Saturday, September 4, 2010

elephants, lots of learning, and looking ahead

India YAVs and 40 yr old female elephant
Yesterday we visited the Kodanad Elephant Training Center. The plan was to go on an elephant ride, but for some reason they weren't doing rides that day. We got to pet/observe them, though--the baby elephants were especially cute. We also spent some time walking around the zoo. I felt bad for the chicken that was trapped in the python enclosure as its next meal. He looked pretty happy, I suppose--ignorance is bliss, as they say. Before leaving the zoo, we had tea at the concession stand—4pm tea time is no joke!

Today, we began as we do every morning: breakfast, deliciously prepared by Kochamma, followed by a time of song and devotion with Achen. Normally after this time we have some sort of lesson, whether about language or a topic related to our new life and surroundings. Today, however, Achen had an errand to run, so Jim, Maggie, and I were left to entertain ourselves. We decided that our first solo trip to Aluva was in order.

We set out, not without instructions and expressions of concern from Kochamma (‘do you have your cell phone? Is it charged?’), and walked to the bus stop. It wasn’t long before we boarded a bus, paid 4.5 rupees each (about $0.05), and were on our way—standing room only.

I am happy to say it was a successful trip; no one got lost or ran over. Maggie and I bought credit for our cell phones, and I bought some new sandals. Jim searched in vain for a Coke (only Pepsi products to be found, it seems).  In order to be on time for lunch, we took a rickshaw home, rather than the bus. It cost 35 rupees, the equivalent of about $0.60.

Here’s some good news: I’m finally getting used to the time difference! Our first day, I woke up at promptly 4:30AM. I laid in bed til 6AM, only to discover that Maggie had been awake the entire time, too. Yesterday, we successfully slept til 6:30AM, and today, 8AM. Hooray!

Achen gives an amazing social justice perspective on the Bible.  Yesterday’s bible study was an even better example, but in the interests of time, I’ll stick with today’s. We discussed Acts 3: 1-10. A lame beggar man asks for money, and Peter and John have none to give. Instead, they give him what they can, and what is worth much more—the beggar is healed. Rather than sustaining the man’s circumstances, Peter reaches out his right hand and helps the man to stand. This is a model for partnership and empowerment in mission—helping people help themselves. The man rejoices and is able to enter the temple, for all to see. Achen explained that this takes on special meaning in the context of India, as dalits (also known as “untouchables”—so low that they fall entirely outside the caste system) are traditionally not allowed in Hindu temples due to their “uncleanliness,” just as the lame beggar man was considered unfit to enter the temple, until he was healed.

In our lessons with Achen, we have been learning about things like…
-the caste system, which is abolished in theory but not in practice
-arranged marriages
-Indian culture, food, and language
-religions present in India, and Kerala's history

While a lot to take in, all of this is to prepare us to better serve in our contexts for the upcoming year. Speaking of which, we are here at Achen’s house until 9/8. On that day, we will each move to our respective sites. For those of you who don’t know what I’ll be doing, here’s a quick run down. My time will be divided between two placements…

Buchanan Institution Girls' High School, where I’ll be teaching high school English.

The Mandiram Society, which is comprised of a home for the elderly destitute, a hospital, an orphanage, and a Nursing School. I’ll be attending to the needs of and visiting the elderly residents, teaching English at the Nursing School, and interacting with the children at the orphanage.

That’s all for now—lots of love from 8,000 miles away <3 


  1. Madison, I didn't know you were going to India with the Presbyterian Church. Great move. Great post here. Where are you planning to go for your M. Div.?

    Don't forget to come see us here in Nicaragua.

    Fred and Argentina

  2. Myson! I love your stories! Keep them coming! I didn't realize you were doing so much over there. You will be amazing! Maybe you could even skype your class one day and they can see America! I would be totally down for that! I miss you so much and wish you could have been here for the shower but I know you are across the seas doing great things for people who need you most. MLYSSSSSLT


  3. I am sure you will love working with the children...and I am sure you will find much to do there...take care and enjoy all the yummy food!-cristina