The answer to the last question is: San Diego.
Yes, Thanksgiving was spent in sunny San Diego. My sister and brother-in-law hosted my parents and me for a sunny, sandy, salty, six days. Okay, so it was really more like 5 with travel, but that wouldn't work with my alliteration. :-)
- Tacos and ceviche tostada in Ensenda, Mexico: I chose fish and shrimp. Both were battered. My toppings of choice included cabbage, lime juice, and a smoky, hot, pepper sauce.
- Cheese Plate Appetizer (composed by my brother-in-law): brie, gouda, blue cheese, honey from Mexico, three infused olive oils, smoked salt, homemade jam, walnuts, Granny Smith apple slices, homemade bread, dark chocolate triangles.
- Thanksgiving favorites: sweet potatoes with a crunchy pecan topping, green beans in beschamel, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cheesy biscuits, and of course turkey.
- Fancy desserts from Azucar Cuban Style Patiesserie: I had a Turron de Havana: a chocolate, caramel, hazelnut cake.
- Local Apple Pie at the Apple Alley Bakery: My parents and I had Caramel Apple Pecan bathed in cinnamon ice cream.
- Cheese Flatbread from WhisnkLadle:
- Curry Chicken from Foods of East Africa: This heaping plate beat out a tight competition between many ethnic food vendors at the Hillside Farmers' Market. Could have been spicier, but was still delicious.
- Mix-and-Match Tacos at Puesto: My three were: Chicken Al Pastor, Potato Soy Chorizo, and Lobster. Yummmmmmmmm!!!
Okay, now that I am done drooling all over my keyboard, I will move on. Ugh. I feel like a major pig after looking back at that list. As I said though, we did get plenty of outdoor, active time to burn off a slim percentage of the calories.
Also, the trip was definitely about more than food. It was great to be with family, to see my puppy, and to most importantly, give thanks for all God has provided. He has truly blessed me in so many ways: an amazing community of family and friends, current work at Panera, a future job with World Orphans, and way more "stuff" than I really need.
Though I went overboard on sharing about food from San Diego, please know that I try not to take the privilege of being able to eat out and enjoy healthy and/or indulgent food for granted. I am grateful that God has provided me with such an abundance. I know that can only lead to me giving back to those who do not have enough. It is a blessing and a responsibility to live in this country with so much.
That being said, I want to share the journal entry from my second-to-last day in India. I am almost done posting these! Woot! Hope you enjoy!
The Farm: Day 2
I arose at 8:30 a.m. after most were already up due to not being able to sleep. I wouldn’t have minded except that the chai was already gone. I timidly asked a boy if there was any more. He shook his head “no,” but then ran off. Knowing he had gone to make more just for me, made me feel badly. Still, chai was coming!
Sitting under the few sparse trees in the courtyard, we could already tell the day was going to be hot. Very hot. Scorching.
M arrived with breakfast: white bread sandwiches with hard-boiled eggs and mayo with chips for a side, mixed fruit juice by Tropicana. R thought it was regular U.S. Tropicana, but I showed him it was fresher and all natural. Super delicious.
The kids began arriving and I yelled “lopalea kirandi!” ("Come inside!"). On my way into the house, I grabbed some of the fresh chai. Spicy, sweet, creamy.
Inside, we arranged the kids in seated rows. It was crowded, but fortunately not too hot. During the singing, I snapped pictures and took a short video. Seeing the kids and team members marching together declaring “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” warmed my heart. Next, came the wave craft for the “Jesus Calms the Storm” story. I helped a circle of four little boys and girls. The pastor helped me too. It is nice to see how involved he is compared to some of the other pastors who are hesitant to jump in with us.
K led the story as A, An, S, C, and I acted it out. A suggested bending our knees up and down as we walked to show the boat’s motion. I couldn't help but laugh as we "bobbed" through the room.
Next, A led the evangelism cube gospel presentation. As he spoke and showed the cube, Ki, I, and S showed their cubes to smaller circles of children. Such a neat way to show the gospel. The pictures transcend the language barrier and the turning of the cube captures everyone’s attention.
The program continued with the paper chain craft. Children were supposed to write things that Jesus gives them, but many also wrote names or attributes. My group wrote: “Jesus is love, Jesus is hope, Jesus is the door etc.” C and A stapled the hundreds of strips together and the resulting chain was huge!
Everyone was eager to stretch the chain out, but first it was time for S to dance. I went out to get the pastors from their class, so they could come watch. They were very excited to come. Just before she went up, Sarah confessed her nerves to me. I said a quick prayer with her and then she took her place in the front. She danced beautifully! It brings tears to my eyes see her body interpret the words to “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. The lyrics perfectly represent God’s redemption of these orphans’ lives. Dust of tragedy to beauty in Christ.
With the program over, it was time for the random fun to begin. Many of the kids grabbed the chain and carried it proudly out to the yard. Stretched out, it was probably 20 feet long (very loose estimate).
We had more time off than we planned before lunch, but I always enjoy the random times with kids. I spent the time with S, Vi, Ar, and some others. They shocked me by bringing out the team picture from last year. Ar had it wrapped carefully in paper and showed it to me as if it was a prized possession. Brought tears to my eyes.
Lunch arrived and many of us took it into my room because our fan worked. It was not actually that much cooler, but getting out of the sun was nice. C got a chicken kidney in his curry and immediately offered it to me. I accepted and chomped right in to the chalky meat. Not my favorite texture, but hey, might as well try it.
After lunch, I lay back and thought about taking a nap. When R offered a game of volleyball, I changed my mind. Volleyball was a highlight of last year, so I was eager to play. P, R, Aa, M, C, Ki, and I set ourselves up on both sides of the net strewn across the dusty yard. The direct sun blazed down on us making buckets of sweat stream down every inch of skin.
I was set up near the net on the right. Though others played well, nothing came to me. I moved spots and got a few bumps in, but still felt useless. I am not aggressive and others are, so I don’t go for shots and they steal ones that should be mine. Sometimes I let it go, but with everything else going on, my mind couldn’t stay positive. I called T in to replace me.
Only a few minutes later, it was time to bid farewell and head over to the other farm area for a tour. We walked back through the sweltering sun, loaded the van, and took a group picture. The goodbyes began. Though I still felt disconnected with the new kids, it was hard to say goodbye to my teenage guy pals. Still find it funny that I connect with that demographic in India, but no where else. Saying goodbye to Vi was the hardest. He had been down about us leaving all morning despite me encouraging him to be happy while we were there. As we said farewell, we repeated, “prana snee hitalu” (my best friend). I feel torn hearing him call me that and saying it back, but I think he needs it. He is my best friend in India.
As we drove away, he and others chased the car. Staring out the rear window, revealed Vi’s dark chocolate face flickering from smile to frown, light to dark, and back again. “Keep smiling, keep smiling. Please just keep smiling” was my mantra. “Be okay.”
I saw a bit more “light” in him this year that I hope will grow stronger each day. The last glimpse I caught as the car turned the corner was a broad-white-toothed smile. Hope.
At the other farm, we snapped a few pictures and checked out the new chicken coop. I was excited to see how tall the papaya trees last year’s team planted had grown. Due to the heat, the time, and my toe, M vetoed the idea of taking a hike. Sad, but totally understandable. People would have passed out for sure.
We hit the road back to Hyderabad. On the bus, I chatted a bit, but soon passed out with my head against the hard window. A heavy weight of leaving the farm and our imminent departure from India washed over my sticky, dusty body.
Back at the hotel, everyone ran for the showers, while I made rounds taking Dominoes orders. When the pizza arrived, it was a bit unsatisfying because the pies were smaller than expected. Still, it was good to eat. I split a spicy chicken pie with Aa.
It felt even better to shower and get into bed. Before I went to sleep though, I decided to Facetime mom. I had not talked to anyone back home like others on the team and had not planned to do so, but tonight, I just needed a mother’s listening ear. I limped down the hall and sat in the dark while sharing all that had been going on with injuring my toe, trying to lead the team, and feeling out of place. I wept as the questions bubbled out of me: “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “Why do we have to leave so soon?”
Mom encouraged me to make the most of the time with the girls tomorrow night and to trust God. Her words were a soothing balm as I went to sleep between the cool sheets.