Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Library Mural

My clothes are covered in drips of green paint! I started painting the mural I was asked to do in the library. It is a scene from the jungle book. Mogli is there, Baloo, Bagera, Sheer Kahn, and Kaa the snake. While drawing the mural my pants that I had tucked into my “underclothing” fell completely off. There weren’t a lot of people in the library just my two pals Kacy and Shelly, the two children they were tutoring, and the librarian. I don’t know if he saw, I just tried to be calm about it, reached down, pulled them up and kept drawing. Luckily the tops we wear are down to our knees so no harm done. (I hope) I was asked to teach two classes an art lesson, so I taught 3rd and 4th graders how to paint a flower. I love this lesson because we all start with the same pink flower and the outcome is like a whole bouquet of various flowers. Some with blue dots others had faces. I love artwork created by children. I felt honored to teach at such an incredible school. The students are so intelligent. All of their lessons are taught in English, and they have one notebook to write in that they are responsible to keep track of. They keep their pencil until it has been widdled to the eraser! In between painting and teaching I also discussed with the teachers how to use art to enhance their lessons. I spoke to them about the need children have to express themselves and how important creativity is. It went well. The only thing is I sort of committed to get the school more art supplies, so now I need to figure out a way to make that possible. It will happen, things just do. I feel less and less in charge of the direction my life is going and more excited to just look around and be amazed at where I am. I don’t know if that makes sense, maybe the paint fumes are getting to me. Last night Bailey and I worked on the mural, dripping wet with sweat, and singing the Across the Universe soundtrack and dancing. It was awesome, except for the mosquitoes and bugs that are now glued with green paint to the library wall.

"party on", Hindy festival

My journal entries are dated with statements such as “two days ago, yesterday, maybe Thursday”. It kind of feels like I am not even living in my body anymore, I am just an observer. Today I will try to get them back together again. Driving through the villages and towns a few days ago we started noticing neon lights strung up on the side of the road (the long ones you normally see on the ceiling) and large lit up Hindu Gods placed next to small temples near the roads. It turns out that the villages have a yearly village festival honoring their God and most choose to do it in June and July. Sunday night we walked over to a nearby village festival. We could hear drumming and bells as we got nearer to the crowd. It smelled like jasmine and fresh fruit. At first all we could see was the back of a cart with a large neon rainbow on it. As we got around the huge cart, weaving in and out of villagers carrying trays with half a coconut, fire, and a small Hindu sculpture, we saw dancers and Brahman? Priests that were offering fruit to the village God, and giving blessings. The dancers were jumping and taping their bell clad bodies to the rhythm of the drummers. The villagers seemed happy to have us there for the most part, they offered us some dried fruit and put fresh strands of white jasmine into our hair, then put some orange and white powder of our foreheads (a blessing). The cart was being pulled by a tractor and every ten feet it would stop and the villagers would come and offer fruit and receive a blessing. Others would place offerings and babies in front of the procession. A family grabbed my hand and brought me to the front of their house and put a tiny baby girl in my arms. Then they just smiled and watched as I held her. Allot of people wanted their picture taken. I’m not sure if it was so they could see it on the screen after or that, hopefully this is not the case, it is because I am white. No celebration is complete without henna so I got that done; they used a stamp and a shoe polishy paste to apply it. This was the point where I started to feel a little bit sick and realized that if I didn’t find a bathroom post haste it would not be good. All systems were down, all systems. So I talked to a sweet woman that works for rising star and she led me to her friend’s house. I walked over at least ten sleeping bodies to get to the place, and was led around back to a nice little room with a squatter in it. It was a really nice bathroom, I think I need to write them a thank you or something or bring them some jackfruit. I went back and joined the girls to watch a comedy show on a small stage. We headed back pretty late and just as we left fireworks started going off. We were escorted by some men who work for Rising Star. I am pretty sure they were there so we didn’t run into any cobras, but they kept saying, “No cobra!” Why were they carrying sticks and keeping their eyes on the sides of the roads then? I kind of want to see a cobra now.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Take it in

Take it in. It’s so late but my mind is not ready for bed. Becky showed up, she is the founder of Rising Star, and she has been telling us about the big picture and how lucky we are to be here and be a part of something that could make history. I wondered about how the children were selected to come to the incredible school. Becky explained that they choose children from each of the leprosy colonies and all of the students that were chosen have one or more parents that are afflicted by leprosy. They can’t accept all of the children because there would be thousands. Most of these children would have no opportunity to go to school because of their association with leprosy. They live in colonies and are even referred to as untouchables. The stigma of leprosy has existed for thousands of years, I had no clue it still existed until I heard about Rising Star Outreach. In India there are fines if you kill someone, but if they have leprosy it is less than if you would have killed your neighbor’s dog. I don’t want to go on about all of these horrible things and how awful women are treated in India, and the atrocities that these children have experienced, but it is something that can’t be ignored. There are people in India that are trying to change things. One of these women is Padma Venkataraman. Her father was the former president of India and she has made it possible for Rising Star to be able to be here in India. She is speaking next Saturday at the dedication of the High School and I am so excited to listen and learn from her. Back to why I can’t sleep right now. The Children. I remember seeing commercials about donating to a charity to help feed children and thinking, “Does that money ever get to them? Does sending them money really help the problem or does it just stick a band aid on a broken arm?” Living in a place that runs off of donations and seeing the need and the gratitude that the people here I know that there is some higher power in charge of this organization and that these children are going to have a great role in changing the stigma of leprosy and poverty. The school offers them a chance to not only succeed but to have dignity and self worth. I was asked to learn about a girl in the room that I help each night so that I could write her Biography so she could get a sponsor. Each child has a sponsor that pays $30 dollars a month for their education, housing, food, medical expenses, everything. As I have started to learn about her, her name is Abisha, I have a feeling I am going to end up sponsoring her myself. But I will also post a picture of her and write what I have found out to let other people have the opportunity to be blessed by helping these special kids. I am going to try and fall asleep and think of all of the good things these kids are going to do in the future.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Incredible India

On the weekends we get to be tourists. Saturday morning we loaded up in the rising star buss and headed to Mahabalipuram. A beach town, Historic landmark, and tourism mecca. We saw everything from ancient ruins to stone carvers making their Hindu sculptures. “It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”(Thanks Wikipedia) We walked through the jungle around ancient stone temples and a huge rock called the “butterball”. One of the temples is dedicated to the God Vishnu, and on one of the ball reliefs there is a man slowly turning into a cobra as he descends into the depths of the earth. I will figure out what it means someday. The city was packed full of shops and restaurants. I got some delicious chicken tikki masala bought some things then headed for the Ideal beach resort. I’m trying to get the complete India experience which wouldn’t be complete without an Ayurvedic massage. It began with warm spicy oil being poured onto my forehead and then massaged into my scalp. I would highly recommend it! Be aware that you will be pretty greased up by the end. I slid out of there, jumped into the pool and headed to the beach. The Bay of Bengal is beautiful. The gray-blue water is lined by white sandy beaches, palm trees and brightly painted boats. The water was the perfect temperature and if I wasn’t so scared of salt water crocs I would have dived right in. I took a stroll down the beach and saw a fisherman mending his net and some boys launching their boat out into the crashing waves. I took one last dip in the pool, took a picture of Dani doing a sweet back dive, enjoyed a real shower, and loaded up into the bus. I opted for the front passenger seat. By the way I keep trying to get in the driver’s side of the car and it confuses everyone, especially the driver. The whole way home it felt like I was in a video game that is somewhere between grand theft auto and cruising the world. Our driver, Veel, weaved in and out of motorcycles, rickshaws, cows, people, and buses loaded so full people were clinging to the outside of them. He stopped to show us a family of monkeys and baby pigs. I almost cried they were so cute. As we got near a village we could see the outline of a temple on the top of a tall green peak, Tirukalukundram is the name of the village and I am going to figure out how to get back and climb the thousands of steps to get to that temple that is so close to heaven. Then it started to rain. Buckets of rain! The streets turned into rivers, motorcycles clung together behind big trucks, rickshaws sputtered through the deep water. I have sore arms from clinging to my seat. I’m going to think twice before I sit in the front again. Oh we saw jackfruit on the side of the road. I have been told it is what juicy fruit was named after. Hopefully I will get to test that theory out soon.

I will explain these later. . . .

The Moot Colony

We took a trip out to a leprosy colony last Thursday with Doctor Kumar as he made his biweekly visit. They were waiting for us with smiles on their faces. Leprosy has not changed the love these people have for life or others. None of them have active leprosy and from what I found out they have to live together in these colonies because people will not let them live in their villages, they are kicked out and shunned as soon as people find out they have leprosy (no wonder they try to hide it). An American family that was with us brought mangos for them to eat as we waited for everyone to have their check up. There are two dancers with us that brought the famous song "Jaiho" from the slum dog millionaire soundtrack, they love it! They danced, well one of them danced. I think his name was Jajraj and he was one of the happiest people I have ever met. His laugh could be recorded and used as a way to create world peace. So kind and true. We all waited patiently while a woman applied red velvet bindi stickers to our foreheads. I was amazed that someone with so little would give us so much! I think she would have given us everything if we only would have asked. One man received a new board with wheels to use as transportation and he was so excited and grateful for it. Another woman invited us into her small home and wanted us to see "her birds". She threw out some of her own precious food to feed her beloved birds. They speak Tamil and I wish I could have been able to speak with them. I would have asked her if she had names for her birds, how long she had been living in this place, what her name was, how did she feel when she found out she had leprosy, how did her family treat her, could I help her be more comfortable? We brought some bandages that had been crochet by someone Bailey knows and they received them as they would have a brand new baby. I feel lucky to have been there to see that. I wish I could have understood what they told us in Tamil.

Friday, June 25, 2010

This one goes out to the one I love

When I first started this story of India travels I think I forgot to mention that it was my anniversary. I have been married for one wonderful year. Today we started singing "more than words" by Eric Clapton and I thought about the one I love, the one who supports me in everything that I do, reads to me so I can fall asleep when Im sick, makes me laugh every single day, the one who I can allways talk to and he never makes me feel silly for the things I do or say. Just before we got married I was watching an old movie with Cary grant that took place during the civil war and, wait it wasnt cary grant it was the guy on Mr Kruegers christmas, anyway this kid had just showed up to ask him if he could marry his daughter and the dad, Mr Krueger man, sat him down and the conversation went something like this,
Krueger "Well I know you love her, but do you like her"
Kid "Excuse me sir?"
Krueger "Do you like her, do you want to be around her"
Kid "Well sure I like her"
It may not sound profound to you but it was to me. I dont only love my husband, I really like him. and I really miss him : )

Dear Katie

Yesterday we had a bit of a scare. One of the girls here with us, Katie, a darling girl from Texas with curly hair, woke up unresponsive. . . or I guess I should say she didnt wake up. She is diabetic and after all of the work we did the day beforeher insulin pump got messed up and her insulin levels were super low (12). Dr. Kumar came to the rescue and they carried her out and put her in a jeepish car and drove to the hospital going a million miles an hour. Doctors in India are really familiar with Diabetes, and from what I was told it is because of all of the rice that they eat. So they took care of her, gave her a blessing, and she is back and better than ever! Here is a pic of me with Katie and Bailey.

God will give

I am very interested in the school that gives these children such amazing opportunities. The children and most of the teachers live here on campus. There is the hostel, where the kids eat and sleep, and the school. Some of the kids are as young as 4 years old. Many of their parents live in the leprosy colonies and some have no parents at all. You would never know how many awful things they have seen in their lives, let alone the way some of them may have been treated by people in their communities, especially if someone in their families had been afflicted by leprosy. What kind of education can a school in the middle of the jungle offer these special ones? I have not seen their test scores or their report cards, but I have listened to them speak, seen them type, and watched them study. They work hard to get a good education. Like most schools, not just here in India but around the world, art is a subject that is neglected. They have a supply closet with paints and precious as gold paper, but no one has access to them. On Tuesday I am going to present on art integration to a group of the teachers. How can you talk about history without art? How can you teach about science or biology without models to look at? Art enhances all other subjects and life itself. I can’t wait to talk to the teachers about how they can use art to help the students understand material and as a way to assess their understanding, and use their creativity. Paper is precious to these children. When I taught my class on drawing they sat and waited for me to tell them more, and very diligently copied what was doing on the board. After the class the house mother, hER son, Karl Marx, was in my class,thanked me for coming to their school and teaching art. Then we talked about children and she asked me how many I have and I told her that didn’t have any yet, and then I joked about wanting twins and she said, “Just pray, God will give it to you.” Right on! That is so true. I wonder about all of the millions of prayers God answered to allow these children an opportunity to have a better life. Last night I was hanging out by the sinks in the bathroom (I was a bit sick) on the girls side of the living quarters and got to see the girls brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed. They were all brushing and staring at me with smiles on their faces wondering what I was doing in there. I told them I wasn’t feeling good and made a puking gesture and motioned to my belly. Next thing I know all of the girls are filling their mouths with water and pretending to throw up in the sink and laughing their heads off. This was all followed by a water fight. It’s like a slumber party with 20 girls every night in our room. I love it!

Lets go fly a kite

What do children all over the world love to do? From Tamil Nadu to Utah County making and flying kites makes it to the top of the list every time. Two times a week each of the volunteers gets to teach a class (a talent class). Today there were classes where students made rice crispy treats; flower clips friendship bracelets and a course on how to make French toast. They were all a success. I taught the kite class. The boys really wanted to learn how to draw people, flowers, and animals, but they flew their kites proudly and I promised to teach them a drawing course on Thursday. I was the school photographer today! I took class pictures and a portrait of each darling student.

Dani, Bailey and I

Its so nice to see old friends in such far places.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Chase me Auntee!"

Imagine being greeted by what seems like hundreds of smiling faces, reaching hands, and trusting hearts. That’s how I felt today. We made it to the Rising Star Outreach campus today which includes school, room and board for children who have not had it easy in life. Some of them have parents who had been afflicted by leprosy and therefore are not accepted by some people here in India, some don’t have parents at all. I can’t believe how resilient they are! The journey to the center was a long, bumpy, cow infested, crowded road (minus the trip to Fabindia, mom I got you a beautiful Indian top), but it felt so good to get out of the city. Finally we are seeing the real beauty of India. Mango and coconut trees separate the earth from the sky. It feels like you are going to see a parade of Elephants marching by any second with Mogli on their back. But unfortunately, no elephants, not yet. I met up with my good friend Dani who has been here for a few months. She is one of those people you wish everyone was like. Always looking out for other people, and making people she meets feel so special and important. She helped me get where I am today. After we got here we ate a delicious Indian meal then we each chose a modest Indian outfit to wear around, and Dani put some sweet smelling strands jasmine in our hair. It is so humid and hot that our clothes are drenched within minutes. With the sweating profusely problem combined with using squatter toilets I don’t see a way to not get in better shape during my stay. We reached the school just as the children made their way to the freedom of play time. This involved answering their question of “what is your name”, telling them my husband’s name, pushing swings, chasing them, and creating mutiny with my “strawberry water”. I should have learned more from the movie The Gods must be crazy! I introduced the crystal light flavored water aka the “coke bottle” and the next thing I knew chaos ensued. “One more sip, one more, just one more!” Ten open mouths waiting for me to fill them with my Blender Bottle filled with crystal light. You can imagine the problem this began with only one Blender Bottle and many more mouths. I did what I could and I won’t do it again. We ate dinner on the roof and talked about our highs and lows while lighting that looked like Sanskrit writing flashed across a cloudy gray sky. After dinner Bailey and I headed to our “family” of children in a room with bright blue walls. We help them with homework and read to them before they go to bed . . . . Theoretically. They were wound up! Some of them showed us pictures of their families, some wanted us to read, some wanted us to sing. The, “If you give a mouse a cookie” books were really making sense today. I am teaching an art class to the children tomorrow, I can’t wait to see what they can create!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

India blue

Here are some words of wisdom from our Hindu guide at the Kapaaleswar Temple.
Guide “Define Impossible”
Us “you can’t do it”
Guide “Spell impossible”
Us “I M P O S S I B L E”
Guide “What did you spell?”
Us “I’m possible”
The moral of the story, “nothings impossible”. However, no one is perfect. Our guide also compared a wife to a knife, and ice cream?! Some more words for the wise, you can’t enter a Hindu temple unless you are Hindu. It seems like you could cut the air here in Chennai with a knife. The humidity has turned my hair into Muffassa’s mane. The sounds of Chennai consist of honking cars and more honking cars. The smell is a mixture of jasmine and dirt; it is not nearly as bad as people made it out to be. We woke up way too late to make it to an LDS sacrament meeting so we made up for it by going to a Roman Catholic basilica and the before mentioned Hindu temple. I have been nicknamed “the teacher” by our driver, Richard. The same driver that waited for four hours at the airport, while our plane was late and we had fill out forms in order to find our bags that didn’t show up. Bailey is so tired she has fallen asleep again. At dinner we all looked dazed and confuse, I guess it could be jet lag. As we were driving around today I noticed that there is a color that ties everything in this city together. Pale blue with a bit of green in it litters the city, on buses, billboards, buckets, bags, and I’m sure a ton of other words that start with B. The city compliments the sky. I didn’t notice hardly any beggars or people suffering from leprosy in the streets. Things I read about India made me think I would be seeing sorrow on every corner, but instead I saw families cruising by on motorcycles, two little boys riding a pink bike down the street, smiling faces, fruit stands that had the fruit stacked in symmetrical piles resembling brightly colored art assemblages, and tables with stacks of flowers, filling the air with the scent of jasmine. Not bad at all. I can’t wait to get out of the tourists shoes and walk in some real ones. Tomorrow the real journey begins, and we will be heading to the Rising Star Outreach center. Until then, sit under a mandala and try to clear your mind, I’m going to pay a visit to the sandman.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

the arrival

After following the sun for two days, we made it to India. We are safe. I will write more tonight.