My first week brought a mixture of delight and shock. Bangalore in Kanartika state is the third largest city in India, with a population of about 5,310,318! Cars, bullock carts, and auto-rickshaws zig-zag down narrow dirt roads. Random cows, chickens, and pigs wander along highways and country lanes. Here's a calf nursing from its mother on the go:
Now that's what I call fast food!
That's only the beginning. Women in colorful saris and trailing scarves or black Muslim burkas showing nothing but their eyes cling two or three to the backs of sputtering motorbikes. The smell of mangoes, gas, garbage, and open sewage all mix together, and the spicy curry leaves my mouth burning after a meal.
With the kids I wanted to shout, “What was I thinking?” My attempts to teach eleven children ages 4 to 10 recorder and poetry and Bible stories involved a lot of screaming (from the children) a lot of headaches (for the house parents) and much exhaustion (for me). Add to this that two of the children didn’t speak English yet, and the rest had such a thick accent I couldn’t understand a word they said! Need I mention the developing world inconveniences of cold showers, dysentery, mosquitoes, and no air conditioning? One day I had severe stomach pain, and my fingers, toes, and eyelids are all swelling up from the heat.
“Just love the kids,” George the director encouraged me. “More than anything, we just want to show the love of God to them.”
I tried to take his advice to heart as we went for a three day/two night outing the following week into the jungle, a rare treat for the children. For eight hours we drove sixteen people in two five passenger cars, no AC and no seatbelts. Children bounced on laps as we jostled down the pot-holed highway, past Mysore, toward Utiya in Tamil Nardu state. A sixty-pound kid isn't hard to hold for the first five hours, but once you've past six, I've discovered, they start feeling mighty heavy.
An hour into the drive, little Punith vomited all over my dress. Fortunately he hadn't had breakfast yet, so it was mostly just water. I repeated to myself, Just love the kids as I asked Punith if he was all right. He turned and smiled at me, totally oblivious to the fact that you’re “supposed” to feel miserable when you throw up. We washed soon after a local restaurant, and it was like it never happened.
We reached the jungle camp at around 2:00 in the afternoon where we enjoyed a buffet lunch of many delicious curries. In the evening we played Bible games and watched the cricket semi-finals. My favorite part was dancing to Indian songs around the campfire. I shared a small cabin the three girls: Susannah, Hemulatha (Hemu for short) and Sardangeli (Angeli for short). They loved listening to stories I had written: Dargon the Human Slayer and Treasure Traitor. Two girls had to share a bed and one slept on the floor, but they kept exclaiming how nice everything was. To them it was a luxury hotel.
In the morning we enjoyed an early trek through the subtropical forest. The clouds reached down to touch the mountains as mist, and the sunlight danced through the thick canopy of leaves.
Here we are, crossing a stream:
Later in the day our guide took us to a river where the children could play. The water flowed so swiftly we had to cross it by linking hands. But we found a place with some nice falls, and the children loved splashing and fishing alongside with the wandering cows.
There was cactus there, in the middle of the jungle!
In the evening, a jeep safari revealed wild peacocks, deer, bison, golden monkeys, black-faced Indian langurs (a type of large monkey) and elephants (all tamed ones, used in the local logging business). A red squirrel as long as my arm enjoyed watching us in the afternoon after lunch each day, and on the second day, I even got it to eat a leaf from my hand!
On the way home, we stopped by the Mysore zoo. It was a bit hot for me, but the kids loved it!
I came back from the jungle feeling much closer to the kids, more ready and willing to love them, just love them, and let whatever teaching and help they need flow from that.
Prayer Requests: Health, and a good school year that starts for some of the kids this Friday. Also, I'll be attending a discipleship camp for five days this coming week. I hope to learn a lot and be able to pass it on!