Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Testing, testing, 1... 2... 3...
Anything?  I'm trying to get one of my India videos up here...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Have a Happy Journey"

Everyday-- 4:30 pm.  This is how we do.  "Take photos" and "Antie, you help".

Last night at Rising Star, so what do they do?  Have the kids sing the most tender songs to us and then dance the most heart wrenching dance before lining up and one by one to hug us goodbye.  It almost felt like a cruel punishment.  I had no idea I was so attached to these kids.  Especially the little boys in my "family".  I mean, graduation day is rough when I say goodbye to my special ed students that I've had for YEARS, and this every bit as hard for some reason.  I just want them to turn into the most brilliant, respectable adults ever and I don't know if I will be back to India anytime in the near future :(  So sad.  I cried cried cried.  Some of the kids cried too which made me cry even more.  I don't know why I always have to admit when I cry but for some reason it just makes me feel like less of a baby.  Hah.  

Anyways, internet is too slow here to even think about uploading a video so I am going to link you to this one.  It's the dance class doing a dance about leprosy.  Some dance as if they have leprosy, others help heal and lift.  After seeing the real deal, this dance was so touching.  Soooooo tender.  This is their parents and grandparents we are talking about.  Generations of families that have been shunned, outcast, untouchables, whose shadows are even seen as contaminated.  And here these kids are, bright, talented, and beautiful as ever.  It's time for the stigma to change and I'm pretty dang sure these kids are going to be the ones to make it happen.  I just love every single one of them.  So hard to say goodbye.  Good thing I have nephews at home to smother and student's to mother.  Okay, ew not mother, it just rhymed with smother :)
And just in case you haven't seen enough of my worn out no makeup face, hah
This is it.  This is the end.
I'm comin home tired.
"If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world." 
-Elaine S. Dalton


Somber day.  Went out with the mobile medical clinic to a beautiful colony with about 15 patients.  My station was sitting with the nurse as she poked, cleaned and cut at the ulcers.  It was sad.  Leprosy is a funny thing because for some people, their nerves have died and they can't feel their limbs.  For others, it makes them hyper sensitive.  In both cases, it was hard to watch.  I don't usually have the stomach for anything surgerylike (when I worked at the dermo, I couldn't even eat lunch if they left the door open while operating on someone. The noises alone! So sick). But today I just had to tune out the actual ulcers and zone in on the patient.  They needed a little comfort and I couldn't give it if I was dry heaving under my mask ya know.  Had to step up.  And that was good for me.  Hard, but good.  Look at me in my big girl pants now, hahaha :)  So ya, that's today and now we leave for the Chennai airport at the lovely hour of 3.  AM that is.  Then it's to Dehli, Agra, and who knows what else.  I'm excited to experience some more culture as an actual tourist (still gonna wear Chudadars though, I just love these comfy things :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

My time at Rising Star is coming to an end (but don't worry, I'll be having new adventures in Dehli!).  The realization of this has made me so so sad.  In some ways, I'm ready to be home.  But the majority of the time I feel like I've been here forever, known these kids my whole life, and cannot even bare the thought of leaving them.  
Family time tonight was so sweet.  Have I told you about family time?  Maybe yes maybe no?  Just in case I haven't... Family time is from 7:30-8:30 every night in the kids hostels.  I'm assigned to Emmy's house.  That's my "family".  It includes the house mom, Emmy, and 20 crazy crazy kids ages 4-12ish.  20 kids, 3 rooms (the size of some of your walk in closets), Jungle Book painted walls, tile floor, straw mats, thin blankets. No beds. Rarely a pillow.  To be honest, the first week here I dreaded family time.  To me it was just crazy, unstructured time. The teacher in me was going insane!  But once I got to know the kids, it has been the best part of my day.  When I walk in and they shout, "Yeahme!" I just grin.  Hearing them say my name and seeing how excited they are to see me makes me feel like a million bucks.  They all beckon for me to sit by them and the second I sit down theres 3 or 4 of the little guys sitting on my lap and another 2 or 3 climbing on my shoulders.  It never gets old. Tonight they were so calm as I was reading with them I was just trying to create little standstill moments, snapshots of them in my brain (cameras aren't allowed at family time, TOO distracting) so I could remember the peace, the love, and the unity in their little hostel.  It's gonna be hard to say goodbye to those adorable little faces tomorrow.  So sad.

On a brighter note-- If you can't tell from my posts, being here has been SO good for me.  I've had so many ah ha moments where I just feel so sure of who I am.  This past year has been really rocky for me and I think one of the lessons that Heavenly Father keeps trying to teach me over and over again is this... 

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). If we simply love God and love our neighbors, we are promised that we will overcome our fears.

When I was struggling this past winter with my health I remember my mom telling me that blessings come on the heels of trials.  At that point in my trial I was grouchy.  So grouchy. Weighted down. Semi-miserable. I couldn't see past the issue and how it was so inconvenient for poor little me.  I just wanted to be catching my plane to Hawaii already, not being a helpless sickie that kept having to get poked and prodded at while everyone else was sippin pina coladas on the beach according to plan. But now I see how many doors that trial has opened for me.  That whole trial that was so big to me for those 3 months or so now seems so far away and I really can count my blessings.  And it takes more than 2 hands! So many blessings!  Grateful that blessings do come on the heals of trials and that so many of my (ridiculous) fears have been counteracted with love. (And that says a lot coming from a person that doesn't like hugs!)
Also, the main reason I feel so attached to India and my experiences here is because every single day has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and as my Bishop always says, "real learning takes place at the end of your comfort zone."  How true that is...

Best of...

Looking through my pics last night I realized there is so much that I forgot to blog about.  You have no idea, SO MUCH happens in a day it truly is impossible to include it all (or remember it by the end of the day)!  So here are some of my favorite moments from last week...  Enjoy!

This is what the water we shower with looks like.

We walked to a nearby village.  The people were running out of their houses to ask for "a photo" with us.  Men, women, children, it was hilarious.  We felt like celebrities.

This is how they do.  Makes me miss my bike.

Cool kids on campus.  I just love busting out my camera to see what kind of poses they'll strike.  So funny.

Bug catcher (he's a favorite).

2 of my other favorite little monkeys.

The coconut trees are owned by someone else (money maker for the school, smart right?), so the kids throw rocks at them because any that land on the ground are suddenly Rising Star property and free game.

Pretty Priya.  My reading buddy.  Favorite quote, "cooties means??"

Naveen!  Another favorite and long lost twin to my nephew Gavin.

Seriously, how magical is this place?  It's so beautiful here (minus the humidity).

Rosie, (bunny ears) and G. Davy, my newest favorites, talented and beautiful girls.  Video to come!

Standing out like a sore thumb.  You'd think I'd have a tan by now, but no

Stylish man that lives in Barathapuram.  I loved his attitude. 

"Vannakum" is the greeting they use here, I cried a little when I found out that roughly translated it means, "I see the goodness within you."  They use it so genuinely, look you in the eye and put their hands together when they say it.
Why can't we come up with something like that?  What's up, hello & hey do not have the same effect, ya know?

Humble.  Loving.  Kind.

Humility.  Meekness.  Long suffering.

Patient of the week.  She was hilarious.  Plopped right down, soaked her feet and then called me over to cut her nails.  No guile.

School next to the special ed school.  Don't you want to make a music video here? 
We get to be tourists on the weekends.

These are the ruins in Mamallapuram.  Pretty cool.
We went to a beach resort, it was the most I've been able to cool down since getting off the plane.

Classic India.  These statues are everywhere.

Indian Ocean!  (Crabs and crows everywhere!)

Sari's for Sunday.  More effort than getting ready for the prom.
Wish everyone could experience being wrapped in one at least once in their life!

Newest local temple built to worship their "town god".  Interesting experience to say the least!  We ended up donating (by force) quite a few rupees to them... Hah

Construction guys assembly line.  Video to come.  Super interesting to watch them work.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Well, it's Sunday again.  This time I made the cut and got to go to LDS church services in Chennai.
We woke up at 5:30 to get over to the girls hostel at 6 so the house mom could wrap us in our Sari's.  I don't know how these women do it day after day, that thing was intense to get into!  
Then, we loaded up and left at 7, got to church at 9.  Yep, 2 hours.  At home, the church is in our neighborhood.  In Provo, it's about a 5 minute drive and then I complain about the 5 minute walk from the parking lot.  Seriously Amy?  Note to self: Stop complaining about that.
These saints have got it going on.  They know what sacrifice is and it yields beautiful results.  Good good people.  After sacrament I got stepped on, well the back of my sari did, I came all unraveled.  So embarrassing!  The ladies were so great though, one of them pulled me into the baptismal font room and gathered me back together.  She saved the day!  It was a great experience, I'm really glad I got the chance to go.  You know how they say the church is the same everywhere you go?  Well it's true.  Except for here in India you wear belly shirts and about 5 yards of fabric.  I heart Indian culture :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yesterday I shopped and dipped my feet in the Indian Ocean.  
Today I tutored and watched the kids Cricket match.  
Tomorrow I am going to church in Chennai.  Yep, finally made the sign-ups for eternal salvation (aka the bus list :)

DOn't really feel like sayin much more but I just got done reading a beautiful account on this blog, so if you'd like to see gorgeous pictures that so accurately reflect what I get to see everyday click on over.  The blogger, Shawni, stayed with us last week.  Her and her family really are all they appear to be, good good people!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dream come true!

Okay, we will go in order of today's events even though I just really want to talk about the highlight of my life, going to a special ed school here!  Ah, my life is complete :)
Kidding, let's begin-- went to the LARGEST colony today.  It's called Bharathapuram.  There was plenty of work to do here.  My first job was eyedrops.  2 per eye, wipe the tears and any extra goo.  Repeat with the next patient.  ...If you can get them to sit down :)
These people are so beautiful because they are so full of love and life.  Unfortunately they rarely to never will smile for a picture so I feel like it doesn't as accurately reflect their joyful personalities but still, I met some really inspirational people today.  Let me remind you that these people are still seen as outcasts and untouchables, so to be treated medically, smiled at, and honestly just looked in the eye is HUGE to them.  So glad I could do some small part to help better the lives of these people.  They deserve it.  They are so meek and humble.  Their example makes any materialistic needs or petty problem of mine vanish into oblivion.  

"The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.
-Mother Teresa

I washed this man's feet.  Most severe case of leprosy I've seen.  Such an intense moment in my life.

Also, a few people asked me to trim their nails.  Under my mask I said, "I don't know if I can do this", but then I realized that this woman was relying on me.  Me alone.  I HAD to help her.  But that's a story for another day.

Okay, for my favorite part of the day!  Rising star made my dream come true!  My group was kind enough to humor me and follow me to this special ed school at the end of an already long day.  I was so excited/nervous/overwhelmed to see what special ed would be like here.  Just thinking about what it might be like this past week made me tear up on numerous occasions.  So embarrassing.  
*For anyone out there reading this that doesn't know, Special Ed is my life.  I've been working with people with disabilities of all ages for the past 8 years of my life, and currently teach high school students with severe disabilities.  So ya, it's kinda my passion.*
Imagine my excitement!  I really felt like it was Christmas Day! (for the 2nd time this trip, hahah India really does amplify everything!)
The school.  Unfortunately everyone referred to as "the mental" or "the institution".
Wish I could do something about that :(

Wanted to take him home!  He was classic, button pushing, hands flapping, repeating all my English, made me so happy :)

I'm getting cheesy now, but look-- smiles are a universal language.

Some of the kids would echo my English, "happy!"  "ello!" "your name!"

Note the kid on the chair taking pictures.  Find em?  Ya, all these pics were taken by the kids.  They LOVED taking pictures, I didn't have any control over my camera from the second I walked in the door.

Busy.  The kids live here too.

I was in heaven.  No common language but definitely made a connection with these sweet souls.

To sum it up in 1 word, I would have to say overwhelming.
Overwhelming in a good way.  
I was overcome with a desire to do something more for these kids.  I wanted to give them everything my students in the states have.  A new classroom with iPads and a smartboard, a full kitchen, interaction with their typical peers, job opportunities, prom king/queen nominations, the whole bit.  Then I realized they wouldn't be happy with all that.  I didn't know what more I could do for them except for accept and love them in the short amount of time we did have.  
We just don't know how good we have it.  All of us.  
An experience like this makes me count my blessings.  It's humbling and frustrating all at the same time.

So grateful for India standstill moments.  More to come.

PS:  My India challenge of the day, ate the cookies from this secret (sweat, literally) shop.