Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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Jonathan Serrins

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Home

A 7 hour train ride from Mysore.
A 4 hour wait in the Chennai airport.
Jon left us for Shanghai out of Chennai
A 5.5 hour flight to Hong Kong.
Tracy left us for Shanghai out of Hong Kong (I hope they did't have trouble finding each other in China).
A 2 hour layover in Hong Kong.
A 13 hour flight to LA.
A 15 minute drive to my house.

47 hours later. Home. It's good to be here.

As great as adventures in another culture are; the best part is coming back to the motherland. ;)

All Under One Heaven

I came to India looking for something enitrely different. What I found was something entirely similiar. Even in the place I was told was "as far from America [in every sense] as you can get on the planet" I was struck by how similiar we all are. In the warf slum of Tenali I saw the same despairing faces, the same teen pregnancy, the same lack of health care and poor health education, the same trash, the same insecure housing and the same desperate humanity that I see every weekend on the Skid Row of Los Angeles.

It seems like all of the differences I've found are choosen, learned, or superficial. In the grand scheme of things, skin color, clothing and art styles don't really justify distinction; language, cultural behaviors, and interests are shifting and fickle; and the rest is just how what we feel like doing in the moment.

I wanted a new context, a new cultural lense to see the world through. I was looking for the things that were hidden from me when I was in the West. I'm a little disappointed that my Indian vantage point hasn't revealed many of those things; but I have been pleasantly surprised to learn what things haven't changed. What things are universal to humanity. The things that make us the species that we are, all living on the same planet. Looking up at the same sun and moon; dreaming of the same stars. And reaching to grasp the same truth.

I came halfway around the planet to learn what I already suspected: We are all under one heaven.

The things that matter are here in India too

I've also learned that life is worth living pretty much everywhere. No matter where you go, the stuff that really matters is available for the earning: good food, pleasing weather, kind people, fulfilling work, expresive art, growing love, deep thought, and the subtle presense of divinity. The burdens that I had imagined as unbearably heavy aren't so hard on the people who live here. I've learned that as an American I am spoiled and weak. From the soles of my feet, to the strength of my stomach, to willpower of my mind, there are a million things that would overwhelm me that Indians cheerfully do every day. While there are certainly a host of people in this world suffering under the cruel hands of heartless greed, and plenty of people who don't have access to the wonderful things that make life worth living, I've learned that the world is not yet choked by despair. Joy still runs laughing through the jungles of Mysore, the fields of Tenali, and even the dirty streets of Chennai.

It doesn't take the quality of life that we have in the west to make people smile and savor life. It does make me wonder why we work so hard for it in the US though. What does it really gain us? Why do we work so hard, when what we want is the same as everyone else, when the things we're trying to buy are for sale in the market for 50 rupees (about $1)? Wives, children, friends, and prayer are free. Good books, paint and curry are nearly free.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The fellowship is broken

Our trip is begining to end. The hobbits have headed off towards mount doom; Maddie, and Isaiah will board a plane tonight for the US, and Kemi is headed out to Singapore. The rest of us will take a train to Mysore to visit the NewSong peeps out there (they run a ministry called H20), then Vanessa and I will be flying back to LA on the 7th, and Tracy and Jon will be off to the Olympics in Beijing.

It's been a wonderful trip, and I'm really sad to see it coming to a close. Last night we said our goodbyes and left Harvest India. I got the worst case of motion sickness (plus migraine, plus food poisoning, plus a cold) ever in the history of man, and ended up making a terrible mess of the squat toilet on the train. Every time I went to sleep, I'd get sick again, so I ended up staying awake all night.
When we arrived I took a shower and went to bed. Unfortunately I wasn't well by the time the rest of the team left for the Mount of St. Thomas, which was a place I was really looking forward to seeing. Perhaps before we fly out, we can visit it again.

It's been amazing going on a mission trip with friends. I've been on trips with strangers and aquaintences, but there's really nothing like having friendships with everyone beforehand. Having started Watah over 2 years ago, it's nearly euphoric seeing this little chunk of church grow in love for each other. I'm honored that God has allowed me to play a role in the construction of the Kingdom of God. If you're in a small group, or just have a cluster of Christian friends, you should definately try to go on a pilgrimage like this together. I'm confident that it will dramatically improve your group dynamic and friendships.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Mysore, it should be a big change from Andhra Pradesh. I'm expecting more Muslims, more mountains, and a more westernized culture. But I'm no expert, so I expect surprises.

Things to do when I get back to the states:
Enjoy American Bathrooms
Sleep
Drink a Large Horchata
Appriciate not having an upset stomach for nearly the first time in 2 weeks.

Vermin Stories

Oh my gosh. So I'm coming back to my room after an early morning shower, and as I pass through the I see the largest scurrying furry mammal I've ever seen scurrying around inside. It dashed into the hall with a sickly scamper. No! As I turned the corner I realized that I had left my door open. It wasn't that fast, so I was going to try to chase it out of the house, but it had already gone under my table. I kicked my shower shoes onto the ground and lept onto my bed.

In the early morning light I could just make out a dark lump in the corner. As my eyes adjusted a thin tail ran along the wall, and a nasty little snout twitched in the air.

I needed something to throw! But all the small throwable objects were on my table and there was nothing useful on the bed across the room. Except my shower shoes!

I took aim with one shoe and chucked it between the legs of the table. I missed the vermin, but that didn't stop it from lunging forward and attacking my shoe! It attacked my shoe! And it made a nasty kind of growl that made it sound like it had been smoking 3 packs a day for the last 30 years.

Maybe if I hit it, it would run. I angled my shoe to navigate the various obstructions between the table and I and took a more careful aim. The beast practically swatted my shoe out of the air with a vicious lunch and another hissing growl. WTF was this monster?!

I was out of ideas and still not wearing a shirt. I stood around feeling like a dope for a minute or two until I realized that the fiend had moved forward and put his grimmy little paws on the table leg to get a better look at me. How dare he! I yelled at his indignity and he scurried back to the wall. Something had to be done.

I was still a little uncertain on the best course of action. The girls room was across the hall from mine, and I didn't want them to come out for a shower and meet our unwanted guest. Still, the longer I waited here, the higher the chance of them coming out, and it didn't look like the fiend had any intention of exploring beyond the safety of the tablecloth. Our wonderful hosts have provided guidence and protection on many occasions; even though I wanted to keep watch on the soggy furball so he didn't do anything atrocious, I needed their help. I lept from bed to bed until I was close enough to jump out of the door. With only a glance back, I ran through the dinning room and outside.

I can't imagine what the neighbors thought as they watched a wild-eyed slightly damp white man (one of the two currently in Tenali it seems) prance around the second and third floor balcony wearing only a pair of hawaiian board shorts (I didn't dare retrieve my shower shoes for fear of meeting the same pouncing that the shoes had recieved after I threw them). I looked into the silent first floor and saw only a small skinny body that didn't look too much like someone who might save me. Not knowing which bedroom door I should knock on, I ran back upstairs in a panic. It wasn't until I reached the third floor balcony that I realized I was running away from my help and back towards my problem. I started to feel a bit like Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. On the way back downstairs, I eyed the large dog the keep tied in the yard. That might be a solution... but I after a moment's consideration, I remembered that India is the country with the highest rate of rabies infections in the world. I didn't want the dog to get bit... although this made me a little more concerned about being bit myself...

Praise be to God: about this time I heard the singing of a prayer meeting rising up from the back of the house. Hallalujah! I wasn't really sure how they would respond to me busting into their prayer circle half naked, so I kinda snuck up and whispered to the first person who's name I knew. "Peeeter. Peeeter. There's some kind of animal in my room." Peter came over and gave me a curious look. I held up my hands to show him how big it was. "There's some kind of... mammal in my room. It's big... is it an opposum?" I'm not really sure he knew what an opposum was. "An animal. It's in my room." He gestured that I should show him and we ran upstairs.

I was warry that the

Let me interject here with another brief vermin fact. As I was typing just now, I looked down at my leg and found a greedy mosquito drinking down a feast. They're rather large. I feel like they'd make a worthy wrestling opponent for a house fly. They're also very ambitious. If you smash them before they fly off (and they really do hang around for a while) you are rewarded with a splatter of your own red blood smeared across both the place where you did the swatting, and the hand you swatted with. Don't bite off suck up more than you can chew fly off with. We now return you to the regularly scheduled vermin story.

As Peter and I came into the dinning hall in our bare feet, I was warry that the invader had moved to a new hidding spot. I reached around the corner and cautiously opened the door. Peter and I leaned our heads down to the ground to see under the table. There was the foul devil, still panting in his corner. Peter stood up and said the word "die" followed by a word in Telugu. I looked at him and blinked twice. He repeated it. "Die?" I responded, "Do I want it to die? Whatever, I'm ok with it dieing." He gave me a funny expression and asked me if it ran in here. I said "Yes, it ran in here, with a sickly little scurry." He said ok and told me to wait there.

Well I sure wasn't gonna wait RIGHT there, so I went into the dinning room and climbed onto a chair. (I assure you, I would have behaved in a much more manly fashion had I only been wearing a good pair of closed toed shoes and maybe some long pants.) I choose a chair that allowed me to watch the doorway of my room to make sure our dirty enemy didn't go anywhere else.

But then the worst began to occur! The girls door swung quietly open and a woman dressed only in a sheet or a towel began to slink towards the bathroom. "Go back in and close the door! Go back in and close the door!" I repeated until she disappeared. I wasn't sure if she heard me say "There's a giant vermin out here" through the door, but I hope I didn't leave her in locked in her room in terror of what crisis loomed just outside her room.

Through the window I caught a glimpse of Peter bounding up the stairs with a large stick in his hand. What an idea! A large stick! I should have thought of that. A moment later two of his brothers came up with a hefty club and a metal pipe. Brilliant! A metal pipe! I should have thought of that!

The three hunters peered around the door jam at their rightfully fearful pray. If the rodent had been smarter, he would have retreated when the only weapons involved were wet flip-flops. The three men circled around in my room and began prodding under the table with their weapons. I couldn't see the table, but a series of weezeing snarls told me that they had engaged the enemy.

Scurrying. Shouts in Telegu. Snarling. Stick pound against the floor. More Scurrying, bare feet jumping, more weezeing, panicked Telegu. More scurrying. Someone jumps on my bed. I hear metal clang on tile. Laughing and more Telegu. Some kind of unhealthy barking noise. Then the battle is in the dinning room! The three boys dance around the dinning room table as a flash of fur dodges between chairs. As it chaos lurches in my direction, Peter shouts, "Eric, do not stand!" At this I almost fell off my chair. I caught myself on the window sill and dangled awkwardly as the battle raged below my feet. Jesu Babu pulled out another chair and told me to stand on it, and then dove laughing back into the fray with his pipe swinging wildly.

Someone started shoving their stick in on top of the chairs and I began to get very concerned about where this was going. Under the table was constant panting and growling. At this point I became convinced that the rodent did in fact have emphasema. A muddy flash shot toward the fridge. Half way there a stick came down on the flash, and for a moment it was still. But then it was behind the fridge gasping for breath and snapping it's teeth. Someone flipped it out to his partner, and a devastating blow slowed the fight to a leisurly pace. My saviors circled around what, in the light, seemed to be a very odd looking mangy rat and delivered two or three mortal blows to their incapacitated opponent. With the long hairless tail still twitching on the dinning room floor, Peter looked up from his work and said, "You can sleep now!" and began prodding the carcass out the door with his stick. I mumbled something about never being able to sleep again and thanked them for their work. They left with smiles and I returned to my room with bewilderment.

I think I'll wear tennis shoes today.

A reinactment of spotting the intruder
A reinactment of the moment I spotted the invader.


UPDATE: They tell me it was a mongoose, but it didn't look much like the cute furry cobra-killers that google images shows me. When we told Suresh he gave us an expression like he didn't believe us. Apparently this doesn't happen very often.