Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thank you!

Hillary & Jason
Mike & Jen
Terri & John

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tiny Pinkness

Remember This?

Here you have it in action! It fit Cassia PERFECTLY and her ayah was thrilled to have something special for "her" baby!

La la la la la--A slideshow of our trip

not made by me, but by Leslie.  Thanks, Leslie, for all your hard work in setting up the trip, being our fearless leader (and all the unpleasantness that entails for the hard decisions you have to make), and for putting together this awesome slideshow.  LOVE David Crowder Band!

Monday, January 25, 2010

If You Go...

and I say, "GO!!!"

Here are some thoughts about the trip.

The first thought will be about me.  (me! Me!  ME!!!  it's all about me)

If *I* go again, I think I would fly into Chennai, rather than Hyderabad.  Sarah et al may beg to differ on the happy logistics of this, but it would be fewer plane changes (although I think Erin flew direct to Hyd from somewhere).  The drive to Ongole is shorter and on better roads from Chennai.  Also, I'd just rent a car and driver and get myself to Ongole; I wouldn't need someone from SCH to come down and meet me, so that would make this option more feasible.

Now that's just ME.  If you are going as a first timer, especially as a first-timer to India, a) you need someone from SCH to meet you at the airport, so b) you should probably fly into Hyd.  Sarah and Theresa go frequently to Hyd because that is where they take the kids for medicals.   Also, they have a guest house there so it is much more convenient for them.

Ok.  Back to you.

Fly JetAirways.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Can you say luxury at a bargain price?  At least, we had a good price.  I don't know how much of that was due to our traveling as a group, but wow! What an airline!  Best international flight I've ever had.  LOVE the foot nets!  And headrests.  And food.  And in-flight entertainment including the tv screens on the back of the seat in front of you.  And (while not all that useful, it was darn cute) the fold down cupholder.  Everyone got a blanket and pillow.  Flight attendants WEREN'T snarly!!!!  And the pilots made good landings.

Getting there.  Well, no matter where you land, you have to drive to Ongole.  You want a driver and an A/C car (which Sarah arranged for us).  The roads from Hyd are pretty good, as far as roads in India go.  It's just LONG.  No way around it.  A little part of the middle of the trip is twisty.  If Dramamine will help you, plan ahead!

Here's the beautiful view (and I mean that seriously.  I love driving in India; it's my favorite part!) along the way.

Chair transport

Water buffalo at rush hour

Goats.  Lots of goats.

Rice paddies in all stages of growth.  Andhra Pradesh is the rice bowl of India

Women planting rice

More Rice

If you haven't been to India before, remember that there aren't waysides.  Or rest stops.  Or gas stations.  There are bushes.  (there is one rest stop halfway between Hyd and Ongole which is beautiful.  The bathroom is a little stinky.  You'll have to suck it up.  And bring kleenex)

You're all dying to know anyway, so let's just jump right into the potty topic now.

This is a squatty.

There actually were western toilets every place we went, EXCEPT at Angel Home.  In the airports, the stalls were marked EWC (European Water Closet) or IWC (Indian Water Closet).  I actually prefer the squatties out in public.  The seats on the westerns tend to be very wet and sometimes have footprints on them (from people squatting on them anyway!)  Wear a skirt, hike it up, unders to your knees (Theresa does a great demo of this--ask her for a performance when you're there! LOL) and squat.  Your feet go on the ridges on either side.  You don't put toilet paper (or kleenex) in the squatties.  They clog up You do rinse it out with the cup and tap in the stall.

Children and men take care of business outside.  Men are standing everywhere peeing and if they don't need to pee, they squat, bottoms bared, alongside the road.  Women, apparently, don't ever need to go.  I have never, in three trips to India, seen a woman relieving herself outside.  When we stopped alongside the road for a potty-break, one of our women, who shall remain unnamed, hiked up and over a small hill and did it on an anthill.  She said it was great.  (it wasn't me!)

Ok, onward and upward.

Definitely stay at the Rayma Residency hotel.  The rooms were huge, the beds were comfortable, except for one instance, the rooms were clean.  The hotel restaurant was delicious and not too spicy.  And the prices were very reasonable!  The whole week, for Rose Bud and me, eating in the restaurant 3 times a day, was just over $200. 

Breakfast was complimentary (after the fourth day, we figured out there was a coupon for free breakfast stapled to our daily newspaper--luckily we'd saved all the papers!) and included idly and sambhar (mmmmm!) and a deep-fried savory donut thing called vada.  None of it was spicy.  There was also creamy chai tea (RB drank 3 cups a day) served in tiny dixie cups.  Toast and jelly were available as well and the kitchen would make you an omelet, also complimentary.  (if you order fried eggs, they come out unflipped and raw on top.  Ask for them "cooked 2 sides")  Rose Bud liked her idly with jelly or dipped in her tea, totally non-Indian!   Let the waiters serve you at the "buffet."

One more note on our bill--we actually were only charged for 6 nights although we stayed 8, I think.  I don't know if they forgot because we settled the bill the afternoon before we left, or if it was really as they claimed, that we got a discount for staying so long.  Either way, yay!

The restaurant was quite popular and busy for both lunch and dinner and many people not staying at the hotel ate there.  Our favorites on the menu were
Chicken (or veg) soft noodles
Chicken 65
Shanghai rolls
Veg Rice Biryani
Chicken Corn soup
Kalmai Kebab (two drumsticks)

I also orderd the Deluxe Thali one day and it was a good way to sample many different things.

You can buy waterbottlechilled at the restaurant for 16 Rs. a liter (about 33 cents).  After the third day, they pretty much brought them to us automatically.  At the end of your meal, they bring the bill and you sign it and write down your room number.  It all gets billed to your room.  DO tip the waiters 15 to 20%.  You can leave it on the table after each meal.  Our bill, each meal, averaged 225-250 Rs. for 2 waterbottleschilled, rice or noodles, an order of naan and one other entree.  About $5-6.

A couple of hotel notes: 
Keep the windows closed to keep monkeys out.  
Mosquitoes will be flying around because there are openings to the outside world, so sleep covered and with your fan on at least medium (they can't fly in strong wind). 
To turn on your lights, you need to put the card on your keychain into the slot on the wall next to the door and leave it there. 
To turn on lights (or outlets!) flip the switch DOWN. 
Bring an outlet adaptor.  India has round prongs on their plugs.  It will be loose in the outlet.  It still works.  Make sure whatever you are plugging in can handle 220 volts and 60hz.  Read the back of your appliance.  We charged batteries, ipods and used my laptop without issue.
The water stinks.  I don't think it's a hotel issue--I think it is the city water at large.  Suck it up. (well, not literally!  Keep your mouth CLOSED in the shower and brush your teeth with bottled water)
There is no tub.  The shower is the whole bathroom.  The bucket under the shower is for your bath if you don't use the showerhead.  Fill it and pour water from the bucket over yourself with the cup. 
The bucket by the toilet is for washing over there.  Ditto the hose.
To get your room cleaned, leave your card in the electric slot and your door unlocked, then turn on the maid switch.

Happy with the hotel now?  Oh, one other thing...if you keep going up and up the stairs, you end up on the roof (duck!)  You get a great view of the city from there.

There is an ATM across the street from the hotel.  It's safe to cross if you pay attention and wait for gaps in the traffic--then hustle!  Use your debit card from home or get a Visa Travel Debit card.  I got one from AAA and it cost me $4 to get the card, then $3 plus 3% each time I used it in India. Obviously, it's best to change large amounts at once, to minimize the fee.  I used it just to obtain cash while in India (although I used it to buy things while still in the US--no fee).  It was VERY difficult to get to a bank to change American cash.  You need a ride to get there, they are closed on holidays and Sundays (which accounted for 4 of the days we were there) and they are picky if your bills are not crisp and perfect.  No one takes traveler's checks anymore.

We paid the hotel bill with a credit card, although cash would have worked as well.

Internet is out the door and left, then down the "alley" under the building.  The place we used was 20 Rs./hour (10 if you were less than 30 min.) and the proprietors English was good.  Connections were fast, photo upload was slow, you can use their computers or plug in a laptop.  They'll even go through with mosquito spray and fumigate the room.  I promised them I'd tell everyone who stays there to come to them for internet.  They are open 7:30 am to 10:30 pm and are located ALL THE WAY to the back of the alleyway on the right.  We didn't use the place located closer to the front on the left.  Shorter hours.

It was safe to walk up and down the street.  There is a small grocery out the door to the right and up about 3 shops.  There was a sweet shop out the door and to the left, then about 1/2 a block.  They also have an ice cream shop.  It is better, if you have a male along, to take him with you when you walk on the street, but we did it without, too.  There are more stares and some comments for women alone.  Watch for cars.

Ok, this has gotten long enough.  I'll do another post later.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Would You Buy a Calendar?

Just throwing this out there....had an idea to raise some money for SCH.

What if I took photos of the kids that I took on my trip and put them in a calendar?  (I know, January is nearly gone.  I could start it with Feb, although that is weird)

Snapfish is having a sale on calendars right now, 35% off, so if I sold an 8.5 x 11" calendar for $25, there would be $8 left over per calendar to send to SCH.  This would include $2.50 to ship to you (if it turns out to be more than that, I'd just cover it)

Is $25 too much to pay?  I want to make the proceeds worth my time.

Is it too late to buy a calendar?

Is this even worth it?  If we went through Paypal, they take another 2.9% or something, so by the time you pay me and I forward the proceed via Paypal to Sarah, it would be down even more.

A desk calendar (smaller) could sell for $20 but would net only $5.50 for Sarah.

I've never done anything like this before, but the thought popped into my head.

Please if you have any thought at all about this, would you comment below?  Say if you would buy one or not, and leave your thoughts on the worthiness of this project (even if you wouldn't buy one, I'd like your opinion on why).

And maybe there's a cheaper way to do it.  If it happens, I'd have to jump on it quickly as the Snapfish offer is only good until 1/31 and we're already almost to Feb.

And Sarah, I guess I didn't even ask your permission.  If this is a no-go, please say so.  I won't be offended.  I'm assuming the market would be strictly people who have been following our specific trip.  Mostly.


More Stories to Tell: The Fair

Remember, we took the kids to the Exhibition?  It's like your local county fair--well, it's like our local weekend town festival.  There were about 8 rides, game booths, shopping booths and food stands.

Each of us chose one child to bring along--I chose Caleb and Rose Bud chose Hannah.  Other children who came were Shalene, Rachel, Isaac, Christopher, Rebecca, Wendy...I'm not remembering the others off the top of my head.

The kids had a GREAT time!  Many of them had been before, but for some of them, the experience was new.

Leslie has a friend who had given her $100 in rupees left over from a previous visit to India and wanted Leslie to use it for the kids.  This was a perfect opportunity, so the cost of the fair was covered for all involved.

Tickets to get in were 20 Rs. apiece and once inside, everything cost 15 or 20 Rs. (about 50 cents).

The first thing everyone wanted to do was ride the "Gaint Wheel."

Seriously, this was one of the scariest things I've ever done.  First of all, the bucket you sit in rocks back and forth.  And has no side or gate or bar or whatever you want to keep you in the bucket.

Secondly, this thing WHIPS!  It went SO fast!

Thirdly, you know how much a ride like this costs in the States?  About $3 or 4, right?  And how many times do you go around?  Maybe 4 or 5?  This ride went on FOREVER!  We must have gone around 15 times and I think someone finally asked Theresa to have them stop it because they were sick.  Definitely got your money's worth.

Oh, and not only did it go around (and around and around and around) really fast, but it was run by a diesel engine.  cough.

HOWEVER, about half the kids LOVED it! (the other half cried and hid their faces)

Caleb liked it.

The view from the top was pretty awesome.

Next ride was on the train.  More diesel, more circles.  I just can't do rides.  The kids loved it, though and laughed and laughed!

Oh, look. There's me. Pretending I'm enjoying going in circles!


Next, Caleb wanted a snack.  As you can see above, Christopher had had ice cream, so I asked Caleb if he'd like ice cream.   No!  Much hand waving and head shaking.  He definitely did not want ice cream.  He dragged me (because he was so excited the whole night!  We moved at hyper-speed! :D ) over to the snack stand where they had a snack mix with onions and a sauce.
Oh, my goodness, did it smell GOOD!  It must have been good, because Caleb snarfed it up.  I did not eat any.  (Faye ate snacks and fruit at the fair though.  Ask her how she felt on the plane ride home!)

The next ride was on the airplanes, which Caleb did not like.  He cried the whole time and I felt so sorry for him.  I, of course, was not on that fast-moving, circle-going ride.  Sim and Sweety were up there with him.

There they go!

The next 3 rides were all on the car/motorcycle ride thing for which I, thankfully, was too big.  It didn't bother Caleb.  He just kept going on it.

The ride operator made Sweety sit in the trunk.  Because she was a girl?  Or to balance the ride.  I don't know, but she didn't want to.  She wanted to drive!

I carried the money in my purse, but let Caleb buy all the tickets.  He was SO cute and so proud to do it.  He'd take the money up to the ticket booth and shove it through the window.  "TWO!" he'd say (or "one" once I couldn't handle any more rides!)  Then he'd hand me my ticket.  He even let me get on first.  He really is the sweetest, most helpful boy.  All week, he was offering to help clean up or open doors or get chairs for us to sit in.

It was such a pleasure to give him this fun night.  I offered him ice cream again, but no, he wanted a different crispy, spicy snack.  This one was a giant deep-fried thing, bigger than a frisbee.  I tasted one corner and it was pretty good.

Rose Bud, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found all this time.  I was a little worried about her, wandering around the fair alone with just Hannah for company.  Hannah is probably the highest-functioning child at SCH, but still, Rose Bud is 14, a girl and white.  I asked around if anyone had seen her and no one else seemed concerned that she was off by herself.

Guess where they were?  SHOPPING.  RB was buying Hannah toys and trinkets and also things for herself.  She got Pepper the headband you saw earlier, a necklace for Hannah and another for RB's friend back home and I don't know what else.  Hannah was in heaven!

She came back with a pink Barbie cell phone that rings and talks.  Once one kid saw that, they ALL had to have one, so off Caleb and I went in search of the phone.  They had a more boyish looking one, but it didn't do anything, so Barbie for us, it was!  He also grabbed a pair of purple sunglasses which he put on, then quickly took off again and instructed me, "Bag!" that I should put them in my bag for him.  And he bought a toy car.  Also went straight into the bag.  But the cell phone he "talked" on and wore around his neck.

Caleb, driving his car and wearing his phone

I didn't experience it, but others in our group said many people at the fair were very curious about the Americans and wanted their pictures taken with them and also asked for autographs.  RB said she signed 3 autographs.  Someone else said that 3 Indian girls (young ladies) came up to them in tears and thanked them for bringing these kids to the fair.  The ride operators and ticket sellers were all super nice to the kids and helped them onto the rides and seemed patient with them.  I did notice lots of stares by other fair-goers at our kids.  Not sure if they were for us or the kids or the combination of the two.  Didn't really care.

All at once, all the rides shut down and everything went dark.  I thought it was a power-cut, but actually, it was the end of the fair.  Done for the night!  I got Caleb and ice cream and we all headed for the cars.  Packed everyone up and we were ready to go, when I noticed RB wasn't with us.  Hannah?  Missing also.  I had a minor panic attack and several of us went back into the fair to look for them.  (the place really wasn't all that big.  Maybe an acre, tops)  I imagined her crying and scared that she couldn't find the rest of us.

Someone quickly found them.  Shopping.

I'm so glad we did this with the kids.  They enjoyed it so much and it was fun for us, too.  Several of us had been dreading this late night adventure as we were so tired, but we got our second wind and had a really good time.  There was even money left over (no thanks to Caleb--he spent all but 60 of his 330 Rs.!) so that they were planning to take a different group of kids another night.

Please read Erin's post about how much fun Shalene had at the fair!

Friday, January 22, 2010

We're All About India

My kids have been living and breathing India since we got home.

Sunshine found his kurta in his room yesterday morning when he was getting dressed and wanted to wear it to preschool. This caused Bananan Boy to want his, too, so I had to dig through my closet for a kurta for him. Today he wanted to wear it again, but it was in the wash, so we did laundry and he's impatiently waiting for it to come out of the dryer. He has another, but I loaned it to a friend for her girl scout troop just before I left. Who knew I'd need it?!

The girls are wearing saris and have dressed up their dolls as well.

Rose Bud wore her bangles to school, and of course she has her henna'd hand.  Everyone at school wanted to know if it was a tattoo and if it would come off!  She bought bangles and bindis for her friends, so they were all decked out yesterday at school.  Yes, RB went to school yesterday!  We did all sleep in until 7, but she was there by 9:00!  Came home with a slew of homework.  She said she felt ok all day.

BB has set up his doll's microphone and stage for Indian Dance.  He's been begging to watch the Jai Ho video from Camp Masala.

I brought the kids very minimal souveniers this time as we didn't do  a lot of shopping.  BB and Sunshine each got a glittery pompon
and BB got a garland in the colors of the Indian flag, which he LOVED.  When I gave it to him and he opened it, he mouthed, "Indian Flag" to himself.  We hung it in his room.

Daisy got a little box in which she put her Indian money (and Euros, change from the Brussels airport)

Rose Bud bought Pepper a headband at the fair and she gave both girls some of her bangles. Everyone got rupees.

And I had to make them Chai tea for breakfast this morning.  I'm sure they'll be hungry for Indian soon.  Not sure if i am yet!  :D


Anyone been wondering what happened to your donations?  I've not walked off with them!  I've just been waiting until I got home and could easily upload pics to go along with the story.

I've sent two checks for $2000 each to India's Hope for SCH.  India's Hope is the American 501c3 organization for Sarah's Covenant Homes.  They wire the money to Sarah in India at very little cost.

So, with no further fanfare, here is how Sarah has spent your money (and she was absolutely thrilled to have it!!!)

Therapy supplies
Sarah met with her in-house physical therapist and he generated a list of things he's like to have to help the kids.  The box arrived the same day we did and here are Rose Bud and some of the children demonstrating the new "toys."

What we have here is a hand strengthening gadget, two different balance boards for strengthening hips and legs and balance, a velcro board for strengthening fingers by pulling off the velcro (the kids who tried this LOVED it!), a spring board (Sarah is installing the springs) kids have to push down on, an electronic muscle stimulator and a thing with weights to insert into the proper holes (Caleb is demonstrating this in the last pic).

On the afternoon of our visit, we were taken upstairs to the physiotherapy room to meet the physiotherapist and we interrupted this exploration of the digital thingy.  I thought it was so cool that he couldn't wait to figure it out!

This purchase was about 10,000 Rupees, or about $225.

There was also an order for some medical-type supplies including 2 examination tables that will be used for physiotherapy (they are currently just using a wooden table) and some baby-weighing scales.  This order was about 26,000 Rs. or about $575.  There are other things on this receipt, but I can't read what they are.

The Montessori order was completed before we left.  Sarah was ordering lots of wooden puzzles, alphabet puzzles and toys of various kinds, sorting toys, stacking toys and more.  I think this order was about $600.

There is another item which I can't read on the receipt and I can't remember what Sarah told me it was, so I'm waiting for an email from her as to what it was, but that total was about $660.  edited to add:  Forgot, it was 2 new school tables!  Happy, happy about this purchase, too!  They are similar to the ones we used for our classes and are very nice!  Thanks, Sarah, for the reminder!

And finally, I'm so excited that Sarah asked if she could use the remaining money to tile the courtyard at Victory Home!  They have the tiles and have had them for months.  They just haven't had to money to hire someone to do it.  The courtyard where the children play is currently a rough cement and an uneven surface.  This causes children with uneven gaits to stumble, makes it hard to push wheelchairs and is rough on the crawlers little legs.  I'm so pleased that Sarah can finally accomplish this goal to improve this surface, with our help.

Here are the tiles, ready and waiting (actually, this is half the tiles, the rest are on the other side of the courtyard.

So there you have it folks.  Your donations, no matter how big or how small, are making a big impact in the lives of some very special children half a world away.

Donations are still arriving, BTW, so if you intended to give something and haven't, please still send it.  The chip-in is closed, but you can send me a check, or you can give directly to SCH via Sarah's blog.  I'm going to send another check to India's Hope at the end of January.

Did you look at the sidebar?  We've raised $5000!!!!!  You all are so amazing and generous!

Thank you to:
Laurie, Steve & Mathias
Paul & Maura and family
Brack & Amy

Oh, and a note to Nonny & Grace & Jack:  The money you gave to RB for her trip--she only spent $40 of it on souveniers (mostly bangles) and she gave the rest to Sarah, with the request Sarah use it to buy jewelry for the new girls.  I think she said Sarah was going to buy them anklets!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

India is GREAT! Travelling Sucks

Blech.  We all decided we're going to donate for an airport in Ongole.

After a few false starts, we got on the road Tuesday morning at 8 am.  We'd all been up since 5 or 5:30.  Some of us were sick so we were up earlier.

TMI ahead.  Skip this paragraph if you don't want to know me this well.  I was up at 1:30 with a crampy stomach and um, Delhi Belly.  God and I had a talk about this and I explained to him how I was set for an 8 hour drive in a car in INDIA (ie: no rest stops!) and I needed some miraculous healing.  Now God and I had this same talk when I was in India to get Banana Boy and had to drive from Chennai to Bangalore and he came through for me then.  After two more trips to the bathroom in quick succesion, I took a Zithromax and went to sleep.  Things were a little iffy when RB woke me up at 5:15, but after a half hour were fine.  I took some Pepto Bismal, too.  I was still queasy, but at least not needing a bathroom.  Praise God!

Turns out Linda and Sam were barfing and Katie and Kailee were queasy, as was Leslie.  There were 6 babies coming along on the trip and we were supposed to hold them on our laps.  It turned out to be a blessing that when they arrived in the Qualis, they hadn't been fed or medicated, so for the first half of the trip they rode in the Qualis with the 3 ayahs and Sarah and Sim (who, of course, had Aloe).  The rest of us rode in the other two vans and tried not to throw up.

Except for the twisty roads, I love driving in India!  Where else can you zoom along dodging goat herds and buffalo herds and ox carts and hay wagons and overloaded, beautifully painted trucks and autorickshaws carrying 12 people and SUVs so full that one guy is standing on the trailer hitch with the back door open, holding onto the luggage rack for support?  The area we drove through was beautifully green with some areas low and wet and others arid.  We saw rice paddies in all stages of growth from empty to being planted to growing to harvest.  We saw palm trees and cacti and the most spectacular boulders.  We crossed an enormous resevoir and dam.

Shayna and Amira (Sarah's little daughters) rode in our car and they are just the sweetest things.  They chatter like little birds and are so well-spoken and outgoing and loving.  Rose Bud (who felt fine) kept them entertained for a couple of hours.  Then Shayna climbed into my lap for a snuggle and told me I reminded her of her grandma (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).  I hope that was a good thing!  LOL  I gave them my itouch to play with and also put on a few movies on my laptop. 

At the halfway point, we all stopped at the same rest stop we'd used the first trip and the babies were changed and fed, we got sodas and water and used the loo and Sim and Aloe came into our car.  We were supposed to acquire some more babies at this point but we were all so close to losing our lunch, we just couldn't.  We felt terrible that we couldn't help out, but the combination of exhaustion, carsickness, Delhi Belly---I guess that's enough, just wiped us out.

We finally ended our 7 hour drive at the Hyd airport at 3:30.  Everyone got out and we said a long good-bye to Sarah, Theresa, Simona and the girls and Erin and the babies.  It was hard for us to leave and we'll be taking a piece of all of the children home with us.

Inside, I was too queasy to take the elevator, so RB and I went up the escalator to check-in. As we turned back from the rest of the team getting in the elevator, I joked that we'd changed our minds and weren't leaving.  Ha!

Leslie, Faye, Scott and Linda all checked in and finally we went up to the counter.  I handed over our passports and the girls looked in the computer.  "You have no tickets."  WHAT?  Apparently, our tickets had been cancelled by the travel agency because they were not confirmed in time.  When did this happen?  October 23.  Did we want to buy a ticket to fly to Chennai?  No!  We paid already for tickets.  Well, we could call our travel agent.  I didn't have his number.  Finally, thinking on my feet, I said, "We got here.  Aren't tickets usually booked round-trip?  If we got here, we ought to have tickets home!"  She asked for our old boarding passes and THANKFULLY I had some in my backpack.  As soon as she typed them in, she found us:  ON A DIFFERENT FLIGHT! 

Turns out RB and I were booked on the 5:20 flight to Chennai and the rest of the team was on the 6:55 flight.  I did know that.  It was on my printed itinerary.  But none of us ever thought to compare those flights with each other.  We just all assumed we were all the same.  We were so thankful we had gotten to the airport in time.  The original plan had been to go to the ICM guesthouse and get Pizza Hut before going to the airport, but because of the late start, we went straight to the airport.  If we all had talked and said goodbye for another half hour outside the airport, we'd have been too late.

It was 4:30 when we found all this out, So RB and I hustled to check-in and got our boarding passes, then through security.  After all that, there was a Pizza Hut right by our gate!  We had just enough time for them to make RB a cheese pizza (12 min.) and head to our gate for boarding.  She ate it on the plane.  I was still too queasy.

Once in Chennai, we took the shuttle to the terminal and just camped out on the floor, charging our ipods while we waited for the second flight in 90 min.  They arrived on time and once again we were together.

Our Chennai layover was a grueling 7 hours (6 1/2 for the rest of the team) and we were all exhausted and no one had eaten since lunch the day before.  The four girls had had a sleepover in Sam's room the night before and hadn't gotten to bed until 12:30.  The adults were up almost as late by the time we returned from the fair (more about that later) and packed and showered.  So we sat dully in the Chennai airport, dozing and nodding while we waited.  Linda did some bargaining at the airport shop and got each of the girls a matching silver anklet with bells.

For this flight we went through the craziest security check yet.  We'd gone through a normal security pass to get to the gate.  But once we were boarding at the gate, we had to show our boarding pass and passport, get patted, get our bags screened again, get our passes looked at twice more.

And then the 11 hour flight.  Katie, I guess, was sick for the first 4 hours because she'd forgotten to take her Dramamine.  The rest of us collapsed in our seats.  I think I was sleeping when we took off.  RB and I each slept about 6 hours straight and then dozed on and off for an hour at a time for the rest of the flight.

Some of us felt better in Brussels, some worse.  Iron Stomach Scott was now queasy, Leslie still and Faye feeling worse.  The girls were all better.  I took two Excedrin from Faye and finally felt normal.  On the Brussels/Newark flight I was awake most of the way and finally ate.  I watched two movies. RB took a nap.  The little boy behind me kicked my seat.  It passed fairly quickly for us, but Scott was now throwing up and Faye was sick all over.

We were never so glad to get off a plane as we were in Newark.  Immigration and customs were a breeze.  We sent Faye off to her hotel.  Her next flight isn't until tomorrow.  The rest of us grabbed some food and talked for one last hour before we had to send Texas off.  Now it's just RB and me, waiting for our flight.

I will continue to add pictures to the previous posts and I want to share much more about what we did, the terrific ways Sarah is using your donations, about the kids and what we thought of it all, but I have to get over the jet lag so I can think clearly first.

We all agreed that we're changed by this experience.  We all agreed that we're going back.  I think we might all agree that we have been many times blessed by these kids, maybe more that our blessing them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Last Day in Ongole

Today is our last day.  Rose Bud and I held our last class today.  I went through all of our stuff with the teacher and showed her what I had.  I left everything I'd brought with me for their school.  She seemed thrilled with all the things and she even offered to teach the telling time part of the class today.  She also worked with Phoebe and punched holes through the paper in the shape of the letters in her name for Phoebe to trace.  She thought of that herself.

I want to clarify something I mentioned in an earlier post about the staff putting things away and not giving them to the children or using them.  It's not that they don't want the children to have them.  It might be that they just save them because they are special.  Or they might not be sure how to use them or play with them with the children.  Sarah thought it helped a lot that I was here demonstrating how I use all the materials I brought with me.  She felt the teacher would be eager to get them out now and use them.   They ayahs are just not used to playing with children.  It's a cultural thing.  They are excellent at caring for them and the children are so clean and well-fed.  They just don't really know how to play with toys and they are as fascinated with the new toys we've brought as the children are.

This afternoon Sarah took us out to see the new ICM property.  They have purchased 11 acres outside of Ongole and it's beautiful.  We toured the building being constructed there.  I want to say much more about Sarah's exciting vision for her part of this property, but don't have time right now.

While we adults did that, the Texas girls hung out in their room and Rose Bud and Sim rode on a MOTOR BIKE !!!!!!! to get their hands henna'd.  The other girls had gone this morning and had it done, but RB missed out because we were teaching.  So Chinna, Sarah's driver took the girls on his motorbike to the shop that does it.  It looks awesome!

Ok, the kids will be arriving in the car soon and then we are off to the fair with them!  We come home, shower, pack and at 6 am we are off.

I'm sad to go.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mosquito Bat

 Mosquito bat.  You put batteries in the handle (although this one seems to be rechargeable) and you swat it around at the little buggers.  They go zzzzzzt! and no more mosquito.  It's kind of a game! (if you can call killing things a game.  I never feel guilty about killing mosquitoes, though.)

Our bangle store is called New Bombay Fancy.  A fancy store sells, uh, fancy stuff, I guess.  One morning we stopped at a small pharmacy for lice shampoo for the home and they said, no, go to fancy.  Sure enough, the Medical and Fancy shop had the shampoo (only 2 2oz bottles, though.  We had to go to 3 shops to get enough.)

My Girl Phoebe

Oh, I am so bad, bad, bad, but I have fallen for a little girl and I am spoiling her terribly. I've even neglected her little buddy, but I'm going to make up for that tomorrow.

I posted about M1 & M2, the blind girls and it's M1 I've fallen for. I found out they DO have blog names and they are Stephanie and Phoebe. Phoebe is my girl, M1.

Today I made her a page with her name on it in pipe cleaners and sandpaper so she could feel the letters.

When we did telling time with the clocks, we took one of the little cardboard student clocks and punched holes through the back at the numbers so she'd know where they were. Then Simona explained to her how it all worked. Phoebe's little fingers felt their way all around that clock and she listened and in 20 minutes, Sim had her making the hands on the clock tell the time she asked her to.

She repeats everything you say in English.

We did a weaving project today with only a few of the more capable kids. We didn't think we'd have the teacher there for help, but both she and the computer operator

(did I talk about her yet? She works in the office off of our room and does data entry, I think. Her English is very good and she'd been standing in the doorway of her office the first day, watching us and occasionally jumping in. Yesterday and today we began talking and she has really been helping out. Because of her English, she knows what I tell the kids and she'll jump in and tell them in Telegu what to do. She's very helpful and she's very good with the kids. I don't know if she works on Sunday, but she was there waiting for us.)

Anyway, both the computer operator and the teacher were there and we hadn't expected them on Sunday so Rose Bud and I planned to have just a small group and do some of the more complicated activities with them.

So we did our weaving project (don't have the pictures uploaded to my computer yet). Hannah, I hardly showed her what to do and she had it figured out. She also put her own glue dots on the ends of the strips after I showed her. The teacher worked with Christopher and he was a marvel with one hand, weaving. He, too, totally understood the process. The computer operator worked with Caleb and he did well. Isaac needed more help. I think Simona worked with him and I helped Rachel who had the hardest time. She doesn't catch on quite as fast as the others--she seems younger and I would totally attribute it to that. It could also be because she chose a purple mat and matching purple strips. It's really hard to see the pattern when there is no contrast. We all asked her to choose a different color to make it easier, but she insisted on all purple! I love Rachel!

After the weaving, I sent Simona and Rose Bud down to the courtyard with all the kids and I sat with Phoebe, showing her how to weave. She did all right for the first half with me guiding her fingers and explaining in English. But once the computer operator explained to her in Telegu, she just took off, doing it all on her own. The one funny was that the CO kept pointing to the places on the mat, forgetting that Pheobe is blind! I took her to show her ayah (or room mother or teacher, not really sure who she was) and she was very pleased with Phoebe when she understood she'd made it herself.

One other cool thing today. Linda came up to tell me that the ayahs were down in the courtyard playing Duck, Duck, Goose with the children! See! Already made a difference. I'm so pleased to hear they are getting involved.

The group deliced (deloused?) again today and got through another room.

This morning (this whole post is backwards!) Rose Bud felt a little under the weather and I was kind of eh, too. So while most of the team went over to the ICM headquarters to document the donations they'd brought, we sickies (Faye (also eh), Linda (threw up all night), RB & I) stayed back here to rest.

RB & I went and hung out with Faye in her room awhile, then we all went to our room to laugh at Indian TV. Next we went up to the roof to check things out. Linda slept. Finally, Faye, RB & I went out for a walk. We went to the sweet shop and got candy bars and sodas (mmm. Coke.) and then went looking in three shoe shops for flip flops for RB. Didn't find any good cheapo ones. We even crossed the street. Twice.

Now we're back for the evening and RB has already been out. Scott, Linda, Faye and all the girls walked down to the sweet shop for ice cream while Leslie and I came to the Internet to post.

Did I talk about the internet? I think I mentioned the alley next door to the hotel. It costs 20 Rs. an hour. Less than 50 cents. Makes my day!

Tomorrow morning we will post for the last time. Our day will consist of one more class session for RB and me. After lunch we will have the afternoon and I think we're being taken to the land that ICM has acquired for new offices and maybe a school. In the evening, our team is taking RB's and my class to the Exhibition, which is like a county fair so that the whole team can spend some time with our kids.

At 6 am on Tuesday, we leave in the cars for Hyderabad, babies in our laps. We will go to the airport and the babies will all see doctors for checkups. These are a small group of the new children who have not been thoroughly checked out yet, I believe. Simona has called dibs on Aloe and I don't think she'll share!

Tuesday evening we catch our first flight and by Wednesday night, we'll be home!

I can't believe the time is almost over already. It's been too short.


First off, what I said in my making a difference post, I meant about the teachers, not Sarah and Theresa. They DO see the potential in the children. But some of the staff need to be convinced.

Ok. 'Nuf about that.

This post is about joys.

Joy is the huge smiles when we come to the gate and they realize we're here again.

Joy is a giant hug from a child full of love for life and everyone around them.

Joy is that the children are so secure in their belief that we will be kind to them that they unhesitatingly run to us for hugs.

Joy is freedom from fear.

Joy is knowing there are regular meals and snacks and enough.

Joy is crying answered with help, love, meeting of needs.

Joy is a chuck under the chin from everyone you meet.

Joy is a bed to sleep in and 10 other little bodies to snuggle up to.

Joy is education.

Joy is antibiotic powder and a bandage on your cut.

Joy is a cup of roasted chick peas.

Joy is a stranger washing your head, combing out your lice and braiding your hair, all while singing to you.

Joy is swimming in the ocean

Joy is playing ball with friends.

Joy is being held and rocked in strong, loving arms

Joy is learning to walk

Joy is your voice being heard

Joy is a bear to carry around

Joy is an operation that fixes what's been bothering you.

Joy is medicine when you feel sick.

Joy is people around you who think you are valuable

Joy is learning to know Jesus

Joy is a home and a family.

Sarah's Covenant Homes are filled with joy. They are overflowing with joy.

Where once there were lives with no hope, only fear, no joy, now there is an abundance of joy.

Seriously, you have to see it for yourself.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tips and Tricks

Please know that I share all this with a crazy love for India in my heart!

Parle-G biscuits. The G stands for “Genius.” Now I know.

Pond’s White Beauty—makes your skin whiter. There was a TV commercial of an artist painting a picture of a woman sitting for a portrait. Day 1. Day 4 he was still painting her. Day 7, he did a double take while painting her and dabbed more white onto her cheeks. Apparently she had been using Pond’s White Beauty and in 7 days she was so light.

The neighborhood kids multiply at the gate every day. They are there all the time in small numbers, but when we arrive at Victory Home and leave each day, there are throngs. They all want to shake hands and say their two or three English words and ask our names. They all yell each time, “Hi, Scott! Bye, Scott!” They like Scott.

If you come to help, and you bring projects or crafts, bring enough for the teachers and ayahs who help you, too. They all want to try all the supplies and toys and things we have for the kids to do. It is so sweet!

Watch where you step.

Don’t try to break a 500 Rs. Bill in a small shop, although if you insist it is all you have, someone standing nearby with change in their pocket will exchange it for you.

Don’t ask for rice for breakfast. There is only idli.

It is fun to cross the street to buy two bananas. They will be 5 Rs.

If you want your room cleaned, you must leave your key card in the electrical slot and leave the door unlocked.

Don’t forget to put your room number on your meal receipt or they’ll track you down and make you sign it.

Don’t try on glass bangles that are too small for you. They will shatter (ask RB how she knows)

Don’t eat chocolate granola bars in bed.

Ignore the rat dropping into the street drains.

Say good morning. Especially to the women. They like it.

Keep your windows closed so the monkeys don’t get in.

Buy a mosquito bat.

Don’t fall out of your chair at dinner. (Ask RB)

If you start to cross the street, don’t stop.

When you play Duck, Duck, Goose, touch shoulders, not heads. Especially when playing with neighborhood children.

Don’t smell the water.

Come back again and again and again.

Making a Difference

Two things I want to think about.

How has my coming here made a difference?

How can I continue to help?

I HOPE that a major part of the work I’ve done with these kids this week has been to reveal their potential.

Several of the kids go out to school and are average to above average students. Several of them are new kids who haven’t really been evaluated. Several of them I feel like might have been overlooked and by including them in my group this week, it’s been seen what they are capable of.

Sarah described Indian people in general fairly well when she mentioned this week that her physiotherapist is a “minimalist.” (that might have been his word, even) He doesn’t want a lot of fancy “stuff” to use. He knows simple techniques that work with the children to improve their strength, flexibility and coordination and he is satisfied with that. Perhaps there are tools that WILL be more efficient or successful, but he’s not really interested.

(disclaimer: This is the gist of what I understood from a brief conversation with Sarah and my own observations and other conversations with Theresa. Maybe I’m way off here)

This seems to also be the case with the ayahs. They are here to clean, change and feed. Not really anything else. They don’t see their role as including playing with or stimulating the children. Sarah and Theresa are working to change that, but it’s a mindset and it comes slowly.

Sweepers? They sweep and mop the floor. They don’t clean toilets (actually, Theresa said, NO ONE seems to clean toilets! Kind of like at home.)

The teacher teaches in a traditional Indian way. Class sizes are large. The children sit quietly on the floor and listen and recite back. It works very well for them.

We swoop in and we do things differently. I planned my activities in the way I know how, which is American. I was willing to be flexible. I didn’t need the kids to be at tables and chairs. They are used to doing school on the floor, and that was fine (gives us more room to jump around for our active games, anyway).

What I hope they take away from my different way of doing things is not that my way is the right way, but maybe new ways of doing some things.
I also want more than anything for them to see that Shalene is coloring and repeating the names of the colors to me in her slow, quiet way. She’s a little like a turtle—every movement is very slow and determined, yet smooth. I want them to see that she is sewing on the lacing card and stringing beads and all on her own, initiating COUNTING the beads 1-2-3, in English! She has been so overlooked! SEE her now! I have great hope for Shalene in this place where there is love and opportunity and she is valuable.

I want them to see that the kids love to do wild things. They like to draw with sidewalk chalk and play Duck, Duck, Goose and cut with scissors and finger paint. It’s a huge mess and a crazy time, but they love it!

I want the kids without a voice to be heard. There are so many silent ones here, either because they are silent by choice, or no one has ever listened, or they physically can’t speak. But they have things to say if you watch and observe and listen.

Sarah shares this perspective and this vision, I know. It’s not that she is preventing this. It’s a matter of culture and staffing and ratios and time and traditions. It will all come. It will.

And when I get home? I want to sponsor Shalene. The biggest way you can help Sarah is to sponsor a child. A full sponsorship is $150 and people have been asking me, why so much? Every other place you can do sponsorships are $30ish. But this is the cost of running the home each month, divided amongst the kids. It takes THIS MUCH!

If you can do $150, that’s great. But if you want to help and all you can do is $30, DO IT! We can do no great things, only small things with great love. (Mother Teresa) Do your little part. If five of you do a little bit, you’ve cared for one child. If noone steps forward because they think their part is too small….well then, where does that leave the kids.

Starfish, people. Starfish!

Please, please pray. Pray for the health of the children, for provision for all their needs, for spiritual health, for Sarah and Theresa and all the staff to be healthy and emotionally strong. And for God’s guidance each day.

If you can come, do come! You will not regret it! There is much to be done here.

I hope that by my trip, and my blogging, more people hear about the wonderful work Sarah is doing here and will pitch in and join her in this.

That’s how I hope I will make a difference.

And while I was waiting for stuff to load, I went and read Leslie's blog and she just said all this way better than I did. So go there.

Saturday, Camp Day 2

Saturday, Camp Day 2

Today’s activities included

Singing: Head, Shoulders et. al., Hallelu, hallelu…I guess that was it.

Lacing cards and stringing beads on pipe cleaners – half the group did one and half the other and we switched

Meghan stringing beads

R. was really excited about this project

Lacing cards

Shalene lacing.  She LOVED this!  She loved being included.

Sarah, helping M2 with her lacing card

M1 working on her lacing. She caught on very quickly after I ran her hands through the steps of what to do.  This is my girl.  If they made me choose one to bring home now, she would be it.


Sidewalk chalk and cars on the roof

Cutting with scissors

Playing with balloons

Break for lunch

Telling time

Sewing pillows (only half the group did this and Hannah made 2) 

Hannah made two.  She was very good at this.

Sim worked with Isaac

Caleb really concentrated on this

Rachel needed some help, but made a pretty pink heart

and the rest played with Linda and flashcards, working on English

Scratch rainbow crosses

Played in courtyard, balls, Duck, Duck, Goose

Coloring (this lasts about an hour!)

Made rainbow tissue streamers

That was our group. The rest of the team? The deloused kids for 7 hours. Happily.

Seriously, this is an awesome team! This was what needed to be done and the whole team pitched in, even the teenage girls. While they shampooed and combed, they talked to the kids, tickled them and made them laugh, hugged and kissed them and just loved them up. And a very practical and necessary task got done.

Leslie was quite sick today and stayed in the room all day. She is feeling better, but tired and weak tonight. She did eat at lunch and I’ve been making her drink. She’s hoping to feel well enough tomorrow to go back to V Home.

After dinner, we went out shopping down the street. Off a side street is a whole bunch of little shops, mostly bangles, household things, pharmaceuticals and saris. The girls bought a bunch of bangles and bindis,

Linda got her hand henna’d,

Rose Bud bought a trash can and Linda bought lice shampoo. For the team. Isn’t she sweet?

We went back to Anjali, the sari/salwar shop for Faye to get an outfit.

The girls spent the time taking silly pictures of themselves

Sam has a winking problem, so to help her feel less self-conscious, everyone winked. LOL

and Scott and I walked down the street, just looking at things. One guy we passed made a loud remark and laughed out loud, about me, I’m sure, and I said to Scott, “I don’t think he said something nice!” but since I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t really care.

We got back about 9:30, showered and did laundry in our bucket and then sat up eating M&Ms and laughing at the TV.

I didn’t go to the internet tonight. I didn’t want to spend all my free time online and RB asked me to go shopping. So I did.