Sunday, July 12, 2009

"From wherever you are, wherever you've been, he's been there..."

"Praise him under open skies
Everything breathing praising God
In the company, of all who love the King.

And it's so wonderful to be here now..."

And I'm back...

It was an eventful weekend. Some good. Some bad. Here's how it turned out...

We started out on  our journey at about noon on Saturday afternoon. Beth, Aimee, Hillela and I shared one of the cabs, and let me tell you our taxi driver was quite the disc jockey. We had some spanish flare, some good ol' American rap, Hindi pop...we covered it all. My favorite was when Celine Dion came on... yes, Jen our girl is topping the charts over in India too. The scenery was also amazing and I've decided that I am going to try to harvest some rice while I'm over here. It looks fun. As we drove away from the Himalayan range, the foothills had a very different type of vegetation and the tree lines were odd-looking. Beth described them as being straight out of a Dr. Suess book. I liked this analogy and we agreed that all we needed was to find some hinkle-horn honkers and Horton the elephant. Then, life would be complete.

We were headed for the Pakistan border to watch the famous border ceremony. Now, I was told that it would be somewhat like the D.C. changing of the guards. Not quite. I got a message from Mitch and he said to expect it to be much more boisterous. I agree with his diction.  
It was a little more accurate. It was awesome to see the pride that the Indian people take in their country. It was just a border closing ceremony but you'd think you were at the Olympics and India just won the 100 meter relay (or any other popular event for that matter). It's a big deal and people travel from all over to come see it. There was singing, dancing, chanting... it made me wish I spoke more Hindi so I could understand more of what was going on. However, 
you didn't need to know the language to see the passion of the Indian citizens. The guards were also quite the sight and way more flexible than yours truly. They basically did the splits standing up. Crazy. The heat was also crazy... we got out of the mountain region where we are in Dharamsala and about died.  
P.S. I was like 5o feet from Pakistan! Can we say awesome?!?

The Golden Temple. When we got to Amritsar after the border ceremony we went and got some Dominos pizza and went exploring. We decided to walk to the temple, even though the plan was to go at sunrise. Plus, going twice wouldn't be a bad deal.  This is actually a Sikh temple which is still part of the Hindu religion but a smaller sect of it with different emphases in their beliefs. You know the people with the beards, strapped daggers, and turbans? Chances are they are probably Sikh. 

Anyway... we decided to go in and I couldn't believe all the people. I believe most of them were pilgrims coming to see one of the five temples of religious authority in the Sikh faith. We took our shoes to the foot locker and proceeded. You walk through a shallow moat to cleanse your feet before entering and we all had scarfs to cover our heads. The temple was really beautiful and had numerous marble courtyards inside. The temple itself sat in the midst of a large pool which is considered to be holy water. People travel tremendous distances just to wade in the water and some come to bathe in it. It's amazing what you can learn and how you can be so moved by other people's faith, even if they don't share the same beliefs as your own. 

The hotel had cockroaches in it. Once again, flashback to Cambodia and I laughed at my roommates that were freaking out. Then I laughed at myself for being OK with cockroaches in my room. 

Last stop...  Jallianwala Bagh Memorial. 

This is a memorial dedicated to the approximately 2000 Indians who were shot and killed during a peaceful protest against British tyranny. It was a movement for independence and on April 13, 1919 the massacre occurred under General Dyer of the British-Indian Army. The open fire lasted for a total of 10-15 minutes and nearly 2000 lives of innocent men, women, and children were lost. These kind of things fascinate me but at the same time make me really sad in realizing the devastation that we, as humans, are capable of. What's even more disturbing is the mentality behind all of it and where it comes from. 

Now the bad part... as we were touring the memorial a few of us had to deal with our first encounter of harassment. Caitlin, Beth and I were all approached by the same man and had to physically fight him off. It was a little terrifying. I think mostly because we were all taken off guard. Back home, I feel like I wouldn't hesitate to punch the guy in the face but when you're in a different culture you're always worried about being sensitive to their way of life. The worst thing about it is, that the majority of Indians are so hospitable, compassionate and truly respectful people... but there is always the exception that taints the good reputation and we just happened to run into him. Not to worry. We are all fine. Just a little shaken up. Plus, a group of guys nearby helped us out by putting the creeper in his place. They came to check on us after they had chased him out of the memorial park and we told them thank you for doing their part to protect us. We left soon after and were on our way back to home to Dharamsala. 
So, don't freak out Mom & Dad. I'm home safe. 

When we pulled into home base, we paid our taxi drivers. Beth and I marched right up stairs, and without stopping to do anything else, dropped all our bags at the foot of our beds and collapsed. We were out for a good three hour nap.

So now, here I sit, typing away and I think I will finish my book tonight. (By the way, I highly recommend Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski!) Yes, I am being anti-social. After traveling with seven people this weekend, I'm in need of some alone time. 

"We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, 
and no one will find fault with our ministry.
In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God.
We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 
We have been beaten, been put in prison, 
faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights,
and gone without food.
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, 
our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.
We faithfully preach the truth.
God's power is working in us.
We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack
and the left hand for defense. 
We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.
We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. 
We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.
We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10

(This is one of my favorites...)


  1. Oh my goodness! I'm so glad you're okay and you had the guys of your group there to protect you and your friends!

    Terrific labels, as usual. What book is the "hinkle-horn honkers" from?

    Why are they closing the border? Is it closed permanently?

  2. Awesome stuff! (except for the crazy man)

  3. I am enjoying your posts, imagining you trying hard not to punch out a very rude and nasty Indian man! Ha! Glad you handled yourself well and were unharmed! Thanks for the birthday greetings. Just a year older...and maybe a bit wiser!

  4. i went to comment the other day but it wouldn't let me. i'm happy you liked under the overpass!

    i can't wait to hear the harassment story. good thing i taught you how to ju-do chop.