Friday, June 1, 2012

The End

Since exactly one month ago I landed in Seattle and took my first steps into America I figure it is time to conclude this blog.  As most of you know we had a fairly traumatic exit from India.  I’ve never yearned for home like I did during that experience.  But now that I’ve been home, that exit is just one small memory.  I find myself thinking about and missing our neighbors Chandu and Ramana, and Vara, Prem, and precious little Nancy.  Life is continuing in India, I’m just not there any more.  And now it is time to begin another chapter in America. Here is something I wrote while packing up in India to come home but never posted.

"We have officially begun to pack.   Our apartment of 7 months is beginning to look empty and bare like when we first arrived in October, jet-lagged and unsure of what to expect.  However my feelings right now couldn’t be farther from when we first got here.  Life in India has become normal.  We’ve learned, adapted, and loved. As I look all the way back to our arrival date it almost seems unreal to think about all the things we have seen, experienced, and felt. Frustrating experiences that I thought would never end are just memories now.  We talk about them and laugh.  They made me into a more patient person. Lets just say India teaches you patience whether you want it to or not.

During out last trip to Cuddupah, we did some serious at a sports store.  Some friends of Brooke’s grandparents donated some money for us for the school.  You would surprised how much further money goes over here, and we found ourselves walking out of the store with cricket bats, balls, and wickets, volleyballs, soccer balls, badminton sets, rings, jump ropes, and ball pumps.  While the kids won’t get to play with the equipment while we’re here very much since school is almost over, they’ll have no lack of equipment for the next school year.  Brooke also directed getting the swing set fixed, so instead of one swing and three sets of broken chains, there are now four new swings.

Soon we’ll be reunited with our family and friends in America and instead of missing home we’ll be missing that place on the other side of the world.  India gets in your blood, and as I hate to admit that I have idea when I’ll ever be able to come back here, India and its people will always be a part of me."

Never have 7 months had such an impact on my life.  While I am now fully adjusted to carpet beneath my feet, warm showers, and paying half a month’s salary in India for a pair of jeans, I haven’t adjusted to missing those people.  I would never take back my experience in India. The world has so much to teach us, we just have to let it.  Thanx to all of you for reading and for the support you gave us.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Out with a bang...

Our last days in India turned out to be more exciting than we expected.

We unfortunately missed our flight out of India on April 20 because we didn't have the correct document that were required by our visa's. We ended up staying an extra 10 days and went through quite a few adventures that we will hopefully laugh about later. We recorded all the details of our struggle with the Indian police and officials we dealt with during this whole process so feel free to ask us about it sometime, but here's an example of one of our days fighting to get registration and exit papers to leave the country of India.

Wednesday 25.4.2012 [the perfect example of Indian Stretchable Time]

·         Went to the Sub-Treasury Office in Kadapa to get forms to pay our late registration fee
·         Told to go across the street to buy the forms – 2 rupees per page
·         Brought the forms, each with three sections for duplicates, to a man who was supposed to fill them out
·         Man didn’t know how to fill out late registration fee forms
·         Took an auto back to the Special Branch of the Kadapa Police Office to get help. Our guy there filled out an example paper and took 6 passport photos each from us for the papers from the night before.
·         Auto ride back to the Treasury office. Man makes a mistake on all three forms that he doesn’t know how to correct.
·         Our friend Vara takes an auto back to the SB to ask, we wait for a full hour while he asks this one question. (the treasury office is like a sauna with no fans)
·         He comes back and the man in the treasury office takes his time filling out three copies for all three forms and then asks for a tip. We sign our names 3 times and get a stamp.
·         Go to the bank. Nice police man cuts in line for us so we can pay 4,800/- fee.
·         Took an auto back to the SB (once again) to deliver the receipts)
·         Total time for above events = 3.25 hours
·         Speed shovel rice and pumpkin curry into our stomachs
·         Jump on a bus back to Vempalli to meet an officer from Pullevendula who was coming to check us out at the school. (1.5 hour trip)
·         Rain storm comes. Water flows down the bus floor.
·         10 minutes before reaching the school, the officer calls and says we need to write a letter signed by our principal saying when we came to the school and how long we stayed and then deliver it in Vemula.
·         No current.
·         Arrived at the school with 20 minutes to write and print letter.
·         Eat mash melon (cantaloupe) from the principal's wife Suvarta first.
·         Drink tea sent by Chandu
·         Principal slowly makes his way to the office
·         Write the letter frantically, then type it.
·         Carry printer from the office to Head Master Jesu Das house to use his battery. Barely enough power to print 3 sketchy copies.
·         Principal Israel professionally stamps and signs them.
·         Jump in the van with Ramana and Vara (Chennai Super Kings) and speed off to Vemula Police Dept.
·         Arrive at the office. Sit down and wait while one guy checks out our letter and signed papers to the Superintendent and Vara tells our story (yet again).
·         Told to hand write a letter requesting residency documents (what a joke!), the person we were writing it to told us exactly what to write.
·         Took 1.5 hours to fill out six copies of a half sheet of paper with our name and address
·         One man staples our passport photos on with 4 staples each. Police officer (him only) removes all 24 staples and pastes them on. (first he tries to use trevors photo as a sticker and ruins it)
·         Drank ½ cup tea
·         Missing one ½ sheet of paper. Ramana goes in the van to get one more.
·         Left in the van and picked up  a guy at some office and went to Pullevendula police station.
·         Talked to officers—gave them a US dollar
·         Sat in the head officers office—AC is too cold. Vara tells our story AGAIN.
·         Waiting. Too much telegu spoken, don’t really know what is going on.
·         Drank some coffee. Try to speak to the unresponsive staring head officer.
·         1.5 hours later receive a document called “CERTIFICATE” that states our name, address, and how long we’ve been at the school. Also that we have committed no crimes during this time. One paragraph long.
·         Correct the mistakes in the paragraphs. [I’m not Brooke Bauer d/o Mark Bauer Christopher Krall. Age about 21 years] Wait for a new copy.
·         Check the new copy, get it stamped and signed and then go on our way.
·         The Head Constable says he will come and check us out at the school the next day, we invite him for food at 11 am (ps. he never shows up for food the next day after we make a feast for him)
·         Arrive back at school 9:00 pm.

Let's just say we were excited to reach America yesterday evening. This experience tacked on the end of our Indian adventure made me appreciate home a whole lot more. We are all happy to be here, but our friends in India will be dearly missed. I hope to see some of them again some day in the future. 

Can't wait to see you all!


Sunday, April 29, 2012

We're Coming Home!

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14 


Saturday, April 28, 2012


On a Thursday, towards the end of March, we received a surprise Facebook message from Jeff and Zach that they were going to come down and visit us for the weekend.  The Gilbert boys have been spending the year at a hospital in Nuzvid, about 11 hours away from us.  That Friday morning we looked out our window to see two Gilbert boys walking into our campus.  Just like Brooke’s mom and my mom, Vara and Prem treated us to yet another feast at there house.   For those of you who read this blog, you may be seeing a common trend.  Vara and Prem have blown us away with their hospitality and kindness towards us, and our guests.

The weekend found us feeling a little more American.  We watched movies, played games, and even made brownies.  The principle’s family also had us over for a meal.  Brooke, Sid, and I eat pretty much anything here in India with the exception of meat.  Zach and Jeff on the other hand are true risk takers and had some chicken during the meal.  It’s kind of like playing Russian Roulette when you eat meat over here and unfortunately Jeff and Zach got shot this time.  The 10 hour bus ride between where we live and their place can be not so fun in general, but with upset stomachs, from what I hear from them, hell about describes it.

The fact that Sid, Brooke, and I along with Zach and Jeff Gilbert all ended up in India at the same time, yet alone in the same state of Andhra Pradesh is pretty crazy.  Brooke, Zach, and I were all high school classmates and Jeff and Sid also went to UCA.  It has been a huge relief even just knowing that there are really 5 of us in this together, and when we get together and share stories and frustrations with the culture over here it is interesting to see how similar some of our situations really are.

In case we hadn’t gotten enough Zach and Jeff time, April 4, a Wednesday night found Sid, Brooke, and I on the ten-hour night bus headed to Nuzvid.  This entire year, Ramana has been telling us about his “native place” in great detail and wanting us to visit.  The date finally worked out and since his native place is decently close to Jeff and Zach we decided to go check out their life at the hospital.  We arrived at the Nuzvid hospital where someone showed us down a hallway where Jeff and Zach’s room is.  The air conditioning greeted us as walked into their room, we’re slightly jealous but we can just say we’re more hardcore J.  Zach made us breakfast and then lack of sleep/no sleep that you get on Indian buses caught up with Sid and I and we passed out on Zach and Jeff’s beds.  While we slept Brooke got her nursing on and watched some suturing.

The next day Sid, Brooke, and I rented some rockin hero cycles for an hour (3 rupees each, 6 cents, pretty much broke our wallets.)  Jeff and Zach had bought bikes earlier in the year.  On our fixed gear bikes the five of us biked through Nuzvid and off-roaded through the mango fields, which took some serious talent.  We said goodbye to Jeff and Zach and began our journey to the famous native place.

The bus ride took about three and a half hours, the first half of which was spent standing.  In a side note as I type this you would think I just did the work out off the century since sweat is dripping down my face and body, nope just sitting here typing.  Anyway, Ramana met us at the bus station and the next segment of our trip consisted of a motorcycle ride.  We piled on two bikes with all our luggage and began a motorcycle trip out into the country.  It was dark so we couldn’t really see the landscape but we could tell we definitely were not in the dry fields we were used too.  When we arrived in Ramana’s village, Kaleru, a huge banner greeted us along with many of his family members.

Ramana (Middle) and
His 2 Brothers
We spent the weekend in his village.  Experiences included sleeping on the floor, folding every blanket we could find to try and create some sort of mattress, pumping water into a bucket to bathe three times day since it is more humid and sticky there, drinking coconut water, and providing the entertainment for the entire village.  One afternoon we walked around the village to just look around and by the time we came back to home base and sat down a group of villagers, children, and old ladies, had gathered and just stared at us.

Ramana’s brothers, friends, and extended family who live in that village treated us like royalty.  Pumping water for ourselves was not an option, no mater how hard we tried, suddenly another sets of hands were always on the pump helping us.  We were made meal after meal, always provided with a chair if even seen standing for a moment.  Satish and Buny, two of the boys even massaged our calves and shoulders. Sreenuvas, one of Ramana’s friends would wait while we ate entire meals, just so he could drive us the 5-minute walk back to where we were staying.

Many awkward moments occurred, as we were always the center of attention, for instance eating a meal while five other people just serve you and watch you eat.  But after almost 7 months, awkward has become normal and we just look back and laugh.

The countryside of Kaleru was absolutely beautiful.  Green rice fields spanned until the horizon dotted with coconut trees and divided by canals and rivers.  Ramana’s descriptions of “water free,” “native place, very nice,” and “coconuts free,” had turned out to be completely true.  Well actually the coconuts are just free at night when they sneak into the trees to pick them. Haha

We traveled back to Vijayawada to catch our favorite 10 hour bus.  Jeff and Zach made a one hour journey and meet us there for one last meal together.  We took Ramana out to eat and he and Zach shared some chicken biryani.  It’s crazy to think that they next time we see them will be in America.

Our trip to Kaleru was definitely an experience.  We lived in a true Indian village for a weekend, there are no tourist sites out there, it was just everyday life.  Ramana was like a father proud of his three kids.  The villagers and his family, though they had never met us, spoiled us to no end.  Their happiness was visible through their service.   Kaleru taught me a lot about service.  And someday I hope to be able to serve as these people served me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Toto, We're Not in Vempalli Anymore-Trevor

In February you would have found me crossing out the days on the calendar impatiently wanting it to just be the 23rd  already!  The morning and afternoon of the 23rd seemed painfully slow.  But finally the Brooke, Sid, and I piled into the van with Ramana and headed to Cuddapah.  When my Mom stepped off that train it was hard for me to believe that she was actually in India.  Just like when Brooke’s mom Tina and Debbie had visited, the next few days consisted of feast after feast of incredible Indian food and showing my Mom all around our Indian home, the school, and villages.

On February 25 my Mom and I took and overnight train to the city of Hyderabad, the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh where we joined Jeff and Zach Gilbert and their parents. I turned 21 in Hyderabad that day, and while in our hotel, Helen, an incredible Indian lady who lives in Hyderabad with her husband, showed up with a chocolate frosted banana bread cake.  Brooke and Sid had made me a blueberry muffin in a mug the night before I left.  This was definitely a birthday I won’t forget.

Hyderabad was really interesting, the population is 40% Muslim so combined with the arid environment and calls to prayer echoing through the city it often felt like we were in the Middle East.  It was also much bigger than I expected, being one of the biggest cities in India and actually made up of two twin cities, Hyderabad and Secunderabad. We then traveled to Shimla, the mountainous capital of Himachel Pradesh, where I was reminded once again what it actually feels like to be cold. Next was Jaipur, the Pink City, Agra, where us three boys did some serious damage at McDonalds, and of course we saw the magnificent Taj.

We visited two places I had not been to while driving between Jaipur and Agra.  Close to Jaipur, off the beaten path was a Monkey Temple tucked up in a small valley.  The pools of water there are considered holy so we were able to watch everyday people perform rituals, wash colorful saris, and bathe in the holy water. Then close to Agra again off the beaten path in the small village Abhaneri we visited the Chand Baori. The 9th century step well that is one of the deepest and largest step wells in India. It has 3500 narrow steps in 13 stories and is 100 feet deep. 

Northern India was gearing up for the very famous festival Holi while we were traveling so it was cool to see baskets of colored powder around Dehli.  Some Holi water bombs were also dropped on the rickshaws we were riding in through the city.  When we stopped for dinner some pre-celebrators were already covered in powder, their faces bright red, pink, and purple.  I can’t imagine what it is like in Dehli on the actually day of Holi when everyone lets loose and the colors and water begin to fly.

On the 6th of March we left Dehli for Singapore via Kaula Lumpar.  Now Singapore would be a shock to someone visiting straight from the US, but after living in India, you could say Zach, Jeff, and I experienced some major culture shock.  Just the award-winning airport was an experience and the ride to where we were staying.  Compared to the roads, or should I say lack of roads in India which consists more of potholes, zooming 70 mph or so on a smooth Singapore freeway felt way too fast to me.  Being able to drink water straight out of the sink felt so foreign.

 The subways were spotless and shiny, everyday cars consisted of Ferraris, Mercedes, Aston Martins, and Bentleys.  I’m sure Zach, Jeff, and I looked like serious tourists as we stood on street corners with our mouths wide open, pointing at every nice car driving by.  The city is seriously spotless.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have picked a place more different from India if I tried.  We would get tired trying to count the iPhones and Ipads in one subway car.  At night the city is even more impressive.  The massive three towered hotel, the Marina Bay Sands, looks out of this world as lasers shine from the top across the city.

Transformers the Ride!!
Janae Rose, one of my best friends flew in from Thailand to spend a few days with us.  Zach, Jeff, Janae and I got to spend a day at Universal Studios Singapore.  Our minds were blown as we rode the movies, The Mummy, Jurassic Park, and launched Battlestar Galactica roller coasters that twist and loop around each other. And last but not least the world premier of the 4D Transformers ride, I have never been on such a complex ride as we were sprayed with water, felt heat on our faces as rockets were launched towards us, and fell off a skyscraper.  You could say that I was in heaven.

My Mom and I were able to visit the lush botanical gardens and much of our time was spent just walking around the city and waterfront looking at the architectural marvels of the city.  We ate some incredible mangoes, and the Gilberts also introduced me to an amazing fruit called Mangosteins. Just like India, words truly cannot describe Singapore, it is a place you have to visit to experience.

The Incredible Marina Bay Sands
The 10th of March found Zach, Jeff, and I saying goodbye to our parents and rushing off to the metro.  When I say we almost missed our flight check in, lets just say the entire counter was shut down and the last two workers were shutting down the last few computers as we frantically ran up and asked them to check us in.  I guess getting stuck in Singapore wouldn’t have been the worst thing. 

After flying all night we arrived in Chennai in the morning.  It was weird to retrace the exact entry steps through customs that Sid, Brooke, and I had made months ago as we began our adventure.  The airport looked a whole lot less intimidating in the day this time than it did when we arrived at 3 am. Zach, Jeff’s and my trains left 10 minutes apart that evening.  The plan was to do some sightseeing in Chennai that day.  That didn’t exactly happen for me, we found a CafĂ© Coffee Day, India’s closest thing to a Starbucks, and we crashed in the back corner.  You could say I was slightly exhausted.  I found out it is definitely possible to sleep smashed in a coffee shop chair.  Zach and Jeff ventured out later to see some sites.  I agreed to stay in the shop and watch all our baggage, 12 hours in a coffee shop, new record!!!

I said goodbye to Zach and Jeff and began my solo trip back.  Sleep was a little rough that night as I kept worrying that I was some how going to miss my station and end up in who knows where.  After an auto ride and a bus ride I was walking through the gate of our school once again.  A very groggy Sid unlocked the door and let me in. It was great to see Brooke and Sid and the next few hours were spent sharing about the trip and one incredible bucket shower.

This was one extraordinary trip.  The Taj Mahal was still just as impressive and Dehli still puts the CRAZY in crazy.  Singapore was more visually stimulating than a Peter Jackson movie, but getting to spend time with my Mom, the Gilberts and Janae (and well maybe Universal Studios, haha), were truly the highlight of my trip. Now my life here in India, the school, our Indian family, and the kids will be more than just pictures to my Mom.  She was able to experience some of what I experience and meet some of the people who have joined my family.  And Mom, I know you read my blog so thanx for coming all the way to India to see your son and for taking me to Singapore. You're the best!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the latest from "the three friends"

It’s been a while since Trevor, Sid, or I have written anything about India. I think it’s about time for an update!

Trevor got back this week from his trip with his mom. We sat in our kitchen, like we do very often, and he shared with us all the wonders of sights he saw and we oohed and awed over his descriptions of the clean streets and great food of Singapore. Sid and I have not actually left our school, besides going on walks or runs through the surrounding villages, since February 23 when we went to Kadapa to pick up Trevor’s mom! We are starting to feel a little stir crazy.
We seem to cook a lot!
While Trevor was gone, Sid and I were subbing 5 or 6 classes every day and by the end of the two weeks we were dead tired. Then to add to the fun, I preached for church one of these Sabbath’s and we continued our Bible study lessons on each Sabbath afternoon. (Trevor spoke the week before I did, and Sid is up next!) Thankfully we have had a small break this week and our job has switched to secretaries. Like we did before Christmas for half-yearly exams, we are typing up the portion and question papers for the final exams. These are basically study guides for the kids. There is one for each subject for each grade, so it takes time! But it seems relaxing compared to keeping kids under control in class all day.
We make delicious banana mango smoothies!

Our daily schedules have turned into something like this: I wake up around 6:30 am, drink some tea, do my devotions, eat breakfast, and then wake up Trevor and Sid 10 minutes before worship. We all go to worship on time at 8:40 am and then get our daily assignment from the headmaster. We then go to class, type some portions, and read our books in between. At lunch time we cook up some delicious food. We have become pretty good at using our resources to make really good stuff. Sid and I blend up the best banana mango smoothies in the ‘mixie’ everyday (and that’s not just a nick name for a blender, it’s actually called a mixie!). We also make our own ‘curd’ which is the same as home made yogurt. After school is over at 3:30 pm, we reluctantly do an insanity work out video to get some exercise, drip sweat all over the floor, and then mop it up. It’s gross but we’ve adjusted to sweating most of the day, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal! There is some afternoon tea drinking with our brother Ramana somewhere in here as well. 
This is Nancy

The kids have recreation period around 5 pm so we go play volleyball most days. Afterwards we go straight to the home of our friends Vara and Prim where we skillfully bust out like 15 chappati on the stove and help with some other dinner preparations. This is also play time with our little sister Nancy who is almost three years old now and has changed so much since we first met her. She knows who her ‘acca’ (big sister) and ‘anna’ (big brother) are and likes to draw on us, dance with us, and instruct us to “come!” She is the cutest!

More cooking at Vara and Prim's... 
Most days we end up eating around the time the boys start there evening worship. Vara is the boys dean so his house is a part of the boys hostel and we get to listen to their singing while we eat! Sometimes it takes a minute or two to decipher what song is being sung. The boys seem to enjoy the challenge of “who can sing the loudest” and end up yelling the words.

The rest of our evening is usually spent in our little house. And that’s pretty much the average day!

It’s funny to think about how things have changed since our first month here in October. When we entered this culture, we were scared of curd and buffalo milk, eating with our hands was kind of weird, and we thought we weren’t going to survive because all there was to eat was rice and dal! Now we are making our own curd and buying buffalo milk everyday, we don’t think twice when we shovel food into our mouths with our hands, and our creativity in the kitchen has us cooking up meals better than Martha Stewart! You enter a new lifestyle, and you adjust and move on. You can always make the best out of your situation. Even though it may take time!

Just last week, on March 15, school became half days because of the heat. This is a government required thing! The temperature is almost 100F or more everyday and the power that keeps our fans going seems to go out at the hottest time of day. At these points we find ourselves plastered to the floor trying to stay cool. In December we would boil water at night to add to the really cold water from the faucet for our bath, now we are putting water in the fridge to mix with the water from the faucet which comes out at a very warm, unsatisfying temperature. It might feel like winter in Idaho when we get home in May, but I will definitely not be complaining!

This post is getting much too long, but I am almost finished!!!

This last weekend, we celebrated Women’s Day by having all the church services run by the women on campus. For vespers on Friday night, our sister Chandu sang a telegu song that was probably the best special music I have heard since I’ve been in India! (maybe I’m a little biased, but it was SO GOOD!) On Sabbath, I trudged up to the stage in my sari for both Sabbath school and church programs with all the women. Our sister Prim gave one message for church that actually made me tear up. She talked about Heaven and how there will be no more pain, fighting, or goodbyes. I was already thinking it in my head, but she went ahead and said, “next month we will have to say goodbye to our three friends…” and that did it! It hit me that we really only have five more weeks with these people and I have no idea when I will see them ever again. It makes me sad to think about leaving this place that has become our home, but at the same time I am anxious to get back and see my family and friends. It will be a bitter sweet feeling when we leave for the Chennai Airport on April 23!


the campus hens are here to keep away snakes and scorpions.
 they are extremely obnoxious and squawk
outside our window in the EARLY morning...
we don't really like them :)