of gifts and feeling small

LadybugShe moves slowly at the sink. It’s Monday and there’s two days worth of dishes to wash by hand. She rubs her head, but it’s not the dishes that bother her.

We spent the weekend thinking and praying about what we needed to do next. What sort of responsibility were we willing to bear for our house-helper’s son’s education? We went back and forth about how financially it didn’t make sense to do it; but in our hearts it didn’t feel right not to.

Monday came and we had made a decision. We wanted to help her son go to the same school our kids did. For the next few years we would pay tuition, books and bus fees for him. It’s what felt right, would be easy to get him in since we were already paying for three and we both agreed.

When she arrived that morning we told her the news. She seemed happy, but not overly so. I assumed it was simply a matter of personality. But later, when I had a friend over who speaks Hindi, she had some questions that needed translating. Things she wanted clarity, with no chance for miscommunication.

Her head had started aching badly. Stress. Tension, which is her typical word of choice when she’s feeling overwhelmed. She appreciated the gift, but after three years, then what? Where would her son go then?

We talked back and forth. Our thought was not to leave her completely on her own at the end of the time, but I wanted her to feel some responsibility for this as well. In my mind three years was a solid foundation and enough time to save and make a plan. Even if it wasn’t this school, that should be enough time to sort out a new one. And it’s India, anything is possible.

But she felt overwhelmed and fear had started to creep in. The next day was no better. Her head still ached and all day long she was distracted, to the point I couldn’t focus either. She had talked to other people. Formed a new plan– one that involved me helping her to find a new school, a cheaper one that still met all of her hopes and expectations, but one she could afford if we were no longer in the picture.

I wasn’t as keen on this plan for a variety of reasons, but today we decided minutes before she arrived to take her around to a few schools. Buy applications, see the schools and talk with the administration about possibilities. Honestly, she had never seen anything except a government school and her eyes were opened at the opportunities available for her son. By the third school, our kids’ school, she started to feel overwhelmed again. She became so overwhelmed her headache returned and she felt nauseated so we took her home.

To say this was not the reaction I had hoped for is an understatement, but I’m trying to put myself in her shoes. Though I know that’s impossible. Still, it feels so strange hold out a gift that I’m not sure she wants or perhaps she simply doesn’t know what to do with it.

Maybe she feels very small right now, even if she can’t express it, as she enters a world that is as foreign to her as a slum would be to me.

Anyway, we sent her home and I’ve felt drained all day. Wanting to help and knowing how to is such a challenge here. So let’s see how the next few days will work out and if we can figure out a solution that makes everyone happy.

Let’s see.

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Gratefulness and Air-conditioning

cherriesAs I wrestle with the words that want to be written and wonder if I’ll ever be able to really say all that I want and need to say, I thought I might share something that came to mind today after reading something I read on FB (vague enough for you?).

It was a status update that unintentionally reminded that I need to be more grateful. Really grateful. Not just a little bit because I feel guilty, which is so easy to do here. But truly grateful because it’s the posture that gives me the best chance for finding joy in the mundane and beauty in the ordinary. Or what some might call, “My Life.”

So, until I can get some of the other stuff out that’s been brewing around in my head for months now, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into a summer in Delhi and the things I’m most grateful for today.

This is exciting stuff, so don’t miss this.

Okay. Well, first of all I’m VERY grateful for air-conditioning. It’s averaging at about 109 degrees every day. When the power goes out, we melt or just sit very still under the fans as they blow hot air on our sweaty heads. We get snappy and frustrated at each other and hate people who are going to the beach and swimming in blue pools back home. But when there is power we like people back home again and are a little less snappy because our apartment is sort of cool. And hey, we at least have AC in every room which is more than most people in this city have during these long months when it’s just dry, dusty and of course, blazin’ hot.

Second, I’m grateful for health. I know, as soon as I write this we’re going to be hit with the plague, or typhoid or an amoeba or something they don’t even have a cure for. But for today, we are all healthy, albeit a little tired from the aforementioned heat.

Thirdly, I’m grateful for a time to slow down, sleep in, eat summer fruits and not have to go to the bus stop. I hate the bus stop. It’s on a main street and I still get the “best” looks from people passing by. Thankfully I’ve mastered a somewhat blank look that tries not to make eye-contact but is fully aware of all the attention I’m getting because I’m not from around these parts. No bus stop = no mid-day stressful cultural interactions. Yay!

Finally, I’m grateful that I’m beginning to dream again and that maybe the fog is lifting and I won’t be scared of my keyboard anymore. I’ve been terrified of it as of late for reasons that would make sense only to me and it’s time to get back to doing what used to be life-giving. I’m easing back in slowly, but I’m finally moving in the right direction.

So gratefulness. It’s good stuff and something we need more of around this place as week four out of seven of summer break is in full  swing around here and the natives are getting restless and we may or may not have watched three movies during the course of the day.

You do what you have to do to survive, right?

looking back on the journey

My four-year-old just ate her third cream cracker covered in artificial jam and started her second viewing of an alphabet cartoon. It’s educational so I’m okay with it. She’s occupied for thirty minutes and Sugar Baby is sleeping so this might be my only chance today to think clearly  so I’m going to take it.

I’ve ruminated on the journey I’ve been on– moving to the other side of the world; having our fourth child; losing my mind, then getting it back (somewhat).  It’s not been what I’ve expected in many ways.

We have been in India for 2.5 years and it’s been quite the adventure. One I never dreamed of and one I’ve fought. Hard. Before we came and even after we arrived I fought it because I knew it would mean a different life for me than the one I had envisioned. And the fighting added to the struggle instead of making it easier. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Wrestling with something for years takes a toll on a soul. At least it did on me and those around me.

But it feels like I’ve had an internal shift. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have what I call too-much-culture days when I need to recharge in the privacy of my own home for a few days.The differences between here and home are vast. But those types of days are not as frequent and they don’t completely undo me like they once did. And by undo me I mean anxiety, depression and sometimes panic attacks. THAT kind of undo.

Life is better now. Not easier, but better because I’ve given up trying to control everything.

So why was life such a challenge here at first, you ask? So imagine you are an overly critical American who has moved to India and had your worldview challenged at every turn. You have no control over anything (or so it seemed). When you have to cook solely with a microwave for several weeks and don’t know where to buy chicken or cheese because there are only a few stores where you can buy meat AND groceries and we live nowhere near them. Where I couldn’t even cook a proper meal for my family, keep my house clean or drive a car anywhere. And the monsoon rains arrived with us and I thought I might melt from the heat, humidity, frequent power outages and no inverter to even run fans. And not to mention the sensory overload every time I walked out of the house. Yes, I became a bit critical those first years.

Okay, very critical. And alone. Life had challenges I felt unprepared for and quite frankly didn’t want. I don’t like hard places, most of us don’t. BUT…

While I would not relive our first two years here for any amount of dollars or rupees, I can say now that I’m glad I lived through them and they are a part of who I am. And hopefully I’m a bit stronger for it. Hopefully. Now that’s progress if you ask me.

So that’s where I am as we approach the halfway point in year three. And I still need to find a place around that sells tender (not chewy) chicken and possibly bacon (I miss bacon!). And we still have mosquitoes biting us at night and I still try not to make eye contact with roaming wildlife. But on a positive note I have working AC’s, mosquito wands that zap and decent cheese. I think I can manage with that.