Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life in the Green House...

I wanted to share some pictures of where we live. Mostly, I wanted to make sure that I got these pictures for our family to always remember our little home in India.

We live in what is called The Green House. The brown door is ours...on the second floor. Our Managing Director, Dr. Susan, lives on the first floor. She swears she can sleep through anything...and I hope that is true! Because with tile floors, wooden furniture, and four is anything but quiet up here.

 We have a beautiful courtyard outside of our home where two ducks and one kitty live. She was named Princess Kitty by one of our summer coordinators. She gives us a heart attack on a daily basis because she will dart across the path as we are warily scanning the ground for snakes after dark. There is a swing hanging from the tree and a duck pond near the wall. It can be a very peaceful place to sit and relax.

This is the view standing on our front steps...

And if I step up a couple of those stairs leading to our roof, this is the view out over the nearby farmland...

Lon and I both love to look out and see workers in the field and watch the people on bikes and motorcycles go by on the road outside of our gate. And from this very spot, we watch the most amazing sunsets we have ever seen. Absolutely gorgeous!

Now moving inside our house...
When you walk in our front door, you come into our living room. We really don't spend much time in here because it does not have an air conditioner. ; ) We have family dinner once a week on Thursdays (because Thursday is fish night at the school cafeteria....blech) so we only occasionally squeeze our whole family around this tiny table. Other than that, we eat with the other volunteers over at the Volunteer Hostel.

The first room on the right is Camry's, the second on the right is Liberty's and past that is our kitchen. The room straight ahead is Cohen and Avery's and then our bedroom is on the left past the kitchen table.  Here is our kitchen...

We recently got the shelving unit for our food and it has made it so much easier to organize. Under the sink area is a small countertop oven (on loan to me from Dr. Susan) that I pull up a few times a week to make yummy breads and such. Last night, I made french onion soup and used the oven to broil the toast and cheese on the top of the mugs.  It was divine! I have loved, loved, loved having an oven again and the family and other long-term volunteers enjoy eating whatever I make!

Here is our bedroom....which thankfully has a really comfortable bed (it's the only comfortable bed in the whole place)! The little kids are constantly begging to sleep with us. In fact, Cohen often campaigns for a rotating-bed schedule hoping to kick us out for a night and get the bed to himself! ; )

This is where we spend most of our time. The computer is often being used for online schooling or my sponsorship work for Rising Star and the desk on the left contains all of our homeschooling books and supplies.

Brooklyn does not live in the house with us...she lives over in the "Elephant House".

And this is what the inside looks like. It is a very beautiful place with all the trees and open air. Since the top of the Green House has a metal roof on it, I often come to the roof of the Elephant House to do my yoga in the morning.

Our houses are right next to each other. Here is a photo from the walkway in between the two buildings. I am standing right next to the Elephant House...and you can see on the left, through the gate, the red front door of the Green House. You can also see the beautiful murals that we get to walk by every day. Each session of volunteers gets to paint their own mural at the end of their time here with us.

It is a beautiful place...unlike anywhere else I have seen in India! We love it here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Going out with the Mobile Medical Clinic

Now that the kids are back in school and we have our homeschooling schedule, we go out with the Medical Clinic once a week...usually on Wednesdays.

At 9 a.m. we board the van with the other long-term volunteers that are here with us.

Today, there was me and Avery and Cohen along with Brooklyn--who is serving as the Medical coordinator this Fall. We were joined by two wonderful girls--Ciera and Berlyn--who are here as long-term volunteers and are so wonderful. They are both recent High School graduates and we all love them. My kids really love having them around.

It takes us, on average, about an hour to get to a colony. So on the way...we do homeschooling!!

The kids are actually quite cooperative and we get math, reading, and some writing done before we arrive at the colony.

Our first stop was at a LKG (Lower Kindergarten) class where they were doing check-ups on the kids. We just played with the kids and helped them draw pictures. They were kind of shy and many of them are known for absolutely screaming when white people come around. ; )

This is Avery and Berlyn with all the kids as we said goodbye. The little boy in the blue and white in front was a total chatterbox the whole time we were there. Of course, none of us could understand a single word since he was speaking Tamil!

Our second stop was a small leprosy colony with just a handful of patients.

 Ciera and I are ready and waiting for the patients to arrive...

When we arrive at a colony, the first thing we do is form a line to unload the medical van. We set up stools for us and chairs for the patients all in a row. The first station is bandage removal, then washing, then nail clipping and oiling, and then they see the nurse where their wounds are treated, sometimes having necrotic tissue cut away, and then re-wrapped.

This is the nurse, Navamani, working on a patient's foot.

I have done all the stations except nail clipping. At larger colonies, we split up the nail clipping and the oiling and it was at one of those colonies that I was asked to do the oiling station and I think it is my very favorite!  You simply oil the patient's leg above their wounds (that are on their feet) and all the way up the calf. It is very hands-on and you get to spend time rubbing the oil into their (often) leathery, dry skin. It just feels like a very tangible service. There is time to look into their eyes and make a small connection and simply share a smile.

Here is a picture from earlier in the summer when I did the blood pressure station.

Today, I was on bandage removal. There were only three patients today and the first man that sat down had the worst sore on the bottom of his feet that I have ever seen. It was hard for me to not wince or show a painful look on my face.

The entire bottom of his foot was an open deep sore. There was only a lip of healthy flesh all around the edges and at the bottom of his heel. I don't want to gross anyone out, but I thought I would show you what leprosy sores actually look like. This is just an image that I found on the internet...

This is what this man's foot looked like, except that the sore covered the entire bottom of his foot. It was so sad. Leprosy causes a person to lose feeling in their extremities (which is one of the reasons they can get such ghastly open sores), but it is also a tender mercy, because they do not feel the pain of these injuries as we would. 

Often, these sores start simply because they step on something sharp without shoes on.  They get a cut or a puncture on the bottom of their foot and since they can't feel it, they keep walking around and it gets infected and over time becomes a sore like you see above.

Our medical unit includes a shoe maker, who comes and measures the patients' feet and hand makes custom sized shoes for each patient.

After all the patients have been seen, we clean up, reload the van, and scrub our hands and arms before we head home.

On the way home on this particular day, I had asked for us to stop at a food stand to enjoy some parotha and omelet.

I absolutely love this stuff! It is a buttery, layered, soft tortilla and comes with this amazing savory sauce. It costs 30 rupees (50 cents) for two parotha and sauce.  And for another 15 rupees, you can order a small onion and egg omelet. I am sure they are not good for you, but they are so, so very delicious!

The next time we go out with the medical clinic, we get to go to the Chennai Zoo.  We are excited to see all the tigers, elephants, and crocodiles....well, at least Cohen is!

Friday, October 10, 2014

A trip to the Mall

Hello! It has been a while since I have had time to sit down and blog about our experiences. I actually have a couple posts written and I am just waiting to get photos emailed to me to complete the stories. ; ). So those will be coming shortly...hopefully this weekend!

This last Saturday we took a trip to the mall and I just had to share some crazy, funny things.

First of all, they have pretty good malls here! The one that we have gone to before has a Krispy Kreme...mmmmmm...a little piece of American goodness.   

Lately, we have been going to a new mall that is closer to our campus. It has California Pizza Kitchen where we have enjoyed their scrumptious hummus.... I cannot even tell you how delicious this tasted!

They also have a Starbucks, a Hard Rock Cafe, and a Baskin Robbins...although, we found two Indian owned ice cream shops that only charge 60 rupees (1 dollar) for a scoop with waffle cone while Baskin Robbing was 240 rupees for the same thing!

This time, I was tickled by some funny things we saw and I wanted to share them with you.  

First of all, we went down to the lowest level and found this statue...

She's kind of creepy and cool all at the same time. ; ) Her hair and bun are really can see them in the reflection on the first photo.

But the funniest things were, once again, the way that English is used by the Indian people.

Before we can enter the mall, we have the rare privilege of entering this:

by the way...the Indians thought it was really strange that I was taking a photo of this...

Are you feeling a little FRISKY?? WELL, COME ON OVER TO INDIA. ; ) step in here and they simply wave a metal detecting wand in front of you. Incidentally, they do the same thing for the men out in the open, but for some reason "Ladies" must be "frisked" in a booth. : )

Then one funny advertisement caught our attention....

I mean, who wouldn't want to take home a nude? Of course, you have to spend 8000 rupees for the privilege....

And this last one I have to admit, I felt a little guilty taking a picture of, but it was seriously so funny to me.  Not that it is ACTUALLY funny....just the thought that THIS is what someone decided to write in the moment of emergency.  Cracks. Me. Up.

This sign says so much about India. I think I will always be amused by the straighforward, blunt way they employ the English Language. is 3 minutes to even though most of my friends are just sitting down to their lunch, I think I'd better get to sleep.

Have a great day over there in America and please, someone, eat a yummy salad for me!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Lesson from the Lorax

This is our Sunday School teacher here in Chennai. His name is Brother Sathiyaraj.  But I lovingly refer to him as The Lorax.

It is half because of his Lorax-ish mustache and half because of the charismatic way he imparts his wisdom...just like the Lorax. : )

A couple Sundays ago, he gave the most touching and profound lesson. I have to share it with you because it really shows a very endearing part of Indian people.  

They speak very straightforward English and use very sincere and genuine statements to convey their message. For instance, when Cohen, Avery, and I go to the library and check out a dozen books each time, the poor librarian has to hand write every last detail...including price... of each and every book and I say, "I am so sorry. I would be happy to do that for you." She says with a sweet smile, "No, ma'am, I am happy to do it--it is my duty."  When I saw a young woman sweeping the steps of the hostel and I said, "That is so wonderful and thoughtful of you!" She said, "It is my joy, Auntie." There is no false modesty and no pretense. They mean what they say. (Another quirky thing is their cultural norm of saying what they the day when a nurse told me that I should braid my hair like hers because "that no look good", as she waved her hand near my claw clip and up-twist. ; ) But that is a blog post for another day...)

Back to the Lorax...

He ended his lesson with a Powerpoint presentation entitled "Install Love".

I LOVE things like this that are so straight forward and simply presented. I am always touched by a humble, unadorned presentation of truth. And it didn't hurt that the Lorax was so evidently enjoying sharing this with the class. It made me laugh and smile and want to "Install Love" in my heart. ; )

It is an illustration of someone calling for help on "Installing Love."
 Christ is the tech support who picks up the call...

I skipped a couple slides to shorten it...but basically the customer installs is, says it is up and running and then says, "Oops...I have an error message! The tech support answers, "No problem, I know how to fix that."

It ended with the Tech Support reminding the customer that Love is be sure to pass it along to everyone you meet!

Install Love really is simple!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

{Thottanaval Village}

Our school campus is about 1/4 mile past a small little village out in rural Tamil Nadu. We love to leave campus and walk or bike ride through the village on little outings. 
This is our view walking into the village from our campus.

On campus, we have running water--CLEAN DRINKABLE water coming out of our tap...well, one side of our tap, to be clear.  The other side we lovingly call "Typhoid Water". 
When my kids are filling up a pot or washing out a water bottle, they will often ask, "Clean water or Typhoid water, mom?" It just makes me laugh. 
But back to the village...
In the village they have a few central water tanks where everyone goes to fill up their plastic or metal water jugs. They do not have cleaner drinking water...that IS their drinking water (what we call Typhoid water)...but we would get sick if we drank it.

Life in the village seems so very different than anything we have in the States. Sometimes I come back home and just sit here, amazed that we live on the same earth...but we have such different existences. 

I have never personally seen village life before and it is a startling contrast to the life I live at home.

These women still do their laundry using buckets and a large flat stone...and I am telling you, they get their clothes cleaner than my machines at home.
Walk through the village in the morning, and every third person you see is sitting on his front stoop brushing his teeth. Life is just lived out in the open...many doors don't even have front doors on them.

The homes vary greatly even within this tiny little strip of residences. Some people live in these huts...

And some people live in brick and concrete boxes like you can see on the right... 

These men were busy repairing the roof of this hut.

Some people live in slightly embellished or very embellished brick and concrete homes that are then decorated with tile and iron work.

This happens to be the home of a Rising Star employee that lives in the village.

This was a beautiful rangoli we saw one day. These are often done every morning outside the front door of the house and are meant as a blessing.

There are always chickens, roosters, turkeys, cows, and goats wandering around.
These are all harmless and quite fun to see at times. The first time we went to the village a turkey kept following us around and Cohen wished he could bring it home with us. : )  He says that going into the village makes him miss our chickens!

Do you think we stick out at all?  : )

One day they were having some sort of celebration and had decorated this little side lane. I just love how festive they can make things with paper and strings and a few balloons.

This is the village school. I think Tamil writing is so beautiful...I only wish I could recognize the letters more easily. But, just FYI, Tamil has 247 letters in their "alphabet". There are 30 Main Letters and then the rest are derived from those.  I wish it were an easier language to learn!

The children are always running out and saying "HI!!" or "BYE". And if they are a little older, they will smile and say, "How are you?" But that is normally about all the English that they know.

The most common reason we go into the village is so that the kids can shop at the little village store. They get cookies for 5 rupees or a couple single Milkybar Caramels for 1 rupee. On allowance day, when they are feeling rich with their 100 rupees ($1.66), they might splurge and get a soda for 30 rupees (50 cents). Looking forward to these little village trips is the only thing that kept Cohen going on those really hard days when we first got here!

The village people are very friendly....the village dogs? Not so much. They growl at us and bark and generally freak us out. If a villager is around, they will yell at the dog and it normally leaves us alone, but the other day when I was running with Camry and Liberty, there was a particularly mean dog at the very beginning of the village that I had to threaten with a large rock.  I was scared to do that, but it worked--he immediately stopped following us. 

(I was following a tip from some of the older boys at our school. They said that all I needed to do was pick up a rock and act like I was going to throw it.)

That large rock is now stashed near a bush for me to pick up every time we 
have to pass that meany. : )