Wow! So the two weeks we've been here have been quite interesting. We've still had some troubles with getting adjusted, but things are looking up :)
We've enjoyed a full belly for the two weeks that we have lived here at Aswasa Bhavan, though we're not sure our bellies have enjoyed the constant state of stretch. Our host father told us that our stomachs must always be full. They make it easy for us. Breakfast: some form of rice-like soft meal (called puda) mixed with… you guessed it: Curry! Sometimes we get a banana and sugar instead, which is always delightful. This is filling, after a cup of tea and likewise followed by a cup of tea. Later in the day we eat a nice big meal for lunch with rice or chipate's (resembling tortillas, only way better) mixed with various types of… you guessed it: Curry! The meal is ended with another pile of rice and curry, and oftentimes we are given the gift of a plantain, straight from the peel. It's a new sort of experience: raw plantain. MMMMmmmm carbs! This is a full meal, after which we fight the urge to take a nap (while we watch everyone else plop down for a quick snooze). Ah, but there's more! We finish lunch around 2:30, and at 4:00 the bell rings: Tea time! We have learned to make our own tea, which consists of 3 parts milk, one part water, three tablespoons of sugar, and a tablespoon and a half of tea leaf powder. It's mostly like drinking hot tea-flavored milk, and we are experts at drinking it now. After teatime, we take a bath (you know- the bucket business… by the way, I'm getting much better at bucket bathing). Our next meal isn't until 9:00 usually, and it is a BIG one- full of rice, chipate's, and… you guessed it: Curry! We sure do get our share of curries around here. They're all delicious and spicy, and I'm pretty sure we'll never have to worry about going hungry around here. During many of our meals we have taken a luscious bite of food, swallowed, and experienced a sense of heat envelop our bodies. When I say a sense of heat, I mean it feels like a fire-brick oven has found a new home inside of our mouths, tongues, cheeks, throats, and stomachs. We're not so worried about the bacteria and bugs we are most likely digesting, because the spices in the food will knock 'em dead. Keralite food is MMMMMMM so good, and brings so many new emotions to the menu as well. We'll be making lots of this when we return to the States. :) By the way, our tea count as of today is 43 cups each. Again, I repeat: 43 cups of tea in 13 days. Each. Just letting yall know.
I've learned that as an American, I value a good schedule. Yes, I may be one of those people who (in the States) is pretty comfortable with schedule surprises, but here in Kerala I'm not sure that schedules mean much. It's been fun trying to figure out what is going on, and Katrina Elyse and I have had plenty of laughs about our situation. Every night when we go to sleep we just laugh ourselves to tears talking about how confused we are, and how nobody understands us and vice versa. It's a great time! For instance, instead of starting school the first Friday we arrived, we were pushed back until the next Thursday. Wednesday morning, we went to breakfast and were told to go to school. We were not prepared to teach, but we ran down and were introduced to all of the teachers and kids- luckily we were excused from teaching that day. We got our schedule for school (very comforting to have in our hands) and were prepared the next day to teach some kids! Thursday morning, we walked into school and were immediately sent to separate classrooms for grades that weren't on the schedule for that day. We kind of looked at each other with looks that communicated extreme panic, and then quickly convinced them that we were teaching together in one class at a time. Whew- catastrophe averted. Friday morning, we went to school prepared to teach the older kids, and were taken to the youngest kindergarten class. No preparation, again. We laughed and tried to wing it. I hope the teachers thought we were super smart, but I feel like we just looked super silly. We decided that on Monday we would give them the schedule that the principal gave us, so that there wouldn't be any more confusion and lack of proper preparation. Monday rolls around, and as we're eating breakfast our host father (the school's chairperson) told us that we should be ready to go to the wedding at 9:00am. Wedding? Okay. We'll roll with that. He told us we could just run down and tell the principal that we weren't going to teach that day. So we did. We got dressed lightning-quick and were ready to go in a special Indian outfit for the wedding! I guess the school schedule will get figured out another day. :)
Ah, the wedding! Katrina Elyse and I were lucky to be invited to a family member's wedding, and we were lucky that we had 30 minutes to prepare ourselves. We arrived with the bus of kids, and were greeted by some friends and sat down at the table with our group of kids. There was lots of singing (it was… not… very good. Don't worry- the girls at the orphanage thought so too, so I can say that and not feel bad about it), and lots of preaching, and pictures taken in our direction, and video taken in our direction. Halfway through the service, our friend came and told us to come to the front with him. We were pretty nervous. He handed us each a bouquet of flowers, and we were introduced to the crowd as the Americans who came to the wedding to bless the couple. A quick application of smiles, and we were walking up the stairs onto the stage, presenting the bride and groom with their bouquets, followed by an impromptu photo shoot with the happy couple. Also, nobody smiled the entire time- not the bride, groom, or either one's family members. Katrina Elyse and I weren't sure what to do, because when pictures were being taken we were smiling idiots. Hopefully they'll just chalk it up to the fact that we're foreigners or something. Weddings and smiles together? Man, whoever thought of that combo must have been a weirdo. Thankfully, we were still accepted and had a great time with our friends. It was another good day in Kerala!
On Friday, our host father was presented with an award from India: best social worker of the year! It was an exciting event. We were sitting outside at a venue with a couple hundred people, sticking out like sore thumbs. I'm getting used to stares, but there was one fellow who just must have been overwrought with astonishment at the sight of two blue-eyed white girls. Sitting in the row across the aisle from me, he had leaned himself forward to face us and stare- throughout the entire two hour program. He did get up from his seat one time… he grabbed two newspapers (being handed out to the crowd for the special occasion) --one for himself, and one for me. It was pretty awkward and the girls in our group laughed at us. Soon after, we noticed that the media kept taking pictures in our direction. One man finally gave up on being "inconspicuous" and walked right up to our row and took a picture of us. Katrina Elyse kept her cool and gave him a smile. I think I resembled a bug-eyed donkey: surprise and confusion were written all over my open-mouthed face. Thankfully, the next day's newspaper printed one of the "inconspicuous" shots. It's like trying to find Barney in a herd of zebras: we were pretty easy to spot. Good times.
Church has been a new experience, and I've been learning to pray, worship, and postureize (Yes, I just made up a word. Deal.) myself in new ways. It's a loud experience: microphones are used to amplify voices that are already screaming in an echoing room about 30 yards long and 15 wide. It's an exciting atmosphere. As Katrina Elyse said: You can smell the worship. It gets a little warm. But I've been learning a lot about God and how people worship him. His truth is found everywhere in the world, and it's always amazing to know him more and more. We pray in the morning and in the evenings, and this has been a blessing as well (it's hard for me to wake up at 5am, but I'm learning a lot about discipline). God has a plan for us here at Aswasa Bhavan, and it's been a roller coaster ride so far. We're both so excited to be following him here, and getting to know the kids and culture as well. We don't do a whole lot of things right, but we're learning. Learning when to eat at the right time, when to bathe at the right time, what to wear at the right time, when to pray at the right time, when to stand and sit at the right time… it's all new and challenging, but we're doing our best! The Grace of God is what we are relying on! I've been complimented on several articles of clothing (both Indian and American), but the one that surprised me most was my brand new, neon pink moo-moo. You heard it folks, I am joyfully wearing a moo-moo, and sporting it well if I do say so myself. Here, many of the women wear them after their evening bath- it's a "nightie." I asked for one, and I received one. I wore it, and it was a smash hit. "Super!" was the response from most of the kids. I felt pretty cool in my moo-moo. India has so many surprised for me. It's an exciting ride!
Prayers are always appreciated- much love.