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, April 30, 2012

Adventures in Dirt and Hospitals of India

It was our first date in weeks.  The local French bakery, yes even in rural India we have croissants, is a popular place to find Westerners in Ongole and this is where our evening started, and the fun ended.

Sitting down after placing our orders, I adjusted my seat which was not secured to the metal legs.  At that moment, as I was putting my full weight back on the seat, my right middle finger got stuck between the seat and the unsecured leg which essentially became the sharp end of a metal pipe, slicing my fingernail in two and pronouncing a flow of blood from my finger that caused considerable panic from everyone around including me.

It was at this point that two parts of my personality became predominant.  First, I immediately wanted to reassure everyone that it was “merely a flesh wound” and I was going to be fine, not needing much if any help and certainly not needing to go to some hospital in rural India where I had no idea what to expect.  Secondly, the peacemaker and encourager in me wanted to reassure the most guilty person, the store manager who we’ve come to know as a friend, that I was perfectly fine and not to worry and, after being quickly convinced that the hospital was indeed a necessity, we’d be back to have our dinner soon.

Washing off my wound and feebly wrapping up my profusely bleeding finger, a store employee offered to take me to the hospital on his motorcycle, which was the most expedient method of transportation and therefore the best option, but the downside was that this would preclude my wife from being able to join me, at least in the beginning.  Making decisions in these panic situations is often in the blink of an eye and when we realized that it might be a little while before Paige could be with me, I think both of our hearts became a little deflated.  We had no idea what to expect from this hospital and, with my finger bleeding as fast as it was and knowing my tendency to faint at the sight of blood or a needle (even vicariously as happened in a movie theater one time), I knew that the upcoming moments of riding on the back of a motorcycle to the hospital would be tenuous at best, dangerous at worst.

Reassuring Paige that I would be “just fine” and not to worry, I confidently hopped on the back of the bike, holding my damaged finger at my side and holding the driver’s left shoulder with my left hand for balance, still trying to process the fact that I had just lost a fingernail.  One minute later and still five minutes from the hospital, I could feel my body begin to give the familiar signs that if I didn’t lay down soon, my body would make me lay down soon:  sweating forehead, tensing shoulders, heavy breathing, general weakness and, ever so slowly, losing alertness and eventually consciousness.  Gradually my gentle shoulder balancing technique became two arms wrapped around the driver’s waist and my head resting on the right shoulder of this stranger-turned-rescuer with whom I was quickly becoming very close.  What might have looked like a scene right out of a Bollywood love story was actually me trying desperately to hold on while growing very woozy and weak.  At this point, approximately halfway to the hospital, I passed out, still wrapped around my lover, uh, I mean, driver.

The next thing I knew I was jerked awake by the stopping of the motorcycle in front of the hospital.  My arms and legs had held up enough the preceding two minutes to keep me from falling off the bike, but I could only take a couple more steps once at the hospital before slowly falling to my knees and crumpling to the dirt far from the entrance.  My companion was doing his best to keep me from fully nestling in the dirt and this became the scariest, loneliest moment of my surprisingly traumatic evening – fingernail-less and bleeding finger, in and out of consciousness, lying in the dirt in front of an Indian hospital, an increasing amount of brown looky-loo strangers gathering around the feeble white man, wishing my wife was by my side and wondering what exactly was awaiting me inside those hospital doors.

After what seemed like 45 minutes and I later learned was only 30 seconds, my drama in the dirt was over at the sight of a wheelchair.  En route to the emergency room, my phone started to ring, which was, of course, Paige and of course my phone was in my right jeans pocket where I could hardly reach it with my left hand.  Finally, grabbing it I could reassure Paige that “everything was fine” and to come when she can, failing to tell her about my dirt crumpling and challenges of consciousness.  The room we were directed to was not an “emergency room” like we are used to, but a room called “Casualties.”  Hardly comforting.  However, I reminded myself that India uses such formal British English that this must be an older version of the word, meant for wounds but not worse.  Soon I was on the hospital bed of a respectable and clean-looking “Casualties” room of a private hospital with no less than four nurses working on me and four more curiously looking on.  Once lying down, I could finally have the confidence that any more trauma would only be finger-related and not fainting-related. 

It was about now, lying on my back fully conscious and comforted by the undivided attention of close to ten hospital employees in a noticeably sterile environment, that I started to think, “This is gonna make a great blog.”

Paige arrived moments after I made it to the bed, leaving her only with dramatic stories, rather than images, about my dirt and consciousness adventures.  Without eyewitness visuals, this would not yield heartfelt sympathy that I so wanted to maximize in the days to come…

Three shots of anesthesia, three stitches, one X-ray and one fingernail final removal later, I was ready to leave the hospital under my own terms, a far cry from how I had entered an hour earlier.  Arriving back to our French bakery to continue our much-delayed date night dinner, my reassuring disposition kicked back in as I attempted to help the manager through his remorse:

“Don’t worry, it’s just one fingernail – I’ve got nine more.  I think I will stand for my dinner tonight.  Thanks.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hosanna and Dengue Fever

One of our CCH kids, Hosanna, got Dengue Fever last week, something we have referred to as our almost-tragic reminder of where we live. Dengue Fever attacks the blood platelets and, with proper treatment, can be overcome, but the road to recovery is treacherous in this part of the world and our past week has felt like a battle. The first night Hosanna was checked into a government hospital near Mederametla, his CCH home.  We sent one of our staff members, Ravi Teja, to visit him and ask some questions of the doctors and to give him a stuffed animal to keep him company.  Hosanna's fever spiked again so we decided to take him to a private hospital the larger city of Guntur, two hours north of where we live in Ongole. 

We moved him to a Private Hospital the next da

The blood bank
We sent ICM staff, students from our different programs, and church members from Mederametla church, his church home, up to Guntur to give blood.  There have been nearly 20 people who have donated blood for Hosanna.  


A heroic blood donor who is the same type as Hosanna was someone who works for our organization, Danny, who went through seven rounds of donating blood.  Thank you, Danny!

My visit

Paige visited Hosanna on Saturday in the hospital and for the first time he was showing significant signs of improvement.  It's been a long (and expensive) week for us at Covenant Children's Homes, but to see life in Hosanna where he otherwise would have been long dead is humbling and awe-inspiring.

Reading together

The hospital can be boring...so Paige brought colored pencils, markers, paper, and a little book that teaches you how to draw animals.  He drew a dog, a turtle, a ladybug, and a horse!  He had such a good time!  Paige left the supplies with him.  She also brought a couple storybooks to read with him, but he ended up reading to her!  It was great to hear him read and see him understand the story.

Thank all of you for praying!  There were so many people contending for Hosanna and he is so thankful.  He said thank you so many times when we were together!  Thank you, Jesus, for the miracle in this little one's life!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baseball and Cricket: A Birthday in "Vizag"

Two experiences we have wanted to have while we are in India were taken care of for my recent birthday, #39 for those of you interested in numbers.

1) Going to the Andhra Pradesh coastal resort area of Visakhapatnam, for obvious reasons simply known as “Vizag”.

2) Attend a cricket match, the national sport of India introduced by the British Raj, and beloved in India like Baseball, Football and Basketball combined.

With the generous help of my immediate family, we spent a few days in Vizag where there is also the Deccan Chargers, the local Andhra Pradesh team in the India Premier League (IPL) that has their season from April 4 – May 27 this year.

The following are my thoughts on cricket, a very easy game to understand:

  1. Every “bowl” or pitch is meant to bring in runs, even the bat is flat to always have some action.
  2. There is no “foul” territory.
  3. Hits worth four or even six runs are common and keep the game riveting – four is like a double in baseball and a six is like a home run.
  4. The fielders have similar demands to baseball defenders, but do not wear gloves.
  5. The game is played in a circular stadium.
  6. Common final scores are 200 – 180, and the game we saw was 142 – 138.

All this leads one to think that if an American entrepreneur took the game of baseball and took out all the so-called “boring” parts and essentially made “Arena Baseball,” like Arena Football to the NFL, it would be cricket.

A unique cultural and sporting experience – all thanks to my wife and family, the best birthday celebrants I know.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Okay, It's Been One Year. Now What?!

It’s time for an every-so-often update and check-in from Covenant Children’s Homes and us here in India. We’ve commenced our second year here and what we are actually doing in our day-to-day and what motivates us is always a bit of a mystery to communicate from so far away. So if you will indulge us in a little bit of self-interviewing, here’s the latest view from our world and why we are here (and what our 2012 is all about):

What are you doing now?

Summer camp preparations, preparing to open 20 (!!) more homes serving 200 more children in May, building the financial and administrative foundation for this program to grow long after we are gone and otherwise just trying to keep up with all the tasks to be done when serving 200 and soon 400 children who need food, education, discipleship and a second chance at childhood.

What are your goals?

  • 20 new homes opened by May 30.
  • 200 children attending our summer camp in May.
  • Quadrupling our indigenous staff in order to double our homes continually the next few years.
  • Adequately training and equipping our home parents to achieve something great.
  • Start a college fund for our children who will someday soon need to afford their University tuition, otherwise why are we doing all this?

What are your successes?

  • 20 homes opened thus far.
  • 200 children attending and passing English education, most likely the last one in their families to ever experience poverty.
  • Recently raised funds for and purchased a new organization car to serve our transportation needs for many years to come
  • Raised over $15,000 on Facebook alone in the April – March Indian fiscal calendar year last year for “extras” like school resources and needs and painting homes and medical needs for the children…

Why are you (still) motivated, now more than ever?

One year ago, we were just getting our feet wet. Now we’re in the deep end diving and exploring and holding on for dear life. When you invest so much in children, it’s a lifetime of witnessing the fruit of your work grow – we’ll be committed to these children’s progress LONG after we have come home…

What’s the best part of your day-to-day life?

Paige: Visiting villages and being swarmed by kids

Sean: Chicken curry with naan bread…and, I guess, when the CCH vision has been cast and the recipient truly “gets it,” joining our effort on many levels. That’s rewarding!

What happens with you and CCH in one year?

We come home with the hopes of settling more than we ever have, starting our own family and figuring out how we can continue our involvement and commitment here but from home.

What’s the strangest cultural experience lately?

Watching our top native worker here, “Chinna”, go through the arranged marriage process – his family brings a girl to him, they talk as a group for an evening, then he declines and the process starts over. It’s not totally arranged by the parents as we in the West have been led to believe. There does need to be some mutual consent from the bride and groom and from what we’ve seen, the man is 90% of the “mutual.”

Pictures above:

1) Yellow or “lemon” rice, chapati flat bread, chicken curry, onions and carrots to be eaten as chips - it’s all part of a typical home-cooked meal in rural Southern India. Not sure what it looks like to you, but to us….mouth-wateringly scrumptious, even Paige would agree!

2) When not in the villages, we can actually get our hands on cinnamon rolls, croissants and pain au chocolat at a local Indian/French bakery! Who knew?!

3) In Hyderabad one time we toured a former Nizam palace from the late 1800s – here Paige sits down for just another meal at the family dining room table.