May 14, 2013

Wanderings and Wonderings

Saturday in Kalimpong is market day, when the Heart Bazaar is filled with vendors: fruit, vegetable, spice, hardware, housewares, clothing, shoes... anything. As the sun rises it fills to the brim with people. The crowds flow like water through the windy streets occupying any empty place available.
Usually on Saturday mornings I hide under the covers for as long as possible and then creep out to leisurely drink coffee in my pajamas. Once I am ready to meet the world, the town and bazaar are too busy and too full to be an attraction to a western girl who sticks out like a sore thumb above the sea of dark brown heads. 

I have always disliked looking out of place. Quite vividly I remember, from the missions trips I took to New York City when I was in high school, hating to feel like people could just look at me and see that I was not a city girl. Not that I want to be a city girl, I just didn't like the feeling that I didn't belong. Though I still try to adapt to the culture and fit in here, I have resigned myself to always be an outsider. Saturdays are suppose to be restful and I don't often find being stared at and sized up by an endless number of brown-eyes (no mater how beautiful they are) very restful. 
But this Saturday was different.
Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't gotten out of the house much last week, or the fact that I am getting nostalgic as I mentally prepare to leave Kalimpong in just a month, but either way this Saturday I was drawn out from underneath my covers and down the hill to town, all before 10am.

I didn't have much of an agenda or shopping list. I just was hoping for some time to wander, think, and take photos. (I really wish that I could take photos with my eyes. Again I hate standing out as "that tourist” taking pictures of things locals would NEVER think about taking pictures of. Plus sometimes there is just not enough time to get the camera out... then that perfect moment, that exquisite image is gone.) As I meandered along the street I saw a precious sister. I have only met her once, but the love and light of our Savior emanates from every part of her. Seeing her face and bowing slightly in greeting as we passed, sparked my prayers for Kalimpong. 
I walked on and talked to the Lord about his heart for these people, his heart for this city. Then my eyes came to the other side of the road, the less crowded side, where two sons walked gently quietly with arms linked with their father in-between them. The father was quite hung over from a late night of alcohol. I imagine how the wife and sons had fretted and worried until he was found. Now they had to walk him home and get him sobered up, attempting to save as much face as possible. This scene sparked even more prayer... “Father thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I looked up and saw it, a cross. 

Atop a dirty little shack that sells fried snacks, noodles, and chips was clearly a cross, not put there intentionally but left there somehow from old electrical poles and shrouded with tattered Buddhist prayer flags, electrical wires, and dead vines. This image shouted to me, “The Kingdom is coming! I AM is already at work here. Watch and see.”

It also spoke to me of how tradition in the church and Buddhism have constricted the free movement of what the Lord wants to do here. Like the old raiments of a beggar, neglected, stinking, full of holes, and good for nothing, the remnants of stale tradition in the church and the spiritual strong holds of Buddhism need to be torn down from this place before a fresh spirit of revival will be free to flow. 


But even still I know Christ is here and he is moving. 

May 10, 2013

The Real India: Walking Slowly

I came across this unfinished blog post from when I lived in India. I think it was written almost exactly a year ago. Even though they seem from another life, these images from India still haunt me and call me to come back to the hills. 

[March 2013, Kalimpong, West Bengal, India]
As as person from the West I tend to organize my time aiming at efficiency and productivity. I am definitely not the most productive or efficient person by a long shot, but this question is always in the back of my mind "how can I get the most out of my time and energy?"

Here in the hills of India (and probably in the hills of Nepal also) the parting phrase is "walk slowly," "bistanu janu hos." It is used as the equivalent of my family's (and maybe your family's), "drive safely." Most people in the US, beginning at sixteen years old, drive and have their own car, or at least have easy access to one. No one walks anywhere if they don't have to, even just to visit the neighbors in the next street and definitely not to go grocery shopping.

In the hills most people, especially women, walk. If you are male, then maybe you have a bike (Indian for 'motorcycle'). If you are female maybe you have a husband, brother, or son, who has a bike or a "taxi" (maruti mini van, or tata nano). But most people just walk up and down, down and up.  
Walking is the way of life.

When you go for vegetables or groceries you might get a coolie to carry them back up for you. Depending on how far you are from town, a dollar or two will get your veggies home safely without you having to haul them. But only those who buy a lot of veggies at once or those who can afford the luxury will utilize coolies.

You will never see a woman coolie. These men and boys carry everything with a rope and a basket on their back.The rope goes underneath what they carry, the load goes on their back, and the free loop of the rope (usually it has some fabric and a cusion) goes across their forehead. These men don't earn much and have to work so hard. They usually sport old but clean and tidy clothes and wear worn plastic slip-on shoes on their broad feet. Many of them are clearly and proudly Nepali, which you can tell from the round brimless fabric cap they wear.

I am sure that the families of these men would never see as much food in their homes in a month as these men can carry on their backs, up and down these hills (well maybe if it were only potatoes and rice they carried).

I am still slowly learning so much about these people of the hills. I am really coming to love these people. Learning the language has helped but I need to get out and to speak more. There is still so much I feel I will never understand.

"Bistanu janu hos," "walk slowly." The pace of life here is so different. Time is relished... not measured and forced to obey. Here people seem to experiance time like sitting on a rock by the Teesta river, watching and feeling the water move past. The Western view of time would be more like the dam that was built a few years back which controls the water flow of the river and puts it to work as it moves past. I think I would rather spend my life soaking up the sun in good conversation sitting at the bank of the Teesta.

Rest is something that seems to be reserved for the rich... at least in the West. If you don't want to be perceived as lazy, you have to seem busy. "So what are you doing now?" is the question that drives common conversations. But this is not the life we were made for. 

"And then He rested." God rested. After he created everything we know and are discovering he rested. He didn't party. He didn't plan out the rest of the existence of eternity. He rested 

As beings made in His image we need rest. We are commanded rest. All the commandments, including rest maybe especially rest, are for our good. He commands us to rest not to stroke His ego, but because we are created to rest.

This is one of the things I miss about my life in India: having rest built in to the culture; being told to walking slowly.