India Trip, part 6

Thursday we were awoke by texts at about 4:30am, I was concerned about the health status of my boys so I had turned the volume on my phone to on. Only it wasn’t texts from Rhonda, they were from another friend who was concerned about something and she felt that she needed to let me know. With the health of my boys, extended family stuff that we were emailed about late Wednesday night, and some issues going on with my daughter, I didn’t want to have another thing on my plate, so I chose not to read the texts from her. But instead I texted another friend right then and there to please pray for me to able to focus on what the Lord had for me in India and not be so worried about things going on back home.

It was a good thing for me to do, because before I asked for prayer, my heart was heavy and my mind was racing and I was assuming I would not be able to get back to sleep, but after asking for prayer from a person whom I knew would pray for me right then and there, the Lord calmed my heart and mind and I was able to doze off again for about 2 hours, which was good for everyone. HA!

We sent Aida off for another day of school, and David and I got to hang with our niece and nephew while their parents worked on their language for a couple hours. After which Kevin* showed up and we loaded into the car and drove to City Center to start our adventure for the day.

We walked through the mall, stopping at a Chai shop for a cup of tea before beginning. We were served about 6 ounces of chai tea in a clay cup. Monica told me that they use these clay cups as disposable cups around there. So we would’ve been able to take our cups with us, just as if they were paper cups from Starbucks, crazy right?

On to the transportation for our adventure to the local market. Chris and Monica said that while in India there are a few things that you should do to get the full experience of what it is to live in India. We needed to ride in a rickshaw, a bus, and shop in the local market place. So we followed Kevin through the mall to what you might consider a ‘bus stop’ except you don’t buy tickets anywhere, you just wait for a mode of transportation to hold the people in your party, walk up to the driver, tell him how many you have and then pay him. Typically it’s 10 Indian Rupees per person, no matter how far you need to go. Kevin, Chris, David, Monica, Tekoa, Layani, and I hop in the back of the rickshaw which we, as americans would consider to be a full load, but the driver kept allowing more people to hop on. I think at one point we had 9 people all sitting in the rickshaw that ‘should’ only hold 6. Lol! It was an experience for David and I of the native people not having personal space issues. They don’t mind how close you sit to each other, they have some place to be, just like you, and they don’t want to wait; besides, the driver knows the more people he hauls, the more money he makes, so he’s going to pack as many in as he can for each drive back and forth to town and back.

They don’t have laws and rules about how many they can carry in their rickshaws or buses, it seems as though they don’t even have road rules about driving. Chris told us that they only just got traffic lights and lines down the center of some of the roads within the past 2 years and are only now trying to incorporate people actually obeying the lights. So while we were there, police officers were at each light intersection making sure people stopped when the light was red, and that the cross road would stop when their light then turned red. Guys, it’s gotta be like teaching an old dog a new trick. This has been the way it’s been for generations. It’s going to take a long time for things to make a permanent change.

Driving to and through town were just as you have seen in the movies, or the films put together by missionaries visiting your church. People, cars, trucks, bikes, rickshaws, construction vehicles, police, cows, goats, and dogs all over the road. The drivers would move for the cows, but they’d not care about the dogs, or even people on the street. If the dogs get hit, no one cares. They’re mangy looking, and homeless. They’re not usually looked at as pets there, just lesser creatures. The people ought to know better and be watching where they’re walking, while the vehicles just vi for any space they see on the road, even if it means squeezing by ‘on the other side of the road’.

Finally reaching our destination we were rushed out of the rickshaw on the side of the street, not at a bus stop or anything, so the driver could load back up and head to his next stop. We started walking down the crowded street and took a left down what I thought was an alley but it actually turned out to be just another street lined with clothing stands. We still had to watch out for people on scooters that would drive through all the people who were walking.

Monica pointed out the shoddy electrical set up that the buildings around us had. WIth no government regulations about installing electricity around people’s houses, there were electrical boxes with what looked like knotted balls of wires and cables surrounding it. I was silently convinced that there could be a electrical fire at any moment, but then she told me that when her father had seen it last year, he was shocked too, no pun intended, so I knew that somehow it’s able to work without causing a fire.

We continued down the side street and soon it branched off into what looked like designated sections, food and produce stands are more on the streets to the right and everything else you could think of, and stuff you wouldn’t think of, tended to branch out on the left side.

Our first destination was to get fresh veggies from the stands. On our way over to the vegetable stands, Layani spied a booth with some adorable boots for little kids. Monica put some on her to see if they fit, they did. Monica asked the guy how much, even though the price in Indian Rupees was already on a sticker, he told her the cost was about 200IR more than the listed price. Monica said ‘NO’ and showed him the price right on the sticker, but the guy persisted, trying to get us ‘whities’ to pay what he told us. So Monica put the boots back, and we walked away. HA!

We turned another corner, and BAM! Fruit and Vegetable stands one right after the other. David and I asked Kevin which ones were better, and he said they’re all pretty much the same, you just get to know certain sellers, and then they will work with you and give you deals, or make sure you get the better veggies that came in just that day. (If you’re walking with a white, blond-haired baby, you’ll get a free carrot that she grabs off the bag.) The produce there is pretty much the same as here, although different sizes because they haven’t modified the fruit, and don’t go to extremes to fertilize their veggies. The apples, carrots, cucumbers, and eggplants are smaller but still pack wonderful flavor. Chris and Monica bought fresh produce to take home, and I just loved seeing the open air market. It made me want to come home and start actually using the Farmer’s markets in the summer. Or join a CSA group.

Before heading to find more treasures, we headed to a ‘Sweets’ Shop for a treat. Chris had us try some of his favorites, and Kevin came and brought David and I each a “Rasgulla”, which is a milk ball soaked and cooked in a sugary syrup. It melts in your mouth but is super sweet. Yes, even for our american mouths it was too sweet. Chris had us try some other treats from the shop, we had our first taste of Samosas. Oh goodness they’re just wonderful!! They are a fried or baked dish with a savoury filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, etc.

Getting the food fresh from the street shop was awesome, but as I looked around I understood why our seatmate Ali, from our first flight, would come back to India and not eat the street food that he loved. There was a sink on the outside of the shop to wash your hands in, no soap, no paper towel to dry with, and there was trash and dirt all over the place. People there just don’t care much about it. That’s the way they’ve been doing business for years or generations even. There was a pitcher of water that people could drink from, no paper cups, just take the pitcher and drink from it, like you’re drinking from a jug of milk. Then when the water needed filling they’d go to the handwashing sink and fill it back up with water for drinking. I’m so thankful that we had been carrying around our water bottles, and Monica keeps packs of wipes in her purse.

We walked the streets some more, specifically looking for a place that sells the stainless steel plates Chris and Monica have that David and I thought were really cool. Kevin knew just the places to go. While waiting for one of the shops to go to another ‘branch’ of their store, Kevin, Chris, David, and I walked to find some slip on shoes for David. As we were walking quickly I was trying to take it all in. A few minutes into my walk, I all of a sudden became like Jasmine, from Aladdin, as she walked through the streets of Agrabah “Pretty lady, buy a pot. No finer pot in brass or silver... Would the lady like a necklace? A pretty necklace for a pretty lady.” All these shop owners had something ‘just for me’, and what a steal of a deal they had for me. I just smiled and kept walking, trying to keep an eye on Kevin who was leading us.

It was a good thing that we had David handling all of our cash for time we were there, especially since walking the streets was a heart wrenching experience for me. I saw person after person sitting in the the muck and trash just begging for some money. Their faces were sad and hollow looking, some of them had open sores on their feet and arms, and there were a few that were actually missing a leg or arm. I had a hard time remaining logical while we were walking among them. I wanted to scoop the sick ones up and take them to the hospital, but then what? I wouldn’t be here more than a few days, what happens after I leave? Then who would pay their medical bills? Maybe just give them a large donation so they can support their families for a few days while they rest up at home? I am not their mother, I can’t force them to spend the money on what “I” would deem necessary.

So I just walked by, smiling a caring, loving smile, and praying that the Lord would be revealed to them soon, maybe by my brother and the rest of the team.

After we had succeeded with our shopping, we headed back out of the maze. If I didn’t have Kevin or Chris to follow I would have been lost for hours in there. We made it out just fine and then we had the fun activity of having to cross the road where there are non-stop vehicles and no lights to say when we should go. It was thrilling! It was a short distance, but knowing that the vehicles are going to expect you to be the one who moves, gave it a sense of danger.

Making it across the main street, we decided to hitch a ride back to our neighborhood on a bus. That was another close encounter with the Indian’s non-issues with personal space. We had our group of 7 on the back seat of the bus, then there were 2 others that sat down among us. The seats were full and the aisle was full of people standing, and yet, the driver stops again, yells at everyone to move back, and has a few more people hop on. It was a very tight squeeze getting out of the van once we hit our destination, but it was a cheap ride, 10IR will get you any place you wanna go.

We were dropped off again at City Center where we stopped to have some lunch at Subway. Boy do they work slowly!! We, here in America, think of Subway as a fast food shop, they don’t do really anything fast (except usher people in and out of vehicles, HA!) David and I split a Chicken Tandoori sandwich. It wasn’t my favorite. Kevin walked with us to our car, but then he headed home.

Then we headed to drop Monica and the kids off so Layani could take a nap, and Chris, David, and I went and picked Aida up from school, along with other girls from her class that she carpools with each weekday. On the drive, Chris pulled a “dad” and asked what each girl had learned that day. The answered ranged from ‘how to do math better’ to ‘I learned more about the lives of Knights.’

When we returned to the house, we made some coffee and sat down to debrief about our different cultural experiences so far in our trip. We opened up about our thoughts and feelings when we went and visited Samuel and his family. What we thought about the village life, and what Samuel was doing with the school. Then we chatted about that day’s adventure in the Market. (Much of what we spoke, I have shared on these blogs as they happened on those days, so I am not going to go back over those experiences.) We also took the time to talk over what was going on Stateside with our children, and if I remember correctly we prayed over the issues at that time too.

Dinner that night was Tikka Chicken and Rice with a bowl of fresh sliced veggies from the Market. Eating with my family once again was a delight, and something that i have truly missed while they’ve been gone. Some people don’t realize that since they’ve left, we have no family in the area. So our holidays and Sunday ‘on the fly’ lunches don’t happen as much any more. We have many in our church that love us like family, but they still have actual family in the area to do holidays with, so we’re left to our own most of the time. Which, even though I might sound disappointed, has led to us making our own traditions, and being sure to invite others who don’t have family around to join us for those holidays. It’s worked out wonderfully and our friendships have deepened over the past two years because of it.

After dinner, I heard good news from Rhonda that our boys were feeling better. Praise the Lord… So we went to the TV room and everyone sat to watch Secret Life of Pets. I got to snuggle with my niece and Chris got to cuddle with his son, about halfway through the movie, I pulled a “Clinch” and fell asleep, and Chris did as well. We’re such goofballs.

The movie finished and we had fun working with the kids to get ready for bed, then Monica and I just sat on her bed and had another heart to heart chat. It was soothing to my soul.

Once David and I were in bed, I received a text from Rhonda saying now my boys had spiked fevers and she was at a loss of what to do, we decided to have a day where they just take it easy, and have a rest time during the afternoon. Also Rhonda was going to take them to a local Christian Chiropractor who is also a friend of ours, the next day. I thought those were great plans and prayed with David about our children and the people caring for them while we were away.

*I saw more stray dogs than cats, which I didn’t really realize until I got back to the US. I actually don’t recall seeing any cats at all. Now that could’ve been something that I just missed, but here in the US it’s not strange to see cats wandering the neighborhood and no one cares, over there it’s dogs you see wandering.

*There are different tactics that the Indians use while working with “whities”, we have to remember that they’re all out to make money, some dishonest, some not. They’ll either tell you a higher price, or price it higher and then ‘give you a deal’ and say “for you 100IR less the listed price” In both cases they’re hoping for ignorance.

*In the states I try and pick up things that I come across while walking, a water bottle, a bag of fast food trash, plastic utensils, etc. It’s just a habit that I’ve gotten into. I had to fight that urge while I was in India. I would have spent all day just picking up trash, but there wasn’t a trash can just a few yards away that you could just drop the trash into, you’d have to carry it all the way to your destination. And the trash there isn’t “clean” trash, it’s “dirty” trash. People and animals use streets as their bathrooms as needed, so along with the typical dirty-ness, you’ve got that to deal with, and there are people there that walk around with open wounds, or blood dripping. So yeah, if you thought picking up trash along the highways here was gross, try and do that in the marketplace in India.

*If you were blessed to see a video that the Johns’ shared that showed them crossing the road while they were in India last fall, then you know exactly where we crossed and a bit of what we went through.

*We did eventually find a stand for David to get some slip-on shoes to wear while in India, since he was tired of having to tie and untie his shoes whenever entering or leaving the house. Not only is it an Indian custom to take off shoes before or upon entering a house, it is also a health thing when you think about it, especially considering where we were. Walking along roads and yards that again are used for unsanitary purposes, and trash all over the place. In order to remove the likelihood of those germs entering your home, you needed to remove your shoes.

*My dad thinks it important that you learn something new everyday, often he’ll text me just to ask “what have you learned today?” Sometimes I have to rack my brain to figure something out to respond with, sometimes it’s something like “Kale’s favorite color is now purple” or “I just found out that Jellyfish are a Type of Plankton.” that’s one of the blessings of homeschooling, the opportunity to be learning right alongside my children.

*When I say “pulled a Clinch” I am making fun of my brothers who would, when they visited and we decided to watch something, fall asleep within the first 20 minutes of the movie. So it was just David and I and the spouses who would watch the whole show and then make fun of the boys for falling asleep. This was the first time that I had done it with one of my brothers. LOL!!