Wow, I’ve been in India for 3 weeks! In many ways it really doesn’t seem like it, although Western culture seems so distant. Overall, I think I’ve settled in to Indian life quite smoothly. I think it is in part do to intentionally being open and trying not to have too many expectations, also by God’s grace. 🙂 I’ve heard a fair amount of stories from fellow FFers and how challenging it was for them when they first came… how spent they were by the end of the day do to cultural differences, not to mention the challenges that come with working with survivors of sex trafficking. I met with Tarrah Palm this morning for a little check in. She asked some great questions, seeking honest answers, and it made me realize just how well overall my transition has gone. The most challenging thing of all has been sleep. (I had a couple nights of better sleep this week after some prayer… but I would still appreciate prayers for some real rest.)
This week was my first really full week. It seems each week has gone by faster since I got here, yet each day has seemed longer. We didn’t have any of the major dramas like we had last week. Hooray! A few bumps I suppose, but not really anything to report. Yesterday, since every last Thursday of the month the girls’ teacher goes to FF staff prayer, I was in charge of the classroom for the morning. It actually went really well! I was most definitely mentally and physically tired by the end, but I am so thankful it went smoothly. The way their morning schedule works is– first they sing a song in Hindi, there is a Bible verse read in both English and Hindi, and then two of the girls, and teacher (or in this case it was me) pray. I am amazed at the passion these girls display in the prayers. (Though their prayers are usually in Hindi and I thus don’t know what they are saying, I can sense it in their expression.) Next there is either English or Hindi lessons depending on the day (obviously English for me). I gave them an exercise to complete of a question and then written response, went over it/helped each girl as needed, and then gave them a score. After this their is a tea break (chai :)), after tea I read them a story or two, and then three of the girls practice reading in English with me. And Hope* who knows the least English and I go over the alphabet and practice writing English words. After this they do Math, or a computer game that helps them with their Math and English skills. Then there is a short activity, like a game etc. before lunch at 1pm. So, all morning I was responsible and I was very thankful they overall were respectful of me (which was the thing I was most nervous about). They needed more help with their English exercise than I expected and the language barrier became more challenging. But it went peacefully.
Mala Malstead (she and her husband Greg founded FF) visited Smyrna this week, so I got to meet her for the first time. She and I got acquainted and she updated me on some things. It turns out me coming has been even more of answer to prayer than has already been conveyed to me. I was already told that several of the FF staff women were in tears when they found out I was interested in coming due to the intense pressure on them and need of more of break. (One of the staff will be on vacation for the first time in three years to visit family in north India and I will be taking up a lot of her responsibilities.) In addition to this, I found out Leah, who is involved in the organizational and business aspects of FF’s micro enterprise jewelry and card making business, has been praying for someone like me to come to help organize and get a lot of the kinks out of this new business. She is part of the Pune staff (another city in India, this office is mostly involved in the rescue/justice aspect of FF. In fact her husband, is in charge of the office there.) Anyway, since she lives in Pune she has been in need of someone who will be in the workshop in Ooty to help her. So, here I am, another answer to FF’s prayers. We are just beginning the dialogue of the kinds of things I will be doing to help with this. I am excited that I get to fill in a vital spot, though I know it will be quite challenging. I would rather be used! My afternoons at Smyrna will likely consist of a lot of organizing and recording things for the purpose of selling them overseas (mostly in the states and the U.K.) both on the internet and boutiques. Leah and I both firmly believe that this is a very important aspect of aftercare because it not only provides the girls with an income, it gives them hope for the future, and gives a greater likelihood they will never return to a brothel. Even if the girls may lack enthusiasm and interest at times over their work, it really is a crucial last step.
(jewelry, cards, and bookmarks made by the girls… http://www.ruhamah.in/. I also helped come up with new designs for the cards and bracelets this week. Fun!)
Other exciting things from my week… I got to experience the Garden Restaurant’s family dosa! This was quite exciting and amusing for me as I was told about a couple weeks ago. A dosa is kind of like a crispy versions of crepe I suppose, though spicy, not sweet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosa It is served with different chutneys (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chutney or sauces for dipping), things like masala, coconut, and mint chutneys. It was quite tasty (I liked it most with masala), but it was even more thrilling to see. In case, you forgot, I said “family dosa” this is because the restaurant makes them as long as the tables, enough to serve a whole family (likely 5-6 people). I went with a German woman who is visiting India and stayed at Farley a couple weeks. It was just the two of us, which was hilarious, even to the restaurant workers, but we had to see it for ourselves. 🙂
Another thing I did was visit the Tea Factory. Unfortunately, there is not much to it, but it was still interesting to visit it and find out a little more about the process of making and packaging the tea. I also took my camera with me more places this week and thus took many photos. (See my facebook for more) Wednesday was a holiday here, so the girls did not have class/work. I was with them at Roja. I tried to encourage them to get out of the house and for us to do something fun, but it didn’t work. I am hoping I will be successful in this tomorrow, as I have tried to talk about different options of things we can do and how great it will be to get out of the house. I have experienced both encouraging and frustrating things from the girls this week. I have seen more of a friendliness with me from two of the less talkative girls, more of a desire to learn, more of an interest in playing games, and more smiles and laughter. I have also seen more of a need of attention, competition, and disrespect, as well as other challenging dynamics. Yet overall, it felt like a pretty balanced week.