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, August 29, 2011

The Countdown to India...

Again, it seems like!

After six of our eight weeks away from India, our minds are starting to focus once again on what our fall (also known as the second monsoon season) will bring upon our return.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, many of you are anxious to know if our second Cambodia visa run was as dejecting as the first and we’re glad to report that, with expectations firmly locked in “low”, our second visa run was a much-improved experience. Unfortunately, we will need to do this forgettable exercise one more time to avoid significant fines once we leave the country for good on September 14th.

Speaking of September 14th

The three months in which we are back in India prior to our return to the States our focus will be on accomplishing the following tasks in our continuing effort to build a solid foundation for this program so it’s around long after us (our main goal during these couple years):

  • Visiting and securing the eleven new homes – we have visited once, other staff have visited multiple times, but getting ten children to feel “at home” in a new church home takes time, training, resources and effort. Our visit in early October will be a very special trip for us to acquaint with the new children.
  • Facebook and other social media fundraising for shoes, backpacks, uniforms, etc. for the new children. Another exciting project for the fall will be raising support for each of our children to receive their first Bible upon graduation from 5th grade (which is currently 30 children).

  • Training sessions for home parents, which involves materials, food, transportation, and cross-cultural communication and, hopefully, understanding!
  • Taking on the second half of our undertaking in India, the Covenant Children’s Development Center (“CCDC”): This is essentially an after-school (and dinner) tutoring program and support center for children’s education and health, run out of various village churches. Another outreach and future-minded attempt to slash poverty through education, discipleship and physical and emotional nurturing of some children in need. You’ll hear more about the ten current development centers and all future ones in coming blogs!
  • It’s never too early to start thinking about how in the world to pay for all these children’s education beyond high school! Yep, over the next 15 years, approximately 500 current and future Covenant Children’s Homes children will be prepared for college! And where will that funding be coming from? Well, do you happen to know any foundations???
  • And lots more where this came from!

In the mean time, we will be celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary on September 6th, a day in which so many of you reading this attended. Thanks for your love and support no matter where in the world our vows are being fulfilled!

Two more blogs from Thailand, then back to India!

(All pictures are fun times with long-time friends throughout Thailand.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sean and Paige's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in Thailand and Cambodia

(Picture: Sean has lunch "on the line" between the Thai and Cambodian borders. It was the only picture we took all day, which tells you something about the day...)

We consider ourselves savvy travelers.

Our Thursday, August 11th proved us wrong.

It all started when we failed to obtain a 60-Day Thai Visa in India prior to our trip and settled for the 30-Day Visa given upon arrival at any Thai airport. Problem is we’re here for sixty days and visas must be obtained outside the country.

Let the border games begin…

Our border/visa run took us to Cambodia, about a three-hour drive from Bangkok and frequented by many a farang (foreigner). Border runs are full of pitfalls and expenses if you’re not careful, but we had both done this before in Thailand, so no sweat. We just needed to hop on a reserved shared van for the drive, cross the border into Cambodia, get our visa for sixty days even though we only need thirty, come back across the border, hopping the next van to Bangkok. No problem. Should be back by mid-afternoon.

A post-trip highlight (or lowlight, as the case may be) of how the events of the day transpired reads:

5:30am – Shared van picks us up, off to a good start.

8:30am – Van stops for the third time supposedly for gas. “This might be a long day.”

9:30am – Arrival at the Cambodia border, an hour after expected.

10:00am – In line for Thai “re-entry” visa stamp, we learn that all border crossings are only a 15-day extension. We can’t get back into India for thirty days. We have to leave Thailand in 15 days. You do the math.

10:01am – We begin to accept the fact that our border/visa shenanigans today are only the beginning of them during our time in Thailand.

10:15am – We leave Thailand, walk along the border line between Thailand and Cambodia and get in line to re-enter Thailand.

10:30am – Thailand tells us we actually need to go into Cambodia, which might be fun someday, but for today and our current plans, not fun at all, plus we have to purchase a Cambodia visa at $30 each. Like we said, “shenanigans.”

11am – Cambodia visa in hand and attitudes starting to wane, we walk around in Cambodia for 10 minutes, decide we’ve had enough, and return to Thailand, but not before a club sandwich and fries “on the line” between the two countries. How was the food, you ask? Better than expected, and today…today is all about expectations.

12pm – Lunch complete, the reality that our day (due to only 15 days and sixty unexpected dollars) is an unsuccessful one begins to set in and we just wanna return to Bangkok without too much more damage.

1pm – We choose the cheaper, shared van as it’s also leaving earlier.

4pm – Cheaper, shared van is stopping about every half-hour to drop-off and pick-up. Yes, “shared” van and cheaper for a reason. “Savvvvvvvvvy” travelers…

5pm – Arrive to Bangkok, but nowhere near our destination in this metropolis and holiday weekend traffic begins to take effect. We realize we’re the only ones in the van that don’t know where we are or when we’ll arrive (and at this point we’re scared to even ask).

6pm – Still in Bangkok, and still a long way from our destination.

7pm – Six hours, three longer than expected, after we left the border where we were already in a bad mood, we arrive to our drop-off in Bangkok. We decide to try and redeem the day with a spontaneous downtown splurge of pizza and a movie.

8pm – Upon arrival at the theater, the capper to our unfortunately unforgettable day, we learn that the movie we’ve been hoping to see for a month, Tree of Life, just left Thailand the day before.

8:30pm – We bite into a pizza that possibly never tasted so good as at the end of this long, expensive, exhausting, unsuccessful day in Thailand and Cambodia.

8:31pm – We remember we get to do it all over again in “15 days.”

10pm - Sean and Paige’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Thursday is finally over.

In the end, all we lost was money and time but, despite the occasional thought or utterance, not too much dignity. We’ll check back again in 15 days…

Monday, August 8, 2011

Things We're Doing Again!

Our month spent in Thailand (halfway to our return to India) continues to be an enjoyable time of refreshment and retreat, all the while preparing for all that is to come when we arrive back to India.

A few weeks ago, we posted an amusing blog entry detailing all the things “we used to do” when we lived in the States. We thought it might be fun to share the list again, but this time revised to account for the things we have done in Thailand since that blog was posted:

Worn shoes or socks (only once, but that’s all it takes!)

Worn a sweatshirt (nope, still warm in Thailand)

Slept in a bed with anything other than the top sheet

Had the electricity on all day long without interruption

Driven (if you count a scooter!)


Seen a mountain (mountains and jungles of Thailand are simply beautiful)

Eaten bacon

Been apart for longer than 8 hours

Received mail (a few packages, yes, but still no envelopes with bills, advertisements or letters)

Watched a sporting event from start to finish (baseball’s All-Star Game)


Eaten a cheeseburger

Experienced rain for longer than 20 minutes

Used a clothes dryer

Worn a seatbelt

Received a paycheck (still haven’t, but your financial support continues to bless us tremendously!)

Uttered the words "Right on time."

Hugged a family member (really looking forward to this in December!)

Pictures above:

1. This is an iconic sign in the resort town where we lived our first three weeks in Thailand before settling in Bangkok where we are now.

2. Thanks to our good friends in Hua Hin, we had the use of this scooter, which made for an even better time.

3. Friends.

4. Needless to say, we spent a LOT of time in this pool while in Hua Hin.

5. Our Thai family is growing up!

6. Paige's pasta, no matter the country, is always a favorite of Sean's...

Monday, August 1, 2011

They Labor in Vain - Child Labor and Worse

One reality for children in Andhra Pradesh, and throughout various parts of rural India, is the vulnerability they have to child labor and child trafficking. The pastors in these villages are regularly taught to watch for suspicious people who may be coming through looking to, literally, buy a child from their desperate parent or relative, then take them to Mumbai or Delhi for a life of slavery and tragedy.

Hard to comprehend.

Even harder to think about it happening to one of the children in our homes who, without the intervention of our program, could have easily fallen into this nightmare.

Whether you're in the United States or India, the tragedy of child labor and trafficking seems far away. Perhaps this is why we have not focused on the abuse of children through the blog or on our Facebook Page. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the problem is one of the worst in India.

A unique insight into the world of our children, at least the world they have now been spared, is below, written by one of the Directors of India Christian Ministries, the organization for whom we work and oversee the children's homes, from the perspective of a young child in rural India. Please read and let yourself experience a small window into the lives of so many children throughout the world...

(More from us in Thailand next week!)

They Labor in Vain
(Child Labor Persists in India)
-- by Sarah Rebbavarapu

It’s not easy being an eleven-year-old Indian village child. Your parents, if both are still alive, toil in the fields from sunrise to sunset, struggling to earn enough money for rice, onions, and a handful of lentils. If you’re a girl, you are responsible for the hut--feeding and chasing after your brothers and sisters, gathering cow dung for fuel, cooking rice, washing clothes in the pond, and scouring dishes on the concrete slab out back. If you’re a boy, you join the weathered construction crew--piling onto a tractor-trailer at dawn, hoisting bowl after bowl of mortar to sweaty, irritable masons who bark out orders under the sweltering tropical sun.

Occasionally through the dust you spot a couple of school children riding with their father on a motor scooter. Their bright-white, ironed uniforms complement their sleek, black braided hair. You try to imagine life at their house--perhaps they have a table, and their father may read the newspaper as the children discuss their teachers and lessons. These children can read, and they know things about the world outside. Best of all, they can get good jobs and good spouses when they grow up, so their parents aren’t anxious about them all the time.

Yours are. Your father swears when he talks about your family--with three girls to marry off--and he often stays out drinking half the night. You don’t dare approach him about sending you to school. Who would pay for books, uniforms, bus fare to the nearest school? Who would take care of the little ones? Who would feed and clothe you if you didn’t go to work? God and karma determine your course, and both have decreed a life of labor for you and your family. Disgusted at the familiar lump in your throat, you wipe your hands on your safety-pinned, grimy shirt, and get back to work.