**So, a friend from Haiti is still reading through his inbox ... and I got a note replying to this (see below) email. It's from May 2007! However, I enjoyed reading it again, laughed at him, and thought I'd post it for you to see too.
May 2007: Visited Pune, India at a Nazarene Youth Congress.
I'm convinced, despite its economical state, India is rich.
Last week, while reflecting on the six days I spent there, I realized that the richness I discovered wasn't complete without experiencing it through all of my senses -- and I was able to go and do this, in part, because of your support, financially, through prayer and encouragement. Thank you! The rest I can thank God for; He has blessed me so much this year!
Toting our own personal rolls of toilet paper, more skirts than I've ever worn in one week and communications seminar materials, Simone (Miss Amazing Writer) and I (Simone's Sidekick) flew to Mumbai (Bombay) on May 16. Our site for the Nazarene Youth Congress was on a Bible school campus in Pune, India, about a four-hour bus-ride from the airport. As soon as we deplaned, it was obvious that we'd left the cool and clean land of Switzerland (and western Europe for that matter) and entered into the world of humidity, mosquitoes and rickshaws. Yet it is a place where spirituality is an essential of life and where God is working to draw more people to Himself.
Feeling India. In Switzerland, our crackly skin requires daily lotioning. I've decided that "humidity" is almost synonymous with India -- our hair and skin were completely without need of anything but air. May and June are the warm season in the country that houses one sixth of the world's population and we were smack dab in the middle of it. Fortunately, it was only about 30-35' C in Pune (90-95' F) instead of 45 (113'F!) as some participants said they'd come from. It was still HOT, but we were blessed, most nights, with cool breezes and if not there was enough electricity to run our ceiling fans all night.
Western girls in India, no matter if we were "disguised" in Indian clothing, are an attraction, and as I expected, we felt eyes following us wherever we went. However, most were not inhospitable stares. We were drenched in hospitality from the Indian people, maybe because we were foreigners, but the care was obvious.
"Have you eaten breakfast? Do you need more?"
"Take my seat."
"Oh, you look so beautiful in your Indian clothing!"
"Thank you so much for coming and talking to us."
Tasting India. Without a doubt, Indian food is unique and I loved it. The first afternoon we went for lunch after waking up very late, we were alone in the dining hall. Given no utensils, it was obvious that we were supposed to use our fingers to eat, but neither Simone nor I knew how and no one was around for us to subtly spy on for tips. The next meal we confessed our ignorance and had several people show us how to eat rice with our fingers -- not without a mess, but so fun! Curry sauces and more rice, white bread and chipate (tortilla-like flat bread) than I've ever eaten before. Some of the sauces were spicier than others -- yum(!) but every meal my runny nose reminded me of the heat. Fruit (not to mention veggies) was rare, but the bananas and mango slices we did have were a treat! We drank and drank and drank and drank bottle after bottle of water. No dehydration. Praise Jesus.
Smelling India. Third-world smells, if you've never experienced them, I've found are very similar, even on the other side of the world. On the windy and dirty bus-ride to and from Mumbai, smells assailed us. Some of the unkind smells (trash and sewer and diesel exhaust) were obvious but other smells I recognized from my time in Haiti but were undefinable beyond "familiar". New smells of fried chipate and curry sauces filled the air before mealtimes, roasted nuts along the street and even the smell of the wet air after a thunderstorm! The thunderstorm was a special treat -- none of those in my Swiss village.
Seeing India. India is undeniably beautiful. And the beauty is the people. Dark skin, shiny black hair and tiny children. The land is brown and green and cities dirty and grey, but the bougainvillea flowers in bright pinks and oranges save the landscapes. Not to mention the extraordinary and colorful dress of the women. Eastern fashion was so fun to observe -- flowing sarees and salwar kameezes (a typical Indian outfit -- pants and long tunic tops with a scarf cover) paired with sparkly jewelry. Add that to traditional dancing and I had a moment of realization that probably nothing will ever duplicate what I was experiencing. If I would smile, faces would light up -- the beauty of the creation of people was so evident.
Hear India. Honking car and rickshaw horns kept us awake the night we drove in -- the driving was insane. (Simone commented that if her brothers had grown up in India, they wouldn't have needed to play video games, they'd just need to drive!) A bird, which at first we couldn't quite peg as a monkey or a bird, sang to us and the skinny campus cat screeched at all hours. Lilting songs (amazing what they could do with their voices) and beat of the drums added new sensory worship experiences, Hindi and chatter from local dialects filled the times when English was not spoken (although as English as its second language, India is a place friendly to native English speakers!), cheers from competitive cricket games, laughter, hallelujahs and more filled our ears.
Amidst all of the almost overwhelming surroundings, we saw God, asked for his help, interviewed people and taught four seminars on communications -- attempting to convey the importance of telling our stories. Stories of what God is doing in our lives and communities so that our own people and the world might hear and know and believe.