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