Monday, March 26, 2012

What I’ve been up to and what is to come!

Things have been relatively calm the past few weeks – well, as calm as things can get in India! It has been a time filled with finishing up final papers, exams, and presentations. But between all of this schoolwork I’ve found time to do something fun things are Coimbatore and even did some traveling of my own to visit my friend Anna who is living north of me in Pune! Check out these pictures and recaps of my latest India adventures:

As part of our India Religions class we went on visits to a Jane Temple and a Sikh Gurdwara . . .

These are two of India’s “smaller” religions,but they still have a presence here in India.

We also discovered that we LOVE the movie theater at the mall in Coimbatore. They usually have one or two English movies playing!

I call it an “escape to America” because for a few hours you feel like you are in an American movie theater. Well, except for the surprise of an intermission in the middle of the movie! The best part of going to the movies? You can get your ticket, a drink, and popcorn for around $5 American dollars! Just one of the ways India is spoiling my wallet!

I also got mehendi done! It is basically like henna tattoos that you see sometimes in the states, but much much cooler! My friend Simaron owns a handmade jewelry shop and also does mehendi! She is very talented, as you can see by the artwork on my hands!

Also, we fit 12 people in a van taxi! The things we do to save a few rupees…

We had a closing ceremony type thing for our college! It was a very nice service, and it gave me an excuse to wear my recently purchased saree!

Here is a picture of me and Shamini!

Next I’m going to talk about the highlight of my time in India! Some of you might know my friend Anna who is living in working in Pune, India for three years! She graduated from SNU in May, but while we were both in college we got pretty close. She was an RA in my dorm freshman year and is one of the nicest people I know. Her city and mine are pretty far apart, but I couldn’t be in the same country with her and not see her! SO I hopped a flight from Coimbatore to Pune this last weekend to pay her a visit!

I can’t describe how great this time was! We both felt like our American lives and our Indian lives were colliding! I couldn’t believe that we were actually together in a foreign country! I was in Pune from Thursday till Sunday and we packed as much stuff in my trip as possible! From shopping, to eating, to seeing her work, and hanging out with her fun co-workers, I saw all that Pune has to offer!

Here are some pictures of some things we did:

-Shopping in open air markets
-Cold Coffee at "Buddha’s"!

-Riding sidesaddle on a scooty! I see a lot of women in sarees doing this and I’ve always wanted to do it! Anna’s friend Saye took me for a quick scooty ride so I could cross it off my India Bucket List!

-Anna even took a turn driving it!

Pune also had some of the things I had been missing from America!

Chillis! Complete with chips and salsa, one of my favorite foods back home!

Dr. Pepper from an import store! It was a little more expensive than in the states, but its hard to put a price on your favorite drink that you haven’t had in months!

My first night there I got to watch a Thunder game. Some of the boys on Anna’s team have a cable package that includes an English sports channel, so I got to watch the Thunder beat the Clippers! I don’t have a picture of this, but trust me when I say I was pretty excited to watch them play!

Once again, I had such a great time with Anna in Pune! We both got some much needed encouragement from each other and it was a great “vacation” for me! A lot of people from the US really miss Anna, so I feel very bless that I was able to see her!

Some of you might know that the class/school part of my semester is almost over! We leave Tuesday evening for a 16-day long “field trip” that will literally take us all over India!

I’m very excited about the opportunity to see new places in India! But I also have some concerns and prayer requests to share!

Pray that our group has safe travels! We will be traveling from city to city by train. We have traveled this way before but every train is different. Sometimes we will be on air-conditioned trains, and sometimes we won’t. Some times the trains are clean, but sometimes they are dirty with bugs! We also have a few extremely long trains that we will be on for longer than 24 hours. So just pray that we have good trains, but it we don’t that these rides go by fast!

The weather is getting hotter every day in India! We will be very busy on these trips, so I’m worried about keeping up my energy and morale during these long days! The intense heat has a tendency to zap all my energy! So pray that God will provide times of rest and pleasant weather for us.

This trip also means it is getting close to my return to America! As much as I have enjoyed my time here in India and getting to know the great group of people I have been here with, I’m looking forward to going home and seeing my family and friends! But I’m trying to keep myself focused on making the most of this experience and not letting myself count down the days till I’m home. So pray that my homesickness does not keep me from making the most of every minute!

The Bible verses I am focusing on right now are . . .

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”

I came across this verse a few weeks ago and it really hit home on several levels. But I love that it says that God will be with us wherever we are. It is very reassuring to know that even here in my apartment in Coimabtore where I can here the Muslim Call to Prayer and look out in the hallway and see Hindu idols, God is with me. He will be with me for every minute as I finish up this crazy experience and I am so thankful for that!

Another verse that God gave me recently was Colossians 1:10-11 where Paul is telling the people of Colosse to “live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. “

I like how this verse commands us to live our life a certain way, but then promises that God will strengthen us with his own power. Endurnace and patience are two things that I feel like I lack sometimes! But how great that he will give us what we need if we follow and trust in him!

This will probably be my last major blog update from India! Free time and internet access will be very limited luxuries over the next few weeks! Since I will be seeing a lot of cool things in my travels (like this little place called the Taj Mahal), I will probably do some blog posts when I get back in the States!

I really appreciate each and every person who has taken the time to read my blog over the past couple of months! I have loved getting to share my experiences with other people! I look forward to talking with people once I get back and getting to share more stories with you all!

Every single facebook comment/message, email, or just telling my parents that you have read my blog has been great encouragement for me during this time! Never underestimate the power of a kind word!

I’m off to enjoy my time left in Coimbatore, and put off packing for a little longer!

Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrating Holi!

 Happy Holi everyone!

Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated mainly in northern India, but we didn't wanna pass up an opportunity to throw colored powder and shoot colored water at each other! So we threw our own "festival of colors" on the roof of our apartment thanks to a couple of our Indian friends!

 I could go into all the details/Hindu mythology behind the festival, but I think I will just tell you that it is one of the funnest nights I've had here yet! 
 The "before" shot!
 And now some "after" shots!
My skin and hair were dyed for a few days... but it was so worth it :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kerala - The Texas of India

Last week we traveled to the Indian State of Kerala! It is called “God’s Own Country” and also the Texas of America because everyone who is from Kerala is very proud to call it their home! I think everyone from the program agrees that is it a pretty great place! We jokingly called it our “Spring Break” since we don’t get a real break from school until our classes are over. 

The trip consisted of classes and lectures each more, and then afternoons filled with visiting many different places!

We had a wonderful trip! Here are some pictures/highlights!!

Kerala is the port where St. Thomas first came to India! So we got to see more places he has been and churches he started! 

 This is supposedly the very place St. Thomas set foot in India!

Another afternoon we went to this place called Amma’s Ashram. An ashram is a village or community where people of the same faith live and practice their faith together. Its very hard to convey exactly what it was like there. It was mostly white people who had come from far away to live at Amma’s Ashram. The people at the ashram are Hindu, but they don’t view Amma as a main god. Amma’s big “thing” is hugging people for encouragement. I still don’t completely understand what the purpose of the ashram is, but here is an explanation/description from the ashram’s website that might help you all understand what they believe the ashram is for:

“Built up on the very property where Amma was born, Amritapuri is now the headquarters of Amma’s worldwide mission and the spiritual home for Amma’s monastic disciples and hundreds of householder devotees. All the residents have dedicated their lives for realising God and serving the world. Everyday, Amma’s children from across India and abroad flock here to have Amma’s darshan. She sees each and every one, listens to their worries, consoles, encourages, provides new direction to their lives.”

It was an extremely interesting experience! But while we were there we also had one of the funniest things happen! We were told to go wait by the temple stairs to go on a tour of the Ashram, and while we were waiting we were put to work! Before we realized what was happening, we were told to form a line and start passing these pamphlets or papers from the building to a truck. Here are some pictures of the line and of the truck when we were done!

It was an extremely random event, and we were laughing about it the whole time! We don’t really know what the papers were, but maybe its best that we don’t know what sorts of propaganda we were helping distribute!

After the ashram we went to a beach! At some point on the way their most of the group decided they wanted to get in and swim around in their clothes. Our director Kirk had actually brought his swimsuit so he was all for it! On every trip we go on we have several different faculty or staff from our college in Coimbatore go with us. The two women staff got really scared whenever everyone started running into the ocean and they started yelling at everyone to come back in. They didn’t realize we all knew how to swim! I don’t think it is extremely common for people to swim in India, so they don’t realize that basically everyone in America can swim! Here is a picture of our director Kirk explaining to them how it isn’t dangerous! It was pretty funny to try and get them to understand that we know how to swim!

The next afternoon we went to another beach! I decided to stay on the beach and watch! I love the ocean, but only when I can wear a swim suit and go back to my hotel and shower afterwards.

When we got to the beach it was pretty empty. But nothing draws a crowd like a dozen of Americans jumping and swimming around! Here is a picture I snuck of all of our fans. 

After the beach we did something that apartently you HAVE to do when visiting Kerala. That is to take a boat ride along the famous Kerala Back Waters!

 There are also houseboats you can rent for the night like a hotel room! They look really cool!

This was really enjoyable, and at one point I got to drive the boat! 

We stopped to get a drink at one point and I made a new friend! Meet Roma Krishna!

Overall, everyone really enjoyed Kerala! This was our last trip until the last two weeks of the program when we leave Coimbatore and travel around the north to end out program! We have three more weeks filled with classes, research papers, and tests! It’s hard to believe how much of the semester is already over, but there is still so much left to do before the program is over!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whats in my care package?

Yesterday I got a care package from my parents! It was like Christmas! I was so excited to get something from home, I’m so thankful my parents sent me all this great stuff!

So what’s in my care package?

Two big jars of peanut butter
grape jelly
Wether’s candy
Multigrain cheerios
Mac and cheese
Fruit cups
Valentines Day tootsie rolls
Welch’s fruit snacks
An assortment of granola bars
Dove Dark Chocolate
Orbit Gum
Anti-itch lotion

Who knew a box of random stuff could be so exciting?

Thanks Mom and Dad :)

Chennai Trip

Quick update about our trip to Chennai this weekend!

We took a overnight train on the way there, which was great because I slept while we traveled!

On Saturday we visited a couple tribal villages! At the second village they gave us flowers to put in our hair, which was really cool! Funny side note: the Tamil word for flower is pronounced poo, the jokes about how they put poo in our hair still haven’t stopped!

Saturday evening we went to the mountain where Thomas from the Bible (doubting Thomas) was killed. It was really cool to be a place where someone from the Bible has been! I don’t have any pictures from the mountain, but here are some pictures of St. Thomas Cathedral, the church that was built on top of Thomas’ tomb. We attended an early service at the church on Sunday morning.

Then we went to the beach!

After the beach we went souvenir shopping and we all got some cool stuff!

Then it was another train back to Coimbatore!

We have definitely reached a very busy part of our semester! We have so many papers and presentations to work on, we are all feeling very overwhelmed! So the blog updates will keep coming, but they might be a little shorter than what they have been previously!

Thanks for reading my trip update!