Friday, November 2

When in India,

Well, it's been over a week since you heard from me!

Things have been super busy with the American team here and with all the different schedule changes, from the CBC retreat to the team taking over English classes, I have been running here and there and haven't had a moment to just sit and reflect and update!

Well, my English class wrapped up nicely, our closing program was really beneficial and fun for all of us. My students promised not to forget me through this holiday season, and they said they wanted to come back in January. I dearly hope that they do.
The team came Wednesday morning, and I didn't meet them til Wednesday night. The two men on the team led the CBC retreat which was held in our own Resource Center after we decorated the life out of it (or, into it i think is more appropriate in this case). The retreat was more wonderful than I can say. I am learning more than you would care to read here, and more than I have time to write. My heart is changed. I am constantly being made new. I am amazed at the transformation i am going through during my time here already. I am so thankful; speechless, almost.
On the last day of the retreat, there was a formal banquet to finish everything out. We were requested to dress for the occasion, and so the two girls from the team and I decided to get all dolled up...  in saris. 
I was thrilled, and i picked a navy and gold sari of Praise's that was simple but gorgeous. Everyone was so excited that we wanted to wear them - they love when we make effort to understand and appreciate their culture. Even so, some time into the evening, i found myself a little self-conscious in the outfit. Not because it looked bad on me, but because i was doing it a great injustice. My halting American clumsiness met its slippery graceful flowing grandeur, and a marked clash ensued. A number of women attempted to help me fix it throughout the evening, but i just kept on martyring its cultural fabulousness. By the end of the night i was emotionally exhausted, and a little embarrassed from my battles.
Oh well, i tried! I'm sure next time i'll be more familiar with the issues involved in the event of sari-wearing (i have NO idea how so many women wear them as daily dress). Me and saris, we're not through yet!

Today marks two months exactly since I left America - it is from here on out the longest amount of time I've been out of the country. I'm astounded at my contentment, and excited to continue growing, learning, and loving India.

On Monday after the retreat had ended, the team had plans to go to the Taj Mahal. Heather asked if I'd like to go along, and I said yes! I've been before, in 2010, but I knew i'd love to see it again. When John, the leader of the team found out i was going with them, he said "Oh, good, that makes me feel a lot safer." I smiled outwardly as i laughed in my heart; "because i know what's what in India..."
Since we had no Indian friend with us, I was acting as guide, informational expert, and Hindi translator for the day (hahahahahahaha). We made it back alive, and that's about all I have to prove my efforts. The trip was really wonderful, though. The way to Agra is long - about 4-5 hours, and so we left at 6AM to get there in time to get back in the same day. During our drive the sun was rising through the dust and haze in the distance and i looked out over the fields we were passing. I saw some houses built of grass, and they were surprisingly refreshing to me. These small, sweet, clean huts were a welcome change from the tin-and-trash communities i'm surrounded by in North Delhi. It makes me want to visit Rural India - i just know it's beautiful.
After parking, it's a little ways to get to the Taj gate. Naturally, we went by camel.

The taj was really wonderful, I liked it even better the second time!

I was looking at the huge and opulent structure, made completely of solid white polished marble and inlaid with onyx and countless tons of semi-precious stones, just completely in awe. But then, i started to look around me at the masses of humanity swarming this spectacular wonder of the ancient world. It was a crowded day, and people were all wishing that everyone else would get out of the way of their pictures. As i looked from the architecture to the audience, my heart melted; i realized that just one of these souls was of infinitely more worth than the entirety of the lavish, extravagant structure we had all come to admire. Each soul carries more weight than any wonder of the ancient or modern world. I was somewhat overwhelmed just thinking about the value of humanity with no regard for each other, all prioritizing stone over priceless lives.
But, i'll give them this: it is an awfully fabulous arrangement of stone!

I've been following the girls around, taking them to the slums and stuff, and getting to be a part of Pathshala again has been so great for me. It's one of my favorite outreaches. these beautiful, precious children give my heart hope.

I feel like I don't have much in the way of updates - I'm enjoying my comfort with my place and my breakfast-cooking for the girls in my home, and stopping at the roadside shops to get mango shakes, and going to the markets alone to look for things i need and things PMI needs, and learning to barter successfully (the key word is: "Bhaiyya!" with a hurt and shocked expression), and starting to get comfortable driving my scooty! yes, I bought the moped. it's so cute and it's not really difficult to drive. I have to get used to the speed and controls but it's light and the balance is easy. Delhi traffic, here I come!

Life is sweet, my friends. The more time I spend here, the more time I want to spend here. That must be how you know you're in the right place, right?

Love from Delhi,
Julie in the right place.

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