I should not complain though. I would rather be too cold than too hot. Plus, it needs to snow! Seeing green and feeling warmish breezes do not make it feel very Christmasy.
Though it doesn't look Christmasy outside, these cute Christmas-themed doubles facts pages helped me get in the holiday spirit.
I plan to use them with the girl I tutor this week as fun facts practice before the holiday. I found them over at Rulin' The Roost. Thanks to Angie for the adorable freebies.
Since I am tired after a long day on my feet at Panera, I don't have much else to say. However, it's time for the second-to-last Mission2India journal entry. Hope you enjoy!
Sightseeing, Shopping, and Sisters
K and I awoke to T barging in announcing that it was 8:45. We missed breakfast and were 15 minutes late for debrief.
My immediate reaction was a mix of “Oh well, we needed sleep,” “I’m a terrible team leader,” and “Why didn’t they wake us sooner?” I was also sad to miss hearing people share about their experiences on the farm during debrief. After getting ready quickly, we only heard the last few minutes.
After finishing our meeting, we dispersed for a few minutes before regrouping by the vans.
As we loaded up, I shared that I could not find my money. I stupidly stuck it into the “girl” bag (can you guess what that contained?) on the way to the farm and then lost track of the bag. I got even more nervous when I learned that the red car where I had last seen the bag was back on the way to the farm. R generously offered to share his extra money with me, which was super nice.
Turns out, the girl bag somehow ended up in the back of the little van we were riding in. An answer to prayer! I got my money out and felt much better.
Though my money was ready to go, our first stop was not the mall. It was the Charminar, a palace gate in the middle of the city.
Walking through the streets down with the people, seeing the food and bangle stands, creating traffic jams by crossing the street was thrilling. Everyone else found it exhilarating too. J
We arrived at the palace, which was built as a celebration of the end of a plague. V helped pay our 100 rupee admission fee. Indians only paid 5. We could have pretended that Aa, T, and H were Indians to get a discount, but we decided to be honest. I suppose that was the good Christian thing to do. J
Inside the Charminar, we quickly found a windy, dark, narrow staircase. My favorite! Those always lead to cool things and great views. Others found it claustrophobic, but my only problem was toe pain. Ugh. I had to figure out which foot to step with, so I didn’t roll weight through my whole foot.
We made it to the top and began gasping at the expansive views of the rickshaw-dotted streets and buildings.
Though we were warned to stick as a group many of use ended up getting separated. Oops.
A trip to the lake was next. It was the same area of food and attractions that we went to on our first day last year. This year, it was bright and sunny and no one was crazy jet-lagged. Instead of chai, we got ice cream. I ordered chocolate choco chip.
Before it arrived though, nature called.
When nature calls in India, you must answer immediately.
Sa led S and I down a long path through all the concessions and rides. By the time we reached the bathroom, I did not care that it was squat.
Back at the concessions area, we all slurped up our ice cream and headed back to the van.
A few minutes down the road was Paradise Restaurant! Time for lunch! Yay!
After our tasty meal of chicken kabobs (too bland), amazing green chutney, and spicy mutton biryani that we unfortunately ate with a fork to be polite, it was time to shop.
H and K led singing as we wove through traffic. We even called Sa in the other van, so we could sing/ask T and the others to “Stand up and tell me if you love my Jesus.” Soon, we arrived at the craft market, the same place as last year.
We didn’t have much time, so we split into groups, each with an Indian host to help us barter. All of us in V's group were astounded by and grateful for his mad skills. Often we would walk away from stalls dissatisfied with the price offered, only to be called back to get the incredible deal that V proposed.
At one point, T and I split off to check for bangles in a separate area. During that time, I indulged in strawberry ice cream before nature called again. Hmm… Ice cream and nature seem to be friends…or enemies.
By the end of our time, I was tired and just wanted to see the orphan girls. On the ride back, I started sitting in the back, but later meandered to the front of the van to check in with A. I ended up staying there sitting on a cooler. It seemed appropriate that I had a front row seat on our last night. P was sitting in the front row. I told him I didn’t want to leave. He understood.
Back at the hotel, I announced the evening plans: KFC, packing, writing stories, showering, hanging out with the teenage orphan girls.
As soon as I stepped off the van, I saw the girls on the “sidewalk” waiting. I welcomed them and we hurried inside.
For the first half of the visit, I rushed room to room taking KFC orders. When the ordering appeared to be done, it really was not. Once the team heard “brownie sundae” on someone’s order, everyone wanted one.
The food arrived about half an hour later, but we all agreed to wait to eat until after the girls left. Who cared if the sundaes turned to soup? It was totally worth it.
Once the KFC orders were taken care of, I spent the time with U she and the other girls tied our wrists with white, woven friendship bracelets. I thought that was one of the surprises. It was not.
U came up to me with two skinny boxes wrapped in red, shiny paper. One had a note taped to it. The not began by saying she loved me and with me she never felt along. She went on to say she was glad to have a mother love her. She meant Mom. Apparently, the hug I gave her on Mom’s behalf meant the world to her.
I opened one box and discovered a nice pen. Then, U told me the other box was for her “dear auntie,” my mom. Tears came to my eyes for the first of many times that night.
The next surprise came when U brought out a bag. Sa explained that U had begged to be able to make something for me. I took the bag and pulled out a stunning dress. Black velvet top. Flowy, silk zebra print skirt. Elegant and fun.
Sa and U explained that they made it together the night before right after Sa got back from Sarampet. It took only 2.5 hours. Incredible.
I had to try it on right away!
Fear gripped me as I slipped into the bathroom. They hadn’t measured me, only guessed.
My first attempt to get the dress over my head confirmed my fears. It wouldn’t go over my shoulders! I tried again and again, but no luck. Sa asked if I had unzipped it. I check the zipper again. It was all the way down.
Knowing the dress had to fit, I asked N for help. She fought with the dress just as I had, but victoriously got it over my shoulders. The waist hit my skinniest spot and the material fell into place.
A perfect fit.
Praising the Lord and thanking N, I headed out of the bathroom.
“It fits!” I announced with joy.
U beamed. I felt gorgeous.
I thanked U a BILLION times and headed off to show everyone else. When I walked into T's room, all the team members and the girls turned. “Where did you get that?!?” T asked approvingly.
“U made it.” I replied.
Everyone was impressed.
Naturally, pictures began. First, I pulled my bun out and flipped my wild hair. Poses included just me, U and me, and various groups.
I had to ask the guys something and needed to stop by my room, so U and I headed up.
The moment I walked into the guys room, their jaws dropped. That felt good.
I didn’t stay long though, but headed back to 315. There, U and Sa did my hair. Her gentle fingers sent relaxing tingles down my scalp and spine. One girl tenderly put her earrings in my ears. These beautiful sisters always make me feel like a queen.
We went back to 310 and found Sa dancing. Then the girls performed their dance from last year. I showed U pictures of my mom and dad.
Sadness washed over me because she does not have a mom anymore and her dad is absent. Does she even have photos of them?
Things wound down and it was time to say “goodbye.”
We handed out team pictures and tons of hugs. U said she would pray for me to come back. I promised I would too.
After 4 hugs, U headed down the stairs with the other girls. The tears hit the moment she was out of sight.
T laughed and said she wondered when I would cry. I laughed.
After the goodbyes, we dug into our friend chicken and melty brownie sundaies. I actually had two sundaes because no one claimed the extra. That brought the count to 4 ice creams that day! Perfect.