You’ve probably already seen some pictures from our most recent trip, but I want to share some of my own reflections. I’d like to do that by way of five favorite things from the trip. There are many more than five things from our travels that I could tell you about because it was truly a wonderful trip, and one of my favorites in quite some time. It was filled to the brim with special people, exciting adventures, new flavors, and a healthy dose of God’s beautiful creation. I’m limiting myself to five things so that we’ll eventually be able to move on to other stories in the blog.
The landscape in Mizoram (part one of our journey) was stunning. Very steep mountainsides, and homes all along the way built on stilts so they wouldn’t fall down the mountains. Can you picture the roadside, dropping off immediately down the mountain? Now picture a house built right there on the roadside too, with stilts supporting the back part of the house. We learned that the rainy season can be very, very treacherous for these homes as landslides are quite common. Apart from the scare factor involved, it was wonderfully beautiful. As we traveled an hour from the airport to the city where we would stay, I tried my best to see everything. My first “favorite” thing was seeing a woman whose kitchen sink was literally outside a window on the side of her house. While her body was inside the house, her arms were outside washing the dishes, a probable 100ft. drop off below. I can only imagine the view! JP does all of the dishes in our home. I wonder if I’d ever fight him for it if we lived in that house??
The main purpose of our trip was the release of the Mizo New Testament (in audio, of course). We went to a special service, highlighting the release. I fell immediately in love with “the BESY Choir” that sang a special song in honor of the release. Mizos Choirs are known for their beautiful abilities, and JP had told me about them more than once. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by their singing. Leila, bless her heart, stopped mid-wander and wiggle to stare and sway. Here is a short video clip so that you might be able to get a sense of it.
One of the most encouraging things about our recent trips to India has been the opportunity to spend time with the other local WCOI ministry directors and their families. They join the staff here as more of the good souls doing the daily, hands-on work of this far-reaching ministry. Our trip to Shillong (part two of our travel) blessed us with the chance to spend time with Rev. Vaiphei, his wife and two sons, as well as their librarian, and his wife and little daughter. One of our most relaxing moments of the whole trip was Sunday afternoon when we were welcomed into the Vaiphei’s home with a big, delicious meal, and sweet, good company. The Vaiphei’s also have a group of paying guests, or renters, that live on their same property. They also have chickens, a nice yellow dog, a little spotted puppy, and a very nice garden. The time we spent with these people was of the peaceful, kind type. I am so very grateful to know these people and share in ministry with them.
I was not especially looking forward to spending time in Kolkata, the final leg of our three-part journey. JP had mentioned his own dislike of the terrible traffic jams in Kolkata. I also knew we’d be coming from cool temperatures and scenic loveliness, while Kolkata has a reputation for being hot, sticky, and often stinky. When we arrived in Kolkata from chilly Shillong, I was pleasantly surprised by temperatures in the mid-80s (plus humidity, but who can complain?) Our time was our own in Kolkata, and we made the best of it by visiting the museum, and by walking- or riding one of Kolkata’s many forms of transportation- through the streets and markets, looking for whatever might catch our eye. Gladly, we never got tangled in any of the fierce traffic jams. I found, much to my pleasure, that Kolkata is a delightfully Indian city. It is the India that I likely pictured in my head long before I ever ventured to the subcontinent in real life. It was good fun to see the bicycle rickshaws, and take a tonga ride (rickshaws that are pulled by hand!). It was amazing to see the street life: the food and drink vendors selling every tempting taste under the sun from bread & butter to juice from fruits I’ve never seen before this trip; the surprising number of people taking their bath curbside when local water pumps runs freely; street-side haircuts and shaves; Muslim perfume vendors; whole bunches of goats, some even lounging on cots; and tea vendors everywhere.
I had decided the moment that we arrived in Kolkata that my heart’s desire was to visit a local chai wallah, or street chai tea vendor. Perhaps the best part about drinking this steaming, spicy, sweet chai is that many vendors use clay cups (also called mud pots.) Once you’ve enjoyed your tea, you simply toss your cup to the ground where it will shatter, and be ground back into the dust (mud) of the earth. Very environmentally conscious, these Bengalis. I’m delighted to report that I was able to visit two chai wallahs, both of which served excellent tea. I also happily tossed my clay cup to the ground both times, though it didn’t break either time. Those things are remarkably solid!! Take a look at this chai goodness…
Being a mother is top amongst my roles here in India. Traveling can create its fair share of trials and tribulations for mother and child alike. If I had any pre-trip concerns at all, I promise you they arose out of the motherhood corner. I am jubilant to report that Leila had a marvelous trip. Not only was she incredibly flexible and adaptable in the midst of constant change, but she continued to thrive and grow in exciting ways. We’re excited to tell you that Leila spoke her first word shortly after we arrived in Mizoram. It was so cold (compared to Bangalore) the night that we arrived in Aizawl (Mizoram) that I pulled out some socks to go with her jammies. Leila seemed quite happy to see her socks after more than a month’s hiatus. While I was talking with her about the chilly temps and the necessity for socks, I heard a very cute and quite voice say, “socks.” Adorable. This word was shortly followed by “shoes,” which I actually thought would be her first word due to her love of shoes and perpetual attempts at saying the word. So, Leila can now say socks and shoes, though she decides when and where she will say those beloved words. She is also working on mama and dada in two languages. We’re pretty patient with the talking thing because we’ve heard that kids learning two (or more) languages are a bit slower in accumulating words.
[Side note: Interestingly, JP’s aunt has come to stay with us and speaks most often in Telugu, which is a third language now for Leila. Leila has adopted a practice she had when first hearing a lot of Tamil, which was to open and close her mouth with no sound, in the direction of the person speaking to her. She had stopped doing that around Tamil speakers, but now has picked it up again with her Telegu-speaking relative.]
[Another side note: If I thought it was cold that first night in Mizoram, I was out of my mind. If I remember correctly, it was about 65 degrees. When we stayed our first night in Shillong, a much colder area, the high temperature in our room that night was 58 degrees. Painfully cold, with no heat, and no rugs… and a long, long wait for lukewarm water in the morning. Brrr! We rented room heaters for our next two nights, which saved us!]
Back to Leila’s achievements. Many of you know that Leila never crawled, but went straight to walking. Many parents swear they would prefer this. I’m not so sure. It meant that Leila was very stationary, and sometimes very needy because she couldn’t maneuver out of a sitting position at all. Along with that there have been other “transitional” challenges that we continue to work on. For example, pulling up from sitting to standing is still a struggle. Well, much to our delight, the first morning we woke up in Mizoram, Leila greeted us from a sitting position in her pack-n-play. This was the very first time she had ever gone from lying down to sitting without assistance! We are elated that Leila now regularly rolls around (even to her tummy, which was another neglected position) and maneuvers into sitting positions. Yay!
While Leila has struggled with some of the gross motor skills, she has never had a problem with small or complex tasks. Her newest and cutest skill involves a mini-water bottle from one of the airlines we flew. Leila has learned to unscrew the cap, and drink from the bottle. We choose to pour only two or three swallows into the bottle at a time, or else she can really drench the place, but really, she is quite skilled in the water-drinking arena. We’re so proud!
You’ll be happy to know we have a short clip of some of Leila’s new skills and antics. We hope you enjoy!