Church, bannanagrams and other things.

So here in India we have been enjoying sunshine and conversation and games and food…which is great, but I am impatient for “school” to start, because I want to know if I will be able to stomach the kind of education they provide.  The glimpses of their philosophy, especially of the evangelistic variety, have been really difficult for me, because they fall so far away from where I am mentally, spiritually, etc. Other than that things have been great lately, mostly because we aren’t really doing anything.  Literally.  Mostly we play bannanagrams and cards.

We went to an Indian church north of Pune (poo-nah, sorry, the other Americans were no better at pronouncing the name of the city than I was), which was a lot of fun.  The church was a lot more community oriented ni its service than any church I’ve ever seen in the States.  The pastor gave the messages and a few announcements (I think, I can’t actually understand Hindi), but every thing else was done by the congregation.  My favorite part was a part of the service where anyone in the congregation could go up to the front and sing a song (the band would figure out what they were singing and jam out with the singer) or make a prayer request or update the congregation on a request they had made before.  It probably took up 3/4 of the service, and it was SO GOOD.  It felt so much more worshipful.

Today one of the Indian girls took some of us out shopping.  I thought India would be great because you buy fabric instead of outfits and then get them tailored.  Unfortunately, you buy the fabric first and then bring it to your tailor.  My tailor looked at how much fabric I brought and laughed because I am so much taller than what she needed.  Great.  Good.  Etc.  Oh well.  I will soon have a pair of pants and a shirt.  I also bought a pineapple, a watch (I was really tempted to get a Puma knockoff, which is really popular around here…there’s poma, pumma, pama…so many choices!), a pair of pants and Indian icecream.  Pretty sure the ice cream was a bad idea, but before I left I was told that everyone who goes to India will at least once get so sick that they are certain they will die, so I figure I may as well give my immune system a challenge every now and then. (Just kidding, I’m being safe.)

As a PS to all y’all out there…before I left a lot of jokes were made about my finding my soul mate somewhere here in India and I said that I don’t find Indian dudes all that attractive.  Mind changed.  I do not know what Indians I was thinking of, but holy GEE…there are some super attractive dudeskies here.

For those of you who are interested in my Christian/religious development:

Last night during our devotional I had a bit of a revelation, which had nothing at all to do with what was being said.  I was looking around the circle at the people who I am starting to know and saw both the things that I do and do not like about each of them and smiled, feeling completely at peace and in love with everything about all of them.  I think that perhaps that is what it is to be a Christian.  When we can look at all of the people we encounter as they are, faults included, and love them all the more intensely for them, that is when we know we are on the right path.  After all, isn’t that how Jesus lived?  He ate and drank with people no one else would waste their time on.  (Not saying that I think anyone in this program is a waste of time…I’m actually starting to like everyone.)

Perhaps to be a Christian all that one has to do is love everyone they encounter because they know who they are.  Forget conversion, forget condemnation.  Leave the judging to the afterlife and just focus on loving.

Dunno.  Thoughts?

Christian Programs…

I come to you from an internet cafe in Pune less than a block away from our convent.  There are no nuns in our convent.  It is just us.  The keyboard I am typing on is not in the best condition, so I apologize for any typos that I do not catch.  Seriously, my entire left hand is wobbly and hard to push down and urgggh.

Quick thoughts:

Travel was good.  I only watched one movie (Salt) and a lot of How I Met Your Mother.  Also I slept a lot.  India is not as pretty as I expected it to be.  It is very dusty.  Clothes is gorgeous.  An Indian boy is reading over my shoulder right now.  Still reading.  We had our first devotional last night.  It freaked me out (See #2.)  I should know Hindi.  I don’t like traveling places and being unable to communicate.  I think that when a person travels places it is a good idea to go with a program where you are volunteering, working, or traveling for fun.  Traveling to improve yourself, so far, seems imbecilic.  I’m going to have to spend more time focused on myself than others, which I don’t like.

Ok.  So I have not been here for very long yet, but there are already a few things that I am worried about.

1.  I am here with a Christian program, and although I consider myself an essentially Christian person (most of the time:  insert longwinded comment about struggles and questions here) I do not have visions and I do not hear the voice of God and Christianity although a part of my life is not at the core of every word that comes out of my mouth.  This is not true for quite a few of the other people who are here.  Hmm.  I think I accidentally continued this one in #3.  I am trying to write this quickly, so if you get confused it’s because I’m not writing it in order and won’t have time to read it over when I finish.  There are a lot of people waiting for computers, and this kid reading over my shoulder is making me nervous.  Haha.

2.  I don’t know what the point of this program is.  It is supposed to be focused on discipleship, but discipleship means different things for different people.  I am afraid that we are going to be rudely aggressive, and I can simply not do that.  Last night one at our devotional the person who brought us “the word” (oh christian jargon…welcome back to my life) talked about how when people do yoga they are calling on a demonic spirit, which is completely false and presumptious and made me want to pull my hair out piece by painful piece.  The only problem is that our “speaker” is himself Indian, so I can’t fault him for being euro-centric or anything like that.  I’m just stuck really hating what he said.

3.  The people here worry me a wee bit.  For the most part they’re really sweet and have good hearts, but they are also a lot more religious than I am.  No further comment on that one for the moment.

4.  I want to spend time learning about India and the culture and religions here, but I don’t know how much of an opportunity for that there will be.  We were let out of the convent today, but they seem really nervous about letting us explore, and that bothers me a lot.  I am in India and I want to experience, oh, I don’t know…India?

PS.  Last night during our devotional we could hear the call to pray for the Muslims and it was SO PRETTY.  I think God wants me to be Muslim.  Heehee. 🙂  (Hi Mooom!  Wouldn’t you love it if I came back from a Christian discipleship program converted to a different religion?)

Leaving tonight!

Today is my last day stateside.  I got to start off an overseas trip with a roadtrip with two of my cousins and my aunt, which was enormously enjoyable, and maybe a little bit raucous (in a good way).  I also got to see a few good friends (including my godmother!) in Chicago and will see a few more before today ends, which is the perfect way to start off a trip that will be brimming with strangers. 

In approximately 23 hours I will be boarding a plane for Abu Dhabi, where I will wander around the airport, wishing I could go outside, until two hours have passed and I board the plane to Bombai.  After that…your guess is as good as mine. 

The three-months long trip begins with a convent in Pune (poo-nay, according to the travel buddy I met last night…I knew pyoon sounded wrong) and will finish in the slums of DehraDun.  I am not sure of the details, so I will not waste your time with conjecture.  What I do know is that the goal is discipleship, which I think means intense Christian community among program participants (all of us coming from different countries and backgrounds), accompanied by a certain degree of Christian education a concentrated effort to be involved in the surrounding community in a proactive, helpful, hopefully sustainable way. 

That was definitely conjecture. 

I want to tell you how I feel about going to India, because that it the most common question friends and family have asked recently, but the truth is I am not sure. 

Mostly I am tired.  For the past several nights I have slept only a little.  What with late nights with good friends, last minute packing (one backpack and one carryon…can I get a booyah?) and sisterly sleepovers I have simply not slept very much.  There will be time to catch up on sleeping on the plane, I suppose.  I figure I will be jet lagged anyway, so why not be tired to boot?

I am not sure what internet access will be like in India, but I will try to update as frequently as possible.  As soon as I am there I promise the conjecture will cease.  There shall be no more guesstimating itineraries and goals…hopefully…

Six Days and Counting

Usually when I catch myself at a precipice I feel different.  Adrenaline crashes to every extremity with an elation that makes everything beautiful, momentous and singularly precious.  In the past I have found that when a trip to a new country or state is about to begin I am giddy, for lack of a more accurate word.  Every moment that passes in my mundane existence seems sharper.  Even the bland moments scream with joy in anticipation of freedom and something new.

Not so this time around.  Everything seems normal: work drags on, tasks pile up even as I cross items off my to-do list, my surroundings fluctuate from disastrous to mind-bendingly neat, friends take me places, strangers introduce themselves, I hide from the past, present and future in my bedroom with a book or a computer, and I cuddle up on the couch with my mother and sister to watch Castle, CSI Miama, and the occasional chick-flick.

Today is every day.  Today is not a day away from my second to last day at my redundant job where I have to be mindlessly creative to stay busy.  Today is not two days away from finally getting rid of a job where people yell and sometimes apologize for overreacting instead of politely correcting or asking useful, clarifying questions.  Today is not three days away from potentially partying hard in a small Minnesotan town with old high school friends who are almost gradumatated.  Today is not four days away from the last family gathering I will have for three months.  Today is not five days away from having a sleepover in Chicago with my baby sister.  Today is not six days away from boarding a plane that will take me somewhere beautiful.

Today is simply everyday because none of these milestones really mean anything right now.

Maybe it is that I am realizing with every new question someone asks me about my trip, that I have no idea what I am getting myself into.

Maybe it is the association the program has with North Park.

Maybe it is a slight nervousness regarding if I will fit in with the others in the program.  There will not be many of us there.

Maybe I just have to wait until I look out the window of an airplane and see nothing but ocean.