Wednesday, October 24

On Dussehra and the enjoyment of togetherness:

It is officially Dussehra.

This Hindu festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil - an image of the evil god Ravana is posted high on a stake and burned in almost every sector of the city of Delhi, and some version of this reenactment is performed everywhere throughout India.  Buildings are decorating with twinkling lights, vendors peddle their gods and Hindu-approved god-pleasing offerings side by side on the street.
Other religions, such as Sikhism, who also would like to partake in the fun of the Indian festival, have adapted their own reasons for celebrating on this day. This seems really really ridiculous to me, but then I thought - it's like saying,
"I have an opposing belief with Christianity, but I really like that Christmas is so much fun. Maybe I'll come up with another reason to join in - an image I can associate with the day and post everywhere for my own good..."
That's right, i just called Santa Clause an idol. Deal with it.

ANYWAY, This morning I've been up for an hour, and during my chai drinking and housecleaning, about every five minutes i hear firecrackers going off, and the response of shrieking girls immediately afterwards.
Every festival here seems to be celebrated to the fullest: brightly colored tents being erected - to the point of blocking entire roads - people rolling out in droves to attend worship,  beautiful outfits, family gatherings, firecrackers, loudspeakers, songs, drums, dances... i could go on and on, as the natives of this land have no qualms about doing so.
Honestly, I can see why this is an attractive facet of Hinduism. Feeling united with an entire Nation in happiness, purpose, and a general excuse to rest and enjoy yourself? It seems like something almost anyone would get behind.
During my English course, I had a one-on-one conversation time with each of my students to help them improve their casual English. I had a list of set questions to ask them, and one question was "Were you raised in any certain religion?" This led into my next question: "What do you like about that religion?"
A good majority of my students were raised in Hindu homes, and they looked at me a little sideways when i wanted to know what they liked about being raised Hindu. I think they expected me to ask a question that would make them doubt their faith, as some of them always get a little bristly and defensive when we turn to subjects of religious substance. So, when i asked them about why they liked Hinduism, they raised their chins, glanced thoughtfully at the ceiling, hunched their shoulders, and thought for a minute about how to frame their ideas in a new language. And then, almost every single one of them answered in the same way.
Not, "It helps me to feel I'm doing good."
Not, "I am able to do the right thing, and be blessed for it."
Not, "I have never really thought about it."
Not, "I believe in these gods, and that i must pay homage to them."
All of these answers were along the lines of what i expected. But the answer i got from the vast majority of my Hindu students was more like this: 'I love that I can celebrate and worship together with my whole family and the people that I care about. We love to all worship together, we love to feel like a part of something big because we are with everyone who believes the same thing we believe.'

Hinduism is hardly their religion. It is their lifestyle, it is their culture; Hinduism is their family. And because of the collectivistic nature of the culture of India, Hinduism is an outworking of everything an Indian individual holds dear. Hinduism promotes and embodies everything that is central to an Indian individual's inborn and long-cultivated value system.

At first, this was enlightening and intriguing to me.
Now, it makes me want to cry for them. it makes my heart hurt so deeply.

Hinduism is not mindlessly integrated into these people's lives by way of their longstanding heritage and culture as I have always thought. They do not question the spirit or truth of their practices because they do not worship in spirit or truth. They worship in this way because it expresses them as people. This means that i cannot uproot anything they believe with apologetics. i cannot cause them to think about the comparative truth of god or the love of god, because that is not why they worship. in order to make a Hindu stop and think, "that might be valid," I have to be the better family to them. Because in order to choose anything other than Hinduism, they have to give up their favorite aspect of their life: their togetherness with their culture. In order for me to ask that of them, i'd better haves something much, much better to replace it with.

(INSERT: Obviously, I'm not saying that I think Indians are mindless or even unintelligent. But I do think that this is the driving force of their reasoning when it comes to religion.)

it makes me think that in order to reach them we have to show them that their hardwired nature is wrong (as everyone's, everywere, is), that we have a Father who is enough; and that that is worth more than togetherness. That we have a Family who will love them, truly if imperfectly. That we have a Love that allows us to be part of something longer standing than their heritage, bigger than the Hindu faith, and with more members than the entire population of India.
We have to be family to them.
He has to be everything to them.

I am longing to embody this by any means necessary. I am committed to learning what it means to be a true family, and to do what it takes to show that off to a watching nation.  I left to learn these things. Here i am; now i will practice them.

Love from Delhi,
Julie: your sister.

Monday, October 22

Warm Welcomes, Accordions, Tea lights, Babies, Believers, and the Lemony Veggie Mix.

Wow, I have been taking tons of pictures recently. That gets represented here, so yay!
 In a recent post I talked about going to Burari, one of the PMI expansions. Well, on Friday, I got to go to the other expansion. While the Burari class is held in a rented building, the Civil Lines production is a hop, a skip, and a metro ride away, down a short road and around the bend. I wasn't quick enough with my camera to catch the first reaction of the 30-40 younger children as we rounded that bend, but here's the tail end of it:
Talk about heartwarming. They were so excited to see me, Praise and Siddharth coming to teach them. Even though I've been in many situations that made my heart reach out to Indian children, I've never seen a reception like this in any of the other PMI locations. The kids in this clean, green slum are so eager, fresh, and attentive. They are responsive and sweet and obedient, and their eyes and their smiles are bright. I left Civil Lines wondering what was different about this area, and that group of people. I think it will be a really special and important outworking of PMI's original efforts.
This is the kids learning a new song. Kindergarten through second grade are on one tarp, and third to fifth grade are on another tarp. 

This is the 6th - 12th grade English class that Praise and I got to lead. In this picture, the students are practicing introducing themselves in English. The two boys in the foreground are enthusiastically saying, "WHAT'S UP?!" "HOW'S IT GOING?!"
The girls in the back offered us food before we left, and also walked Praise and I back to the metro - such sweet demeanors and giving hearts. I really enjoyed my time there.

Check it! Praise got me in focus!
i am so pale!

 After Civil Lines on Friday, we had care group in the Malakars' home. Peter and Praisey's Aunt and Uncle are in town, so they came over for dinner afterwards. Peter's older brother also came over to visit.
Praise and I had had a long day of walking and errand running, and both of us were totally beat. Our bodies were hurting, we were mentally exhausted. I came into Joy and Prakash's room and plopped down next to Praise on the ground, and Campy (Praise's cousin) and her mom (Praise's aunt) were both in there. "You are tired?" Auntie asked me. "Yes, so tired," I answered her with a sigh and a slump. "Ok, lay down, I massage you." Of course i couldn't say no! This sweet lady who has been a nurse all her life but who knows nothing about me gave my sweaty, dusty, exhausted self an amazing massage right then and there. Her concern for me was touching, and more than a little inspiring. What am I doing to go out of my way to make people feel cared for?
 While Heather and I were in the kitchen finishing dinner, naturally the whole family all began to sing. Peter's brother, Phillip, has a really beautiful voice, and he whipped out his accordion to complement Peter/Prakash's guitar playing and Joy's joyful bongo banging. I'll tell you, there's no better backdrop to cooking dinner than spontaneous Bengali song. And he played that accordion so beautifully.

Just a short blurb - shout out to Pinterest for this great idea... tea lights surrounded by coffee beans! My whole room smelled faintly of lattes the whole evening, instead of the many other things it often smells like (garbage, fish, curry, and a host of other very Indian odors.) And they're pretty!

Now, today.
 I got to be with the kids in Sunday school after singing together with the Family. They were fun and sweet, some of them are just too great :) I loved hanging out with them. They colored a coloring page about Jesus rising from the dead, and Prakash brought his over to me. Jesus was surrounded by happy friends, and I asked if Prakash knew who they were. He said no, and asked me to tell him, so (faking it) I said, "This is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This is Peter. And this is Mary, Jesus' mother, and Joseph, Jesus' father. And this is Jesus' little brother!" He asked some more questions about them and named them back to me. He especially liked Peter, as that's his Baba's name, and the little brother. After a minute he looked up at me and said, "Wow, Auntie Julie! It's like a book!" It is a Book, Prakash. It is a Book.
We came back with the kids in time to see the dedication of Kham and Kagui's sweet baby, Athalia. They asked me to take some pictures, so i snapped a few. This sweet sweet baby and this sweet sweet couple make me so happy. I loved everything about this handing of our children to our Father. We commit them to Him. We trust in His love for them as we trust in His love for us.

Also today: this, again is Peter and Praise's aunt and uncle. Uncle gave the message this morning, and at the end of the service, he sang a duet with his wife. You are looking at two loving and cheerful people between sixty and seventy singing an a cappella rendition of "The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows". It's one of the better things I've ever experienced in my life. It was truly moving. 

We have a team from America coming on Wednesday, and they are hosting a retreat from Thursday to Saturday. I'm keyboarding on the music team during that time, and we had practice tonight. I walked out towards PMI under a clear and (almost) crisp night sky, complete with a huge tilted crescent moon. That Middle Eastern moon got me thinking about walking on the streets of Delhi, and how fulfilling just BEING here is, let alone DOING what I love. I decided that I value the quality of experience above safety, and purpose above comfort. I must. Otherwise I wouldn't love tripping on the broken cobblestones and sidestepping mangy dogs and searching so hard to find something I need to purchase for my kitchen ['MUFFIN TIN. no, like six pie pans in one. no, all connected in the same pan. no, not for eggs. no, i am not hallucinating']. But I do. I do love it. 
Anyway, after we were done working on the music, some spontaneous jamming broke out. I was doing my most soulful "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone", and Kagui the worship leader was like, 'hey, I haven't heard you sing like that before. You should sing at this open-air concert we're having to raise money for charity.' So there you have it. Just like that, December first (my sister's birthday!) we're opening! More details to come on that later - but, how fun, right?

Tomorrow we are going to buy my scooty. If all goes well, I'm coming home with a red and white girly  getaround machine! Also i feel kind of hardcore. We'll see if that feeling continues after the first time i get a little lost... ;)

I'm going to leave you with this... delicious!

Love from Delhi,
Julie: the lemony veggie remix.

Friday, October 19

Out of Focus

picture this:

I had a rough time getting out of bed this morning, and so I thought to myself, "self, you deserve a lazy day." So I put on my comfortable India pants and a t shirt, threw my hair back in a little baby bun, and slipped into my black old navy flip flops. Incidentally, in my slothfulness i forgot to put on deodorant. I realized it after i got out of the house and told myself I'd take care of it later. I went grocery shopping with Heather at the Exchange store, which has a lot more imported goods than most places. Our trip took a touch longer than i thought it would, so i was rushing to get to Pathshala, which got canceled, so i came back and cooked some lunch for me (complete with some aromatic garlic) in my kitchen without a fan. I had decided to go to the slum today to take pictures of our older kids' tutorship program, so I went out there and photographed the learners and also a clothing donation that we had today. On our way home we stopped with the CHEP volunteer girls to get some food and chai at a hole-in-the-wall "restaurant" (more like a glorified street cart). It was dingy and dirty and delicious. After a few more stops and shenanigans, we got home and I was feeling pretty energized, so i decided to do a really good workout to end my day.
Here i am, unwashed hair, too busy to remember deodorant, covered in slum grime, and post-difficult workout, ready to just get clean.
But tonight is the night that there is no water.

So, to the best of my knowledge, the Delhi system works like this: there is a water tank on the top of each building. In the morning, serviceworkers come and fill reservoirs in the ground which are connected to those tanks. To be sure you have water, you turn on a pump in the mornings which fills the tank using the water in the reservoirs. You can switch it on at any point in the day that you are running low, if you want to run the water purifier, or if you need to laundry or something. But this week is a Hindu festival, and our theory is that all the housewives are doing so much daily cleaning to prepare that there is no water left to use by the end of the day.
Oh, it's so disappointing and comedic at the same time!

As I'm sure you can imagine, I'm so gross.
As compensation for disgusting you with tales of my thoughtlessness and grime, here are some things you don't have to imagine!

I am kicking myself so hard for not making sure about the focus in the picture on the right. Other than the fact that it's a little soft, it's one of my favorites from today.
 These were two little Nandlal buddies who followed me around for a bit today. I love their quiet sweetnesses.
 certainly this is what the joy of learning looks like.

Prabin was lamenting on our way to the slum that he is going to be the LAST of his friends to marry. So, hey ladies! Look! He's pensive! He's goofy! He serves!  Come move to India and get him.
man, could i be a matchmaking service or what?
clothing donations - "who wants a t-shirt?"

What do I always say about handing off your camera? There was an eager CHEP volunteer who wanted to make sure I was photographically represented, so I let her give it a go... and there I am again, forever out of focus :)

look at her takin those clothes home for momma.

 There is truth in my life, there is rhythm in my life. No matter how grumpy or grimy or tired i am, i never forget that i want to be here.  I never forget the gifts of many who have helped me get here. I never tire of thanking our Father for you, for PMI, and for the sweet new generation of Indians i always fall in love with. The focus of my life, finally, is not on me; at last i feel so free to focus on the needs and hearts of others.

Love from Delhi,
Julie out of focus.

Wednesday, October 17


I think it's great, all the things I get to learn in India.  My life could be boring; I could learn things that don't excite or interest me, and I could do it in the same place I'd been all my life. But instead I have the opportunity to be broken and changed in a safe intellectual and theological environment that allows me all manner of exhortation and studying right at my fingertips. All I have to do, basically, is play the sponge. 

The first thing i'm learning, as you know, is Hindi. I'm proud to say i've started to put sentences together, so that's the progress there. haha. I also understood probably 40-60% of what was being said in the staff B-study this morning, and that really encouraged me. 
I saw this advertisement-building when I went to Burari, and I thought it was a fun example of something i've learned. So, the top two words above the door say "Mother Dairy" in the English language. It doesn't look like English, but it's actually a phonetic spelling of the words in the Hindi script. The first word, with the three letters, is literally MDR (muhdar) and the second one is DehYRI. This is how an Indian would pronounce these words. You can recognize the same two words to the right of the door, with another word added. This is a Hindi word in Hindi script: Duudh, which means milk. It's so funny how to me words in different languages feel so disjointed next to each other, but when I have such a small amount of understanding, it's like cleaning a dirty window to shed light on the situation. I smile every time I realize I'm able to understand more spoken or written Hindi. I couldn't tell you why it's so exciting to me, but it's seriously a personal victory every time. 
Along with these feelings of triumph comes a strange realization: Not knowing Hindi allowed me to depersonalize a lot of what goes on around me in India. The signs were exotic gibberish, the people were yammering, the children were merely exclaiming with joy, and every conversation was easy to tune out. Now, even in my limited understanding, signs look like American real estate ads, rickshawallas are people who can understand my conversations and who have lives going on, children are counting and fighting and talking to dogs, and I'm surrounded by swirling contextless words - chair, moon, girl, God, not, which, why, of course, good - that i pick up from every conversation. It's humbling, it's exhausting, and it feels different than it did. 

 I'm also learning which foods (konsa khaana) I should eat! I've limited myself to one truly Indian meal per day, so I picked up some tuna fish for my lunches. One day that I was feeling fairly unwell, I went home to make some tuna salad to keep for sandwiches, and Joy was in my home when I got there! She wanted some attention, so i thought, why not let her help?
 She did a great job of dumping, scooping, and mixing the new recipe I found - i've never used lemons  in tuna before, but it's good :)

So, newborn babies are not necessarily a learning process for me, but they are a great excuse for pictures :)
 This is Zebby, daughter of Suman and Anil. She is exactly one week old in these pictures (to the hour.)
 She already reaches out to hold her bottles, keeps her eyes open, and weighs over ten pounds.

After visiting with Anil, Suman, and Zebby, we took an auto-rickshaw home. These were some of the things I saw on the way.

I'm in what seems like a strange continual learning cycle. I've been here for a month and a half now, almost as long as my entire first trip. The time has flown. It feels right to be here, it feels hard to be here, it feels like the best time of my life. I'm learning things about God that I never knew before. I'm learning things about relationships that I never knew before. I have a boldness I have never had before, along with a meekness I have never possessed. I can realize humanity here in a way I've never been able to do, and walking in that realism sets me free to accept and offer grace, love others in their brokenness, and to like them for who they actually are instead of what I think they can give to me. I've made more progress in these last 47 days toward knowing about myself, my purpose, my desires and my beliefs than I have often made in spans of years. I'm more open, more hopeful, more receptive, and less selfish than I have ever been. I still have plenty of work to do, but the growth is really encouraging.

My soul is singing like never before.

I know everyone must have a niche like this where they are able to follow God's leading wholeheartedly and completely, finding fulfillment and overcoming challenges, trusting grace, releasing worries, and using their talents in constructive and beautiful ways.
  I hope that everyone can find it.
 If my experience is any indicator, it's simply the best thing that can happen.

Love from Delhi,
Julie the learner.

Friday, October 12

all the wrong injustices

Twice in a day is a lot of blogging, but I had some fun things happen, and I know how you all love a good picture post (mom), so I thought i'd share with you once more.

Today I got to go to the PMI center in Burari. This is an extremely exciting development -- PMI is six years old and honestly it's expanding like crazy. There are now two off-campus tutoring sites in different Delhi locations reaching out to the communities near the employees who have started them. They're pretty much brand new, and I loved being able to see some ground floor workings in the expansion process. So much blessing; so much rewarded faithfulness; so encouraging. And look at how much I love the students!

I think she is SO beautiful. Wow.

On the road back, I saw some really typically Indian sights. Enjoy them!

After coming back from Burari I gathered my things and headed to care group -- with the two girls from my English class! I was thrilled that they showed up. They're even getting involved with volunteering in PMI... oh, how I hope they stay plugged in and keep asking questions.
Care group was full to bursting with unbelievers tonight! Usually it's strictly a CBC function, but six different people had accepted friendly invitations to join our group, so the dynamic changed a little bit :) I was encouraged and excited to see interest and attendance. My girls have been asking so many questions - they're open, each of them in different ways, to hear what is being said. That sets my heart on fire. The two girls' names are Babita and Ruchika. Please, please, lift them up.

After care group I stayed and had a really good time talking with Heather. She's the only American in my life right now, but she's really so much more than that. She's a sounding board, a welcoming presence, a great mommy and a wise woman who I deeply admire. The other day she was reassuring a friend that I wouldn't be discouraged by some difficult conversations that needed to take place in my presence, and to do so she said of me, "Don't worry, she's a strong bird." I don't think she could possibly have known how this touched my heart. Confidence in my strength from a figure I hold dear to my heart and in such high regard impassioned me to live up to the prediction she had just made of me: she's doing okay, and she will make it. I feel so blessed to have such an encouragement in my life. She and I are going to start meeting Wednesday mornings, which I'm very excited about. Having a mentor in my life is something I've been missing for quite some time, and Heather has such a blend of personality traits as to make her just about the perfect person to talk to. She's easy for me to relate to, she's someone i greatly respect and seek to emulate, and she's someone i'm comfortable around. I'm really looking forward to picking her brain, and just HAVING her in my life.

After eating dinner with their sweet family, I was walking home and hearing a widely broadcasted Hindu home worship session. There was singing and chanting over a loudspeaker posted outside the house which is located between mine and the Malakar's, and the notes were so sweet, so Indian, that I was enjoying them almost as much as I despised the hopelessness embodied by their practice. I wasn't quite ready to head home, so I decided to head into the park that's right outside my house and take a couple of leisurely laps before turning in. Honestly I loved strolling, thinking about the day and listening to the singing voices. The Indian way of singing is something like a haunting warble, which seems like it would be terrible, but has an amazingly enchanting quality when it's done well.
"What are you doing to build up this broken community," I wondered at the house full of Hindus, "Where does your donated money go?" I thought of people placing their coins and food in ceramic bowls set before statues, and my heart was sad. Oh, the good you could do if you found the Truth; oh, the freedom you could find.
What a beautifully broken land, wailing over all the wrong injustices. 

They should know the truth. The truth would set them free.

Love from Delhi,
Julie - the strong bird.


I am woman, baking and photographing and bringing friends to care group.

Today, sitting here under this fan that sounds like endless nails on a circular chalkboard (the electrician has been on his way to fix it for three days), I feel like I have so many different things to say. Forgive me if this post seems disjointed, but there are many good things to talk about.

One is English. At three days a week now, I have more time in between lessons to prepare and grade, so I feel like I can do a better job of teaching my students. I also love implementing things I learned the first month around to help maximize my teaching time and power. I'm more comfortable integrating the Good News and my opinions, beliefs, and stories as well, which helps the students know me better and serves the true purpose of having and English course. I'm enjoying the growth I'm experiencing there.

Now, here's a funny thing. Throughout my life, I have had trouble with blushing. I blush at times when I am not really embarrassed, and I don't know I'm blushing until someone points it out to me. Then I know everyone thinks i'm truly uncomfortable and THEN i BECOME embarrassed, and it's sort of a problem until I can forget it and move on. I've noticed during English class that when my insecurities surface, I become minutely flushed. I believe at those moments that i'm blushing, though i have no way of knowing. Last week, I was having my students tell creative stories, and my student Babita was telling a story about an elephant who was in love with a cat. I asked her what the name of the cat was, and she thought long and hard, searching her inventory of names, and finally landed on "Julie", forgetting that it was my name she was saying. I had no problem with this. Use my name in your story if you like, I can be a cat in love with an elephant. I tried to reassure her, but soon after she referenced me, the class dissolved into fits of giggles. I was caught off-guard, and my face grew hot, and for a few moments i foundered, struggling to compose myself. I was frustrated that I couldn't control my physical reaction to the situation, which was in honesty no big deal to me at all.
I was thinking about this later, and wondering why it's such a big deal to me if i have an open physical reaction that displays my insecurity. After reflecting, i decided that i think for me the essential issue is a general lack of trust. If people see my shortcomings, i don't trust that they will act upon them in a way that will not hurt me. I want people to think i am strong, composed and prepared for anything; but why shouldn't they see that I struggle? Why shouldn't they be able to relate to my life because, like theirs, it is not easy, and like them, I work at it.
I'm resolving to blush away unabashed from here on out. I'm happy to bare my insecurities, and let those who see do with them what they will. Because I'm not wonderful - I'm human, and everyone should know that.

After long days of focusing on accents that are still foreign to me, I am tired. Some days are better than others, but I am still certainly getting used to being around different customs, different food, different languages, and different weather. It has brought out exhaustion in me, but it has also brought out an innovative spirit! I'm excited to tell you that I've begun baking :) The first time i baked, i was so happy. My little room felt like home as it filled with the smell of baking bread. The oven is the tricky part for me - it's very old, it has to be plugged in on the floor in my room, not in my kitchen, and it's in Celsius instead of fahrenheit so i have to do a lot of converting, and both times i've singed the goods. I'll get the hang of it, but i guess until then i'll just shoot low on the temp and hope for the best! haha.

Also, the other night i had a craving for hot chocolate. It's not a very Indian thing to drink, so I don't have any instant powder or anything to make it. I decided to try heating my cream for chai and then melting a square of my toblerone dark chocolate from the Heathrow airport into it. I measured it with my chai cup, and those were my only two ingredients, but it turned out rich, creamy, and wonderful.
How sweet it is when taking a chance pays off.
You know, I think that's kind of the theme of my time here so far. Every time I try a Hindi word or sentence, I take a chance. Every time I try to find something to buy, I take a chance. Every time I teach English or start a conversation with an acquaintance or bake or suggest or walk out my door here, I take a chance.
I was sitting with two of my English students at Chat over Coffee this week, and one of them told me she loves all religions, but has never been to a church. I asked casually and invitingly, "Well, would you like to come to one?" She nodded enthusiastically, and I turned to the other girl sitting with us and invited her as well. Both said they were free and would like to come, and I went on to invite them to our care group tonight. Both said they would try to make it - now, it IS characteristically Indian to say you'll be somewhere and simply not show up (see: electrician/fan fixer) but I am choosing to be optimistic on this one. How amazing. I am hoping with all my heart to see them sit under the words of the Father, which we are promised will not return void. If one of them hears the Truth and listens, every chance I have taken since my arrival will be justified.

Here's to sweetbread, the Good News, successful shopping, hot chocolate, and the days it pays off.

Love from Delhi,
Julie: fully human

Tuesday, October 9

The commonplace.

Yesterday was such a beautiful day.
As many of you know, Monday is our day off with PMI, so I took the initiative to sleep in :)
I got up late and soon decided with Praise to spend the day shopping. We waited for Praise's cousin Campy to get off her half day of work, and the three of us whisked away on the metro 8 stations down and from there took a short auto-rickshaw trip to what is now my favorite market in Delhi! I brought the bare minimum as far as wardrobe goes when I flew in here, so I haven't felt bad bolstering my wardrobe a bit, but after yesterday I don't think I have an excuse anymore. I got scarves for dupata, stretchy comfortable tasseled pants, 5 different shirts for 60c each, a beaded dress for a dollar, and a flowered chambray shirt for three dollars. I was standing in a tapestry booth while Campy was getting curtains for her new apartment, and suddenly it just dawned on me that I was here surrounded by tassels and flowing fabrics and locals in this richly colored, culture filled, thoroughly Indian setting - I could have dreamed it up and it wouldn't have looked more perfect. I thought, this is something to mention "in passing" at home when you want people to be impressed with your worldly travels. It's something to brag about, such an ethnic immersion... and yet, before and after the passing thought, my day out with my two girlfriends felt to me completely commonplace. The fact that any traveler's adventures fill my days so fully as to make them familiar settings to me is a thrilling prospect.
We also decided to stop at a street vendor for some chole bhature, so i sent up a quick pleading prayer for my health and then FULLY enjoyed it. Someday you should get an 80 cent plate of steaming puffed bread, spices, and chickpeas you can plop down on the pavement and eat with your hands (well, i guess i mean hand... the left is reserved for plate holding and water pouring.) Oh, it's just the best.

Also noteworthy for yesterday: PMI staff member Anil and his wife Suman have just had their first baby, a girl! We got to go and see her yesterday -- she came in two weeks late at a whopping 4.5kg, yes, 9.9 pounds. I couldn't believe my eyes as i held this baby at two hours old, sprawled out at the size of a one-month-old with more hair than me. She's a precious gift from the Father. I can't wait to see her and her family grow.

As my love of India has made it ordinary to me, i pray that i would have just such a pedestrian familiarity with the story and Truth of the Good News. I long for the Father to ignite my heart to share, that I would not be able to hold back hope from the friends i have grown to love. I have had many occasions thus far to live a life that demonstrates incarnational Love and a devotion to Truth, and one amazing opportunity to share my testimony and the way to Hope and Truth directly. I hope for many more such opportunities, and for measures upon measures of boldness to take advantage of them. My heart is ready for it, and my purpose demands it.

Staying, Learning, Thriving,
Julie the commonplace.

Tuesday, October 2

picture post!

Hey guys! So, I haven't been keeping up with my photos this month -- so I thought I'd go ahead and upload some so you could see what I've been talking about. 

This is our stair dog. I mentioned him awhile back - it's really funny to me that it's always the same dog that comes to stay in our stairwell. Nobody really likes him, but I do. He's not always here, but whenever we have a dog, it's him, just lounging.

This is the pizza i was craving the entire time I was sick. I didn't eat much during the bad parts of it, so the moment i felt i could stomach a meal i ordered it to be delivered to my door! Well, i called and they needed my phone number so i searched my room for half an hour to find where i put the tiny piece of paper that told me what my Indian phone number is because i forgot it and i didn't tape it anywhere like i was going to and i couldn't get ahold of anyone else who had my number but finally i found it, and THEN i called them back and told them to bring me the plainest pizza they had. They said, we will but only if you give us $1.60 to cover the pizza and the delivery guy. So i said MONEY IS NO OBJECT I AM STARVING UP IN HERE. 
They came and I ate it. It was delicious.

This is Prakash and Joy being buddies. They were climbing around on their terrace before Prakash's birthday party, and I thought it was awfully cute. 

This is Prakash playing the gkeetar with passion, like he always does.  He also believes that if you add fifty decibels to your vocal volume, it is the equivalent of singing one octave higher. 
This happens often. 

This is Joy. She has more girl contained in her two year old self than I have ever contained in my being in all my years. She wears lipstick more frequently than i do. She is also seen more frequently than me in my own heels (as shown). She runs in them. She struts in them. She jumps in them. She knows her way around the life of a lady, and to be honest, I'm impressed (and frightened) by it.
Now, here's a very cute thing. It's Prakash taking the glasses off my face in 2010 and Prakash taking the glasses off my face tonight. oh, don't you love him?

Here's another REALLY good thing. Remember the guy in the top photo? He's the first Delhiite I ever met, and the first Asheesh I ever met. I still think about him, and how he helped me, and how i hope he found the Truth. The bottom photo is the Asheesh in my life now!
 [edit:: that is Asheesh's cousin, Kevin. oops!]
 Asheesh is the son of Ashok, one of the only PMI staff members who has remained from 2010 until now. His wife Rashmi was pregnant with Asheesh when I was here two years ago, and look at this kid now. I can't wait to watch him grow as I get to stay here and be a part of PMI and of the Family.

Speaking of really good things from two years ago, I found something exciting today! So, in 2010, I was an intern doing anything and everything that I could be useful doing. I was often sent along with Prabin to do Delhi University campus outreach - inviting brand new students to come to PMI and be a part of the Freshers program. Some said OK, some were interested in the free English camp, and some blew us off. It was not my favorite work, in fact, I was pretty uncomfortable approaching these overwhelmed new students and bothering them with one more thing to think about. But today as I was going through old photos to organize the PMI archives, I saw some from October of that year of the freshers programs and outings - a couple months after I had gone home. I saw that as a result of the work we did in the campuses, a good number of students came to PMI, were interested, and joined the weekly programs. I saw faces in those pictures from 2010 that I recognize as faithful volunteers I see today. It made me really stop and think: even the work I did two years ago that I didn't enjoy and didn't think I was particularly good at had an impact in these volunteers' lives that is continuing to this day. PMI is pouring into them, and they hear the Truth on a regular basis. 
Friends, this means something. Indeed; it means everything.


Now, I'm just going to leave you with this, 
because there's nothing i could say to improve it:

Love from Delhi,
Julie's glasses.