During our first week in Chennai we discovered the Renga Lending Library here in our own neighborhood (Click here to read that post: “Saved by the Neighborhood Library“). The following week we trekked a little farther afield to three other book sites: The Anna Centenary Library, built in 2010; The Phoenix Mall Starmark, one of the newest bookstores in Chennai; and Higginbotham’s, India’s oldest bookseller.
The day after we arrived in India, a hotel clerk directed us to the “In & Out” convenience store at the gas station near our hotel. “They have everything,” he promised. Indeed, besides the convenience store, the rather deluxe complex includes a juice bar, a sweet shop, an ATM, and a florist shop.
Later it occurred to me that what you’re likely to find in a convenience store is a mix of the frivolous–cheap candy and fast food–and the essential—items you would pay double for if you left them behind on a trip. A survey revealed some interesting similarities and contrasts with what we would expect to find in the U.S. Continue reading →
We have, of course, been doing a lot of things besides eating. But as a basic requirement of life and an important element of culture, not to mention an enjoyable social experience, food naturally commands a lot of our attention. So here are a few of our dining experiences thus far.
Every morning starts off with the phenomenal breakfast buffet provided by our hotel, the Radisson Blu GRT airport hotel:
At least a dozen cooked Indian dishes (more on those in a later post)
Waffles, omelets, dosas (see below) and pancakes made to order
Halvah (a sweet dish made from sugar, ghee, and pumpkin, carrot, beets, or other starches)
Tea, coffee, lattes made to order, “South Indian filter coffee” (see below), masala chai, fresh squeezed orange juice, fruit smoothies, a salted yogurt drink, a sweet yogurt drink that tastes like my mom’s eggnog (way better than the fake store bought stuff you get at Christmas time), watermelon juice, grape juice …
Assorted curries, adai (a sort of spicy pancake), idli (a fluffy white South Indian cake made from rice- and lentil-flour), parathas (fried flat bread), savory porridges, and noodle dishes
On our way to Mahabalipuram a week ago (see the previous post) we stopped at a more recent but equally fascinating site: the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Center for Herpetology, established in 1976 by Romulus Whitaker. Its initial aim was to aid in rehabilitating the diminishing numbers of muggers (also known as “marsh” crocodiles in the wild). Now it is home to representatives from eighteen of the twenty-three species of crocodiles and alligators worldwide.
Last Saturday we visited the site of sixth-century stone carvings about an hour south of Chennai. It’s a striking testament to the creators’ artistry, technical ingenuity, and sheer dedication. Local craftsmen still carry on the tradition of granite carvings.
Before we left home, I made several trips to the Eugene and Springfield public libraries to return the 80+ books we’d accumulated at home. (One is still missing; I think we’re going to have to pay the replacement fee–I can’t believe I’m confessing this in public!)
It did make me a little insecure to leave home relying on my phone and e-books for my principal reading material. But today Brianna and I stumbled across a goldmine: the Renga Lending Library.
I have been blessed with an awesome opportunity to teach computer programming in India this fall and to bring my family with me! All three of us are very excited. It is especially cool that our daughter, age 8, will be getting an international and cross-cultural education, even though she’ll miss the first two months of third-grade. My wife will be home-schooling her while they have fun exploring Indian life and culture.
We’re going to the City of Chennai (formerly Madras). I will be doing what I love–teaching software development–eight hours a day, five days a week to newly hired employees of a major financial firm. I’m looking forward to getting to know my students and learning about life and culture in India through them.
We’ve been preparing by reading books and watching videos about India, including some video clips of Bollywood dancing, which my daughter thought looked really fun.
She and my wife want to take an Indian dance class together.
I’ve always been intrigued by other cultures and languages. My wife and I met at an Iranian church where the services were conducted in Farsi. We both love traveling and meeting people from other countries. Before our daughter was born, we lived in Central Asia for a couple of years and had the opportunity to travel around the region. Our lives have been enriched by all we’ve experienced and learned from the people we’ve met.
This world is a big, beautiful place. But, unfortunately, it isn’t all beautiful. There are huge blots and smudges on what would otherwise be a masterpiece. There is war, poverty, oppression, hatred, and evil. My family and I are followers of Jesus. He has called us to stand against the evil. We do this wherever we are. Unfortunately, evil is everywhere. It’s here in America (just watch today’s news), and it’s in all the places where we have traveled and will travel.
Our lives have been so enriched by the love, wisdom, and insight we have received from our international friends. But we want to give as well as receive. One way we can do this is by practicing and passing on what we’ve learned about pushing back evil. One of Jesus’ most famous teachings on this is recorded in Matthew 5:3-10. Maybe we won’t put an end to evil by living like this, but imagine what the world would be like if we all had the attitudes expressed here:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.