart to get back together? (It’s okay to raise your hand).
But when we focus so much on these unanswered prayers, with or without the hidden blessing deep inside, when our prayers do get answered, we take it for granted.
Here’s what I mean… for the past three to four months I basically begged God for a few specific things. One of them being that I can come back to India. At first, I didn’t think it would work out, but then I realized how much God was asking me to sacrifice so that He could bless me and give me this desire. I actually hate using the word sacrifice because I feel like it makes me look like some type of hero or something, but I’m not. It was a choice. Something I wanted to do to deepen my relationship with God.
God pulled a few strings and provided for me, just like the Word says He would. He got me finances, got me an online job, got me a really nice (and affordable) place to stay, and showed me that my education isn’t the only important thing in my life. So, with my Visa approved and excitement in my heart, I bought my ticket back to India.
It’s been officially three weeks in India. And while I have been so grateful that God has provided me this opportunity, I have been a selfish and spoiled little brat about it. It’s like I said, “hey God, I got what I wanted catch ya on the flippity flip!” But God was like, “oh no ya don’t young one. You can’t do this on your own!”
That’s slang for I lost my online job and am freaking out about not having an income. You would think that if I had enough faith to hop on an airplane and move across the globe for seven months that I would have enough faith that God would provide me with another source of income. But no. My human self actually got mad at God. Crazy right? Like who do I think I am?
I blamed God. I asked Him why He gave me this job and then took it away. Why did He open these doors and now I feel like they are slowly closing. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But honestly, the Lord dropped a big heavy revy (revelation) on me when I was actually attempting to lash out at God for letting this “failure” happen in my life.
I was reminded of the image of God as our Father. I thought immediately of earthly fathers. What do they do? They provide. They care. They make sure you are safe and have everything you need. So, I picked up the phone and called my dad and asked him for $1,000… kidding. I wish I could do that.
What actually happened was the Lord continued to show me that just like an earthly father doesn’t just provide for you once and then he’s done, but he must continuously provide for you. God the Father is the same way. He is not a one and done kind of God and never will He be one because He is an eternal provider that I can always count on. Can I get an AMEN?
God is saying to me that I cannot (and will not) do this on my own. I do not have enough strength and power in the world to be successful in my own might. I need Jesus. I need Him to carry me. I need Him to provide for me. I need Him to lead me and guide me. I need Him to be my vision because sometimes everything is super blurry.
I am reminded that God is the God that gives, but God is also the God that takes away. God is calling this generation, these people, us, to trust in Him in some radical ways. Even when the world is turning upside down and we lose something crucial (like an income), God is asking us to put our faith in Him like we have our earthly fathers. And if your earthly father did not provide for you God is saying that’s okay because He is still going to move in your life.
So instead of running the other way and letting Satan get a hold of our thoughts and emotions when these trials come, we need to remember who our Father in Heaven is. He is not a one and done kind of God, but He is the eternal provider that longs to see us thrive. And when He does provide, we cannot forget Him. We must continue to praise Him, thank Him, and allow Him to move in our lives. Just because He gives us what we want does not mean we have the authority to do what we want.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Remember, “in the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, Jesus has overcome the world,” John 16.33. Trust my dear friends. Trust in the promise of our providing eternal Father.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”
How many times have you heard this verse in church or Sunday school? This verse is one of the most popular verses referred to when it comes to waiting.
You want to get married? Delight in the Lord and He will give you your desire. You want to have kids? Delight in the Lord…. You want a new car? Delight in the Lord… Any true desire that we have, the response is “delight in the Lord…”
Let me tell you about a time when the Lord put this verse on my heart, but I honestly did not know what the true desire of my heart was.
It was the end of my first year of college. I had just joined this missions group on campus called Ekballo. Shortly after I joined, we had a leadership retreat a few hours from the college at the vice president’s mansion. Now, I have to be honest and tell you that there was a very cute boy that was also going to this leadership retreat.
We were already pretty close friends, but I wanted to get to know him a little more. Ya know, see if there was any potential. So that was one of my missions for the weekend. On one of the days we did a prophecy exercise. All of our names were put into a hat and we drew a name and asked the Lord to give us a word for that person. The catch is that we couldn’t open the paper until after the word the Lord had given was shared.
As soon as I picked the piece of paper from the hat, I knew I had my own name. There was no doubt about it. The Lord said to me, “I am the God of the impossible and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37.4).”
My human mind immediately thought that was a promise that things would work out with this cute guy. For so long, I took that literally. I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would send us out to the nations together. Then, we went on a missions trip to Southeast Asia together. I thought that surely the Lord was making this happen.
Things did not go as I had hoped with this guy though. He didn’t have feelings for me and then at some point we tried dating but realized it was just awkward, so not we are just good friends, and at one point, we were best friends.
So, that led me to still ask the Lord “then what is this desire of my heart that you plan on giving me?” As you may know from previous blogs I spent the beginning of 2018 until about April living in India for a study abroad experience. You may also know that I fell in love with that land and the people there.
Before I go any further, I need to share another little snippet of my past. After this guy and I went on this trip the Southeast Asia, we went to a missions conference back in the states. At this conference, they asked those who are willing and desirous to go the nations one day and serve overseas to fill out a commitment card. I knew I still had two more years of school left, so I said, “okay Lord, in two years, I will go and live on foreign soil to spread the Gospel and bring justice.”
Okay, now back the story… After getting home from my time in India, I did what most college graduates do. I got a job and started online classes towards my masters degree. I actually ended up having to get a new car too.
At first, I loved my job and was happy to be home with my family. I enjoyed hanging out with my cousin and best friend every weekend. I started playing tennis and doing all sorts of other exciting things.
Soon, I realized that this happiness was not lasting. It was so hard to be away from the land that I fell in love with. Not a single day went by where I did not think of India. I talked to friends from there everyday.
After a few months of working, I needed to re-evaluate my plans. It’s not that I hated the job, but it was not up my alley in what I wanted to do. The experience was incredible, nonetheless, but I wanted something more. So, I prayed.
I said Lord, I want to go back to India. I began searching for ways I could go. Maybe I could use education as a clutch again. I searched for an online job to keep me financially secure, and I reached out to my contacts in India to find proper housing. I didn’t expect any of it to work out in such an easy way.
Then, all of a sudden, housing fell in place, people wanted to partner financially with me, I had a project lined up for me to do when I got there, the only thing that was not set was the education piece. The school that I go to wanted me to go to a different part of India to complete field placement. They were not satisfied with where I had proposed I did my field education at.
I had a choice to make. Either I moved to a different part of India where I didn’t know anyone or the area, or stayed home. Then, the Lord put a third option on my heart that I didn’t even think would be possible. I could drop down to part time for my masters degree and complete it in two years, instead of just one.
That would mean that the educational piece would be eliminated altogether. After much prayer and surrendering my own plans to the Lord, this is what I decided to do. I felt so much peace about it. Probably because I knew God had a greater plan through all of it.
I texted my professor from my undergraduate college and told her everything was set into place and I was going back in just one month (this was at the end of July). She replied, “the Lord is giving you the desires of your heart!”
At that moment, the past two years of my life in wondering what the Lord meant in what He said to me at that leadership retreat all fell into place. While I do have the desire to be married one day, my biggest desire, and promise I made to the Lord, was that I would live overseas for an extended period of time serving the Lord.
That being said, I quit my well-paying job, hopped on an airplane and moved to India for the next 7 months of my life. As I sit here in my own room that I am renting with the funds the Lord so graciously provided, I am filled with the most joy I have ever felt because I know that I am completely and utterly in the exact place that the Lord wants me.
The Lord has gave me the desires of my heart. Friend, if there is anything that you get out of this post, get this: The Lord is faithful to bring His promises. It takes a little effort on our end. We are called to be obedient, no matter how fearful we are, and to trust that He is in complete control. So, take a step back and delight in the Lord because He wants to give you the desires of your heart too.
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.
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 in 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.
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 popular 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.
The picture to the left is chicken tendoori. The sauce in the 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 sugar 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!”
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.