Monday, May 21, 2012


I'm living in a dream being back in America! Everything in these past 3 weeks has been so exciting, down to the carpet in my living room. But I'm reaching that point where I am really missing India and our families there. I am going to go back one day and see them! There is no doubt about it!

It really feels strange to just continue on my life here in the northwest... I think about India every day and the people there. It's amazing the affect a place and it's people can have on you. India did a lot for my heart and for my view of life and I will be forever grateful for such an incredible experience.

I am starting a new blog that can be found here:
Feel free to continue following whenever you want! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

slight change of plans

It has been one crazy and eventful week. I don't even know where to begin.

I said in my last post that it would be one of my last because we were headed to Thailand for a two week trip and then home on May 8th. Well things have gone quite a different direction since then!

Last Friday we left our school with tearful goodbyes to our of our friends and kids. We took a train to Chennai accompanied by our two good friends Vara and Ramana who helped us a ton with our 6 giant bags we planned to check on the plane. Each of us also carried a full backpacking pack... too much luggage! On the train we had a minor mishap because three of our tickets we had booked were still waitlisted and were never confirmed, but we ended up paying a small fee and were on our way. We reached the airport in Chennai and said some more sad goodbyes to Vara and Ramana and headed for the check in counter...Here we spent the next two hours struggling with the Air Asia people about our bags. Apparently it is not possible to check an extra bag without a major kick to the your wallet. We were going to have to pay $480 for our excess weight between the three of us. Instead we unloaded as much as we could bare to part with and left it in the airport for some lucky security guard who would find it. The fee's were now only $200. Lucky us. Next we got in line for customs, which we barely made it into with our giant carry on backpacks. So far we felt like we had gotten lucky, but then everything went down hill... At the counter, we were stopped and told that we didn't have the proper registration papers to leave the country and we needed to go back to Kadapa in order to get them. No begging, pleading, or offers of money would help us.

We left the airport stunned and at a loss for what to do. The rest of the weekend consisted of many stressful events including sleeping on the ground, getting ripped off by a cab driver, phones calls to the US embassy, waiting and waiting and more waiting only to get to the Foreign Registration Office which opened on Monday and be told that we needed to go back to Kadapa once more. Talk about false hope!

We finally accepted the fact that we would be going back to Kadapa and got on the next night bus. This is about a 7 hour journey, and then 1.5 hours more out to our school. So this last week we have worked our tails off getting these papers and only yesterday (Sabbath) did we finally have the triumphant moment of holding them in our hands! Countries like this don't make it easy to get stuff like this done, especially in a timely matter. For more details about "getting our papers," which a long, but good story in itself, you can visit our joint blog We will be posting the long version (in a nice, entertaining list format) very soon! But long story short, we were illegally living in India because we didn't properly register with the police when we came and we stayed longer than 6 months. If we had left just 20 days before, we would have gotten out just fine. Since we have our papers, we have been instructed to leave the country immediately (which we have no problem with).

Tonight (Sunday) we are finally heading back to Chennai and will be getting on a plane bound for North America on Monday night! We decided to skip to Thailand adventure this time and are really excited to just get home... It has been a long ten extra days in India and I think we are all ready for some American culture.

This last adventure in India was full of miracles and we are so thankful for everything who prayed for us. I don't know if I've had that many people praying for me at the same time ever in my life. So thank you to everyone who contributed! God worked in so many ways helping us to get those papers. I know there is some reason behind our extra stay in India. Although I may not know it now, I sure I will sometime in my future!

See you soon America!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Native places

I am sad to say this is going to be one of the last blog posts from India! I can’t believe we’re down to our last 10 days here. So far we’re keeping our last two weeks busy and it is going by incredibly fast.

Rented bicycles in Nuzvid--USA cycling team in India
Two weekends ago, our friends Zach and Jeff came down for the weekend and gave us a surprise visit which was very refreshing. They were only asked to preach for church a few times on Friday night ;). We had fun talking in our habitual Indian ways and laughing about it. In India, Zach and Jeff have become Jack and Jeff…according to every Indian person. All the kids knew their names by the time Friday was over. The boys took off on Sunday night back to work. Then this last Thursday we made a trip up to Nuzvid where Zach and Jeff are working at the Gifford Memorial Hospital to visit for a day, and then continued our journey a little farther north for Easter weekend to our brother Ramana’s home village outside of the big city Rajahmundry. So last Wednesday night we began our adventure with the same ten hour overnight bus ride that Zach and Jeff made from our little town of Vempalli to Vijayawada and followed up with a one and a half hour bus ride to Nuzvid. Nuzvid if famous for mangos—everyone tells us. And yes there were lots of mango trees there! Sadly mango season doesn’t really start until May so the mangos aren’t very sweet yet. It was really fun to hang out with the Gilbert boys and funny to see the different parts of “Indian-English” that we all have picked up so nicely. In Nuzvid we rented bikes for 3 rupees an hour (about 6 cents an hour) and rode like an awesome cycling team through the mango fields—it was so nice to be back on a bicycle, even it was an Indian Hero bicycle with scary brakes and a seat tilted at the most uncomfortable upward angle. (One thing I cannot wait to do when I get home: get on my road bike!) We got the grand tour of Nuzvid and enjoyed hanging out in the AC guest room that Zach and Jeff have at the hospital. These boys have learned the Indian way of hospitality and spoiled us with a gourmet breakfast of Morning Star Sausage links, fried potatoes, and eggs! What a treat. We were sad to leave them, but excited to head off on another adventure to see Ramana’s ‘Native Place.’ This trip has been planned since before Christmas time and we knew Ramana was excited to show us his home, which turned out to be everything he has ever described it as—paradise! 

 So Friday afternoon we hopped on a bus, switched to another bus, met Ramana, switched to yet another bus, and then met Ramana’s good friend Srinuvas who was waiting with a motorcycle and a scooter to take us out to the village. Trevor and his backpack, Sid, and Srinu packed onto the motorcycle while Ramana and I balanced on the scooter.  I wore Sid’s backpack on the front, and mine on the back. After stopping shortly to pick up some freshly cooked egg noodles in a parcel for dinner, we took off down a tree tunneled road dodging the bugs and potholes. 

We arrived in the small rural village of Kaleru about thirty minutes later and were welcomed by a giant banner and a bunch of village kids and people. We stayed at Ramana’s brothers house and slept on a mat on the floor. Everyone was so excited to have Ramana’s foreigner friends staying right in their own little village… Since no one there speaks any English, Ramana became our translator. At school, other people translate for Ramana because he doesn’t speak English…but over the last 6 months of talking with us, we have learned to understand each other even through his very limited and broken English. (When my mom and Debbie came to visit, we had to translate Ramana’s English to them because they couldn’t understand. And the same went for Trevor’s mom and Zach and Jeff!) Thankfully we speak Ramana’s language. I couldn’t believe how much they pampered us the whole weekend serving us endless amounts of tea, fresh coconut water, strange new fruits, and too many meals. They even tried to fan us when we sat sweating in the heat!  To go along with our bucket showers from the freshly pumped well water in the small outhouse that doubles as squat pot, the weekend was full of more motorcycle and scooter riding, Telegu church going, village touring, a cloth market, coconut rice and egg curry eating, and entertaining people by simply being a foreigner! We also handed out the left over tooth brushes from Peach Ortho to kids in the village and at Ramana’s church. It was a chaotic and busy, but slow and full of ‘time-pass’ at the same time as India always seems to be. There’s a book called Shantaram about a guy who comes to live in India after escaping from prison in Australia and at one point he goes to live in a village of his Indian friend for about 6 months—our weekend reminded me so much of this story. The family water buffalos living right outside the door are milked in the morning for the daily tea and curd, everyone lives close together and the men shower outside at the water pump and the women take bucket showers from the freshly pumped well water in the small outhouse that doubles as squat pot. What I am realizing is that even with all of the strange awkward and sometimes uncomfortable situations we found ourselves in, we were relaxed and went along with whatever came our way. How things have changed… I know that if we had done this trip during the first couple months of our stay in India, things would have been handled much differently! If India has taught me anything, it’s that when life hands you uncomfortable situations, you sit back and enjoy them because each one will pass without fail and you can laugh about it later. This truly was an amazing and humbling experience that showed me another incredible side of India. 

Sid got to hang out in his lungie with all the other village men

swimming in the River! Ramana has talked about this place
 for many months where he grew up swimming

Successful shopping at the whole sale cloth market

Ramana (center) and his two brothers (elder-right, younger-left)
In front of the house that he hopes to purchase someday with Chandu...
Ramana-left holding some munjakia palm fruit
The boy on the right climbed the tree to confiscate these fruits

"Very taste!"

Today we made one last trip to Kadapa to buy sports equipment for the school. Some close friends of my grandparents were incredibly kind and donated money for this purpose. We are using the money to fix the swing set that has not been used this entire year, and to get lots of sports stuff for the kids to play with. Before today they only had a few cricket bats and only one volleyball that Sid, Trevor, and I bought in Kadapa after their only ball popped. We were able to buy an arsenal of items for them to use for this last week and the rest of next school year. When the kids ask who donated all the things, we tell them it’s from an auntie and uncle in the U.S. and they always tell me to make sure I tell them thank you! So HUGE THANKS to Doug and Joyce Ellington for making these kids extra happy!

It’s hard to think about leaving these people and never knowing when I will see them again. Our goofy brother Ramana and his “my understanding” and “my written back” personalized English language, my tiny sister Chandu and our baking extravaganzas and inside jokes… And of course Vara, Prim, and little Nancy who turned three yesterday, and our TBSVPN Bakery shop that we invented (Trevor, Brooke, Sid, Vara, Prim, Nancy—creative I know!) where we roll too many chapathi and experiment everyday with new curries. I can’t believe all of these things that have become part of my daily life are coming to an end.  It’s going to be a bittersweet moment when we take off for Chennai next Friday. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

one moment at a time

It's almost the end, and yet we're still learning. This last Sabbath we experienced an Indian communion service with foot washing. It was very different from the ones we have a home. It felt like a ritual ceremony and it may have been the most uncomfortable foot washing I've ever done... If I was not a christian and I attended this service for the first time, I'm not sure what I would have thought... I have always wondered why the services in India are so formal and always follow a strict protocol so to speak. Things are done in a specific order and the song must begin at a certain part of the service, the sermon and prayers have to be a certain length etc. It's somewhat awkward and sometimes it feels very staged. I wonder if it's because there is so much Hindu and Muslim influence in India, and those religious and worship practices follow a specific routine? I always feel like worship should be more flexible than this. God isn't expecting us to follow someone's made up rules about how long our prayers or sermons should be because usually the same words end up being repeated and everyone in the audience becomes uncomfortable kneeling or standing and lose focus of the thought anyway. God wants us to worship. That's it. He made us differently, and I believe he expects us each to have a different way of worshiping him. That includes Indian people! For us, their services feel awkward and too long, but for them, it is worship, and I respect that.

This week the 10th class students go to a nearby town everyday to write their government exams. You could feel the nervous excitement exuding from each one of them as we gathered to pray for them in the staff room this morning. It reminds me that the end is near and we now have less than a month in India. And I can join the 10th graders in nervous excitement. I find myself becoming more and more anxious everyday. Usually time goes by so fast, but the closer it gets to the end, the slower it seems to go. I have to keep telling myself to slow down! Enjoy the last precious moments I have and don't take them for granted.

Another thing that I see happening the closer we get to the end is that I am becoming less and less tolerable of the little things that get on my nerves. I'm thinking too much about how soon I get to be home and focusing less on how I should be living in this moment, being thoughtful towards people who sometimes drive me crazy. There are times when Sid, Trevor and I all look at each other knowing exactly how the other person is feeling because we are being asked to do something that seems so meaningless and time consuming. But life is different here. People worship differently. Not everyone has a computer or camera. Technology is foreign. When church drags on for too long and I can't understand the speakers English--I should use that time to meditate in my own way of worship. When someone wants to borrow my camera to take 2000 pictures of the same person feeding cake to every one in the school, then so be it! When I'm invited to a last minute birthday party and then expected to give a worship talk on the spot, I'll do it. We aren't full time teachers. We aren't necessarily teaching these kids all they need to know about English and other subjects in school, but what we can do to give someone joy, we should be happy to do. India has taught me to relax. To live in the moment. My job is to love and to show love I'm not always going to be comfortable, it might actually be pretty inconvenient and irritating. A friend of mine wrote a blog post that reminded me how there is no joy without sorrow and no gain without pain. I have to constantly remind myself of this, I can't always show love without hardship.

It is so hard to see the good in some situations. In addition to the little issues, it's even harder to fix problems that come from deep in your soul, from your childhood or your genes, from life experiences that bend and shape you as a person. Some things you can't just fix one time, there is no one time fix. You have to go on this life journey fighting the same issue the whole way through and its not possible without higher help. Living in this moment is what matters. I am still here. Fighting the small issues and the larger ones one day at a time. We just have to keep going, one revelation, one faithful prayer for a forgiving heart, and one prayer of thanks at a time.

cherishing every moment of this face...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Uncomplicate your life

Let things be less than perfect. – Smile every chance you get; not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have, and all the problems you have too.  You must accept the fact that life is not perfect, that people are not perfect, and that you are not perfect.  And that’s okay, because the real world doesn’t reward perfection.  It rewards people who get GOOD things done. We get GOOD things done when we are imperfect 99% of the time.

Good thoughts... 

Sunday, March 4, 2012


"David danced before the Lord with all of his might..." -2 Samuel 6:14

When I read this, I can't help but picture a lanky Indian boy with a huge white smile, dancing with his arms and shoulders moving up and down and hands unscrewing invisible lightbulbs in the air. Just like I've seen some of our 10th standard boys do!

We're supposed to become undignified and dance before the Lord--show the rest of the world our love for him shamelessly.

Last night, we got Nancy on film doing some little dances. Sid and I danced around on either side of her, encouraging her to join in and go for it!!! And she finally did, after she saw us looking silly, jumping from foot to foot and snapping our fingers, she went for it! She clapped her hands and sang a little song too.

Sometimes a person just needs a little encouragement, or a good example, to let loose and become undignified with love for other people and God. Eventually you will stop following the example and become one yourself.

Friday, March 2, 2012


It’s amazing what can happen when you get creative!

Today you can learn how to bake with only a stove... :)

First go outside with a container and spoon and shovel some sand. Make sure you have enough to fill the bottom of whatever pot you decide to use! Some kids will think you’re crazy, but it’s not a problem.

After you make a nice, smooth layer of sand on the bottom of your pan or skillet, place it on the stove and cover, allowing it to warm up for 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of your makeshift oven).

Mix up the dough for whatever delectable treat you want to make (for us it was blueberry muffins the first time and chocolate chip cookies the second time!). For muffins, we used our mini tea mugs and for cookies we simply put them on a steel plate…

Place the dish inside your “oven” and cover. Check often, times will vary, ha! Our cookies took only 7 minutes and turned out perfect…

One thing I am glad for is that God is creative… and that he works differently my life than anyone else’s! I often find myself comparing my spirituality with everyone else. I read other SM blogs and about their experiences and find myself thinking about how that compares with my own, whether or not I am doing enough or learning enough. But it doesn’t matter! God will work in a way that is specific for me. And in the same way, I shouldn’t expect him to use the same tactics he uses with me on anyone else! I read this quote in the book Crazy Love,
“Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.” –Oswald Chamber

It all seems to come back to those expectations. I shouldn’t be thinking about what’s expected of me as an SM, or a roommate, or daughter, or friend. I just need to learn to listen and obey God’s specific instructions for me. And the only way to figure out these instructions is to put myself into uncomfortable situations and give God a chance to show me what he has planned.