Delhi, Pune, No Mumbai and Goa

I am not very good at updating all y’all on my going’s on, so let me fill you in.

I decided to stay in India longer than originally planned because at the time I was a bit disenchanted with India and was quite sure I would never come back.  However, there were parts of India that I still wanted to see but hadn’t and my brother, being the wise old man that he is, pointed out that it would be intelligent to see what I want to see before I leave so that I can check India off my travelling list completely.

The plan was to stay in Delhi for a couple days and see cool things, move to Pune where I would stay with an Acts29 friend for three days, go back to Mumbai and see the sights there that I had missed and catch up with NewLife friends, and then finish it off on a beach in Goa.  My plans always change, so that is not what went down.

Delhi

I spent less time in Delhi than I meant to, which was okay, because the most exciting part of that city is how f**cking awesome their subway system is.  Never in my entire life have I see such a great train system.  Not only is it hyperclean (which is impressive in any big city, but mindblowing in India) to the point where I felt like I was walking into an airport, not an underground train station, but it is also uber modern and effective and fast and…  The point here is that if you ever go to Delhi, ride their subway.

Then I took a train to Pune, which was a bit of an ordeal because I had been waitlisted and I was far enough down the waitlist that I did not get on the train.  Several chaotic hours and one very effective visit to the International Tourist Bureau later, I had a new train ticket and a couple hours to kill before my train left.  I used those hours to wander the touristy center of Delhi with my gigantic backpack.  Those of you who know me well, know that I enjoy, possibly too much, going off the beaten track a little, so I soon found myself wandering the maze of apartments crowded around the marketplace until I came out in a very industrial looking street.  I was confused, but not worried, so I kept walking.

To my left I noticed that a man was keeping pace with me and would look at the book he had in his hands and then at me and then back again.  I was slightly weirded out so I slowed down in the hope that he would pass me.  He slowed down, too.  I sped up.  So did he.  I stopped.

“Can I help you?”
“Yes,” he responded, much to my surprise.

Confused, I look at the book in his hands.  It was pornography.  I had heard that if you shout  at creepy men here in India they get  self-conscious and leave.  That did not work.  He looked abashed and apologized profusely as I told him, in a very loud voice, how rude he was being and how he had to leave immediately, but he stayed rooted to where he was on the sidewalk.  So I got a rickshaw and left.

Welcome to India.  It had to happen sometime.

Pune

After a very long train ride I arrived in Pune, smelling like sweat and sleep.  Sachin picked me up on his motorcycle and I learned the very Indian art of riding on a bike with two people and a large backpack.  Seriously, it is an Indian art.  You see people riding bikes with the passenger carrying a sheet of glass twice their size or a family of four crowded seemingly comfortably on the bike.

I spent the next two days at his aunt’s house, which was very nice.  The whole family would sleep on the roof at night and I learned how to make Indian burgers, which was extraordinarily exciting, because aside from byriani, that is my favorite food here.  The only problem that I had at that house was how much food they would give me.  In India the guest is treated as a god, which means that they need to be taken care of very, very well.  I got way too much food from them, and would feel obligated to finish it every single time, which led to quite a few stomach aches.  (I learned, though, that in India it is not rude to not finish your food.  One more cultural difference among many.)

After a couple days there I moved to Sachin’s actual house, which was even better than the first.  The first house was almost Western in its set up.  There was a living room with a television, one large bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.  The second house was only one room, which was tri-functional as a shower, kitchen, and storage area, and yet it was only 20 ft by 20 ft.  If that.  The beds were outside underneath a tarp tent.  There were two of them and everyone who did not fit on a bed (there were about 10 people living there) would sleep on a mattress or blanket on the floor.

Somehow I was more comfortable in this house than the other.  There was just a feeling of relaxation and appreciation for family in this house that, although not lacking in the other, was much more present.  I would actually kind of like to live in a house like that.

Sachin and I went to a bunch of gardens and a museum, and it was really good to spend a little bit more time with him in a different kind of environment.  He is by far the best friend that I have made since coming to India and I already miss him more than I think I’ve ever missed anyone.  I guess it’s easier to miss someone when they have been a huge part of your life and you are fairly certain you will never see that person again.  Le sigh.

I skipped Mumbai and a couple days of Goa to stay in Pune longer.

Goa

When I first arrived in Goa I was a bit lonely.  I am, after all, traveling alone.

Regardless, I started walking around the streets (which are insanely touristy) to get my bearings and immediately discovered that it is impossible to be lonely when you are in a place like Goa and obviously a tourist.

On the first day I took a motorcycle ride around and saw the fort that Goa is known for (unimpressive in comparison to the Red Fort in Delhi, but still pretty in a decrepit kind of way), took a boat tour of the Arabian Sea, complete with traditional Goan dances, watched some boys playing cricket in the park, and saw the local mall where I played a game of air hockey.  Oh and then I saw a statue of two Portuguese people who fell off a cliff and died.

Yesterday I walked up and down the beach, where I was constantly accosted by offers for watersports (500rs) and invitations to parties or to smoke.  I also got several not so subtle hints about how great of a girlfriend I would make and what I think were a couple marriage proposals.  *facepalm*

Lunch was not very good, but free, because I met a Chicagoan who got me talking about my hitchhiking trip a few years back and my time here in India, which he thought was very exciting.  I have trouble talking to business people about themselves, though.  I am trying to find the words to express why, but the truth is that I am not sure.  No, I do.  They talk obscurely, for one, because they assume (probably rightly) that the person will not understand the details of what they do.  Then, when they talk about their goals and aspirations they sound like self-help books.  Probably because they are quoting them.

Regardless, this guy was fun and reasonably attractive, so lunch passed pleasantly enough.

I have a confession for all of you.  I have spent every night here in my hotel room, reading.  Partially because I was told by my Pune family that I should not be out past 8 (which I have stretched to 9 or 10), but mostly because I don’t really feel like partying.  That makes me feel like less of a young person, but honestly, I think it’s really nice to spend time on the beach during the day and just chill out with Mazaa (mango juice) at night.

If that makes me a loser, so be it.  I’m loving my Goa stay.  🙂

Winding Down

T-minus 12 days and I will be boarding a plane for home and I only have one thing to say about that.

Tonda kwa nzambi tata.

India is amazing.  This country is huge and diverse in every way that a place can be diverse.  It is rustic in some places and modern in others.  It smells like trash and shit and cows and, for a little variety, burning trash.  But it also smells like the kind of food you’ll pay too much money to eat in the States, incense and flowers and early morning rain.  There are more temples here than there are Starbucks in my part of the world and clothes is colorful and faces are painted daily out of reverence for self and God and tradition.

Some people warned me against India before I came here.  They told me that it was dangerous and gross and the people have a tendency towards ludeness.  They were right, but they missed the something else that makes India worthwhile.  India is everything all at once and it’s not shy about it.  Everything here shouts; whether it be  sight, sound, smell, taste or touch.  It’s overwhelming.  In a good way.

I’m here with a Christian program and Christianity shouts here, too.  (But it shouts inwardly because it’s not necessarily safe to be a Christian in some parts of India.)  Last night we had a devotional wherein we called for the holy spirit to come down upon us so we could speak in tongues and prophesy…and it was weird.  People cried and laughed hysterically for no reason and someone fell over.

Due to my self-imposed honestly clause I am going to be honest here.  Generally speaking I am not comfortable with this sort of Christianity.  It seems staged and fake, but if there is something that I have learned here in India it is that there is a spiritual world of some kind (there are levitating monks here…that has to mean something) and to pretend it doesn’t exist because it doesn’t conform to the natural laws I was taught as a teenager is just as stupid as blindly believing in them would be.  So I abandoned by cynicism for a night and opened myself to it.

I was the first person to go up because everyone else was being shy, so they prayed for me for way too long so it actually got to the point where I started laughing at the people who were praying for me because their prayers weren’t doing jackshit and I didn’t feel like standing there anymore, but the one time I tried to back off the lady praying for me started making me sway back and forth.

I cried when I finally extracted myself and sat down again, but it wasn’t hysterical and it wasn’t for no reason.  It was because I was trying to get through and once again there was a fucking brick wall there.  I wound up yelling at God (surprise) and I still can’t understand how if this stuff is real (which it seems to be…especially in India where spirituality runs so deep) nothing happens when I want it to.  Jesus promises, in the bible, to answer any prayer that we have so WHY DOESN’T HE.

If someone is making a conscious effort to find him and asks him to make his presence know, why doesn’t he?  Why doesn’t he answer the prayers we put to him when he says he will?  In the bible he doesn’t not say that his answers are yes, no or not now, as Americans tend to say his answers are.  His answer, if you ask in the name of Jesus Christ, is always supposed to be yes.

So wtf.  Where is my yes?

That is not what I meant to talk about.

I am starting to wonder what will happen when I get back to the States.  I want to live in MN this summer, but I’m definitely hurting for cash right now and would do just about anything that pays good money and isn’t obscene or illegal.  Alaska, as usual is rearing its ugly, money-filled head.  (Don’t make me go baaack.)

If anyone has any suggestions I would be open to them.  Or if you want to find me a job before I get to the States for me, that would be even better.   (Fingers crossed.)

The point of this entry was supposed to be that I am glad that my time here is almost done.  I think I like India, but I want to be out of the program that I’m in because it is frustrating and full of drama and, although interesting, not particularly educational.  I want to come back to India and trek and whitewater raft and see the flying monks.  Imma come back and be a dirty hippie tourist with a backpack the size of a teenager.  Imma come back and visit my favorite Indians and not have to be closed minded because of the people I’m with.

You hear that, future-self?

Ketchup

Once upon a time there were two friends (who happened to be tomatoes) that went on a trip together.  They were walking across a road when suddenly a car came out of nowhere and crushed the second tomato.  The first tomato looked behind at the squashed, juicy remains of his friend and shouted:

“Catch up!”

That might be one of those jokes that works a little better when it’s told orally.  The point is that I need to play some “ketchup” now that I haven’t blogged for so long.  We’re going to do it with headings because it’s been so long and there is so much to say.  Here goes:

I have a new best friend, but he shouldn’t be.

There is an Indian boy in Acts29 whose name is Sachin.  He is amazing.  He is funny, has a huge heart, asks deep questions and truly looks for the answers, has been a gangster (legit) in his past, and is almost exhaustingly invested in any friendship he deems as worthwhile.  He is also amazing with kids, charismatic, super welcoming and buys me cute little presents when he makes me mad.  (He is also engaged to be married to the love of his life, Payal, and not my type, so all of you romance sniffers out there can put away your sniffy, nosey noses.  It wouldn’t work.  I would never ever, ever marry an Indian boy.  I don’t think I would even date one because gender relations are way too different between Indians and Americans.)

Suffice it to say, though, that we get along really well and we love each other in a platonic way.  We spend a lot of time together, as well.  Too much, evidently.

About a week ago a leader asked me to stop hanging out with Sachin.  Another leader asked Sachin to stop hanging out with me.  Why, you may ask?  Because the kind of friendship that we have is not done in India.  Girls and boys don’t spend time with each other as much as we do and a few of the Indian girls were offended enough by our friendship that they felt the need to talk about it behind our backs to our leaders and our leaders felt that this assault on what even they saw as a simple friendship was valid enough to tell us to back off.

We are here in Acts 29 to learn about culture, but what they mean by multi-culturalism here is conform to Indian standards and ignore the others.  It gets more offensive every day.

I wanted to sit down with a leader as a facilitator and talk to the people who don’t like our friendship.  I was told that it wasn’t worth it because the way the argument happened was “cultural” and it wasn’t worth anyone’s time or energy to fix it.

There were two cultural issues:

1.  Males and females shouldn’t relate the way Sachin and I do.  ( I feel as though I should tell you that Sachin and I barely ever touch each other…we are talking simply about frequency when we talk about closeness.)
2.  In India you resolve issues through a middleman.  In the United States you resolve an argument face to face or you are accused of being passive aggressive.

Sachin and I have won the first point.  We still spend copious amounts of time together, but we’ve both been made to feel uncomfortable about an innocent friendship, which is sick, wrong, and was created by a bunch of Christians who are supposed to be our friends.  So even though we are still friends we were both hurt a lot by our “brothers and sisters in Christ”.  Imma call bullshit on that one.

I also got an almost tearful apology from Sachin.  He felt bad taht I had felt so shitty about our friendship that he felt obligated to apologize for the hurt other people caused me AS THOUGH he had caused it himself.  Literally.  He said he was sorry that HE HAD HURT me through our friendship.  Sicknasty.

The second point the Indians won 100%.  I was asked (and being the respectful mofo that I am, I consented) not to talk to the girls who were offended.  I don’t get why.  I need the resolution that I think it would help them to understand that there is more than one way to relate to boys (the only way they relate to boys i8s through fear…I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been told that “you don’t know what Indian boys are capable of”.)  They could also learn how to have a healthy argument instead of telling stories behind people’s backs. 

These are the bits of culture that I think are important.  We can teach each other things that our cultures do that WORK BETTER and help each other grow as people.  Assertiveness in disagreements is something Americans have to offer to Indians, but they aren’t interested in receiving it.

I know for a fact that there are parts of my life that they could help me live better, but we never talk about culture.  We brush our disagreements aside as being cultural in nature and therefore unalterable and not worth our time.

What are we doing here?!  BLARGH.

Dehradun is a beautiful fusion of home and India, which is exactly what I need right now.

It is abnormally beautiful here.  It is cool in the evenings and warm during the day.  There are waterfalls and trees and big rocky things that they call mountains and I would call glorified hills.  There are evergreen and palm trees growing side by side.  There are waterfalls and rivers.  There are monkeys and parrots and chipmunks and it’s just straight up amazing.

Half of what I look at oozes Minnesota, and the other half prods me gently and reminds me that I am in a beautiful foreign country that I better appreciate while I can.  I love this place.

Funny sidenote:  Dehradun is considered a small town in India, but 800,000 people live here.  What happened to the small towns of 80 something in the US?

Charismatic worship is creepy.

Since we have gotten to Dehradun we have had some new speakers and people who share their testimonies and a lot of them worship in a more charismatic way.  They pray out loud and all at the same time, with several people singing as their own individual prayers until all that you can hear is this really creepy, religious babbling that makes me, honestly, feel like I am sitting in an insanitarium.   The leaders pray dramatic prayers and knock people over and people cry loudly and out of nowhere and lay flat on their stomachs in the middle of the worship area.

I have seen this kind of worship once before in an African American church (although it wasn’t so extreme there as it is here) and many times on television (usually documentary, not fictional stuff) and it has always freaked me out a bit.  Let me tell you, it is even worse when you are in the middle of it.  Half of it seems like theater, and I don’t understand how people can take their faith seriously if they are pretending to feel something so that everyone will see how big it is.  The other half is just creepy.  I don’t think I want to be struck by the spirit if the spirit is going to make me cry like a blubbering fool in the middle of chapel.

Just saying.

God doesn’t want me to be a Christian.

The other night we had four people visit us.  They were charismatic worshippers as well.  One of them gave a testimony and then the four went around praying for us for a while.  Two of them prayed for me.  One of them was a very sweet British lady who asked if there was anything in particular for which I wanted prayer and then prayed and talked to me afterwards to check in a little bit.  Very considerate. 

The other was an elderly gentleman who prayed silently and by simply putting a hand on my shoulder and without ever actually speaking to me.  Strangely enough, I actually thought that I felt something when he was praying.  I said something in my head about being completely empty, which I do feel rather often, and being willing to be filled.  And in a strange, spiritual kind of way, I actually started to feel like I was being filled.  I don’t know how to describe it better than that.  And then, being very spiritually unaware the man who was praying for me stopped before it had finished, and one of our idiot leaders came over and put an urgent hand on my shoulder and stared me straight in the eye and told me that God was telling her to tell me that I had to decide.  Was it going to be all or nothing?  I had already made the decision and was trying to be filled, but she interrupted it.  Thanks, lady.

That’s how it always seems to go, though.  I will feel on the verge of spiritual epiphany.  I can already walk the walk, talk the talk and think the thought like nobody’s business, but I don’t feel it, so I don’t usually bother doing what I know I can.  Why wake up early to go to church when I know that God isn’t going to be there?  If he’s not going to extend me the courtesy of making his presence known every now and then, why should I do the same for him?

Relationships require two parties, even when it is a relationship between God and person.

I just don’t get how whenever I get close to feeling what I imagine God feels like he backs off.  To me, that sounds a lot like a God who doesn’t want to be found, and if he doesn’t want to be found maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.  Maybe God doesn’t want me to be a Christian.

Leaders who act like children don’t make very good leaders.

The other night I went to get Indian Burgers (potato!) with Brenda, Sachin and Allen.  I told a leader that we were leaving, got her permission and told her we would be back in time for dinner.  We left immediately after I spoke to her (which was a lot closer to dinner time than I realized) and got back an hour after dinner.  Oops.  Holly made two mistakes:

1.  She didn’t know what time it was when she left.
2.  When it got dark outside and she realized that it was probably dinner time, she stayed at the restaurant anyways because they had already ordered their food.

When we got back to campus I immediately went to Carina’s room (the leader I got permission from in the first place) and apologized to her for our tardiness and told her that I wanted to take full accountability for everyone being late.  She said she was disappointed that we were late and that we might have to talk later.

20 minutes later I was called into her room again and this time Asher was there.  I repeated that it was entirely my fault and that I wanted to be held accountable if there were to be any consequences.

He told me, and I quote, not to give him that crap.  He then proceeded to yell at me for about 10 minutes, which I let him do after he made it clear that he did not want to even hear my side of the story.  When he finished I told him that I was no longer interested in telling him my perspective of the situation because he had made it clear that he did not care.  He softened a bit and told me to tell him.

I consented.

After at least a half hour of yelling at each other (which was the only choice…I swear Indians will not listen to you unless you are yelling) I had won both of them to my side and they realized that their faulting me for the entire situation was completely off base.

Carina realized that she had made assumptions about my motivation for being late, which made it seem like I had been disrespectful, but after giving me a chance to actually EXPLAIN myself, she realized it was simply a couple of mistakes.

Asher evidently didn’t care either way, because when he realized that he was in the wrong he gave up on the argument entirely and said that it had solely been Carina’s problem and he didn’t really care either way.  And he said this to me while texting someone on his phone.

The issue that I have with this is not that they tried to lecture me for something.  It is that they both acted like children during the conversation.  Asher would rarely let me finish a sentence and Carina would talk about her feelings when I was trying to explain a logical argument.

From the first moment I felt attacked by both of them and that feeling didn’t ease off until after they had been proved wrong.  I was shouted at and it was only after I pointed out that we were not conversing like adults and that we should have the conversation another day that they calmed down a bit.

That was not my place.  That was theirs, but they were too busy yelling to realize how rude, argumentative and childish they were being.

I think that they both owe me an apology, but I don’t expect to get one.

I don’t think I told that story very well but due to the way the screen is set up on this browser I can only read half of what I’m writing so I can’t go back and edit it.

No beautiful prose this time around.  Apologies.

I finally have seen some of India that feels like India! 

We went white water rafting last weekend.  It was beautiful and amazing and exciting, and I made friends with an American named Sam who is from Maine but currently working in Japan.

The best part, though, was afterwards when we walked through the town.  I can’t remember what it was called, but it was beautiful and crazy.

There were people who had their entire bodies and faces painted and were dressed in ornate costumes.  They were beggars, but they were pretty beggars, and who can fault a pretty beggar?  We were on the Ganges River, so there were a bunch of dipping locations where people could walk down a set of stairs immediately to the water and dip themselves in the holy water.  Unfortunatley theere was also a lot of trash in this part of the river, which was kind of gross.

The architecture was stifling and a brilliant mashup of Indian and British and something modern and not particularly interesting.  Street vendors were out in full force and white people with dreds and heavy backpacks were everywhere.

I want to go back.  The rest of my group complained about the spiritual unrest that is clearly going on there.

Christians are very annoying sometimes.

And finally…getting your ears pierced in India is…how you say?  A BAD idea.

I got three piercings in my right ear two weeks ago.  They still hurt a little bit, which I am told they should not.  Also, when we were playing in the river the other day one of them fell our and the earring that I got to replace it yesterday literally GREW INTO MY EAR overnight.

Brenda was kind enough to push it out again and Kapil let me wear one of his for the rest of the day (yes, we sanitized it first) but it’s disgusting. 

Brenda also got her ear pierced and hers looks even more infected than mine.

Life lesson:  if it only costs $2 including the new earring to getyour ear pierced, it’s probably not going to be the best piercing money can buy.  In fact your skin will probably turn purple or yellow and start spitting blood or pus out at you.

Just saying.

And it was all just a dream…

Or that’s what I requested in my itty bitty prayer to Mr Lord God last night, anyways.  It was kind of strange, actually, because I had had a really good day and a pleasant evening and the redundancy of our chipatti, rice and dal meals hadn’t bothered me as much as usual that day, but as I stared up at my ceiling I found myself praying and the words that went through my head were a plea for a chance to refuse my chance to come to India.  I asked that I could wake up from this dream of the past month and find myself in Minnesota and realize what an atrocious mistake I was on the verge of committing and back out.  Immediately.

Obviously my prayer was not granted.  Surprise.

For the record, I am glad that it was not.  I would be very disappointed if Sachin and Silvan and Roseann and Jacob and Filip and Asher and Rachel and Rachel (yes there are two) and Frida were all figments of my imagination.  There are some really great people here and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to meet them.

HOWEVER I am also a little bit tired of being told that we can’t do certain things because of “cultural differences” and then talking to a different Indian about the same thing and being told that the “cultural difference” we heard about does not exist.  There is no easier way to control people that to tell them that they cannot do something in the name of offending an entire people group and, imho, it is an incredible abuse of a people to do so.  A lot of what we’re told is wrong only because this is a new (and very different) generation.  Also, depending on the person, a lot of what we are told is simply personal opinion masquerading in their own minds as cultural differences.  It is so frustration.  Frustrating, I mean.  I leave that error only because my English speaking abilities have been degrading quasi-constantly ever since we got here.  Something about speaking primarily to non-native English speakers…

Example Story #1 (The Mob’s Gonna Getcha)

Pretty much the day that we got back from Mumbai we were informed that there had been a rape of a 12 year old girl in the school next door to the convent we are living in.  (Have I mentioned we are the only people living in this convent?  No nuns here.)  Her parents, understandably, were quite upset and went to the school authorities and asked what they were doing about the problem.  The school said that they had heard it was simple verbal abuse and had treated it as such.  The parents flew into a righteous hissy fit, which was overheard by a nearby political party, who took the opportunity to ingratiate themselves with the locals.  In order to do this they put together a rather beautiful mob and spent one night knocking on our front gate (not very politely…it was more the battering ram style of knocking than the Jesus at your heart’s door polite rat-a-tating).  Then they found a different door, busted that one down, threw rocks at the principals house, beat her two cars to smithereens with sticks AND destroyed the local schoolbus.   Oh, and they beat four teachers, none of whom were the rapist, who had already been caught and jailed.

We were told that lives were in danger and that those lives were not just school employees.  We were told to leave because as Westerners our presence would only make things worse for the Indians around us and we ourselves could be in mortal danger.  Some people wanted to stay out of some perverted Western need for excitement or proof of faith in Jesus Cristo.  Others (mostly the Indians and me…I have this odd tendency to listen to people who are probably more knowledgable than I am) were so sure that things would turn south that they were ready to pack up  their bags and go to their own homes if the school wouldn’t take us elsewhere.

We decided to go somewhere else, but literally the moment that we were “safe” and started talking to other Indians about the situation we were had just narrowly “escaped” and every single one of them told us that we should have stayed.  We should have stood up for the children in the orphanage beside us, that we were not being true disciples by escaping for ourselves and that, on top of all of that, we probably hadn’t been in danger anyways.

I wound up spending our time away feeling like we had run away from something that did not actually necessitate escape.  The other Indians that we encountered made me feel like it was the Westerners who had been afraid and had wanted to leave, when in reality none of us had been capable of feeling fear regarding the situation because it was so alien to us.  The best we could do was to listen to the voices around us and do what they told us was the most wise.  Which had then been to leave.

It was stupid and confusing and oh so Indian.

Pithy Example #2 (Thou Shalt Not Speak to Strangers)

We are constantly told that we shouldn’t speak to strangers.  If anyone so much as tries to make eye contact with us, even if they are only children, we should ignore them because they are quite likely out to get us.  This puts all of us Westerners in the very awkward position of constantly looking really, very unkind.  I am not a fan of it at all.

The other day we were waiting for the bus and a motorcycle stopped near us.  One of the men on the bike (there were three) got off and came over to us to introduce himself and shake all of our hands, ask us where we were from, etc.  We answered, but tersely, because we have been told so many times to ignore everyone.  After he left we talked to the Indian who was with us and he told us that it is find to talk to people, and that it’s probably the only chance that that particular Indian will get to speak to a white person.  It’s something kind of exotic, fun and different for them, and as long as they are not rude, there is no reason not to be engaging.

As I like this second interpretation it is probably the one that I will be following herewith, but I’m so annoyed that, again, everyone has an opposing opinion AND everyone is convinced beyond any doubt that their opinion is the right one.  And people who know they’re right are aggressive about their correctness, which is even more frustrating.

Pithy Example #3 (Shoulder = Boob)

There is a dress code for women here.  It isn’t written down anywhere and it’s not a law, but if you dress wrong, you will be seen as a (excuse me, Mum) a whore.  What’s weird is that the part of your body that you shouldn’t show is your shoulders and your legs.  You can show as much of your midriff as you want, but nothing else.  In fact the traditional dress here (saari) shows off that area of the body in particular and old women and fat women (and skinny women) alike all wear it.  It’s kind of unsettling.

The point is that for the first month and a half that we were here we were told explicitly not to show our shoulders under any circumstances.  It would make us look bad and, by association, it would make the school look bad as well.  I’ve laughingly had this conversations with Indians not associated with our school and all of them agree:  shoulders are not that big of a deal.  Tank tops would be fine and no one would look at us twice.

Example Story #4 (The Boy on the Train)

Spreading the Macarena…I Mean Gospel

People like to dance in India.  And, most of the time, they are really good at dancing.  There are kids who dance so well that I kind of feel like I’m watching that video that momentarily lit up youtube with outraged mothers.  You know the one…a bunch of adorable little girls dancing to a trashy song in a trashy way in, shall we say, trashy outfits…I believe black and red lingerie was involved.  What I’m trying to say is that I’m fricking intimidated, yo.  Especially because after they go up front and dance the Sheila dance (someone google it for me please, and tell me about it.  lyrics:  “my name is sheila.  sheila giovanni.  i’m too sexy for you”) they tell me to show them a dance.  I’ve defaulted to teaching them the macarena, because it’s the only teachable “american” dance that I can ever think of.  And it’s actually really fun.  Instead of spreading Jesus Christ I am spreading the joy of modernized, un-Southernized line dances.  Hoofrickingra.

In other news, if you hear about a white girl falling out of a train to her death in the Mumbai area within the next week or so, it is probably me.  Please write songs for my funerals and paint pictures artistically depicting the event.  That would be awesome.  Here in Mumbai a lot of young men ride the trains (none of which have closing doors) by holding on to something inside and then hanging out the door.  I do that now, too.  It’s cramped on the seats (four in places that comfortably sit three) and you can’t really see anything out of the windows because they’re all covered in chicken wire.  Not at all interesting, imho.  Also you can’t beat the feeling of the sun on your skin, and rollercoaster wind in your hair…and if the speed isn’t enough for you, every once in a while a train get a little too close on the side or you almost run into a post or a rock wall.  I love it.  100%  I wonder if I could get away with riding trains like that Stateside.  I think most of their doors close automatically, unfortunately.

I’m still sick, which sucks, but I’m getting better, slowly but surely.  Slowly being the keyword, surely being the optimistic one.  It’s been a week, yo.  I’m ready to be better.

Hm.  Is there anything else that all y’all should know?  Commenting has dropped off, despite my posting several days in a row instead of once every two weeks, so I think we’ll leave it at that, and the rest of my thoughts can sit in my journal.  Take that.

(Rewind it back.)

The Important Stuff or Whatever.

Ok. So as soon as I wrote that title I returned to facebook and re-logged in to facebook because I don’t really feel like talking about the real reasons I’m here.  I’d rather talk about meeting people by the ocean and about how sick I feel right now and how despite that, I really wish we were doing more and seeing more on the days that we have off.  I suppose I’m part of the problem in that, but I would really like to get at least a little familiar with Mumbai/Bombay before we leave forever.

Ok.  So we are not just in Mumbai to take a break from Acts29.  We are visiting Hindustani Covenant Churches while we’re here, and also visiting schools in child labor projects to interact with the kids.  It feels like we just visit briefly and leave, which doesn’t seem that helpful to me.  Granted, the kids are laughing and smiling and interacting with us while we’re there, but is such a brief period of joy worth the effort?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad that we help them feel happy for a little bit, but is is an American and a couple Swedes and a couple Indians really that much better than the Indians who usually come and who can actually speak to the children?

Yesterday we went to a gigantic trash heap outside of Mumbai, which is a slum area where mostly Muslims live and spent time with the kids.  I really enjoyed them.  We played games and told stories.  (I told the story of the 3 Little Pigs, which Supriya translated for me, which I later found out they couldn’t even SAY because they cannot say the word pig at this part of the year?  Or something like that.  It was messed up, and made me once again feel guilty and too much of an outsider to be helpful.)

We also visited a youth/prayer group called New Life Fellowship, and they were awesome.  I love to be around people who are worshipping with everything that they have and these people were doing just that.  There is something very beautiful.  I love sincerity, however it manifests itself, and especially when it manifests itself around something I don’t quite understand.

Well my group is leaving now.   Tata.

“Do You Like Beer?”

Yesterday Gabriella and I went somewhere *gasp* BY OURSELVES, which is crazy because she is Swedish and I am American and therefore there were no Indians with us, which is at least a little bit taboo.  Although we both love hanging out with the Indians in our group, it was so nice to be able to interact with India how we wanted to, without constantly being reprimanded.  We are always told not to talk to anyone who we don’t already know, even if that means blatantly ignoring words or extended hands that are looking for nothing more pricey than a handshake.  I realize that these rules are “for our own good” and that there are scammers in the world, but one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people who live where I’m visiting.  They know more than I do and they can show me the cool things that Lonely Planet may have missed or the tourism booklets think no one would be interested in.

ANYWHO,  we went to the internet cafe (where we are again today…ooo…exciting), and after walking around for a little bit and buying some ice cream we settled down at the beach to watch the sun and the water and the people who were fishing in the shallows.  A 13 year old boy came up behind us and tried to sell us the maps and coloring books that he had, which, of course, neither of us were interested in.  Even though we made it clear that we had no desire to buy anything he was selling he stuck around for at least 20 minutes, telling us about Mumbai and making jokes that flirted with being inappropriate , which I think both of us appreciated for a little while, because we have been so stuck in one mode of living for so long, that a teaser of something else was like a breath of fresh air.  (My personal favorites were a: his attempting to wink at Gabriella, which, for him, was lethargically almost blinking his left eye constantly and b: his insistence that he would get so bored with every woman that he ever had in his life that he would probably go through one hundred before he died.  This kid was THIRTEEN.)

Eventually we’d had enough of him and he wasn’t leaving on his own, so we got up and walked further down the pier and sat somewhere else.  After casually talking for a while we noticed some guys wearing sunglasses and white ties hung loosely around their necks, which I thought was hilarious.  They were taking pictures and eventually came over to where we were sitting and asked us to take a picture with them.  We are always told not to do this, but there were no Indians other than the ones that wanted their photos taken with us, and I really can’t see anything bad happening from that.  We took a few photos, talked with them for a while (told them the little Hindi that we knew, among other things) and found out they were celebrating something that evening.

Then they asked the infamous pre-party question, “Do you like beer?”  We said no, knowing where the question would lead and not wanting to get into trouble with the Indians from Acts 29.  As soon as they walked away, though, we both kind of regretted (are there really a double t in that word?) it, because we want SO MUCH to see what it’s like to spend time with “authentic” Indians in an authentic environment.  Oh well, my Mum will be glad to know that I’m still turning down drugs and alcohol.  ;P

It was such a good day.  I felt like I was actually traveling in India instead of being a part of a huge directionless mob, that is in some different country, maybe.