I’ve Never Seen That Before

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Photo Credit: calamur via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: calamur via Compfight cc

I wouldn’t say I ever got used to being gawked at like an animal at the zoo while we were living in India, but it happened far less when we moved to Delhi.  Outside of the village, in a city that’s home to thousands of expats, we were no longer a novelty that could potentially cause a ten rickshaw pile-up!

With that said, I had one of my funniest encounters with an ogler while we were living in the city.  On MG Road in Gurgaon there are several metal fabricators advertising their services from roadside stalls with simple white signs.  We had hired one of them to make three metal bed frames for us.  (Getting slightly off topic, the beds were lovely.  They looked just like some pictures that I had brought from an Ethan Allan catalog for FAR less money! *Sigh*)  Anyway, when the beds were finished they delivered them to our apartment.  That’s where things got interesting.

Jonathan, my husband, was not at home that particular day.  When the crew arrived, they scurried from room to room carrying metal pieces to each prospective bedroom and assembling them. Everything proceeded in a very professional manner until it was time for them to leave.  As I handed each worker a tip, one of the guys was clearly gobsmacked.  He walked backwards, a goofy grin on his lips, staring at me with each step, across my living room.  In fact, he was so oblivious to everything else that he didn’t even realize when he reached the front door, which had been left ajar by his exiting friends.  Somewhere near the entry, he finally spun his body towards the door but kept his face turned towards me.  The next thing I knew he walked straight into the side of the door that had been left open!  I’m pretty sure it left a mark–on his face, and his pride!  I had never seen anyone do that before in real life, and as I closed the door behind him I burst out laughing.  Pure entertainment!

Scarves

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My daily wardrobe in India consisted of jeans and a long kurta (tunic-style shirt).  And I loved it.  It was the epitome of ease and comfort.  On the somewhat rarer occasion that I had to wear a full suit, also known as a salwar kameez (think kurta and churidars–leggings), I relished that as well.  They were fun to wear–and did I mention how comfortable?

Well, if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you already know where this is headed. 🙂  That’s right–a cultural blunder!  Scarves, or dupattas as they’re known in India, how I love scarves.  I assumed that in India, like the States, scarves were a fashion statement, a nice piece of added stylistic flair, but not a necessity.  I was wrong.  I quickly learned that wearing a salwar kameez  without the dupatta was culturally akin to walking around topless.  Who knows how many places I went “topless” before someone was kind enough to fill me in on my faux pas!  🙂  Hope this made you laugh today, and if you’re in India, or some other South Asian country–don’t forget your scarf!

Eating Off the Street

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Photo Credit: Keith Bacongco via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Keith Bacongco via Compfight cc

One of the things we learned a lot about before going to India as missionaries was food safety.  How to prepare food and what to avoid so that, hopefully, you could keep from spending all of your time in the bathroom!

Well, shortly after our arrival in India, some friends were telling us about their upcoming trip to Thailand.  Tilly* was gushing, “It’s so clean there that you can eat food off the street!”  That stopped me cold.  I had visions of my two small children eating an egg off of the sidewalk.  I thought Why in the world would I want to eat my food off the street?  I don’t care how clean it is!

I was too embarrassed to ask her what she meant.  It was only later that I realized she was referring to eating food from street vendors!  It still makes me laugh thinking about it!

*Name has been changed

You’re So Vain

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Photo Credit: juicyrai via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: juicyrai via Compfight cc

It was another hot, sticky day in Northern India, and we were on our way to a small village about two hours from our home where Jonathan was to preach that morning.  After lurching through one last pothole, we finally arrived in the village and were ushered inside the small one-room structure where the church met.

The pastor and the people were very welcoming and had prepared lovely marigold garlands which they placed around our necks.  However, I noticed that when Jonathan was introduced and went up to preach he left the garland behind.  It was forming an orange coil on the seat next to me.  I thought it might be because he’s allergic to flowers.  Regardless, I thought it was strange (and a little rude!) that he would remove their gift…

Jonathan preached the entire message and I noticed some furtive glances cast in my direction periodically.  After he was finished, Jonathan took my elbow and said, “You’re supposed to take the garland off.  If you don’t it means you’re really vain.”  I thought, Now you tell me!  Now that I’ve been wearing it for the past hour.  That’s me, the vain American. 🙂

Ah, the joy of cultural ignorance!

You Know You’re a Missionary When…

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Top 8 Ways You Know You’re a Missionary:

8.  It’s only 10 AM and your power has already been cut–twice–and you’re not sure if it will come back on again, or who you should call if it doesn’t.

7.  You’ve spent way more time discussing your bathroom habits than you ever thought possible.

6.  You know that a family of 6 can (and does!) fit on a small motorcycle!

5.  In the process of learning a new language you’ve forgotten how to read your own.

4.  You’ve had to ask either a visitor to your country or a new missionary if food actually tastes good, because you’re pretty sure your taste buds are failing you.

3.  Your definition of clean has changed dramatically, and your personal hygiene now includes something called a “bucket bath.”

2.  Your stuff has been stolen, not by people, but by animals that you’ve only previously ever seen in cages.

1.  While home on itineration/furlough, someone asks you if you’re having a nice vacation!

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

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It was the first Sunday at our very first full-time ministry position ever.  We had been hired to be the children’s pastors, and the now-retired, previous children’s pastor had graciously invited us, and all of the children’s workers, over for a little meet-and-greet.

Things were going really well until we all gathered in a large circle in the middle of the living room to play a game. 

The game consisted of everyone writing a little known fact about his or herself on a small slip of paper and then all of the slips were mixed together in a bag, at which point we proceeded to go around the circle drawing a slip and guessing which fact belonged to which person.  How do you mess that up, right?  Well…

Someone reached into the bag and pulled out a clue.  Reading it aloud, he said, “I once wore a nearly see-through skirt to work and forgot to put on a slip–and my desk was in front of a window!”  Now, what happened next was the point where, if you’re watching a horror movie, you’re screaming for the heroine not to open the door. “Don’t do it!” you yell; and then, when she does, you slap your forehead with your palm and think what a dummy!…. 

Now the moment of truth.  Time for the man reading the clue to guess which person he thought fit this description.  He looked up and said, “Erica” (that’s me, in case you didn’t realize that).  Now why (oh why?), in this moment, I couldn’t just smile and say “No,” I don’t know!  But I could feel my facial muscles tensing into a grimace and, appalled that he thought that was my “fact,” I blurted out,  “No, that’s not me–and (here’s the clincher, and the point I should have stopped talking) if it was, I never would have shared that,” as if it was the worst, most tawdry thing I had ever heard.  Ugh!  I still want to slap my own forehead just thinking about it!  The look on the woman’s face, who after my little outburst had to admit that the “fact” was about her, is seared on my retinas forever!

Yep, that was me, ladies and gentlemen, winning ’em over!  I hope this makes you laugh today 🙂

The Flying Squirrel

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Every missionary, or anyone who’s traveled overseas, knows that jet lag is a curious beast.  You struggle through the first few days, slugging down coffee or propping your eyes open with toothpicks, and then it boomerangs back around a few weeks later, just when you think you’ve got it licked!

Needless to say, jet lag–and thirteen continuous hours cooped up in a plane with a two-year-old and three-year-old on our very first trip to India–was a huge concern for me.  Fortunately, our flight flew out of Newark well past my kids’ bedtimes so they were zonked almost the entire trip.  As we began to make our descent into Delhi, a sense of dread spread over me.  Outside my window, staring down at the place that would become my new home, thousands of lights spread across the city like an incandescent blanket, and I wanted to smack my forehead with the palm of my hand.  Why didn’t I realize this before?  It’s nighttime here.  My kids had been sleeping for the past thirteen hours!

I think it was the first (and only) time that I ever hoped getting through customs and out of the airport would be a long and exhausting process!  When we finally arrived at our friends’ house, where we would be spending the next couple of days, my husband and I made our way into the room in which our family would be sleeping.  Our friends had a pull-out bed for us, and on either side of the bed was a pallet made up for each of the kids.  After visiting for just a little bit, we said goodnight, tucked the kids into their pallets, and my husband and I fell into bed, exhausted.

Somewhere around three in the morning I woke up to a small rustling sound.  And then I saw a small, dark shadow leaping from the arm of the hide-a-bed.  I reached out my hands, but I was too late!  The next thing I heard was a small, triumphant voice saying, “Body slam!” and the startled crying of my son–who had just been rudely awakened by his little sister’s wrestling moves.  Oh jet lag, how I love thee!