Friday, March 26, 2010

too proud not to share...

I just made egg-less brownies...with Chili powder.
and I like them.


Courtney: 1
Cultural Shock: 0

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maximum Size

I've learned to do my absolute best to shop BY MYSELF in India. I don't mean no friends coming along, I mean dodging the 15 "very helpful" employees at every store you walk into. Sometimes the rush to help you is actually helpful. Sometimes, it's not. For instance, walking into a clothing store I can nearly guarantee you that the following conversation will occur:

helpful employee: "What size, ma'am?"
me: "Medium"
helpful employee: "okay, Large."
me: "No, Medium"
helpful employee: "okay, okay, Large"
me: "Medium. I wear a MEDIUM."
helpful employee: "sure, sure. Here is a Large."

The other day I was looking for shoes in a large department store here. They were all sized by European measurements, so I wasn't sure what number fit my American foot. I found a pair I liked and went to the shoe guy on duty. I explained my dilemna to said shoe guy, he took one look at my feet, turned over his shoulder and yelled to the other shoe guy across the room, "Maximum Size!"


Neil & I got a good laugh out of that one :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

the life of tea

For Kylee, who knew how to drink from a cup of bitterness while drinking deeply of Christ. I love you, friend.

Tea is a staple in India (and many parts of the world). It serves as an excuse to call people into your home. It is a sweet (and sometimes bitter) way of sharing. An excuse to make a conversation go on longer.

I've never been much of a tea drinker. I've always secretly wanted to be one of those people who can put a very emo/organic/hippie facebook status report about the most recent exotic tea they just drank over a book or song that made them cry. But, it's just not me.

A few days ago a neighbor knocked on our door and said that she and her husband would like to come by this weekend. I ecstatically agreed and knew what I needed to do. I went out that day and purchased my first tea set. A reminder of the promise I heard God give me a few months ago, "You have friendships waiting for you in India." That tea set looked so beautiful to me that day.


Something else I want is to be good at mourning. It may sound crazy, but in the last year I have been so humbled to see the way God draws near during times of pain and sadness. This world is not in it's ideal state, and that should be sad to us. Knowing Christ is not a reason to "be strong and quit crying"; knowing Christ is the reason why we can drink deeply of sadness and loss without fear of being overtaken by them. Those of us who know Christ should be the best mourners; not the ones who avoid it.

Mourning is a staple in most of the world. Some cultures are just plain good at it. Jews sit for days at a time, tear clothes, spread ash on their heads. In Chennai, a group of men carry the body through the streets, making sure to block traffic and force regular life to stop if even for just one second. God praises women who are good at mourning.

This morning, I lost a dear friend. A friend who was one of those women God praises for their skillfull mourning. Is it cliche to say that she was young, beautiful, and left us too soon? Either way, it's true. I felt so sad. I still feel sad. I will feel sad for a long time. I didn't know what to do; I needed some kind of an expression for my aching heart. I made a batch of tea, leaving out the sugar. I sat at my kitchen table, sipping the bitter tea until it was gone. It hurt. A lot. It also felt good.

I'm not sure the purpose of this post. Maybe being so far away from all of the other mourners, I needed to have a forum to share my hurting heart.

Thankfully, I have my husband, my tears, and a cup of tea.

and Jesus.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

#1 Beach View

When we first walked into the guest house we rented for 2 months, this was the sight we saw. A picture of the beach that covered the entire wall of the flat. Though it might seem slightly tacky to put an entire mural of a tropical paradise on a wall, we must admit that it was extremely well done and realistic. It made for some nice background in talking with family over Skype.

Having a place of our own to live for a few months was a real blessing and we really grew to love living in the area. We got to know the markets, the nearby restaurants, the call of the guy who collected the waste paper.... It was really a nice time and there were times we were sad that we had to move again.

But, now that we've made it into our long-term apartment, we are thankful. Not only is it wonderful and homey and relaxing, we also do not have a set date that we have to move out. Since we've been married, there has always been an ending date associated with every place we've lived. A reminder that there was little permanence to our lives and a discouragement from really engaging in where we were.

But here in Chennai, on the other side of the world from where we first started our journey, we've found a place we can truly start to call home. It took a while to find the best place, but we were so excited once we decided on it. We hope to live here for a long time and really create a place where our family can grow and we can become a part of the neighborhood. So, without any further delay, here is our new place. We traded in one beach view for a much better one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#2 Having a "shoe guy"

One of my (Neil) favorite days so far was just a typical day of running errands. I have these sandals that I really like, but the velcro on them was positioned in a way that they would not tighten firmly enough for me. In the States, I just dealt with it. But, a few days before, Courtney's shoe had broken and she took it to a “shoe guy”, which means that there is a guy who sits by the side of the road and has a booth where he repairs shoes all day. He did a pretty good job with her shoe, so I decided to chance it and have him reposition the velcro. Speaking very little English, he totally understood what I wanted and within 10 minutes had fixed the one thing I hated about these great shoes.

It's not just shoes either. There are all sorts of jobs of convenience here in India. Courtney and I have both taken in clothes to get tailored. Having clothes that fit just ok was another thing that we just dealt with in the States. But here, it's so easy to take in an article of clothing and for a reasonable price have it tailored.

With a billion people to find jobs for, there are many professions that exist here. Shoe guys, ironers, elevator men, ladies tailors, gents tailors, waste paper collector, house help, watchman, etc. There seems to be a common understanding here that people need jobs. So having a shoe guy is not only a really convenience for us, it also makes sure there is one more job out there for someone to fulfill.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

#3 Not Talking about the Weather

You all know the scene. You walk into work, see the receptionist who gives you a friendly smile, which necessitates a verbal response, so you say "man, it's cold" with a smile. OR you're small talking with strangers at a party, conversation starts to get a little dry so someone says, "can you believe how much it's rained lately?" OR you're standing on the train and start to feel chatty, so the easiest way to strike up a conversation with the guy next to you is, "can you believe how hot it is today?". Welcome to the Midwest.

Having both grown up in the Midwest, Neil and I know that we can always rely on the faithful "how's the weather?" conversation filler. What's great, is that it's not just mindless "filler", because it really is a legitimately interesting topic, because the weather is so rarely the same two days in a row. Monday could bring 50 degrees, partly cloudy. Tuesday is 20 degrees, sunny. Wednesday is 31/32 degrees and freezing rain. But, not in Chennai.

I realized before me moved here that we would have to re-learn how to "small talk", but I wasn't totally sure what was and was not going to work. After a couple of friendly "it's hot" comments, I quickly realized that talking about the weather was one area of small talk that didn't survive the plane ride. Imagine if all of your conversation fillers suddenly come back void and you realize that you have NO CLUE how to start, end or fill friendly conversation. That's what happened to me. It was a little unnerving at first, until I realized that the reason weather isn't a great topic to talk about in Chennai is because IT NEVER CHANGES! There are definitely differences in the seasons, but day to day you can absolutely count on the weather being between 30-34 degrees celsius and sunny. Go ahead, google it.

So, now I'm happy that I've lost a conversation filler because I've gained consistency in an area of my life that was NEVER consistent before: the weather. Plus, I've figured out the perfect conversation filler to go in it's place: my language faux-paus.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

#4 Juice "The Way God Meant it to Be"

There are few things in life that give me (Neil) more pure joy than juice. I love fruit in general, and there is something so wonderful about squeezing out its essence. When we lived in the State, I was always on the lookout for some wonderful new juice mixture (white cranberries AND peaches AND strawberries? Banana AND mango? I must try it...) .

Upon a few days after arriving in India, we went to a grocery store and there was this big banner advertizement which was for a brand of juice called “Saint”, and the ad reads “Juice the Way God Meant it”. Immediately I knew I was among people who spoke my heart language. We got the Mixed Fruit Juice and I feel okay saying that it was heavenly.

While I am dropping brand names, I must add my new favorite drink, Nimbooz, by 7UP. It's similar to a lemonade, but better in ways I can't quite describe. I have often said that if I had an endless amount of money, my one luxury would be wearing a new pair of socks everyday. However, since I don't wear socks in India, I think I will change it to having a Nimbooz everyday.

Not only are there a plethora of delicious juices at the grocery store, there is also a juice shop on nearly every block. While living in our guest house, we found one shop that made delicious juice for a cheap price. These places will make nearly any fruit into a juice and the fruit is just sitting there in the store. On my birthday, we went with Karyn and Ben to the king of juice shops called the Fruit Shop on Greams Road. They had a menu with at least 40 options of juice choices. Unbelievable.

If you are still reading by this point, you must be a juice lover as I am. So, if you want to make a pilgrimage to the center of great juices, look no further than Chennai.