From my journal, one day after arriving in Semmandakuppam, Tamil Nadu.
India is gritty and beautiful, and both to an extreme. You cannot drink the water because it is contaminated, but you can drink in the sunshine like oxygen.
As the flight took off, I caught a glimpse of New York City sparkling against the darkness. It was sublime. The [fourteen-hour] flight was arduous … at the urging of team members, I bought “The Hunger Games” at the airport beforehand. After landing in Mumbai, we spent the night at Hotel Transit, then flew down to Bangalore.
There is nothing like the sunshine in Bangalore.
In Mumbai, I saw a pure white dove fly from one soot-covered rafter to another — it was strange and lovely. There were beggars to whom I could give nothing. I heard an owl outside the window when I woke up.
As we drove from Bangalore to Dharmapuri, the villages took my breath away… the colors are saturated like gems. Against the grit, the women sparkle, saris reflecting light a thousand times.
Then we were at the school, lines of children greeting us. They waved flags and raced to shake our hands.
“You are very beautiful, Aunty,” they told all the American women again and again.
“Have sweet dreams,” said one, and made the Tamil gesture for beauty. The children are all love and affection.
When we walk through the village of rope-makers, gypsy children crowd around, gazing curiously at white faces. One has eyes the color of sand and they startle you. She is a bird with jeweled eyes, an enigma you’ve seen in your imagination a hundred times before. Someone says “Her eyes are the color of yours.” Perhaps, but mine aren’t like that.
Today when they welcomed us to the school, they gave us roses. Mine was a small red rosebud, but when Freena came to put it in my hair she replaced it with a blooming English rose.
“Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”
— 10 January, 2012
My recent travels could not be captured by one summarizing post about things I did in India. It was a journey beyond the physical, having nothing to do with things I did, but everything to do with things God did and things I saw.
As articulation avails itself, I’ll do my best to share some of the stories to which most of my previous life experience pales in comparison. Words feel increasingly like a foreign tongue these days, so where language fails, I have images that tell a better story than I do.
Setting foot back on snowy ground in Newark, NJ was without question one of the most difficult moments of my life, second only to actually leaving Semmandakuppam. I feel more like a foreigner here than I did in India. Your prayers are deeply appreciated as I re-integrate and catch up with a schedule that did not slow down in my absence. The effect of crossing ten time zones lingers heavily.
Longing for the traceable sunbeams, Tamil gestures, broken English, small brown hands, and big round eyes,