Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A final blog as a First Server

Our time in India and on the First Serve programme is now coming to an end. I have so many mixed feelings about it, I have had such an incredible time over these past few months, from Bible college at Tilsley to Grosvenor church in Barnstaple to teaching and being here in India. I have met so many great people over the 6 months and am so grateful for all the friendships made as well as the amazing memories. There has been some challenges over the months, whether illness or fear but God has always been there and protected, like he promises.

India has been so much fun. The past few weeks, the wildlife seems to have come to life as we have seen a hhuge black scorpion on our front door, one of the world's deadliest snakes called a krait - I nearly stepped on him but luckily he just caught my eye!- and a comelian walking across the road, I never knew they walked so slowly and bounced as they went. The teaching has been a great experience. The past few weeks has been finishing off lessons and for my 7th standard, getting ready for our assembly on Friday, they are doing a drama on the story called the Three Trees as well as a few songs, a memory verse and a prayer. The rest of my classes has been trying to think of really fun things for them to do during their lessons and so for art this week I have been taking in flowers, leaves and all sorts of nature from outside for the classes to draw. I have also been trying to spend as much time with the children as I can before going as well as with the families and their kids. I will miss them all alot here and am so grateful they let James and I have this experience together.

I have been taught so much about myself during this time, as well as about another culture entirely different to my own. God has really shown me new strengths I didnt realise I had in me. I'm now trying to convince James to have another year out and go on another adventure.. I think Uni is probably a wiser choice, and I'm sure it will be an adventure by itself.

Final goodbyes are always hard, but Im so grateful to know that I have another place in the world that I have briefly called 'Home' for the past few months. Phillipians 4 v 13 says 'I can do all things through /christ who gives me strength'. A firm assurance that anything can be done when we put Christ as our centre and ask for his guidance, his wisom as well as his love.

Love Hannah

Friday, 19 July 2013

Ceremonies and Celebrations

We have reached a stage where time seems to be going so quickly here, so quick infact that it is hard to remember everything that has happened to write for you but I will try my best to remember.

One of the most memorable events that has happened is getting to go to a 'coming of age' celebration. This in English terms is a very odd Indian tradition which will happen once in every Hindu girl's life when she first hits puberty. The girl who this had happened to was infact a student at the school here and so you would think she would have been embarrassed to have seen us there however she was over the moon that as white people we had gone to join in her celebration. It is such a significant part of a girl's life as it now shows that she is marriagable and can produce a family. A hindu priest sat in the centre and gave offerings and performed trational ceremonial acts and after we had a huge feast, including chicken! Quite a novelty!

We also had the chance to go to another wedding which seemed alot more joyful than the previous one and we were even tickled on the feet by the bride and groom as a sign of respect to us, being white. Another great feast was held which was a mixture of alot of Indian food, largely alot of rice in different ways of cooking it, who knew rice could bee made into so many different things and flavours.

We have just come back from a couple of days in Bangalore. Shopping for 7 hours after an overnight train ride on the first day there was an interesting idea but was still so enjoyable to get to see more of Bangalore and make some Indian purchases. Some of the ladies decided to get their ears pierced, and thinking this would be done in a nice jewellers I also tagged along with the idea. However, after looked around a few places and no where did it, we saw a sign down a back street alley way that said they did it and got it done there, luckily we had our tetanus updated before coming! The main reason for going to Bangalore, or Bengaluru in Indian, was to send one of the volunteers, Pippa, off as her flight was from there the next day. She has been here with us since we arrived and came on the same flight as James and I. I have also been sharing a little house 'the cottage' with her and made a great friendship with her. I will really miss her being here with us and sharing this experience with her as we spent majority of our time together. Her leaving has also really made me look forward to going home myself and I am so excited seeing all my family and friends again really soon, 6 months away is a long time!

The final preparation parts for doing all the last things before going have started now and so I  am leading 'Seekers' tonight with all the older children in the hostel and home as well as leading the word at our cell group in 2 weeks and also holding a class assembly in 2 weeks with my year 7 class. Alot to look forward to but also alot to prepare and get ready. Its a good job we can do all things through Christ who can give us strength, I will certainly need in the last couple of weeks here!

Love Hannah

Monday, 24 June 2013

A teacher's life...

It has been a very busy 2  weeks since my last post; school has restarted, wedding month is in place and the creepy crawlies are very active.

Friday was a very nerve racing day as I had an unexpected visitor in my room. An also very unwelcome visitor as it was a huge tarantula, bigger than my hand! I was terrified but luckily the families here are very used to dealing with the beasties and so caught him and set hime free, but he was onlly let go as far as the garden so please pray he didnt like his stay too much to come back for round 2.

So to fill you all in we started teaching 2 weeks ago now and for the first 5 days every morning I taught 4th standard (year4). I did maths, english, re and art with them, alot of fun but hard work with the limited english they know! It was also quite a challenge when they started talking Tamil to me expecting me to respond and not registering I had no idea what they were saying. It cant have gone too badly however as on my second day with the class, I received my first teacher gift of a guava from one of my pupils! That class' teacher has now been organised so I am now doing art lessons for the two 4th, the two 5th, 6th and 7th standards. Im also doing a few RE lessons too for the same ages, alot of fun but also can be challenging! The younger pupils can be harder as it can be tricky to get to a stage where they understand what to do and what I want them to do which sometimes takes a long time. That all takes place in the mornings and after we have eaten lunch at the girls home, the afternoon is games  and sports either with senior girls or 4th and 5th. They love rounders and it is alot of fun to play it with them! At half 4 we then go down to the girls home for outdoor games and having fun with them, whatever they want to do really! The younger ones particularly have enjoyed being taught stunck-in-the-mud! 6 o'clock is then prayers which I lead twice a week on tuesdays and thursdays. Evenings are at either of the three families homes which is always great fun watching movies or chatting over dinner.

We got the chance to go to an Indian wedding yesterday, it was such a strange experience; the opposite to any English wedding in england. Even though it was a Christian wedding, in English terms the couple did not appear joyful or happy on their big day, a very traditional Indian part of life.

Josh and Hannah, Sarah and Simon's other children have also come home from their boarding school which is about 6 hours away in a place called Ooty. It has been really nice to start to get to know them and we have had alot of fun dancing and playing games, especially videoing silly dances at their welcome home party.

There is also a new addition to the family called Orion. He arrived Friday morning and is a lovely pony that is going to live here. Luckily Pippa, the other volunteer, has had horses all her life and so is a great help with all her expert knowledge when dealing with him. He has already been keeping us on our toes with a great escape plan on Saturday where we lost him for about half an hour, better precautions have now been put into place like cow ropes and soon a paddock, so hopefully he wont go for another wonder any time soon, especially as an Indian custom when seeing a donkey in the tribal villages is to cut of all their limbs.

God has been teaching me alot out here about being patient and also being brave. I have felt out of my comfort zone quite alot here but God has always shown me how to deal with these circumstances and always shown he's with me. I have had to teach myself that I'm only here to please him and impress him, I don't need to impress anyone else now please anyone else, it is all for him.I hope and pray you are all ok, please get in touch if you can, I'd love to hear from you!

Love, Hannah


Thursday, 6 June 2013

A belated blog...

Apologies for a very delayed next blog! Also apologies for a lack of photos on here, I'm still trying to work out how to put them on here! Life here in India has come back to normal now since our short holiday travelling more sites of India. It was a really nice week to spend away and I was so glad to get to explore more of this interesting country. We had alot of fun looking around Kovalam and enjoying the sunshine, not so much the intense heat though. We also managed to fit in an Elephant ride which was great fun and something you must do once in your lifetime if given the chance.

When we returned back to the compound we still had a few days of relaxing, largely reading and baking, whilst we awaited the children to return back to us again. We initially thought we had 2 weeks with the home children but the Indian government decided to give an extra week's holiday so we've had 3 weeks with them, with some of the older children returning earlier to start their classes, if only such a thing would happen in England! The majority of our time has been spent playing with the children here and doing prayers with them in the evenings but we've also had the odd chance to go into the school and help write out registers or move classrooms around, all preparation work for the start of school again next week. I have been told I will most likely be taking some Art and RE classes when school restarts again on Monday so anticipation is creeping in of what to expect and the difference in teaching in an English classroom with a thousand resources and helpful aids to here in the Indian classroom, which from the sound of is largely on contrast.. I will updated you all soon!

I've also really enjoyed our evenings here with the 3 different families, one of which has been visiting family and friends in Canada and England for the past couple of months so it has been great to start to get to know them and enjoy meals twice a week at their home. Us ladies have also started to make some of our own clothes which has been great fun to learn and something I will really try to continue when I'm home again; please don't all send your measurements at once! As it was James' 19th birthday last week, we also had a party for him to celebrate which was great fun with all the families together and their children; I also particularly loved having my favourite Indian food called Barotta which is sort of like a pastry pancake which you eat with a curry or samba (sauce), so tasty!

We've also seen some beautiful animals here including a snake, baby birds, some beautiful butterflies, lizards, huge toads, billions of ants, baby chipmunks and Labradors. All such amazing creatures of God and all so interesting to catch a glimpse of, especially the faster moving ones like the snake and lizards. Some amazing colours and looks. We also hit a bit of a monsoon week last week and had so much rain for the entire week.I don't think 'heavy down pour' quite makes the cuts for how powerful it was. It also resulted in us only  having a few hours of power over 4 days, something we really take for granted in England!

It appears I have a very busy few weeks ahead of me now with school starting so please do pray for guidance and strength when starting my classes. Also alot of inspiration for what to teach the children would be great, my teaching brain seems to be temporarily switched onto mute.I am still really enjoying my time here and all that India brings, I still eagerly await how I will next be surprised and amazed at something here. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Gor For It!

This past week has been filled with an activities week for the home children. As it is their school holidays, Sarah and Simon asked us volunteers if we would hold a special week for them filled with fun. The title of this post was the theme to the week, we also studied the life of Simon Peter. We had an hour's devotional time at the start of each day with songs, a drama by us volunteers, a talk with some discussion topics in groups and prayers. The children seemed to really enjoy this part of the day, particularly surprising them with water being poured on them when we acted Simon Peter stepping out of the boat. I lead a group of older girls for the dicussion time which was really nice and we managed to talk through the different parts of Peter's life and how we can relate to it ourselves and build upon for our own lives. We then had different craft activities each day, the first was bracelets, the second was pompoms, the third was bookmarks and the fourth was rainbow slates. They all loved doing each of these and spent the maximum time they could making them all look beautiful. We were so impressed by how much they wanted to do the craft, even the boys loved it! We then had lunch down at the girls home, which would be rice with something like tomatoes etc, you wouldnt come to India and not expect rice for lunch! After a short rest time we had the afternoon to do games with them. We did rounders and parachute games, water games and also a huge treasure hunt on one of the days across the compound. It was hard work walking up and down, up and down the compund to hide all the clues but the children loved it which made it all worth while! We would then watch a christian film or play songs to relax after active games. The week was such a success and I loved every part of it. The children all seemed to really enjoy themselves too and hopefully learnt alot.

Last Sunday was a baptismal service for 2 of the home children. It was a baptismal service I have never seen before, it was amazing! After a 2 hour service at their church we walked down the path back to the pool which is at the back of Sarah and Simon's house. The pool was covered in red and purple flowers floating on the top, such a beautiful effect. The three were then baptised and 2 changed their names from Hindu names to Christian names, quite hard adjusting and to learn their new names after attempting to remember their birth names, I have learnt names really aren't a strong point of mine so have been thinking of ways to remember them all which proved quite fun! We then proceeded to sit under a big tree they have in their garden for communion and photos. It was such a special day and I am so pleased that I got to be a part of it.

Tomorrow us four volunteers that are still here are getting to go on a holiday as the children have now gone back for 2 weeks. We go for 1 week to a place called Kovalam. It should be so much fun and I am really looking forward to relaxing and seeing more of the Indian culture else where, in the south. If you would lik eto pray, please pray for safe journeys ( we catch an overnight bus each way, the indian road rules are nothing like English!!) for safety through out our whole time there and to feel very refreshed after a busy week! Also, pray that Sarah and Simon will feel relaxed too over this 2 weeks the children are gone, they are incredibly hard working and they really deserve a good rest before the children return again.

Love, Hannah

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sleeping with Geckos, eating with our hands and wearing Saris; the Indian way of life...

We have now been in India for a week, it has flown by so quickly! When arriving at Bangalore airport, the heat soon hit us, but after meeting Simon, the missionary here, we had a 7 hour journey to their home. We were then welcomed at their home by Sarah his wife, one of their three children Matthew, along with another family who works at the school, 4 of the older girls and another volunteer here.

We had our first few days resting and trying to catch up on our jet lag as well as meeting new people and trying to become custom to their ways. The Indian culture is so different to English, even now I'm still learning new ways of life and I'm sure I will continue to through out my time here. On sunday we walked to church which was about 2 hours and sat on the floor. It was fortunately translated in English for most of it and some of the songs were English ones. It was such a grea experience and I look forward to going back this week, although this week it is a baptismal service, very exciting!

As it is now school holidays the timings here are alot more relaxed and the majority of our day is filled with playing games with the children. There are about 30 children who stay here permanently of all ages so it has been great fun playing card games and puzzles to crafts and badminton. In the evening they also have a devotional time which is about half an hour or so with some singing then someone does a 10 minute talk and prayers afterwards. I had to lead this 2 days ago and thought, due to having had practise in it from Grosvenor church in Barnstaple, the armour of God would be good to talk on. The children listen so well and all seem so interested to hear what you have to say, vary inspiring.

I live in a small 'cottage', not like an English cottage, an Indian equivalent, with Pippa, one of the girls who is also a volunteer here and came the same time as us although she's here a few weeks less than James and I. She is so lovely and it has been really nice to have another girl to share our first experiences with due to the difference in gender relations here in India than in England.

We also had 2 ladies to stay on Sunday night until Wednesday morning who work for a charity called Child link and have supported some of the building work that has gone on here at the school and orphange. We went with them to a coffee and pepper farm, although there was also some cinnamon growing too. It was beautiful! The coffee trees were quite small and so the pepper trees grew really tall to protect the coffee from the sun.

I have really enjoyed every part so far and look forward to the next few months of my time here. Two volunteers here are leaving in the next 2 weeks so there will only be 4 of us that have come from abroad to help which I think will be alot different but also help us grow more. One highlight would be on my secong night here I woke up at 7 with a Gecko crawling over my chin and sitting on my shoulder, not the nicest wake up call! There have been so many highlights that it's hard to try and write them all down but I will try my best to whenever I can. Tomorrow, some of the girls and ladies who work here are taking a trip to Salem, the nearest city so that Pippa and I can get a chance to buy some of our Saris as we have been wearing passed down ones from the volunteers here so I am  really looking forward to choosing some of my own and seeing the city sights of Salem, what a mouthful!

I hope everyone in England is ok, it has been such a weird transition coming here as it is so different to everything I am used to and so any contact from home I love! If you dont have my eamil, do let me know or if you'd like the address here also please let me know! I will try to contact back as soon as I can! Nundre (thankyou in Tamil) for reading!

Much Love,

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it" ~Nelson Mandela

It's come to our final farewells to Barnstaple and all the amazing people and places there, as I report back from my home bed.

The last few weeks of our time there hold such great memorires and majority great, fun times. I say majority due to a few times being ill myself, but am fortunate that they have passed. Easter weekend was so lovely to spend at Lee Abbey with James and my family. Higlights were a 5.30am service on top of a freezing hill cooking fish and bread on Easter morning and hearing about the final part to the Easter story, along with beautiful walks, the enclosed beach and Easter chocolate fun.

After a lovely relaxing time we headed back to our host homes and began the week ahead with our heads in gear, focusing on holiday club which started on the Thursday until the Saturday. The theme to the club was the armour of God and so our 'run up' days included preparing songs, crafts, games, talks and all sorts for the children to make it a really special time for them whilst at the club. As Thursday crept up on us we had completed all our preparation and went for some rest before the crazy days started. Being a team leader of the younger children there was a big responsibility in getting the kids settled and feeling that they were safe. Thursday was such a succesful day and the children really seemed to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately for me, some of my children said they werent feeling well which later resulted in me being ill and having to miss Friday and Saturday. It was so saddening to be at home recovering but the show must go on and I loved hearing all the stories that had happened from James and my host faimly when they arrived back home.

Sunday was such a lovely yet sad day saying bye to the church and all the great friends we've made in Barnstaple, we will so miss them and will continue to think of them and pray for them, keep in touch!

Now for a quick 9 days at home with family and friends, eating as much English food as we can, wearing as many jumpers as we can and enjoying our home comforts before the big adventure starts next Thursday.. Bring on India.

Love, Hannah