Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. In reflecting on the past month in India, I am finding that while I have always been happy to be here, I become more and more grateful, if that’s possible, with each passing day. I am thankful for and utterly steeped in so much GRACE. Amazing grace. And I am surrounded by wonderful people, which extends, figuratively, to those at home who never cease to be with me.
(How did I get to be so lucky as to know so many incredible people, both here and around the world? Do you know how incredible you are??)
As to what I’ve been doing lately, we had our first YAV retreat this weekend. Jim, Maggie, Achen, Kochamma, Achen’s colleage, Joychan, and I met in Kottayam and stayed at the local CSI (Church of South India) Retreat Center. There were a few more mosquitoes around than I’m accustomed to, but it was all and all wonderful to be with the India family—to laugh, complain, tell stories, and enjoy each other’s company.
Throughout the course of the weekend, we…
-Met with the professors and leadership of CMS College, where Jim is placed, and discussed the purpose of our presence in Kerala; learned more about CMS, Kerala’s first institution of higher education; and got to know the faculty. After learning that one of my degrees is in English Literature, someone from the Literature Department asked me if I might like to teach a class sometime. Not sure if I’m quite ready for that yet!
-had a thought-provoking Bible study on an unconventional interpretation of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
-Visited Mahatma Gandhi University, where we met with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Rajan Varughese, who gave us a lecture on the Kerala’s economic history, and taught us about the Kerala Model of Development. If you didn’t know, Kerala is a communist state. While India has a very low human development index (HDI), ranked 134 out of 182 countries, Kerala outranks, by far, the rest of India’s states. It is known for its education—high literacy, in particular—and health care; Kottayam was the first district to achieve a 100% literacy rate. Kerala’s birth and death rate are both low, and there is a very low infant mortality rate. All of these social achievements are perplexing to most who are familiar with Western theories of economic and social development, due to the fact that the former is expected to precede the latter. In Kerala, however, a state with little industry, the reverse has happened, and this phenomenon is usually referred to as the ‘Kerala Model of Development.’ I’m not making any sort of political comment here; rather, I’m just giving you a little background on an aspect of something that makes Kerala distinctive. And in spite of these social triumphs, it goes without saying that Kerala faces its own challenges, too.
|Sunset over the Kerala backwaters|
-Visited a bishop of the CSI at his house, where we were served tea and snacks for the millionth time that day. He was a very, very nice man, and as his home is right next to CMS College, I have a feeling that Jim might be frequenting his kitchen often, as previous volunteers are said to have done.
-Went on a boat ride in Kerala’s backwaters. Surrounded by palm trees, banana trees, and rice paddies, it was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon and a unique insight into the lives of the ordinary people that live on these waters. At any given time, one might see in the water children playing, men fishing, women washing clothes, pots, and pans, or a cow enjoying some grass near the shore.
After an educational and restful weekend, I’m ready for what’s ahead. This week I should be finalizing my day-to-day schedule with my site supervisor, Jaimol Kochamma (who I LOVE!!), which means I will officially start teaching. In addition to this, and in response to the pleas of the girls I live with to continue Sarah’s exercise class, I’m going to start teaching—you guessed it—ZUMBA! So, things are about to get a lot busier. I am ready!!
For those of my readers (ha, like I have ‘readers’) who aren’t on facebook, check out some pictures I’ve posted of my time in Kerala thus far.
Fairly regular stories in the newspaper about elephant rampages, as well as signs that say “Che and football never die—both spread glorious socialism” are fun reminders to this Florida girl that she’s not in Kansas anymore.
What with all the measuring in love I’ve been able to do recently—I don’t think there’s anywhere else I’d rather be, than right where I am.