Tuesday, October 11, 2011

new blog new chapter

I just want to say thank you everyone who has read my blog and been so supportive! I've had people say the sweetest things to me and about me that I feel like I don't deserve. Thank you again! The point of this post is to tell some exciting news...

I'm engaged!!

I'm engaged to Cj Hunter who also volunteered for Rising Star with me January through April! I'm getting married in May. We're hoping to return back to India in a year or so to volunteer again. I will now be posting all about our life together (aka when we eventually return to India as well) on this blog:


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

my second home

Walking off the plane in Chennai didn't feel foreign. I felt like I was home and I kind of am. I've spent about as much time in India as I have the states this past year. Going back to Rising Star was the best feeling in the world. I've never felt more loved in my life. The first person I saw was Moorthy's dad. He smiled and grabbed my hand. He told me his sons were excited to see me. Selvie, the cleaner, first saw me and ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. Then Kenady brought Vanilla Mary, the house mother who is honestly one of my best friends,  over from the school. I about ran her over. We just sat there hugging as she kissed my cheek. I walked outside and saw Christraj's head peeping to and fro seeing if I was there. I ran, scooped him up, and squeezed the life out of him. Then some more kids ran over and I was hugged and kissed to my hearts content. I lifted Archana up into my arms and she wrapped her arms around me and threw her head against my chest. I looked down as she said, "Auntie, I'm crying!" I almost lost it. Once playtime came around, I walked over to the kids hostel to a greeting I will never forget. They were all on the balconies yelling my name. Revathy ran down and grabbed my hand. She rushed me through the girls side to every room yelling, "Audrey is here! Audrey is here!" I was greeted by the smiling faces of all the little girls I love so dearly. Then a couple of the smaller boys pulled me over to the boys side. I sat there soaking in every smile, every hug, and every kiss. The kids ran around introducing me to all the coordinators and long term volunteers. "This is Audrey!" I saw all the house mothers and staff and each one greeted me with a huge hug telling me they missed me. I wasn't expecting anything like this and I've honestly never felt so loved. I love these people so much. Unconditionally. I was almost in tears the whole entire time because I was so grateful for each one of them and the love they were showing me. Everyone at Rising Star has changed my life so unbelievably much, more than I ever could theirs. I am the luckiest girl in the world because I can say that these people are a part of my life.
  These past couple days have been amazing. Yesterday, Kyle and I were in the construction group. We moved 500 bricks, loaded up a truck with sand, unloaded it, unloaded cement roofs, and moved these huge rocks that took three girls to carry. Kyle and David picked up these rocks like they were no big deal which made me think, "Easy, we totally have this." Yeah. No. THREE OF US. It was the most awkward thing of my life. Kyle also would put spin on the bricks and he also wouldn't wait for me to turn around until he threw them so I was nervous the whole time that I was going to get a brick to the face. We took a break though and walked through the Bharathapuram colony. I saw the barber and introduced him to Kyle. He was quite excited to learn that he was my brother. Kim and I also walked with my favorite grandma, Kanamaganie (note: all indian names are spelled as they sound. I don't think I'm spelling all of them right), in the colony from one end to the middle holding her hands. I gave her a picture of me and her. When she saw it was her and me, she threw her hands in the air with a huge smile and grabbed my face and kissed and pinched my cheeks. How I love her so. Here are some pictures I took in the colony..

That night, Kim, Allie, and I had a legitimate karate match with the kids. It was sooo funny. Nagraj swung around and kicked Kim's leg and she collapsed so fast. We were all getting our butts kicked. At one point they had us all against the wall and they were just kicking the crap out of our shins. We yelled retreat retreat! and ran out of the room as fast as possible. Lame? Possibly. But the bruises on my shins prove it was a good idea to take a break. I honestly haven't laughed that hard in awhile.

Today I went with the medical clinic and we took patients to the hospital. I was fortunate enough to have Sudha the WHOLE day. She sat on my lap the way down. I took her to her appointment. Sudha was recently diagnosed with leprosy which breaks my heart. She was so scared. This appointment was a checkup and a discussion of what medicine they were going to give her and for how long. There was little Sudha in this dark dreary room were power was intermittent. Doctors and nurses huddled around her and those big brown eyes looked more and more nervous by the second. All of the sudden she was behind my leg holding onto my arm. The nurses laughed as she poked her black curly locks from my chuddygar and slowly exposed her eyes. Oh how I love her. At one point of the day, I taught her the song "Baby" by Justin Bieber. We would sing "baby baby baby oooohhhh" as we would oooohhhh she would nuzzle her nose up against mine. On the drive home, I was honestly considering taking her home. She fell asleep and nuzzled up close to me. There is nothing better in this world than cuddling with a child. I could have sat there all day. One thing that I learned about Sudha is that she is so considerate. Anytime she was given a treat, she instantly broke off a piece for me and offered it to me. I also had a bag of trail mix and she had to make sure that everyone got a chance after she picked out all the chocolate. There was nothing better than hearing her sweet voice all day.

 One funny story though. Miranda and I were with the three kids watching them in the van. We were all given a piece of gum. Well we went to the other van to go eat. Miranda took Khartik's piece of gum, wrapped it up in his wrapper and put it in her bag. The other kids did the same. I threw mine right outside my window. All of the sudden there was Khartik with a piece of "blue boomer" and my gum was no longer on the ground. Miranda and I just looked at each other and burst out laughing. It was hilarious.

This is such a watered down version of what's happened here. To sum it all up though, I'm having the time of my life. I'm with the people I love and the love they are showing me is the most incredible feeling in the world. Last night, Vanilla Mary told me that I needed to get married and come back with a baby so they could all hold it, kiss it, and help me take care of my child in India. The thing is I would absolutely die if I could. I'm almost in tears half the time because I either am so grateful or so sad because I'm realizing my time in India is slowly ticking. There is honestly no other place in the world I'd rather be than here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Indiaaa Round 3

Will I ever be able to keep myself from India? Nope, not a chance. I'm extremely excited to go this time because I'm taking my brother Kyle with me. He just graduated from Highland High School (go rams). He's the BEST. Although he comes across as gangster nation with his tall tees, pants that hang to his knees, and hats that cover his eyes, he is the sweetest. Everyone is going to love him and he is going to do some amazing work! I'll be blogging in behalf of him and also taking pictures even though he avoids them like the plague... wish me luck.
Even though my bags are packed and our flight is tomorrow morning, it doesn't feel like I'm going. Words cannot even describe the excitement I feel right now. I cannot wait to see all the people I love so very dearly. Unfortunately, not everyone from my Indian family will be there. It will be so weird not having the Hendershots there. They're the most AMAZING family ever. They became my second family while I was living there. They've been there both times I've gone to India so it's not going to be the same without them. I'm going to miss them like crazy while I'm over there.
In about 12 hours I will be on board a plane. ican'tevenwaiticanhardlystandit. Peace out USA. You'll be missed...kind of... sort of... not really... Let's be honest here, you won't really be missed at all.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

till we meet again

I spent my last day in my favorite colony, Bharathapuram. I helped Wendy Bird teach some women in the colony how to make pearl necklaces, which was also a learning experience for me as well might I add. This is a micro business that Rising Star just opened for women in the colony. The women make beautiful pearl necklaces and bracelets that are sold back here in the states. The hardest part about this day was sitting on the ground for hours with no back support. Call me an old woman, but my back about gave out. When Wendy was here last time, they brought in chairs and tables for the women. They do not like sitting at tables and chairs. They'd rather sit on the ground. I'm pretty sure they were all thinking, "What a weak little American girl. I sit hunched over all day," as I would groan and have to walk it off for a couple minutes. The best part about helping with the pearls was being able to sit with these amazing women. Daphe was our translator so the language barrier wasn't as thick this time. At one point, I had two women staring at me. They said something to Daphe. She smiled as she leaned over to tell me that they thought I was very beautiful especially with my bindi on. The women here are always so sweet. I somehow get the comment, "Audrey, you are looking so beautiful today," when my hair is on top of my head in a rats nest, while sweating from every pore. 

Lucy and I wandered around the colony. This is one of my favorite things to do in India. I love observing their lives and meeting the people. I love the freshly washed laundry hanging from the lines that are attached to the brightly painted concrete, one roomed houses.
 My goal was, however, to find Kanmani, one of my favorite little trouble makers from Rising Star. I asked people near and far. "Kanmani," I'd say, really trying to enunciate. "Yanmani. Girl," they questioned. "Nooooo. Little Boy. KKKKKKKanmani," I'd say over and over. Finally a look of sudden realization lit up a young boys face as he motioned for me to follow him. We ran through alleys, and a gate to two rows of bright blue buildings. There he was hanging up some laundry. I yelled his name and saw him smile. He gave me a big hug and told me to follow him so I could see his baby sister. He showed me his two room living arrangement, his mother, and baby sister. Kanmani's father committed suicide. His mother blamed it on him. Now there is a man that lives with them, of which is also his baby sister's father. This is actually illegal in India from what Daphe told me. Since Kanmani has endured the unthinkable for a child, he tends to act out while at school. He shows this by stealing the children's pens, erasers, and snacks. He is, however, very smart and a very sweet boy. I always have a special place in my heart for the troublemakers. It's probably because I have two brothers in my family that are quite the troublemakers themselves.
On our way home, I watched India pass me through the window of the van. I was in denial that I was leaving what has come to be my second home. I will be in India as much as I have been in the states this past year considering that I'll be back in July with my brother Kyle. I reflected on my time here. India turned out to be an even bigger blessing than I originally thought. When I was packing up to leave in December, I thought I was just putting my life on pause while I went to India. In reality, my life made quite a necessary change. I am so grateful. Words cannot express to my father in heaven how blessed I feel that he sent me to India at the right time to the people that I love unconditionally. I have such a strong belief that the Lord answers our prayers through the people around us. My prayer was answered through India. Sometimes we find ourselves thinking that people need us in their lives, when we sometimes need to make the realization that we may need them more than they need us.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

hangin with the house mothers

My goodbye has been more of a see you later. It was nice being able to say to the kids, "goodbye, I'll see you in July!" The girls hugged me and told me they missed me; the boys chanted my name as I walked over to their side. The whole time I'm wondering what I'm going to do when I don't see them everyday. It wasn't easy saying goodbye to the kids who didn't want to go home. Ebenezer was especially heart breaking. I sat down with Ebenezer on the steps of the hostel and asked if there was anything I could do to make him feel better. He shrugged. I asked if writing a note to him would make it better. He nodded. I grabbed a piece of paper and a sharpie. I wrote about how much I loved him and how I'd keep him in my prayers. He smiled when I read it back to him. He quickly tucked it away in his pocket. I told him if he ever got sad, to read the note I gave him. He sat with me for the next hour and a half. I just held him and stroked his hair as he sat next to me. He found Charlotte's Web and had me read it out loud to him. He fumbled my elephant ring in between his two thumbs. Then we saw his mother. He stood up, shrugged his shoulders with a face that said "well here it goes I guess" and said, "Thank you Audrey". I almost burst into tears. I wish I could give him the loving home he deserves.
 It was fun seeing the kids who were excited to go home. The girls all dressed up in bright colors and had wither bright purple or pink lipstick on. They all would stand on the second floor of the hostel, tip toeing, waiting to see their parents come around the corner. My favorite parent pick up was Aravindh P. He is a little UKG boy who wears glasses that extend inches past his ears. His Dad looked exactly like him, glasses and all. Aravindh was literally hopping up and down, he was so excited to leave with his Dad. His Dad greeted him with a big hug and kiss on the cheek.

After all the kids left, Lucy and I took a bike ride to the junction which is something I will really miss. I don't know what it is about sharing a palm tree lined road with cows, buses, and motorcycles that makes me love it so much. I love that at the junction I can stop by the ice cream store; go across the street and grab a nightie; go next door from the nightie place and buy 22 karat gold earrings for 20 American dollars. I love the commotion and I love the sounds. I love that it feels like home.

On our way back, we were biking through the village when I heard my name being called. The house mothers were having a little get together at one of the teacher's house. We watched tamil music videos with them. Lucy and I would squeal anytime a man went in for a kiss (which is quite scandalous mind you). We asked why was it okay for them to show affection on tv, supposedly it's because it's the character's dream. Psh. I love hanging out with the house mothers though. Kala is my Indian mom, but a few of the others are only a few years older than me. I call them my sisters.

That night we had a dance party with the house mothers. We had some tamil dance going on. I'm coming home with some mad dance skills. I know you can't wait. Chris had the chicken dance song. We had the best time. Of course at the partner portion of the dance, I was singing/yelling "da da da daaaaaaa da daaaaa da da daaaaaa SWITCH!" Honestly some of the most fun I've had in awhile. I love them.

Today was AMAZING. All of the house mothers, Angelie and her daughter, Padmini, her husband, and her children came to church with us. I loved every second because I had this two little chickies sitting next to me the whole time.
Kids at church makes it so much more fun. It's probably a reason why they can't keep me at a singles ward for too long. Archana and Reshma flipped through my Book of Mormon. Arachana turned to Thrid Nephi and read "The Book Of". She turned her head and pointed at the word Nephi. I told her the word and she finished with a smile on her face. I was so impressed. She's only six years old and english is her second language. I was so proud. Reshma found my bindis that I have been sticking on the front page after I'm done wearing them. She picked a long maroon one. I peeled it off and stuck it in between her eyebrows. She smiled, looked at me, held up two fingers in a peace sign, and said very nonchalantly "super." Reshma also thumbed through the pages of the hymn book with her chipped purple nail polish. She would say each letter to me. "Yen-O-W  L-Yee-T   U-Yes   R-Yee-J-O-Yi-C-Yee". Translation: "N-O-W  L-E-T  U-S  R-E-J-O-I-C-E". Reshma also found a picture of Jesus in my Book of Mormon and had me kiss the picture first. She quickly kissed it afterward as well.

Afterwards, we were all able to go to Pizza Hut. The kids were so excited to eat pizza. We walked in and they spotted the ball pit, the ones that you find at the play places in McDonalds. I have never seen children have that much fun in a ball pit. For about twenty minutes all I heard was, "Audrey! You see! You See!" Then they'd jump into the balls. They also hid from me a few times by burying someone. "Audrey! Where is Stephen?" Reshma is Padmini's niece. She was my child for an hour and a half since Padmini went her husband, daughter, and Vel to get chicken briyani. I loved every second. The best was watching her eat pizza. I had to teach her to hold the pizza and then bite. She and Archana poured massive amounts of ketchup onto their pizzas. Reshma near the end ended up sticking her whole hand in the ketchup and licking it. She repeatedly did this until her plate was clean and then asked me for more. I loved cleaning off her red, sticky hands with a napkin. Stephen, Michel, Bala Kumar, and Nagaraj each inhaled at least four pieces of pizza. They also ate it with forks and knives even though none of us did. I had so much fun watching them eat pizza.
 Then we went off to the beach. I wasn't expecting anyone to get in since swim suits are out of the question. I just assumed we would walk around. Boy, was I wrong. All of the house mothers went chest high into the water in their full chuddydar outfits. Pants, dress, scarf, and all. I was playing with Reshma, lifting her over the waves when Angelie grabbed me and started pulling me in. This wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't wearing my light gray and cream sundress. I kept screaming, "Nooooo! See through! See through!" It didn't matter, they all ganged up on me and pushed me in chest deep water. I was squealing in the deep water not knowing what to do since my dress was now completely see through. They came to my aide though and wrapped me up in their scarves. I felt like I had just come from a ship wreck or something.
 I spent the rest of the time swimming with the house mothers and playing with Reshma and Archana in the waves. Reshma was quite the dare devil. I had to hold her back from wanting to go deeper and deeper. I loved hearing her little squeals as the waves would crash over her little feet.
 like I said... ship wreck...
I was really worried about my last days here being boring since all the kids are gone, but these past two days have been so much fun. I have loved every second of being able to spend all this time with the house mothers because it's like I said, they're my sisters. It was the way Angelie sat and hugged me; the way Kala hugged me and told me that she loved me; or when Mary put her arm around me and said, "Audrey, I love you so much. I'm going to miss you."; or when Saras Wathi told me I am her small sister and that she loves me, that made me realize how blessed I truly am. I love them so much. I'm really, really, reaaaalllyyy going to miss them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I love you

I turned to see little Archana with bright orange flowers hanging from her pigtails running towards me. She grabs my hand and looks me up and down examining every detail from my maroon chuddydar to my bindi. "You look nice," she exclaims with that sweet smile of hers. Then I see little Reshma running over like a little mouse. She reaches her hands up and I pick her up. We walk from the blaring sun into the shade of the mango groves to the dining hall. I pause and watch as Reshma reaches up to grab a growing mango from the tree. She smiles as she finally touches it after one final stretch.
 I walked into the kitchen to see the assembly line of kitchen help and cleaners making chipotee. They all look up and smile at me as Padmini hands me a rolling pin. I watch her grab a square piece of dough and roll it into a perfect circle. My turn. Somehow it's not as easy for me. Meera laughs at my poorly shaped oval. I try again and again. Preevitha's mom has me hold onto the rolling pin and puts her hands on top of mine. She shows me the motion of turning the chipotee while rolling. I keep trying, slowly making some progress. I feel a deep appreciation and love for each of these women, Padmini, Selvie, and Meera. My heart swells and then breaks realizing I'm leaving in just a couple days.
 Playtime rolls around and I turn the corner to see all the children laughing and playing. Christraj jumps into my arms. "I go tomorrow," he states. I tell him that I'll be crying saying, "I miss my Christraj!" He giggles while wrapping his arms around my neck. Priya grabs my face and kisses my cheek. "I'm going to miss you," she says while nuzzling her head into my stomach. Veeran, who is usually up and running, is sitting by himself. I sit down by him and he lays his head on my lap. I stroke his hair as I watch a few 1st std boys tackle each other in the sand. Boys and girls run up to me and ask when I leave and when I'm coming back. The kids are bouncing all around they are so excited to go home. Some, however, are not excited to go home. Ebenezer sits down next to me. His usual smile is nowhere to be found. I ask him if he's excited to go home. He quietly says no. I ask him why. He lays his head onto my chest and as I stroke his hair he says, "I don't want to go home." This breaks my heart.  I hold him as I think to myself, "Oh if only I could take you home with me." These children have such hard lives. Some are harder than others. This has been really hard for me. I often catch myself asking why. Why was I born in America? Why was I born into such an easy life? Why was I born into a loving family? Then I remember what Amy Antonelli taught us last summer. Instead of asking why, take our opportunities and use them to make a difference.
 The love I have for these people and their children is indescribable. I know I keep saying that, but it's true. I never knew what love really was for someone outside your family or friends until I came here. I love them. Those three simple words that are sometimes so understated have so much meaning to me here. I love and care for these people so unbelievably much. Love is a strong, deep, sincere feeling. A feeling that literally expands my heart so much that it feels like my chest will explode at any second. A part of my heart will always remain here in India with these people.

bike rides

I recently watched Eat, Pray, Love. I couldn't relate to the whole divorce, mid life crisis deal, but I could relate to the scenes of her biking through Bali. That's one thing I will miss, biking through the surrounding villages.