Well, my culture shock has seemed to lessen each day thus far. I’ve begun to try to throw my Western thinking out the window. I’ve already seen my fair share of monkeys, cows, goats, and other animals roaming about the streets. Yesterday, I did something I thought just the day before I would never do. But hey, life in India is different.
The Freedom Firm volunteers and workers I’ve met so far are wonderful. They’re really the kind of people I can see myself loving. They are genuine, fun, and such sweet lovers of Jesus. Upon getting in to Ooty (pronounced as it sounds) I was taken right to Farley, the guest house that is my home for these three months. Farley is a lot larger than I expected which is fabulous for volunteers to stay. The house has “charm” and is considered very nice for India. There is a host family here: Annette, David, and their children. There is also another family staying for a few more days, and then there is Anika, who has been here for five months and will be here for another 5 or so. She is a 19 year old Missionary Kid who grew up mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She is the only other volunteer that is doing what I am here to do (she separates her time into different aspects of FF).
After meeting most of the Farley dwellers and getting a tour by Anika, Tarrah Palm, my main FF contact stopped by and invited me to dinner at her (family’s) house. So, I got to shower (yay!), rest (but not sleep), and unpack some. Later Tarrah picked me up in her van with two of her four kids. Tarrah and her husband Jayson work with Freedom Firm and have all the volunteers over at their house once a week for dinner (the more Western the better). They changed the day of the week for my arrival. 🙂 Once we got to their house I got to meet her husband, the rest of their kids, and the other FF volunteers: Kristin and Pete (they are fairly recently married) and Anne. Both Kristin and Anne are FF returners- meaning they volunteered with FF for three months and now they are back for a longer amount of time. They’ve been back here for a year or two. They are part of FF’s horse therapy crew. In case I haven’t mentioned this aspect of FF, I honestly don’t know much about it, but I’m sure I’ll find out more while I’m here. It was great to sense the volunteers’ genuine excitement of my arrival– and new addition to FF.
In some ways I feel like I’m catching up because all of the other volunteers have been here for quite some time. But for the most part it’s really great for me because they understand what I am going through in my transition and will make great resources for me. This has already begun. Yesterday afternoon after I relaxed a while, Anika, Kristin, Pete, and Anne came by to take me to lunch… via scooter. Oh yes, they all have scooters. Pretty hilarious to me because just the day before during my car ride to Ooty I was blown away by not just the amount of people on scooters, but by their sense of calm as cars, trucks, etc. passed by. I thought there was no way in the world I would be that calm— or ride a scooter for that matter. HAHAHA! But again, India is different. There goes my Western thinking… I was nervous first getting on to the back of Anne’s scooter (she gave me her helmet :)), but once we got going it wasn’t bad at all! It’s a new experience… never have I been on a scooter, moped, or motorcycle in the states, much less somewhere like India. In Ooty vehicles don’t really go that fast which makes it better (I think). Anywho, we ended up going to lunch at what is probably the nicest restaurant in Ooty. He he. It wasn’t the original intent, but the French restaurant they wanted to take me to didn’t work out because the chef had just left. The area of the restaurant seemed so quaint and lovely (British influence). So, it wasn’t exactly the typical Indian experience, but it was nice and the food was good. They offer “conti” (continental foods aka Western). The other volunteers were excited. 😉 After that, Anika took me around Ooty hitting the main spots: The Modern Stores (Indian version of a grocery store meets Target), Market (outdoor market of stalls of fruits, veggies, clothes, etc. sold), and the ATM. I was able to pick up some groceries to get me going. Later in the evening Anne picked me up to meet at the Palms to watch a Bollywood film (oh yes!) called “3 Iditots.” It was an entertaining introduction to newer Bollywood. We all ate lots of pizza made by Tarrah and Jayson and caramel pop corn. It was great. After the film, since Anne’s headlight went out she borrowed Pete’s head lamp and I held Jayson’s flashlight as we followed Pete and Kristin back to Farley. Yeah, did you need to re-read that? Jayson took a picture of Anne and I before we left because it was such an amusing welcome to India. Tarrah asked me if I would rather she drove me back in their van, but to be honest I really didn’t mind at that point. I mean just the day before I never even thought I would get on a scooter in India and now I’m holding a flashlight on one?! hahaha! Jayson said that I am, “Diving in to life in India more than any volunteer they’ve ever had.” (The looks we got passing nationals made me giggle.) Being here in such a different culture I’m already trying to flip the Western switch in my brain to “off” to better adjust.
Today was a really low key day. Tomorrow I will meet with Tarrah at the Freedom Firm office to get things going. There are a lot of girls right now, so FF really needs the extra help. Five girls were rescued from the Pune red light area the night before I arrived! (An answer to prayer) Wow.
( Here are photos of some of what I saw on my way up to Ooty on Friday and a bit of Farley: )