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.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thailand Rest and Renewal

6 Months.

That’s all you get in India, as an official tourist, before needing to leave for at least two.

And while we were in need of a break and might’ve even taken a couple weeks aside from visa requirements, leaving all we are in the midst of in India was harder than we thought it would be. Those kids have a way of making you want to stick around.

Our week in Thailand has proved to be just what we needed in terms of a breather from Indian intensity. Surrounded by friends and familiarity (Paige and I have history in Thailand), much less the blessed gift of a vacation home with a pool in Hua Hin, a smaller resort town south of Bangkok, we have indulged in coffee on demand, American-sized cheeseburgers, tacos made from the real stuff and, get this, pizza that gets delivered right to your home! We know - we couldn’t believe it either!

So mixing indulgence with prudence (still American prices often) and rest with continued work and productivity even from afar, our time in Thailand will be a memorable and important time of our commitment in India, even if it was forced upon us. God is good and knows our needs.

Meanwhile, the children of the homes in India continue to be on our hearts and minds every day as we speak with our Indian staff (who often call us from the homes so the children can give greetings) and do the Facebook updates and background work that can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.

So while on hiatus from India in Thailand, we are also in the midst of planning our trip home during the holidays where we look forward to seeing so many of you.

More from Thailand coming soon! Thanks for continuing the ride on the Rickshaw Writer!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Celebrating the 4th in India, Heading to Thailand

India and the USA share one significant historical achievement: Gaining freedom from the nasty English!

The U.S. in 1776 and Gandhi-led India in 1947. While India won’t celebrate their successful rebellion from English chaps, tea & crumpets and an over-adoration for royalty until August, we celebrated ours this past Monday with some fellow Americans here for both the short-and long-term. Pictures below from a one-of-a-kind party-by-Paige:

All your favorites from Diamond's "America" to the Boss's "Born in the USA" to Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" were belting out from our apartment for all to hear and declaring:

"Go Home, England!"

Speaking of leaving, we will be going to Thailand for two months as part of our tourist visa requirement. We leave Wednesday and will be back here to Ongole in mid-September. We will be continuing our work with the children here, just doing so from afar which we are prepared to do with our Indian staff. While we look forward to this break, we would rather go for a couple weeks, rather than a couple months.

Yet with many friends, familiarity and great memories from Thailand, we’ll be right at home in our second home. Watch for blogs from Thailand coming soon!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Schools Days

When coming to India to work with these children, I had no idea that they would steal my heart as they have. We are very close to the 90 children in the 9 homes that are in our district (Prakasam)! I see at least 40 children per week while visiting the homes and every 2nd Saturday all 90 children come together! I know their names, which class they are in, if they struggle with their school work and if they are happy in their home. They, in a sense, have become "our" children! So Sean and I went from zero children to 90 children in less than 6 months! How's that for a change!

When May and all of our summer projects (the beach, VBS, and painting) finished it was Back-to-School time! Which meant school bags, school books, personal chalk boards, uniforms, and shoes.

In February, we made our first visits to the homes and we noticed that the children didn't have uniforms or shoes for school, they carried their school books in plastic Target-like bags, and they didn't have pencils and pens.

Thanks to the many of you who contributed on our Covenant Children's Homes, India Facebook Page, we were able to raise funds for the school bags and pencil bags (with pens, pencils, erasers, and sharpeners inside)! The children loved their new school bags!

We are still looking for 3 more homes to be sponsored - $50 for 10 uniforms - check out our FB page for a paypal donation!

Now, on to the uniforms and shoes! Two weeks ago you saw the video of the kids getting their shoes and getting sized for their uniforms!
This week the kids got their uniforms! The first home that I went to for the delivery of the uniforms was SN Padu. The girls were so excited to get them! It was like Christmas morning for them! Their smiles and their pure joy to finally have uniforms was a delight to see! One girl, named Anitha, after trying her uniform on for me said, "Tomorrow I wear new uniform and new shoes to school first time! I so happy!" This comment brought tears to my eyes and I gave her a big hug and said, "I'm so happy, too"!!

In a country where caste and social level mean everything, uniforms and shoes bring a personal dignity to these children that they have never before experienced. It makes us so happy that we get to tell these children that they are worth something, they have a purpose in this life, they are loved by many, that they are special, etc...! These are things that most of them have not ever heard before and because of CCH they get to grow up in a loving, encouraging environment! God is changing lives through us and through ICM. We are so lucky to be able to be used like this!