Welcome to India

This blog is intended to make a country that most Westerners find to be otherworldly not so much so. We enjoy sharing our experiences, noting our observations, highlighting our impressions and otherwise recounting our adventures in India while helping our blogwatchers to be vicariously closer to this grand country. Welcome to India.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A "Layover" in Thailand and...off to India!

India? Why India?

For me the thought of coming to India started in 2009 when my girlfriend-at-the-time and now wife and I were in the small, southeastern city of Ongole. She had been asked by the group we were serving with to say something encouraging and life-giving to a group of lepers during a regular gathering of this outcasted community.

Yes, I said lepers.

Lepers were (thought to be) contagious and outcast in Biblical times – now they’re "just" outcast.

Paige asked me for my advice about what to say to them and I was dumbfounded. What can an able-bodied, beautiful, middle-class, westerner say to a group of lepers in India? I was of no help whatsoever.

A couple hours later, Paige stood in front of approximately 100 Indian lepers who have varying degrees of this physical ailment and social stigma, some without fingers and toes, or some slowly losing them. They recognized Paige from a year earlier and were more than welcoming of her words of encouragement, her validation of their personhood and that they are loved and worthy of love not based on physical capability, but as a creation of God, loved by Him and free to love one another, despite any hindrances that able-bodied others tell them they have.

I was so touched by her words and their appreciative responses. I thought sure I saw a glow around Paige that showed her words were not her own. I had been paralyzed by pity, but fortunately Paige didn’t need my help that day. She spoke words of life and wholeness and healing to this community who embraced her.

The seed for India was planted in my heart (and, needless to say, Paige's place in my heart grew all the more).

There are needs the world over. The desperation for physical sustenance, a sense of belonging, a dignified life of purpose – these are sought everywhere. No country is immune. So, why India? Because India happened to come across our proverbial path and we went for it. At the same time we left behind involvement with low-income and overlooked people in Santa Barbara, and we will always have a desire to be continuing what Paige started in Thailand.

Why India? In light of it all, it just seemed right at this moment in our lives. We are bewildered (yet thankful) by it all, as well. Thanks so much for your encouragement, support and enthusiasm for this overwhelming undertaking of moving across the world to give a little and receive a lot. We leave for India tonight after spending the last week with friends in Thailand, of which Paige would like to catch you up on now…

Being in Thailand for a week was never going to be enough time, but what we had was great! We were able to spend time with our closest friends, some in Bangkok and some in Ubon, in the northeast of Thailand. We will return here first in about a year when we visit the U.S. and, as we now head to a land where we don’t yet know the language or the culture, coming back to Thailand will feel like coming home. Whenever we are here we are greeted like family and welcomed home. It is an awesome feeling!! Our hearts are in so many countries even though we cannot physically be in all of them at once. Enjoy some pics from our time! I think they will make you smile!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Riding (and Writing) on the Rickshaw

This is the classic, traditional form of urban transportation in India. While you still might find some of these human-powered versions in the rural areas, most rickshaws you see now are the "auto" rickshaws as seen below. We will spend a lot of time in these South Asian vehicles.