This diary was written with my Japanese and American friends in mind.
SDA = Seventh-Day Adventist
One Indian Rupee equals about US $.025 or Japanese yen 3.5.
So Rs10 = $.25 or 35jpy.
2-7 Kahleyvandenum (good morning),
Everyone here has a good laugh when i try to say this. I've pretty much decided not to spend more than about 2 minutes a day trying to learn this language as i'll only be here until October and someone close around you can always speak English. I feel a little like i'm in Japan as a lot of the signboards are in English, but if you go in the shop and speak English they get in a fluster and go find someone. It's not even like British English. Maybe British English 50 years ago.
I've been in Bombay (now Mumbai), Madras (now Chennai), and finally took a train ride in the countryside (now countryside) last week. I felt like i was traveling from one dump to another. Most of the land was flat and dry. We went thru some rock mountains where people were breaking it down piece by piece with little hammers. Felt like I was in some post-nuclear SF movie.
I met Bill who is the head of Living Springs (they used to have a vegetarian restaurant in N.Y.C.). He comes often to India giving health seminars, starting orphanages, elementary schools, and seminaries. The last week i've been with him a lot helping him get his newsletter out (300 of them!) He's been an inspiration in how i can do some kind of work. Seeing his eyes shine when he talks about India reminded me that i'm needed in Japan (I need Japan ??!!). I'm excited about getting out Ellen White books - especially The Great Controversy.
I showed the guy i'm staying with, - a pastor, the 1858 G.C. and we are planning to take it to the translators this week. No E.G.White books are currently being printed in Tamil (71million speakers). Steps to Christ has been input and is awaiting proofreading. I see the possibility of our place becoming the center for her material in this language. We want to educate the pastors first so they'll show their church members how important it is to have these books. [Got THAT mosquito. Maybe it's the one that bit me twice earlier] Then we'll probably want to have a few full time colporteurs. Their living expenses (less than $50/month) will be probably have to be donated and the sales from the books should be enough to print the books again.
I'm getting this father to set all his finances up on computer and keep good track. He's good about not using other's money but once he has it, it runs thru the holes in his pockets. Almost everyone else in this country seems to be interested in how much they can rip you off, embezzle, get out of you, etc. A taxi driver was cursing us in his car the other day because the father here got him to come down 20% on a fare he had inflated nearly 200%. In Tamil he said something to the effect that he deserved all he could get from the "white-skins" and that he was a bad man for cheating him out of money. Like Bill says: "inflate the prices 10% for me and i won't mind because they are low to start with, but they want the quick-kill, 200%, and i say 'no thanks', i'll carry my own suitcase, walk to my destination, etc." Bill started a school for "poor" village kids, but the Adventist man he said "is one of the 5 most trustworthy Indians i've ever met" took the whole school out from under him...
The house i'm staying at is a little tidier, cleaner since i first came... This whole country is a BIG Pig-Sty.
3-7 Well, a few things i like about here are: sweets - absolutely the sweetest thing you've ever put in your mouth since your thumb (hey, if they make it like the guy i saw in a filthy room pounding down dough they use their thumbs, arms, feet(?). In America the gaudiest establishments are usually casinos. In Japan it's pachinko parlors, in India it's sweets shops. Mirrors all the way around. Some even with aircon!
The bug that's been sitting on the middle of my screen for the last hour finally moved. He probably memorized all my passwords.... I don't know why i feel cut off from nature with all the crows, chipmunks, cows, trees, etc. surrounding me. Maybe it has to do with the attending smell, noise, and garbage. ha! I've been getting very little exercise since i've come here too. You don't feel like working up a sweat when you constantly have a layer of it on you.
6-7 Registered at the American consulate. There was a long line of people snaking down the surrounding streets. Was told that sometimes people will camp out for a spot, waiting to get a chance to get in. Sounds like a rock concert or a new version of DragonQuest! Come to think about it, lots of people camp out on the streets all over the city every nite. Maybe there are lots of Nintendo addicts?
Yesterday, around 2pm, the electricity went off. Seems that "they" were "working" on a line somewhere and 3 houses on this street went without power for 24 hours. Of course, no power - no water. The quiet was welcome, but the 100% humidity wasn't so much.
I bot a pot. Not just any old pot. One with a handle. And a lid. And a knob on top of the lid!! Before, when i cooked, i'd put a metal plate on top of the pot and have to get a pincher thing to lift the lid on and off. Then, i'd either burn myself or drop something. Then i'd use the pinchers to grab down inside the pot (and get pincher crud all in my rice) to carry it to the table; praying all the way that it wouldn't drop on the floor. I feel like slowly, "mind" is winning over "the system". DO IT RIGHT!!
9-7 Well, i didn't quite "click" on the mouse, but i did throw my flip-flop at it. I spread my mattress out on the floor in the computer room and went to sleep until - pitter-patter, pitter-patter, Who's that walking on my bed?!! Probably scared him more than me. haha! Actually it was pretty cute. I talked to a helper who lives in a shared shack for around 1,200yen/month. He said they were common there. He said big rats come in too. "They go out during the day and come home at nite". Once in a while they bite. Totally disgusting.
The computer finally did what i thought all along it was going to do - it bit the dust. It may be my imagination, but if i squint and look outside real closely towards a black object, i can see fine particles in the air. The first time i thought it was misting outside. But this mist isn't refreshing, it covers and suffocates everything, even computers. So while our CD-ROM unit is at the shop, i'll try to blow all the dust out of the innards. Who's going to blow all the dust out of me? Maybe i'll just let all those unruly nose hairs grow into a moustache: ha!!
12-7 What an Amazing weekend! It was just like watching Mission Spotlight in 3-D! We got in the van packed with all of our stuff for a 3 day journey to give some meetings in the villages and then down to Pondicherry for a wedding. An 80km drive took about 2 hours. We picked up people along the way until it was like an Indian bus - double capacity ( at least we weren't leaning over!). So we're going down progressively narrower and narrower roads and then, it took trained eyes to see them, villages. They have palm branch thatch roofs and baked mud walls and are scattered among the bushes and trees. Unlike the city, you couldn't verify whether people lived there or not by the amount of garbage strewn around.
Dead end! We'd been going down a dirt road not knowing if it was the right road or not. It wasn't. At the end, there was a place between 2 houses wide enough to turn around. But there were 4 stones between these houses. The middle one was painted red and had a little devil's pitchfork (triton?) by it. It's what i thought it was - a god. In Japan they put little guardian figures beside the road in many places, but here they put them in the middle of the road! Our efforts to extricate ourselves attracted quite a crowd. I was behind the van shouting to the driver "ahrigh, ahrigh, ahrigh" (Japanese for "alright, alright...) One boy said "Japon" and i was shocked. "How do they know this is Japanese? They don't even know "alright" in English!" Seems the people who called the meeting told the villagers that someone from Japan was coming - haha. By the time we finished pulling the thorns out of the tires, there were probably over 50 onlookers.
When we got to the village they immediately offered us seats under a tree. After a 2-hour ride, i wanted to exercise a little. This seemed to upset them so i sat my bum down again. People slowly began to congregate on a baked mud "porch" that ran around one house. Then i knew it was time. Time to do it. Time to get up in front of a bunch of people and speak. Oh No!
Maybe 60 people, mostly women and children, gathered. They turned their expectant faces up to me. One lady, in her 40's?, smiled big and wagged her head back and forth in that friendly way that only southern Indians seem to be able to do. With that encouragement i proceeded to talk about how God loves humans so much that He made the sun, rain, etc. and that since He created everything, it's not like He's wanting us to give him gifts: He just wants the gift of our hearts. That's so He can give us the gift of eternal life. Including translation time and everything, it probably took around 5 minutes. Whew! Not bad. God really helped me.
After the service, i was thronged with people wanting me to pray for them. At first, they knelt in front of me and i was seated and put my hands on their heads as i sat in a chair. That was VERY uncomfortable so we changed to where we were both kneeling. Bad knees. Daughter's marriage partner. No husband and 3 kids to take care of. Nightmares. Bad knees again (some kind of knee plague here?). No peace in the home. Things humans all over the world pray about. The smiley lady said thru a translator that she had come a long ways to see me because she heard that a foreigner would be speaking. Then she carefully unwrapped a fold in her saree to reveal 5 broken off-white cubes. I never eat between meals, but for this sweet lady i injected some glucose into my system.
We had rice wrapped up in plastic in a newspaper along with an egg and something smoking (fire!) in a plastic bag for lunch. We went to a tranquil spot and teased the cows while we ate. Everyone was amazed that i went around and picked up all their trash that they had conveniently thrown wherever they happened to be when they were done eating.
After a while, we went to a different village nearby. Just by looking from the main road you think maybe 4 or 5 families live back in inaka "the sticks", but when you get back in there, you can see 20 or 30 huts. Even so, i was unprepared for the turnout that evening.
Many unforeseen things happen when doing evangelism. The cone in the big speaker tore from the rough ride. We set the screen up behind the van to keep the wind from toppling it, but we parked in the middle of an ox cart path so we had to move everything twice. The leader forgot the film strip in the town we were staying so he hurried there and back. The 3-wire plug on something went bad so we spliced a new one on. So with a provided LOUDspeaker (megaphone?) on top of the roof, a film strip projector, a screen, mike, etc. the program began. When some guys just stood up front and talked, the crowd (around 130 moms and kids) was fidgety. But when the projector was turned on - whoa! how can around 200 people live in 20-30 huts?!! And men and teenagers DO live in this village! I got a little choked up thinking that for these people it was the first time to see pictures or hear words about Jesus' second coming.
After refusing many requests from the teenagers to take their pictures we went back to our place for the nite - a concrete house with 3 rooms. No problem for the planned 6 people. It became a train station during the nite though. The starter went out on the van which caused a problem when we had to take a young man on our team who got stung by a black scorpion (some people die from it) to the hospital. I've said before that Indians' reactions are often exaggerated - when he got stung, he threw himself from the second floor to the ground. Fortunately, there was a pile of sand to break his fall instead of him breaking his neck. When i heard about his story the next morning, i felt a little sheepish about being worried whether or not the mouse in our house was going to bite me during the nite.
13-7 My favorite manual labor in the whole world was mine to do today - painting! It's joyous to see things look clean! It requires detail, precision, and an affinity for toxic fumes. There'll probably be a slightly whitened mouse running around the premises tomorrow.
16-7 The local rat poison sellers like me. I've purchased a package of the stuff each day for the last 3 days. Today a big rat was found dead in the kitchen.
17-7 Finally got the cute one too.
20-7 Woke up at 5:30 today for a walk! A crisp, early morning, enjoy nature, be one with God type of experience. We started out,,, is that guy dead? His head is covered with a rag and he's sprawled out on the part of cement that's not too broken up. No, that's his bed, oh. Why are the crows fighting by the garbage bins (no covers, no garbage bags either - just dump)? A dead rat is getting ripped apart, oh. The sky does a dance. Watch it! I hop to the left. A bus hurtles by within inches. The driver honks (no, BLASTS) his horn in seeming delite. I'm not so lucky escaping the cow doo (i know it's not the people one, that one's curly and yellow).
The sky is changing color - green. At 6am it's around 30C with high humidity and high something particle count. I pick my nose. It's not supposed to be black in there. I can't think of anything better than getting back, logging onto the internet and escaping this dump.
22-7 I wake up to an email that puts me in a bad mood. Bill asked me to come up to Calcutta and help them get the accounting started for the new self-supporting seminary, orphanage, elementary school, and church up there. I told him i was happy to go, but this email says that he has already told the people there that i will be coming around the 21st. Now i look like a lazy liar before i even get there&*$@(!^%.
Today i went to Citibank and got Rupees out with no hassle whatsoever. Then i walked around 2 hours to the train station to book a ticket to Calcutta. Many people gave me wrong directions. Seems very difficult for them to admit they don't know something or else maybe they're just having fun with the foreigner. The family here probably wonders why i'll walk in the heat of the day but not in the early morning with them. I don't know myself.
Longest time i've ever been enclosed by a transportation device. 29 hours on this train to Calcutta. It's A/C and we're far enough away from the doors to not have to smell the restrooms so it's quite pleasant. A guy i met on the train fits my preconceived ideas of Indians to a "T". He is educated, but his information is from Indian sources. His reasoning is Indian. His conclusions are uniquely Indian. India is poor because of too many people. It's not rich because independence was only achieved 51 years ago. He of course "wins" the discussion because he is loudest and most forceful. Classic. Look at this newspaper clipping and see if you can find anything illogical. Oh yes, another reason India is "backwards" (his word), is because English has been forced on them!?????
I cross the symbol of this great metropolis - Howrah bridge. It looks like something that crossed rivers up in Cleveland or Pittsburgh about 40 years ago until they were scrapped. The guidebooks say that up to 2million people a day cross it! Looks like some people are stepping around holes on the sidewalk part. While trying to find the SDA mission, a guy comes up saying he'll help me find it. After finding it, i thought i'd give him Rs20, but he said "no, i don't want money". I let my backpack down knowing THIS was going to take some time i hear him out. No, i don't want to give Rs120 so you can get a uniform so you can get a real job. Why did you come with your mother and brother from your village in the mountains anyway? He gets Rs20. The guest room is full so they moved some benches & i stayed in a classroom. This is the oldest SDA congregation in India & it's still the Only SDA presence here. Met a couple of very nice members.
Warning - Bengali cooking isn't worthy of the name. Rice, soupified dhal (yellow lentils), and maybe an over-boiled vegetable or fish. I find a health food store and get some good peanut butter and whole wheat bread. A nearby restaurant (Dreamland) serves Chinese food that is pretty good. I went in the restaurant directly below it and looked in their kitchen. It looked like a Monty Python movie scene of the Middle Ages in Europe - stagnant water on the floor, a faint light source, grod dripping from the ceiling and walls, stone blocks being used to chop things on, flies etc.
26-7 I wake up fairly early and go to the market to buy bananas. What's this? At every well there are people (with underwear on) scrubbing vigorously. I've never seen this in Chennai. Went with the accountant to the countryside. Along the tracks (and on) people are carrying out their lives.
The project is going up in regal isolation among a sea of paddy fields. Big clouds roll up along the flat horizon. I can picture my dad overlooking the wheat fields of Kansas. If he'd been born here, he'd be half naked, pulling the occasional leech off, tramping in the gooey paddy mud all day. Of course, after planting season he could go back to wasting all day with his friends under the big village tree playing cards and chewing betel nut. I can't even entertain the thought of what would've happened if i'd been born here.
27-7 Someone here says "Fancy Market" and "New Market" are "grand!" "They have everything!" It takes about 1/2 hour to find an electronic shop that has a calculator that can print. It's a Casio that's too expensive. Just give me one Wal-Mart!! Seems like most of the shop people were trained in Russian methods as they don't give service. They don't listen very carefully to what you say. "How much can i cheat you?" seems to be their little game. This isn't just because i'm a white-skin. Other Indians say the same thing. The thing with me is though, is that they congregate on me like mosquitos. I want to be pleasant to everyone, but i don't want to get sucked dry!
28-7 With an old printing calculator with the "4" key fallen out (you can sort of mash it back in), ledger books, and my new camera i bot last nite for Rs500, and my backpack, i head for the station. I don't know which train goes where i want to go, but am pretty sure that all trains go that direction so i head for the nearest one. Hmm, that's strange. This train is supposed to leave soon but the front car is mostly empty. Wonder why lots of people are craning their necks toward the station entrance? Good grief! Who is dumb enough to take apart a engine on the train floor and leave transmission fluid everywhere?? OH NO!!! IT'S NOT ENGINE FLUID. IT'S PEOPLE FLUID!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I really did think like this - at 37 still na´ve). My first thought is for personal safety, but there is no commotion so i ask someone standing by what happened. He makes a slicing motion across his arm near the shoulder and says "a boy's arm amputated". I walk in a daze to a different train, find a seat, and bury my head in my hands.
29-7 I made it out to the countryside again. I'm living with the project leader's family for a few days. They are delightful, intelligent, hardworking, and very faithful. I go thru all the receipts putting like ones together and making journal vouchers. I get brave (and bored) in the afternoon and walk the 4km from their house to the project site. Inakamono (country people) really know how to stare! I think some of them must be owls. I probably do look a sight. Skinny white guy with hiking half-boots, shorts, and a big red sun - Nippon - T-shirt. The socks seem to draw the most looks and giggles. Come to think of it. No one here is wearing socks. Why does anyone really need socks? I got to lift 20 buckets of water up to the newly poured cement roof (to cure it?!). I slept good except for the sour apple i ate that kept me running a couple times during the nite. Have to change that "doctor away" part of that expression.
30-7 In evening worship we read Psalms 52. I make the remark that this looks like it can apply to Jesus talking about Satan. No response. I say it again and am accosted with "have you ever been to theological school?" Surprise! I think to myself that Jesus didn't go to theological school either. When i go shopping i can feel everyone's eyes on me. Especially young people. Many people ask in a commanding tone "You're from!?" Now when i answer, i ask them where they are from. A friendly guy talks to me for a few minutes and his friends come up one-by-one and all ask the same questions - "You're from!?" "Your lodge!?". "I'm staying at a friend's house." "Where is your friend's house?" "It's where my friend lives". When one guy starts on this routine for the third time i make my getaway. Loudness and repetition might work on making your friend's minds do what you want them to, but it makes mine give commands to my leg and foot muscles. One of them uses the "information" he's learned to inform me that after Japan, Calcutta has the most brick palaces in the world!????? Someone else thinks that all houses in Japan are made of paper because they are always falling down in earthquakes...
Here's a newspaper clipping stating as "fact" that food poisoning is common in Japan. I bet there are 100 cases of food poisoning in India for every one in Japan. While there, i was told that companies often mix junk in with their products to "increase profits". Fo example: ground up bricks put in the chili powder, small rocks intentionally put in the rice or wheat, sawdust put in the curry, and my favorite one of all - papaya seeds mixed with black pepper (the pepper "fruit" is round and black). HAha. The TV said that 30 people died recently in Delhi from something mixed with the mustard oil:( I wonder about throwing my mustard oil out, but i've already used some of it with the only ill effects being what you can determine from reading my ramblings here:)
I crush a wriggling 10cm millipede looking thing. I'm told that it's a poisonous one that sometimes at nite gets in babies' ears and the babies are "finished". My handy-dandy earplugs that i use every nite are inserted extra tightly tonite. Water constantly stands in the shower so there is always a small cloud of blood-suckers. I know they like to bite low so i keep swatting around my ankles every 15 seconds or so. They teach me a lesson that bites in areas usually covered by underwear are quite painful too:( I need to be an octopus!
31-7 I finish the books with what i think is a pretty good flourish. Only Rs182 difference between what he wrote on the item sheets and what the receipts totalled up to. For some reason though, on his total sheets, he's off by Rs83,000. I have a lot of respect for this guy. With basically no one to help him, he's purchased land, gotten several buildings started, planted rice fields, built a 100m raised road, kept the books, and overseen a crew of about 15 workers. I can get energy just by watching him! I love work. I can sit and watch it all day:)
A beggar came by their house in the morning. The Mrs. gave him some small coins so he voiced his complaint. "Hey buddy! If it was me, i wouldn't care if you sat outside my house and cursed me all day, you wouldn't get a paise (1/100Rupee) from me. If you're healthy enough to walk around, you're plenty healthy enough to work. Giving money to beggars just makes it a way of life for them. Lots of men and women are using umbrellas - black ones - in the sun. I laughed at Japanese for using dainty white umbrellas in the sun, but their skin can burn. People here don't know what it means to have skin peel off. Ot, there's a lizard crawling on the door now looking for food. Lizards seem to be the staple food for the scrawny Indian cat. This one's staying high. He's so cute! You don't need a bug-zapper (kouatsu mushi tori ki) when you have one of these. He's probably the one that made my EKG wriggle a bit yesterday when he fell out of my shoe.
Today was the best since coming to India:) :) :) First, i finished the bookeeping job i came to do. I talked to the Mrs. about the theological misunderstanding and she said she had no intention of it meaning like i took it. And for the chart-topper? - I rode a bicycle in the countryside! Sure reminded me of good-old-days in Japan. Well, the goats taking a nap in the middle of the road and the cows crossing in front of me were a LITTLE different. haha. And there's that bus with its 1,000db horn taking up the entire paved surface area. If i come back to India, i want to bring some remote control that will lock in on horn signals (even on bicycles) and reduce the clamor to around 60db. I thought of more efficient devices to reduce the noise level, but i'm nonviolent. Really. Come on lizard. Get something in your sights and ZAP it! Not ME silly. Flying with the greatest of ease thru the rice fields on the little dirt road - wheeee! Hows come every time i go past a group of people they send out guffaws just after i've passed? Hey! I think ya'll look pretty funny washing yourself and the dishes and the rice and your clothes all together with the ducks, goats, and cows - haHAha.
Why was no attempt made to match the downspouts on the 3rd floor with those on the second? Hows come the rubble from construction is left to be the landscaping? Why doesn't anyone think about how to DO IT RIGHT!!!?
We go to the market where people spread their things on both sides of the road in the mud. A snake becomes 2 halves by our rocket-propelled scooter. I'm told stories where back in "the interior" people still worship snakes and even human heads. This pastor was sent to build a church where a small congregation had been raised (by promises of free education for their children by a mercenary missionary).
He said poisonous snakes crawled around their home all the time. He said sometimes it seemed like the ceiling was writhing. I asked the typical foreigner question "why didn't you kill them?" He said that since the snakes are sacred to the villagers, if you kill them, the people will kill you. He said when building the church though, that every morning when he came to where the footings were being dug, there would be several snakes which he would smash down in. So i guess you can say the church is built on the blood - of snakes.
The human head story is short and gross. He went into "the interior" for evangelism and he saw around 5 poles with fresh human heads on them - still dripping. He said he knows his God is stronger so he wasn't worried. AMEN!!