Thursday, April 1, 2010

Adventures of Toady Tapper and Peter Panic

Feeling creatively lackluster, I headed downstairs knowing well that my inspiration usually resides in two pint sized troublemakers...with gallon sized pot bellies and equally large appetites for tomfoolery. Today the menu was mud pie cuisine and a combo platter of pinching and wrestling. Oh, and tying Mallory's hair in knots. 

So naturally, my imagination was stirred.

Most adventures start with a roadmap and a fever for thrill. Ours started with Sarah's insatiable curiosity in monkey's. I warned her of their devilishly cute disguise....and their total ignorance of jungle law. I read The Jungle Book. I know what's up. 

And so we trekked to the outdoor court with foolish hopes of finding a gang of the harry harassers. And we found not a gang.....but a GRIP of monkeys. (Mom and Dad, thats street lang for A TON) Ancient Al, Half-baked Harold, Scarface and Benjamin Button....thus named for specific visual reasons. I have great faith in your imaginations. 

After Sarah snapped a few pics, Half-baked Harold gave me the shady brow and before I could say, "time to go," he was in full fledged pursuit. Sarah ran screaming like a sissy girl, and I, in attempt to save us from total annihilation, turned and gave an extremely menacing roar. I am pretty sure Harold's confusion outweighed his fear as he stopped dead in his tracks....and decided maybe a crazy woman wouldn't taste as good. 

Later that day, Sister Sahayam called a car to take us sightseeing. At the second or third sight, we arrived alongside a massive group of field trippin' school kids. As with most of the sights that day, the monkey's seemed to be dispatched in platoon's for tourist sabotage. I came prepared with a beefy stick. As usual, we became the tourist attraction because of our skin, non-black hair and funny accents. After spending 20 minutes at the caves and rock walls, we started back on the path with all of the kids in our wake. Sarah and I looked as though we were leading a mass exodus out of the blowing in the jungle breeze, wooden clubs in hand and a company of uniformed children in tow. Luckily, no monkey attacks disrupted the seeming slow motion parade. (and plus, Hindu's consider monkey's holy animals, so beating them would be a considerable mistake)

The next day I said goodbye to the Presentation Sista's and i'll say it now....goodbye's aren't fun. Then Sarah and I headed out for Cochin, a city on the opposite coast of Southern India. We hopped on a government bus with no windows or doors that took us down the mountains of Kodai to Madurai. In Madurai, we rickshawed to the train station for our overnight trip to Cochin. We arrived in Cochin without any snags...until we realized that Sarah's bag was nowhere to be found. Thankfully, she had her wallet with her, however, her camera and cell phone were in the missing bag. We arrived at the guest house at 6 in the morning and had been asleep for nearly an hour when i get a call from Sarah's cell phone. A nice man named Raj on the other end explained that the bag had been found... and he was appalled when I told him we thought the bag had been stolen. "Stolen?!? In India?!?" Now the problem lay in the 70km distance between us and the found bag.  Raj worked in the air conditioned coach and told us the train would be passing through the Cochin station at 9am on its return journey to Madurai. He gave us the train information and told us to board the train and search for he would be asleep after working the night shift. Fool proof.

At 9am we waited to board said train to find said Raj and recover the said items. The train arrived and we hopped on yelling...RAJ!!! RAJ!!!!! After a minute or two of senseless hollering and Indians looking quizically, Raj appeared in an overhead compartment...with a perilous case of bedhead. He returned the cell phone and explained that the bag and the camera were in the possession of the night train conductor who would be passing through on the 11o'clock train. So needless to say, we became well acquainted with the lost item recovery plan...and the Cochin train station. 

We spent the day gallavanting around Cochin... bargaining with street vendors and generally falling in love with Kerala. At one of the street markets, a rickshaw driver named Babu approached us offering a day of sightseeing for 50 rupees...which is roughly one US dollar. After saying, "please step into my air conditioned ferari" I knew he was the man for the job. The false advertisement was to be expected, however, Babu's rickshaw was nothing short of tricked out. Complete with tassles, lights and a bangin sound system. Pimp my ride, India edition. With Michael Jackson and Nelly Furtado blasting in Babu's rickshaw, we successfully maneuvered and bargained our way through true Pat Moran style. 

The next day we took a boat tour of the Kerala backwaters. Our tour guide, Joy, was quite a character with a mix-n-match approach to the english vocabulary. We walked through a spice village, receiving the education of a lifetime on fruits, spices and the infamous Kerala coconut. One fruit in particular, the mancove, produced a rather humorous conversation. Joy explained that "after eating one mancove seed, your life is ruined." Slow on the uptake, I thought, "Oh, maybe your husband or wife leaves you....or you just contract a general unlucky-ness." After seeing the confused look on all the faces, Joy had another thing to add. "You know who LOVES this fruit?!?!" Blank faces. "People who LOVE to KILL THEMSELVES!!" I bust out laughing. Couldn't help myself. 

The next morning, Sarah and I decided we wanted to wake up early, walk to the beach and see the sunrise. Around 5:45 am, we headed out for our 5 min walk, cutting corners through a little playground. As soon as we set foot on the sand, a pack of 10 dogs encircled us... ears up, teeth bared. Sarah squeeled. (Perhaps now you understand my logic in nicknaming her Peter Panic. haha oh Sarah) I flailed my feet in their faces and tried to make my voice as deep as possible. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, a smaller dog appeared and stood inbetween Sarah and I...growling fiercly at the circle of dogs. Sarah and I made a break as our lil protector made sure no dogs followed. As we walked on the beach, our furry defender walked alongside us. It's a good feeling, being protected.

After two weeks in Kodaikanal,  and a week-ish of travel, I now find myself back at Prema Vasam for my last days in India. And I am totally spent.

I heard once that great love is what is of most expense to yourself. That has been echoing in my head now for days. What is of greatest expense to me? And have I spent it? I thought by now I would have acquired some new earthshattering levels of faith and wisdom. God is probably having a good chuckle at that one....saying, "That wasn't the point Mal." I leave in a week and I am now more confused and more full than ever. 

For the past two days I have passed more time sleeping in the room than playing with the kids. Headaches, exhaustion and overwhelming heat are my main excuses. However, I have this immense fear that I will beat myself up later when I am back in Denver. Wishing like hell that I spent every waking second with these kids. Cause the world seems to stop when I have Amal and Santos in my arms. And just the thought of saying goodbye is like tearing out my insides. So perhaps I did give something of great expense after guts. 

Figuratively speaking of course.

And so I have run out of things to say...and the energy to say them. Maybe i will have more of both in the Frankfurt airport come April 6th. So these are my final thoughts, at least for now.

Much love,


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A headache, a few bananas, and who KNOWS how many rats

Time is of a different breed here at the convent. It can go sideways, backwards and it is even known to tread water for several days. I just hung my clothes on the line and its safe to say that Indian laundry smells infinitely better than in the states. That, and it seems to set the pace of life a couple notches below busy. Think about it...have you ever met a chronically busy person who has freshly soaped laundry fluttering in the wind on a few backyard clotheslines? I don't think so.

I think the most telling tale of my life on pause is my latest and greatest time-telling device. BUZZ. No, Carey, NOT the brother from Home Alone. A fuzzy black caterpillar who climbs up and down my walls at the approximate rate of 5 inches per hour. Yes...I measured yesterday with a leftover lunch noodle. I woke up the other day to find Buzz on the ceiling...and I knew immediately that I was late for breakfast. I don't know what is stranger. A fuzzy bugger as a timepiece or a noodle as a measuring stick.

Last week I decided to make some American sweets for the sisters. With the truckloads of banana's that Indian's eat, I thought it high time to introduce the BLUTH BANANA. (A chocolate covered banana for all you non Arrested Development fans out there.) I was innocently carrying my bushel of banana's and homemade chocolates into the convent when a whole fraternity of monkey shenanigan-izer's arrived on the scene. I think they considered the bright yellow fruit a formal invitation to enter. In a whirlwind of commotion, the furry bandito's infiltrated the fort. We can now add assault to their extensive rap sheet. Sister Lucy was less than pleased. She responded strongly and successfully...with a crowbar. I call it the BANAN-O-RAMA of 2010. A movie deal is in the works.

Now I find myself sitting at the outdoor court that overlooks the entire property. The school, the hostel, the parish and the convent. I would have had a HAY DAY here as a kid. Detective agency here in the court, capture the flag behind St.Patrick's...monkey trapping over the tin roofs and some ill-planned pranks in the cemetery. Let's be honest, given my childhood history, the last one is more than plausible. And Tally, I know what your thinking...the ill-planning woulda been my you were usually the original visionary of all our tomfoolery. Now that is a dreadfully AWESOME compliment. But then again, it does take both an abnormally large head and an oddly long torso to hatch any plan worthy of the WWG branding. I'll leave the Latchams and the Morans to decide which abnormal body belonged to which abnormal kid. Sorry for the tangent. Some things just have to be said.

For the past week and a half I have been fighting a strange cold of sorts...and the mice in my bed were NOT helping. The worst part is...I never saw the little bandicoots...I only heard them. And at 3 in the morning, it's the mind game that becomes ultimately worse. Each pitter patter leading me to believe the mice were growing into oversized woolly beasts. I told myself, "Mal, suck it up...honestly!" After my first sleepless night, I moved to another room in the building that I alone inhabited. After thorough inspection, no mouse holes were found. However, I did find some blood spattering and some strange marks that led this amateur sleuth to the gruesome conclusion of rat homicide. Another sleepless night. Even though Sister Lucy refers to the rats as 'little fellows' I refuse to agree on their innocence. At around midnight, I ditched the idea of bravery and called my mommy. I guess the mice thought it was high time I tap into my reserves of homesickness, exhaustion and general lack of enthusiasm.And YES, you can reserve a lack of something. I call it my last semester of high school.

Funny though how a little mouse could reveal such serious leaks in my mode of operation. I went through two miserable nights before I decided that sucking it up...sucked. And wasn't worth it. My false bravery was benefiting no one. If I always just bite the bullet, then my family would never know that I missed them! They would never know that I need them for comfort! And my friends would never know the same. And now that I think about it...through a handful of events since high school...'suck it up' has been my adage. It's dumb. Don't do it unless its really called for.

My body chose a good place to fall apart though. In the care of 7 sisters, most of whom are trained nurses. I really had to lay down some pride of strength though, when I admitted desperately that I was scared to sleep alone in the rat infested infirmary. It's good for me. I then slept like a brick in my new room in the convent, and then the next day I found myself in private access jungle lands with a friend who works for the Kodaikanal Forestry Department..walking around a lily-padded lake talking about lions and tigers and bears....oh my.

Sarah, my friend from the orphanage, should be boarding an overnight bus to Kodai as we speak. We are going to spend two nights here at the convent and gallivant around Kodai until we depart on Saturday for our next adventure. We will be headed to Cochin, a city on the opposite coast of Southern India, in the state of Kerala. I hear it's beautiful, but I am excited to see it for myself!!!

My time in India is winding down. And trust me, it feels like a dream already.

Until next time! mal

Monday, March 8, 2010

Barefoot and Brainless

Cruisin through tea fields as the sun is setting...doing 85 in an old safari style Bolero as six nuns say the rosary while eating chile pickled mango. Its one of those moments where you gotta close your eyes and say...never forget this. And then you blink and two months in India have already flown by. Too many X's on the calendar and only a few malaria tablets remaining. Reality often rears its head in the strangest ways.

A day or two before I left the orphanage, I was at my usual 6:30 post...with Amal asleep in my lap and three year old Santos giving me an inventive martial arts demonstration. It only took him a few seconds to spy some juicy watermelon slices lying untouched next to the teachers bookbag. Somewhere between his roundhouse kick and his wily plot to nick the forbidden fruit, the reality finally surfaced. And it took nearly a month.

Who would EVER abandon this child? THESE children?

Maybe their circumstances were reason enough to give up the child, but I find it extremely difficult to make excuses for ABANDONMENT. Yes, I would much rather have him living at the orphanage than living with a woman who would so willingly give him up...because she didn't want to bring him into a second marriage. Now that...THAT is just asking for me to be livid. But as I watched Santos reek havoc on 6 gargantuan slices of watermelon...anger became a fleeting emotion. Even if it is justified, this is neither the time nor the place to be angry. Even though my brain has been out to lunch for the past month, I have thought that much.

In all of this, I have found it is more than possible for my heart to be full and my head to be empty. I am actually quite enjoying the change-up. After a few hours at the orphanage, some cogs turned and some switches flipped...and my brain was turned off. It took me more than a week to be okay with that. I have spent most of my life trying to love with my head. To love love WELL. Well now I see that love doesn't always hang in perfect balance of head and heart. What if passion is oftentimes total foolishness? Wait, hold the what if...I KNOW it often total foolishness. Maybe loving MUCH doesn't always require the head...sincerity not always requiring the heavy thinking. Perhaps there are times when loving WELL is just loving MUCH.

I am now back in the cool Kodaikanal air...taking a breather. The only thought in my head is how I cannot hope to know God's movement in life if I don't first know His rest. I would rather the bruises of anger, sadness and heavy thought appear later...when I am back in Denver, safe in the arms of family and friends and corner coffee-shops. But then again, I cannot predict when the suckerpunches of India will show their marks...all purple and all over. As heavy as this stuff is, it is equally amazing. And altogether invaluable. For now I hope to follow the advice of a just let this time be what it is. I'll take to it barefoot and brainless. If you'll excuse me, I need to go see a nurse about a broken toe.

Much love, mal

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fiddler on the Roof

It's easy to fall in love with India from the back of a motorcycle. Or on a rooftop of an orphanage, where I currently find myself. Sitting on an old straw mattress amid a sea of colorful Indian laundry. (Mom and Dad, if your reading this, I haven't been riding any motorcycles...only auto-rickshaws :)

There are about 75 mentally and physically handicapped children here at the orphanage and around 80 healthy kids. I am with the handicapped kids everyday... feeding, carrying and sometimes helping at the special school, which pretty much amounts to screaming the alphabet and throwing notebooks and shoes out the window.

With so many kids here, it is nearly impossible to connect with every one. The handicapped children are so PRECIOUS and I am having a blast with them. Sarah, the other volunteer here at the orphanage, is from Austria and is incredibly gifted with the handicapped kids. She is such a blessing and SO much fun to be with. We are having a ball tackling India together.

After my first day of work, I was overloaded by exhaustion and shock. By 4 o'clock, we had carried all of the handicapped children back to their rooms and all of the school going kids had returned. With playclothes on and mischief on the mind, the kids descended on the sandy courtyard. I found myself a perch along the perimeter wall to observe the mayhem, knowing in an odd way it would be therapeutic. With a Peter Gabriel tune playing in my head, I watched as a band of 5 year old boys carried out about a dozen different humorous schemes. One of which included the pulling off of frogs legs and throwing them at the double dutch girls. Around that time, a little girl named Kalai crawled into my lap and fell asleep. For me, that was about the greatest welcome anyone could ever give. And since then, I have become a faithful observer of the 4 o'clock schoolyard. It seems to make the world right again...regardless of the number of frog legs I have launched my way.

I decided yesterday that so far, my life in India has been a string of euphoric moments, and I possess no clever or beautifully big words to describe them. I guess all I can do is recollect the moments themselves.....or...the KIDS themselves.

I spend most of my time with the handicapped children and love every minute of it. They put up with my goofy antics and have the most precious smiles. Most of the children have cerebral palsy and have been abandoned. Just train front of temples....covered in bed sheets in the gutter. Yet they still have the sweetest smiles and equally precious personalities. I don't understand.

As I watch Sarah throughout the day, I know that there is a fire in her bones for these handicapped kids. Its a calling, and a blessed one. It's not love to play favorites, but with so many kids at the orphanage, it's nearly impossible to make a connection with every one. I have grown especially close to a group of 5 year old healthy kindergarten boys. The moment i saw them, I knew they needed my arms as much as the handicapped kids did. I got the feeling that they are a little forgotten in the scheme of things here at the orphanage. I will attempt to describe these mighty boys with words that seem so finite in comparison.

First there is Sudellie, who by first glance is the alpha male of the pack. That title has been unjustly given...most likely due to his 40 year old smoker voice. In reality, Sudellie is a total sweetheart who LOVES to sit on my lap, or brush my hair. Then there is Praveen...who has the looks of a young Kevin Bacon and the dance moves to match. (Trust me on this one, I wouldn't lie about something like this!) Everyday is footloose with Praveen...he is constantly dancing down the halls....moving his hips in seeming rhythm to the girls rolling eyes. They are jealous....and have huge fat crushes on him. Beyond that, Praveen loves Michael Jackson and is a master thumb-warrior. Then comes Andrea, with his heart melting smile and insatiable love for Indian cinema. He rarely will give you the time of day...unless you have a frog in your hands or will serve as a loungechair in front of the tv after dinner. Andrea's mother lives here at the orphanage, however, she is mentally ill and gave birth to him in the bathroom. On any given day, she won't know Andrea is her child. Manny, the notorious frog killer, is wanted on several counts of animal torture and biscuit thievery. Just last night he covered a frog in yogurt and then rolled it in sand. He offered it to me as a special 'Indian sweet'. Yah, sure, thanks Manny. Then in comes Santos. The Dr. Jackle and Mr. Hyde of Prema Vasam. With his round cheeks and little grandpa belly, he stares up at you lovingly....until his stare turns into a dubious grin and he stomps on your toes. His shirt is always untucked and his pants ALWAYS fly half mast. One afternoon, there were around 30 girls visiting the orphanage from a catholic girls high school in Chennai. While most of the girls were in tears looking at the handicapped children, Santos was busy stealing their shoes. One in the flowerpot. One in the pond. And, this is my rubbed on his butt. In the morning, Santos will be pinching my legs and trying to pick off my freckles. Then come 4 o'clock, he falls asleep in my lap. Menace by day, sweetheart by 4.

And then...there is the love of my life.... Amal. Its like my arms ache for this kid. Maybe thats a taste of what it feels like to be a mother. (Don't worry though, i'm not heading down that road anytime soon...but am excited to someday) His facial expressions could rival the three Moran sisters and he hangs in the balance between troublemaker and sweetheart. When he sees me, he yells AKKA! (which means older sister in Tamil) and he runs full speed and does a classic gymnastics launch into my arms. Either that, or he runs full speed away, giggling and hoping for a good chase. I will be standing in the hall talking with Sarah or one of the visitors, and he comes from behind me and slips his hand into mine. Everynight I tuck these boys into bed...on their straw matt with a blanket....and everynight....Amal gives me a big fat kiss on the cheek...and then a nice ole salut. I can't sleep otherwise.

I have spent the last two weeks trying to figure out why I am not in tears every night. In lots of ways, I think its my welcome to the world. Learning to be in the presence of such pain and abandonment... joy and euphoria... in such un-processible amounts. I think somewhere along the road I figured....okay Mal, lets ride it til the wheels fall off. Love now, cry and fret later. My days are far sweeter and sweeter still when I ask God, "Okay, who needs my arms today?" Beyond that, my thought is paralyzed. For now, I am just filling my pockets with these 'over the moon' moments... and am hoping that sometime later I will come apart at the seams and begin to process it all.

Usually wherever I travel, I find a favorite place to do my deepest thinking. Up here on the roof, I do my deepest.....breathing.

Much love. Til next time,

Friday, February 5, 2010

GROWING PAINS (NOT related to Kirk Cameron)

What to say....what to say!?! Okay, I'll start with this....


I just returned from a little shindig for a woman who is retiring from her teaching position at St. Xavier's after 30 years. First there was mass, then a break for tea and fried goodies, then dancing, then skits, then more dancing...and then MORE food! Indians do it RIGHT!!! In Southern India, you typically eat lunch using big banana leaves as plates. In these modern days, they use 'computer leaves' computer paper in the shape of a leaf! I gotta kick outta that. But then again, I get a kick outta India. I can easily say today was my greatest joy in India thus far. Having girls arms around me constantly...and laughing endlessly with the sisters. It's not like...its LOVE.

I am packing my bag for my bus ride to Chennai tomorrow evening. I don't even want to THINK about leaving! However, I did decide to come back here to Kodaikanal for I guess that makes saying goodbye a little easier. When I was a wee tot, I was convinced that if you are still unmarried by a certain age, then you are fated to become a nun. It has been a long standing joke at the Moran household, so you can imagine their remarks when I fell in love with the convent. Don't worry though, I won't be taking any vows until marriage.

Ahh! I still can't believe I am leaving tomorrow! I feel as though I have just started to dig in with these girls. We laugh and joke as they teach me Tamil. To them, I am an escape from life. To me, they are the life I have been looking for.They call me 'Auntie' and constantly treat me like a human jukebox...always requesting songs. The lyrics that come out are always a surprise, especially to me! Today it was Neil Diamond and Michelle Branch. Who knows, tomorrow the Beach Boys might make an Indian debut!

Yesterday I found a slingshot on Sr. Lucy's NATURALLY I thought it had been confiscated from a mischievous student (not unlike a certain Tally Latcham and myself in our schoolgirl days! Tal, this slingshot is a BEAUTY. It coulda made a bigger dent then our whole clog-on-the-ledge scheme!) After a brief inquiry, I discovered that Sr. Lucy is the master sling-a-teer herself!! She can scare away a monkey king with only the slightest sound of stretching rubber! We had a good laugh, and then later at dinner, it was decided that I will marry a man who is excellent with a slingshot and equally talented with a hammer. Then we will move to Kodaikanal, I will teach and he will be PEST CONTROL. AKA-monkey man.

Today a teacher asked me how old my husband and children are, and what kind of marriage we have if he just lets me take off to India for three months! I laughed for a solid five minutes. It's not the first time I have been asked this question, however. She was aghast when she learned that I am neither married nor in school! I am quite the delinquent by Indian standards. Lets just say that independence isn't woven into Indian values. Something I love about India and hate at the same time. It's good for family values but equally abusive to women.

Even after four weeks here, the dust has hardly settled. Its been kicked up rather. It's incredibly sad, and somewhat amusing at times, how I can travel thousands of miles, to a different WORLD it seems, and still be stuck in my own head. My first two weeks here were sweet to say the least, but they were....without.

Last week I was knocked sideways. Through the course of one day, there were at least 5 different women who came to the door sobbing to the sisters about completely unrelated yet desperate situations. I was drinking tea in the next room just listening to these women cry. They were speaking in Tamil, so all I could do was sit and listen to the sobs...and imagine the despair. That afternoon I read a few emails from friends back home...and was just broadsided by the heartbreak. There is so much ache in the world, so much grief, sorrow, doubt, loss and total despair. I don't think scale, circumstance or location even matters much. Heartbreak is heartbreak.

I have discovered that I see my own ailment, my own joy even, as a little bit (or alotta bit) more important than that of others. And to what end? It was all too easy to buy into the wanderlust idea of escaping to India for awhile and returning completely changed...with long hair and new earth-shattering wisdom. None of these things are wrong or bad...but the idea that MY change, MY experience is the most important thing...THAT idea is narrow. Without. It leaves me MISSING out, on a world of joy, and yes, a world of hurt. Perhaps heartbreak and perspective go hand in hand.

I have had more than a few melancholy afternoons this past week. Feeling disheartened and angry at myself...for spending the greater part of my life sitting on my own curb, and often in my own gutter....when now I see that the truest treasure lies in the gutter of others. It seems backwards by so many standards, but that's what I love about Jesus. He loved and led from below. In the gutter.

There is such a mental reaction. To just shut down in the presence of poverty, heartbreak even. Its as if my body's defense mechanism is....distraction. The poor cannot afford food or even the freedom to compartmentalize their lives. It's all one. One heart, one ache, one joy. I don't get it...but I desperately want too.

I feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire...feverishly writing a midnight revelation. There is probably no one out there who caught that ref...even my movie buff sisters....You had me at hello?!?! Anyone?

I am pretty sure that my eyesight and understanding are being turned inside out. These few months are not a full and complete work that will end April 6th when I fly home to the states. Things are just getting started. For right now, God is showing me that compassion is only a product of something bigger. Passion for something bigger..HOPE in something bigger. I think India is saving me from a rigormortis faith. And thank God, because what is the point of faith if its dead?

Outgrowing the yesterdays faith is all I can ask for I guess. The growing pains are less than pleasant, but compared to the crooked hand these girls have been dealt...the heartbreak is bearable. I don't know what my internet sitch will be like at the orphanage in HOLLA until next time!

Much love, sorry for the rambles...just have alot on my heart.


Saturday, January 30, 2010


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Hills are ALIVE

As I hung my laundry on the line yesterday afternoon, a group of girls caught me paying a lively tribute to the vocal stylings of the great Julie Andrews. You may laugh, but minus Mr. Von Trap and his expansive Austrian estate, my current situation draws a curious and comical resemblance to the treasured classic, The Sound of Music.I seem to be the odd addition to the convent and the willing butt of the sisters jokes! Although I do not share Maria's taste for tweed jumpers, I certainly do look the part of a country girl...with an Indian twist of course!! My bright yellow knit cardigan is complimented by an awesomely bad 80's spaceship t-shirt...and a bindi. Come to think of it, I should direct a Bollywood style rendition of the musical...staring the Presentation Convent Sisters and myself!

This past weekend I started teaching English and Art and I also joined an Indian Ultimate Frisbee team! In March, there is a huge tournament, FLY BABA, in which Ultimate teams from all over southern India compete for the coveted cheese platter prize! Who knew Indians loved Ultimate? And CHEESE!? And blasted Lil' Wayne and Backstreet Boys in their internet cafes?! HaHa

Yesterday and today I taught a few English classes and two drawing classes. As a fun drawing exercise to loosen up, I had the girls do blind line contour drawings (drawing a subject without looking at the paper or lifting the pencil from the page). The results end up resembling funny Picasso style drawings. I told the girls to fill in their drawings with color and pattern, (Carey Moran style) and to also give their beautiful drawing a name. One girl named hers "ROCKY," and another, "SWEETY". More than half the class named theirs "PAT," after my dear mother! The tiniest girl in the room named her drawing "MAL." I hadn't felt so honored since little Gracie Todd of Denver named her pink haired troll after me. Complete with a bejeweled belly button!

I wish I could put up images of these girls. When I can, I will! These girls are SO precious. Good thing they aren't fluent in English, or the gig would be up. They would know for sure that I am a total idiot. However, I am certain that being a total goof surpasses the limits of language. As I stood in front of the class today, chalk in hand, I noticed how easy it is to be deceived. To fall prey to the idea that I am the one with all the knowledge. Despite my older age and education thus far, I know that in these rooms of girls, I am not the possessor of the most valuable knowledge. That does hinge on what you value. But there is an immense childlike faith and joy....and exuberance that I know nothing about. I know the world isn't changed when I teach a roomfull of girls to say, T-O-M-A-T-O. I am starting to see that the world will be changed by our ability to be teachable. To learn from the poor, the struggling...the young. To stop pegging them as poor, or without. But to see them as owners of precious knowledge beyond knowledge. Just a thought.

As I left class, a little ten year old girl was swatting away King Louis and his rascal troupe of monkey pals. The monkey's roam the halls and hang out on window sills, soaking up the school lessons. The monkeys and the girls are not the only ones eager for an education however! The COWS also mozie through the corridors! I laughed myself sick after sweet Sister Lucy recounted her gripping tale of slipping on a cow pie in the hall! We are surely cut from the same cloth, as she found it every bit as funny as I did....after she had cleaned herself off of course.

Also, I should note, that the food here is delicious! After a few days of feeding me only peanut butter, toast and boiled vegetables, the sisters insisted that I try the corriander chutney. Tasting it was both the worst and most delicious decision I have ever made! It certainly was no herb chutney. It was an atomic blast!! If you need to cleanse the sinuses, holler at Presentation Sisters. They know whats up. However, they will make you wear a all good Indian girls "wear bindi's and eat rice!" I am on my way, but I have to lose my Wayfarer's first!

Just after dinner this evening, I was perusing the hallways, examining the collection of hundreds of books and biblical commentaries. And what did I find in the bottom corner of the last dusty shelf? A treasure trove of romance novels and a rather large blue edition of "The Graduate." I don't know whats more amusing, the sister's rather extensive collection of passionate novels, or the fact that I am already through the first of the series. Haha. Hey, it seemed like a more entertaining choice than "Gone With the Wind."

Til next time! Much much love