An email from Brad (7-22):
Hello All - we are back "home" in Bangalore now, but it has been quite the week. The adventures started on Tuesday when we left our nice, cozy and comfortable school rooms and headed to the Bangalore train station for our trip to the Mukti Mission and Pune, India. Our train was about a half hour late but eventually it came and with help from Prem we were able to find our coach and seats and were magically seated before the train left (it was only a 3 minute stop). The train ride was an experience all in itself, but luckily it was an 18 hour experience so we had a lot of time to reflect and really explore how we felt about the train. We rode in an AC 3-Tier, which basically meant that our car was air conditioned and was sectioned off into compartments consisting of 2 benches facing each other, an aisle, and then two seats facing each other. It is hard to explain but basically when you want to sleep it is like a scene out of transformers and somehow there is a bed for everyone (3 high, hence the 3-Tier). I think we all agree that it wasn't the best night's sleep we have ever had but I think it was one of those nights that you can look back on and chalk up as "an experience" and then complain about later in life.
India train factoid of the day - the train does not have any storage system for human waste, toilet pipes literally lead straight to the ground, for this reason it is encourage to only use bathrooms while the train is in motion and not near a station!
We made it to our stop the next morning where we got off, but we didn't really have instructions on what to do. There was a driver waiting to pick us up but since it would be easier for him to spot the only 5 white people getting off the train than for us to find him no one bothered to give us any of information. Meanwhile, Nick (from England) was in a world of hurt as he was having some very sharp stomach pains that had started the night before after dinner. So Nick was in a pain and walking very slowly, we were being hounded by young children for all of the excess money and food they were sure we had while trying to find someone who seemed to notice us, which is hard when everyone is staring at you. We worked our way to the stairs to get to the parking lot and a man waiting at the bottom mumbled the name of where we were going and so we figured he was our man and began to follow him as Nick fell further and further behind. Eventually we made it to the car and were on our way. By this point there was something obviously wrong with Nick and so we asked if we could stop somewhere and get him looked at. While driving they had Nick speak to 2 different people on the phone, describing his symptoms which we figured was a good sign. About an hour later we were at our destination with Nick still in agony. We got out and were greeted by some people who showed us too our rooms, we asked them if there was a Dr. nearby that Nick could see and they said there was one right across the street so the girls went to get settled and Howard and I escorted Nick to the Dr. We walked straight into the Doctor's office, Nick described his symptoms, was laid on a bed and the Doctor did some Doctor things with his stethoscope, diagnosed Nick with food poisoning, called his nurses, gave him 2 shots and a prescription and he was on his way. Apparently the fried food sold on the train was a big "no-no" and Nick had over indulged slightly, though Howard and I had some and we felt fine. Nick headed back to our room while Howard and I waited for the prescription, which only took a couple of minutes and then we paid for the whole ordeal which came out to be a little more than $3. Nick was pretty much out of commission for the day but got better as the trip progressed, we still aren't sure who he talked to on the phone in the car though...
While Nick rested we got a brief tour of where we were staying, which was the Mukti Mission. It is basically a huge compound for babies, infants and young girls to live and go to school. It was started over 100 years ago by Pandita Ramabai and has been refuge to thousands of young girls and children ever since. There are over 500 girls staying there now, they are separated into 16 different "families" which are named after flowers. Each family has a wide range of ages and the girls live and eat together. They have a special needs school, a blind school, as well as regular school through 12th grade. The Mission also allows the girls to continue their education if they want to. It is a fascinating place that has, and is, doing some really great things for the women of India.
The next day we got a more involved tour which was pretty neat to meet some of the people and actually go in and see what what is being done. They have a group of elderly blind women that also live at the compound who are very self-sufficient. During the day they weave baskets which the mission then sells and then gives the women all the profit. It is pretty cool, probably around 20 blind women all weaving baskets and talking. While we were there they asked us to sing them a song - which we did, though somewhat hesitantly at first. They sang us a song in return which was ok but it was obvious not all of them were singing. They said not all of them knew the English songs and then they started singing "How Great Thou Art" in their mother tongue which was amazing. There was something magic about it, all the different parts being sung and the birds chirping in the background, it was very moving to me. Erin and Alynena both really enjoyed the tour of the mission and seemed really impressed by all that they were doing.
The next day we went into the big city nearby - Pune. Our initial objective was to visit 3 different ministries and then be back by dinner - needless to say this didn't happen. The day was in many ways indescribable but I will sum it up briefly so you can begin to understand. Basically it involved going to the wrong place (YMCA instead of YWAM), getting a tour we didn't want (or understand), and then having the car break down and having our non-English speaking driver try to explain to us how long it would be and what we should do. Incredibly-long-story-short - we made it home safely a little past 9:00 in a different car than we left in.
Yesterday morning we got to sleep in and recover from our long Pune experience, then we woke up, had some food, packed our bags and then were back at the train station where we caught our locomotive. It was another experience filled 18 hours of train riding greatness. We made it to our station around 8:30am where we were met by Prem and Rita. So now we are back "home" and resting for the day. We will go back to the school tonight for another fun-filled week at Asha Kiran. As of today, we will be home in less than 3 weeks, so mark your calenders and start your countdowns! Until then please pray for our remaining time in India and at the school and also for everything that is being done at the Mukti Mission.
Brad / Team India (+ Nick)