This past week was probably my most interesting thus far. I got out of the house for the first time in a week on Tuesday… it felt so good to feel well, feel alive really, and be with the girls. When I met the girls at the bus they said, “You sick sooo long.” Tell me about it! Once we got to Smyrna Harmony’s* boys Gabriel* and Aaron* dashed inside and brought out a bike still wrapped in plastic and paper. I was thrilled to find out the previous day the bike was given to them. I had to convince them to get off the bike as they were riding around on it plastic covered squeaking wheels and all. It took a while and quite a lot of patience on their part, but once Zoe* and I got all the plastic off they hopped on that thing and put Naomi’s* little daughter on with them. It was a joy to watch the happiness flowing out of them. Wednesday I felt even more physically back to normal, however frustrations with Zoe’s* attitude really got to me both Wednesday and Thursday. One of the greatest problems we have with the girls is their attitude and disrespect. For whatever reason it seemed to be at a high those days. I had to remind myself what God was just teaching me a few days before.
We had some visitors from the states this week checking out Freedom Firm to find out more of what we do, our mission, and as way of being able to further support FF. Seeing such fresh faced and wide eyed people here was both refreshing and amusing to me. It made me realize how much I have gotten used to living here and the ways that some things have begin to ware on me- both culturally and with the girls. Just six weeks I was the wide-eyed one never having been to India like most of them. Now I’m half way through my time here with six weeks more!
The day I got my appetite back while I was sick I began to crave so many foods… most of which I cannot access here, or at least not very easily. What did I crave? Creamy mashed potatoes and the biscuits from Red Lobster to be specific… and then pizza, which is weird to me because I’m not really a pizza lover, but I guess it’s just so American. While I was in France I certainly missed foods, but here most things are even harder to get, or they are the Indian version which most of the time might as well be something totally different. After thinking about food I began to think of all the things I want to do when I get back… things like— getting a pedicure (my feet are getting quite gross), wearing a sun dress (without pants etc or worrying about being more covered), and going to a nice movie theater (ok, any movie theater in the states would qualify here). I also look forward to not having to carry toliet paper with me everywhere (Indian toliets are usually “squat-a-pottys” but even when there are western toliets there is not toliet paper because the Indian method of cleaning oneself is by splashing water where necessary). One thing I found this week that I was really excited about was more types of cheese! Most of the times I’ve been to Modern Stores there has only been one kind of chesse, “cheddar,” which tastes fine but is not like the cheddar in America.
This weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, I successfully got the girls out of the house! It felt like quite a triumph as they never seem to want to leave especially on a Saturday. Saturday we went to a botanical garden, though the garden wasn’t what I expected I was glad to do something more interesting with them and pleased to see them in good moods. After the garden I bought us all something drink at a little bakery sort of shop. Sunday after church I took the girls to lunch to the restaurant of their choice and we stopped in some shops etc before going back to Roja so, we were out of the house almost the entire time I was with them. The girls said, “Thank you” too, Zoe* even did a second time before I left Roja (this is quite an accomplishment as they don’t say thank you or have the best manners often). Faith* and Zoe* both held my hand/arm at different times on the way home as well (another thing that felt like a big step). It was lovely.
While I was walking back to Roja with the girls on Sunday I had one of the strangest experiences of my life. As we went through a sort of back alley I was stopped by a swarm of about 20 women and children just looking at me. I couldn’t go around them very easily as they basically lined up in front of my path blocking my way just to look at me. After some time of just standing there and not knowing what to do, I looked at Zoe* who was standing next me, and then after some of them talking amongst themselves, one girl said something in Hindi or Tamil (more people speak Tamil than Hindi in Ooty). I looked at Zoe* and asked her what she was saying and she told me nearly laughing, “They want to know where you come from.” I smiled at them and said, “I come from America.” They got wide eyed and said, “America? America?” Than there was another long pause of them just looking at me curiously, and I again did not know what to do as they were refreshingly friendly and interested seeming rather than just glaring judgementally. Again, I looked over at Zoe* wondering what to do and then, the same girl asked me something that Zoe* translated, “What is your name?” Then many of them began to say, “name, name,” in English. I smiled and said, “My name is Dori,” as slowly and pronunciated as I could. They looked confused as they tried to pronounce my name, so I repeated it a few times as they all tried to say it. Then they asked me again, “You from A-m-eer-ika?” “Yes,” I told them as they looked at me in awe. Then Zoe* grabbed my arm to take me away……. I had more of these sort of experiences this weekend than usual, though this was something more extreme than I’ve experienced. I told Zoe* I know my light skin is different, but I know than my hair is something else; she laughed (as she was the one who would not believe me when I said I didn’t put anything in my hair to change the color and also doesn’t believe that my sisters and I can have the same parents because of our different skin tones and hair color). Standing out so much physically definitely wears on me especially as I find myself feeling like less of an outsider because of the increased familiarity I have now. I try to look at people less when I’m walking, even when I since the stares and this has helped.
Leah, who I’m working with to get things organized and better functioning for Ruhamah, the micro-enterprise jewelry business, got here this weekend and will be here for a couple of weeks. So, this week I will be doing a lot with that with her. I’ve also been asked to do some more photo projects for Ruhamah and FF which is kind of fun. This coming Thursday through Sunday is the FF staff retreat. I will be helping with the childcare during the sessions so that the parents will be able to dive in. It will be nice to get out of Ooty and do something a little different.
Things to pray for:
*More FF staff/volunteers have gotten sick… it seems like everyone’s sickness was a little different, mine being the longest and the shortest only being one day. Prayers for health for us all would be appreciated.
*The retreat to go well as well as the girls as they stay with families… that their time would also be refreshing.
*For convictions in several cases where brothel keepers are on trial and FF rescued minor girls are testifying. Justice to prevail.
*There are several different changes and transitions for FF this year with staff/volunteers leaving as well as ways in which FF is becoming more independent. For God to bring the right people to fill these roles, for further finances, and easy transitions.