"Robby, have you bathed the enitre trip?" No, but it did rain last Wednesday.
Greetings friends–everything is bagundi (Telugu for kosher) in Andhra. We've had an amazingly wonderful, indigenous, Jungle Book-esque 3 days here outside Vijayawada. We've swam in the Krishna river, played cricket with kids from Banyan 2 and befriended a mischievous talking bear named Baloo.
We've been staying in the home village of Pastor V, one of our fantastic guides on this journey. The surrounding areas are very rural and picturesquely pastoral. Driving to and fro between big cities like Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Delhi etc. and entering rural hamlets like the one we're in now, I can't help but be reminded of one of the all time great movie moments from the Wizard of Oz. You remember that part where the technicolor kicks in and the explosion of color is revealed? Similarly, the big towns of India seem shrouded in muddled, muted tones choked by smog, pollution and general chaos. Entering rural AP, I'm almost knocked over by the yellow-brick road gold of the corn, the fire-red of the huge piles of chilies, vast, verdant fields of rice paddy and banana trees; all set against a beautiful azure sky. That's right, I just used verdant and azure in the same sentence.
Away from the hustle and bustle, it is truly a beautiful sight and refreshing to breathe deeply without choking on exhaust fumes. The electric, Fruit-Loop bright-sarees worn by the women only accentuate the beauty of rural Andhra.
India is such a welcome place after spending 6 hours in Newark on the way here. I forgot to use that joke a few emails back, so there that is.
A few days back, we went to a wedding in a local slum wherein we were asked to say a few words. This was only the first in what will surely be a long string of embarrassing moments for me on this trip. I made some rambling comments about how difficult life is and full of challenges and pain and then ended abruptly as blank faces stared back at me. Definately the worst wedding speech ever.
The days are so packed that it is hard to recall what's happened the day before, but essentially our days are filled by visiting 2 or 3 Hopegivers-sponsored projects–conducting interviews with all the key people, and letting Angie take photos. She is doing a wonderful job and I am so excited to see all her great images.
Whereas when I go abroad I tend to bring back blurry photos of trees, dead animals and hilarious foreign road signs… What a blessing to have a professional photographer here.
It's so cool getting to meet these kids who have gone through so much trauma and have been given a second chance at a frutiful life. We ask every orphan we interview what they want to be when they grow up, and more often than not, they want to do something to help children like them. That's how villages, cities and entire nations are changed forever.
I have been eating like a horse–not like one of those gaunt, broken-spirited horses, but rather one of those well-fed stallions that fights in battles and leaps over tall structures and whatnot.
The food continues to impress. I have been eating like a horse–not like one of those gaunt, broken-spirited horses, but rather one of those well-fed stallions that fights in battles and leaps over tall structures and whatnot. I've been eating biryani, sambar and idly like a champ, and my stomach has so far laughed in the face of the puny spice onslaught…Another surprise taste sensation has been two okra-esque objects called drumsticks and ladyfingers. This is funny because I traditionally loathe okra and all podded vegetables.
Another thing of note is the way the people here wash their buffaloes with so much love and care like we wash our Honda Civics. The owners faithfully bring them down into the river and reward them with a good scrub after a long day of providing milk, eating grass and nearly causing traffic accidents. One of our wise-guy guides suggested perhaps I could use such a bath…I have to keep reminding everyone here that I 'feel better than I look', or smell for that matter.
Yesterday we visited a village that looked completely untouched by the outside world. To get there, we had to cross a bridge (literally a skinny palm tree) over a raging river wherein I almost fell in several times. Sanish took video of me almost falling in and the camera is shaking because he's laughing so hard. Ok so the river wasn't exactly raging, but I could have fallen and soiled my new Goodwill garments which would have been a crushing blow to my wardrobe. Our boys here visit this village weekly and hand out food to the residents and it was wonderful to see their smiling and grateful faces.
We are keeping very well and really feeling at home here–thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers for us as we continue working very hard.
God bless and take care.