holiday with kelli - part 3

The Taj Mahal is incredibly large and incredibly ornate. I was fascinated by the detail work of the marble and the beautiful in-lay work with other precious stones. The mausoleum itself was much less interesting than the progression through the gates and courtyards and the approach to the building. Stunning. We were given foot covers or “booties” (as I affectionately call them) because thousands of people removing their shoes would be chaotic, even for Indian standard. After the Taj we went to the original Red Fort (where the Mughal emperor first established his kingdom before moving it to Delhi). Then back on the train and back to Delhi we went. Tuesday morning we all took it easy and watched a DVD and hung around. The guys left to catch the afternoon train back up to Agra, while Kelli and I had a late lunch at a Westerner’s restaurant where we could order pasta and thick milkshakes. We went shopping to get a curta (Indian style shirt for Kelli), ate dinner with some friends, and then taxied to the airport to send Kelli off and back to the States (and I immediately left for a train station to take the night train back).

Needless to say, when I arrived at 8am Wednesday morning, I was wiped out and quite sleepless (I am never good at sleeping on trains). Began work again on Thursday and half of Friday, prepared for the office’s intern BBQ, and left Kelli to once again (in a short amount of time) adjust to a new time zone. She graduated and headed out with her college age kids on a mission trip through UMCOR (United Methodist Church On Relief) to Kentucky. Then she packs up her things and moves out of her apartment to start her appointment to two small churches on the gulf coast. So, essentially, she is not yet allowed to breathe … while I enjoyed my weekend and started right back to work.

holiday with kelli - part 2

Anyway, we went to St. Thomas Basilica, where his remains were once buried. Chennai is one of two places where it is believed that the apostle Thomas arrived in India. It is a beautiful church. We spent a couple of hours there. We then went to a hill spot (St. Thomas shrine) where it is believed he was martyred. The first day there was both encouraging and disappointing: Christianity is much more visible here than in the north (window stickers on cars and driving by churches) even though less than 10% of Tamil Nadu is Christian; some of these Christians here seem to be worshipping St. Thomas (or even more sad) or a statue of him instead of the only one how deserves our worship. Besides these architectural things (which I found fascinating) and an abundance of, to me, random relics (which Kelli, as a learned clergy person and master of divinity, found intriguing), we spent time at both a snake park and reptile park – what do you expect while being escorted by four men? I enjoyed it, and Kelli even pet a baby crocodile. On our second and last day in Chennai we went south of town down the coast to Dakshina Chitra, which for my San Antonio friends is like a really cool Institute of Texan Culture. The complex showcased traditional living of south India (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh). We saw potters, weavers, painters, housing, worship, wedding, and such all in traditional South India style. I even got a henna tattoo there. Awesome place.

Then it was back to the airport to go once again back to Delhi. This time (Sunday) we stayed around and toured about. We got an early start so that we could go to a church that my sister’s Austin church supported. It is in the north part of Delhi and we were staying in the south. So after a rickshaw, metro, change lines to another metro, and walking around, we arrived … somewhere. I had gotten us lost. After an hour of wandering, we gave up and headed back to find a metro station to continue with our day, when lo and behold! There before our eyes was the landmark that we had been looking for. So an hour and a half after the service, we got to church – took pictures and left. We went to Delhi’s Red Fort and Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India). Then utterly exhausted, we went back to our temporary home. The next morning, we got up at 4am to catch the morning train to Agra. Upon getting off the train, we were found by two of the interns at eMi2 (Ryan and Ryan) who came along to see Agra with us. First stop: the Taj.

holiday with kelli – part 1

My intern holiday officially began when I caught a taxi at 3am to get to Dehradun to catch the 5am morning train to Delhi. I wandered around Delhi, slowly making my way south, discovering how the metro works and what you have to do to get the rickshaw drivers to go where you want to go at a reasonable price (convincing them that I am not simply a foreign tourist who doesn’t know where I want to go and what that should cost). I stopped over at a new friends’ house where I was asked to stay for dinner. They had [real] beef hamburgers. I had forgotten how much better beef tastes than buffalo; they were so good. And before and after dinner I played with their three kids. One of my sister’s friend’s parents and I went to the airport and unintentionally hung around there for several hours (Kelli’s flight was late by more than two hours). It was good to talk with her about India and south India and politics and the States and my sister’s visit and her family … we had lots of time together.
The next morning we headed back north and up the mountain so that we could hang around Mussoorie and so that she could see where I live and work. Sadly, the Himalayas was partially covered up by haze so the crisp snow-covered tops were not visible – its okay though, I showed her pictures of the glory of God’s creation. I was utterly mean to her by not allowing her to go to sleep until late afternoon (well, you have to get through jet lag some how). The next afternoon, we headed back down the mountain (taxi) and south (train) back to Delhi to catch an early morning flight the next day to Chennai. By mid-morning we landed in Chennai and was received (and retrieved) by one of my sister’s seminary friends, Prayer (his name translates to prayer from Tamil to English). He, the driver, and two of his friends gave us a tour of Chennai. We had fun together and they made fun of how my sister eats Indian. It was partially my fault, I admit, because I took away her eating utensils. Also south Indian food is more spicy than north Indian, which she could handle neither.


no time to breathe

This has been an intense couple of weeks. In short summary: at the end of April I went to LCH (the hospital close by) after being sick for several weeks with what turned out to be intestinal bacteria, and after two rounds of antibiotic am feeling better; had been preparing for my sister’s visit to India and our travels around (trains, planes, automobiles – literally); first Tuesday in May the fun began with me traveling down alone to Delhi to retrieve my sister; our travel back up to Mussoorie; our travel back down to Delhi; our flight to Chennai; meeting up with my sister’s seminary friend and his friends and touring Chennai; our flight back up to Delhi; us wandering around Delhi; our train to Agra; our train back to Delhi; my sister’s flight back to the states and my train and taxi back up to Mussoorie; and then finally, yesterday we had a bar-b-que hosted and prepared by us four interns. So today is finally Saturday and a day of rest. Thank God! What a great time it was, though.

Yesterday was also the first anniversary of my dad’s death. I had absolutely no idea how it would impact me. I don’t know, maybe like birthdays, anniversaries just do not mean much to me. Matt Pinkstaff (eMi2 staff) and I headed down for the last 9th grade girls’ Bible study at 6am. We talked about Luke 15 (the parable of the loving Father, lost son, prodigal son). The main point was that life only comes when we are in the Father’s presence and He is our treasure, what makes life worth anything. Then we came back up and had our daily office morning devotional and prayer time. And then a pretty standard day – until was began our food preparations for dinner. It started storming with crazy wind and nearly horizontal rain by the time we wanted to make our fire in the grill. So we would run outside to turn our chicken and potatoes and peppers and such, get very wet, and run back inside. Anyway, so no meltdowns, no hysterics, no weeping, no somber attitude.

I have been thinking about it often though for several months (and will most likely continue). I oscillate between convictions: my life is forever changed and I am not at all different. I guess both can be partially true. I feel that I am doing things that that I was in preparation to do (international missions, architecture, graduate school, involved in church), but I also know that I look at life differently. I admittedly am a planner (to the extent of going back in my calendar to fill in what has already happened), but now I have a difficult time understanding people who are not. If you want to do something, get it scheduled and do it … don’t leave it in “someday” land. I do not want to die with regrets about how I lived. There are many things that are now empty promises that can never be fulfilled between my dad and I. His ambiguous plans of “one day we will do that” hurt more than starting with no hope of doing them at all.