Tag Archives: India

Before you Tweet…

Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to claim innocence or cast stones at the guilty.  I will be the first to admit, I am as guilty as anyone of spewing out words that I later wish I could take back, or making swift, bitter, comments in the heat of the moment without slowing down to realize the impact of my words. Therefore, I write this as a reminder to myself, as well as a reminder to others because I think we all need it from time to time.

I feel the world changed for the worse on November 6th, 2012 after a long heated season of campaigning, debating and speculation. It wasn’t the outcome of the election that was the problem – it was the instantaneous explosion on social media. For the first six days of November social media was filled with Today I’m thankful for… in the spirit of Thanksgiving netizens were using twitter, facebook and other outlets to say each day for the month of November what they are thankful for. Joy, happiness and gratitude were instantaneously spread throughout the world as millions focused on the positive.

But around 11:15pm eastern time, Obama was declared to be the next president of the United States of America and all gratitude, warm fuzzy feelings, appreciation and consideration went out the window. The world (by way of the web) exploded with exclamations of the tragedy, the horror, the end of the country we love, the agony and pain that we will experience over the next 4 years and a loss of hope as our country will surely go to ruin. On the other side, there was gloating, pride, in-your-face-suckers smirks, rubbing dirt in the face of defeated opponents.

The morning after the election when I woke up to a news feed full of ranting and raving, I posted this: so much hatred on facebook today. Seriously people? I get that half the country is pissed off, but do we have to be so bitter and hateful? Is that really going to help anything? I ♥ my friends, democrats and republicans alike. I’m glad y’all care about your country and got out to vote. So now show that you care about America and your fellow Americans by having a little respect and making the most of what we have.

Which, again, I should have prefaced with – I know I am guilty as well, just as both sides of the political realm are guilty.

But today, as I read beautifully written blog post by Jo Ashline (click here) and her view on the “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation“.  I began to think more about how grateful we should all be in light of, or despite of the outcome of our election. I began to think about how my own attitudes and words should be a bit more humble, a bit more appreciative and a bit more grateful. I began to think about how I should stop, think and reexamine my words before I go off on someone, or something in anger, impatience, disappointment or selfishness. How maybe I should think more about how I have been blessed and less about how much better things could be if….. (fill in the blank).

You may disagree with Obama’s politics.  You may disagree with universal healthcare, foodstamps and abortion.  You may believe that our government is falling apart and only encourages freeloaders who don’t want to work or pay for their own needs.  You can believe whatever you  want, but maybe you could consider how good you have it to be born in and to live in this country, whether Obama or Romney, Bush or Clinton, or Big Bird or Rush Limbaugh is president.

As Jo mentioned so eloquently in her blog, Some are elated tonight, and some are downright depressed, but know this: we get to pick again in 4 years. Before you bad mouth our country, try living somewhere else, where there is No choice and truly No hope. Count your blessings America, because there are many.

It is only four years, then America can choose again.  We have the right, the freedom, the ability to chose.  Four years seem like an eternity to you? Why don’t you consider this:

China – where I recently spent 14 months – is choosing a new leader soon who will serve for the next ten years along with a small elite group of individuals from China’s one political party, the communist party.  These the leaders will be chosen by 2200 delegates of the communist party in an incredibly secretive selection process in Beijing.  What about the other 1.3 billion citizens of China?  Oh well, they don’t have a say.

If those other 1.3 billion individuals do want to talk about what they think of the government and politics, they certainly can’t do it freely, not even on the internet. They live in a world where YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and countless other websites are restricted for most people, and their own social media outlets such as Weibo and Renren are heavily censored.

While I was in China, LinkedIn was suddenly shut down without reason or notice for several days, later determined to be because of talks of civilian protests online.  At one point, the Chinese name for Hillary Clinton was censored and any comments about her were blocked because of comments she made regarding human rights in China.

Whether or not you think the government should regulate healthcare and payment for healthcare, shouldn’t you be grateful that you have healthcare?  Think about the little girl that came to Shanghai to receive medical treatment in the summer of 2011 – I blogged about her and two other children here.

Lu Guo Yin, studies at Qiao Man school, has no medical record. Her eye was injured because a thorn poked into her eye. Because she lives in a very rural area, she couldn’t get treatment immediately, now she has lost her eye sight in her left eye.

Normally, to receive any sort of medical treatment these kids would have to travel over 7 hours.  Even then, the treatment would be primitive at best.

She ended up having her eye removed and received a prosthetic eye.  With access to healthcare, this would have been a minor injury, easy to recover from with full vision. She, by the graciousness of strangers, traveled for two days far far away from home and went through a traumatic surgery in a run-down Chinese hospital. Yet we complain about healthcare.

India – Another 1.2 billion people, another booming third world economy, another example of oppression, extreme poverty and lack of freedom. Before you talk about how Obama is a terrorist and having him in office is suicide for our nation. Then drive your $40,000 car to the church of your choosing on Sunday, and take $5 out of your Louis Vuitton purse to throw in the offering to do your part for those less fortunate – why don’t you go meet some of the people I met in India last year.

Go talk to the family who lived on $20 a month, and dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel. Spreading the gospel in a place where it is forbidden.  Every day facing the reality that they could be beaten, killed or thrown in jail for sharing their faith with others. Continuing to spread the word of God even after being beaten and thrown in jail, and watching the same thing happen over and over to friends and family. Continuing to pack one room shacks with one light-bulb and no plumbing full of people in villages of “untouchables” to hold church services. Go spend time with people who have absolutely nothing but their faith which they are persecuted for and then tell me how awful it is that you have to live through 4 more years of Obama.

Thailand – Did you know this is part their constitution? “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action… Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

How would you like to spend 15 years in prison for mouthing off about the president? Be grateful, you don’t have to.

Burma – Did you know that only 0.2% of citizens have internet and only 1% of individuals have a cell phone?

Cambodia – Did you know they were under communist rule until the early 90’s – if you studied something other than Russian or Vietnamese you were thrown in prison.  Just over 30 years ago, a quarter of the population of the country was killed.  Killed for being educated, killed for having an opinion, killed for the sake of being killed.

The internet has changed our lives, for better or worse.  With social media thousands of people around the world can hear your thoughts and opinions within seconds. Your words have a lasting impact on people near and far. I know we have differing opinions, beliefs, priorities and desires, but would it be too much to ask to just stop and think before your next rant online. Let’s go back to being thankful, thankful for being born in a country that provides us with more freedoms than most of the world could even imagine. Let’s be thankful for democracy, even with it’s imperfections. Let’s be thankful for the right to vote and be heard. Let’s be thankful for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Or, don’t. Complain, rant, insult, be hateful, bitter and ungrateful. That works too. Because you have freedom of speech and can say whatever you want.


India: Animals

India is a different world.  I was told that before I left, and after being there I certainly believe it.  One of the characteristics of India that makes it unlike any other place I have ever visited, the animals. Yes, you are correct, there are animals everywhere; and none of the animals I saw in India are specific to or unique of India.  However, in most of my experiences, animals don’t just wander the streets in the middle of cities, or towns.  There are dogs on the streets in Thailand, Mexico and many other places, we have street cats in China, and I’m sure in villages in much of the third world farm animals are more prevalent than I am accustom.  But I was blown away by the abundance of animals roaming around India.

In India, walk down any street and there are animals, all sorts of animals, and they are everywhere.  Hinduism – which is prevalent in India – says that cows are sacred which means they aren’t killed, they aren’t eaten for beef and they pretty much are free to roam and live as they please.  Walking down the street nearby our hotel we ran in to many cows.  I will never forget how odd it was to be approached by a calf in the middle of the street.

No fear in this cow, as she walked right up to me!

Yet, cows aren’t the only ones roaming around.  There are goats and sheep in front yards, store fronts filled with cages upon cages of chickens, water buffalo pulling loads down the street, and even a horse pulling a cart in the middle of the city of Bangalore – right down the middle of a busy, popular shopping street.

Nothing out of the ordinary here, for India...

I watched a women using her entire weight, pulling on a calf trying to get it to move.  I watched a man walking a goat on a rope down the road.  While sitting in house church services in villages, the sounds of sheep and goats outside the door were common.  In fact, one evening, someone had to get up and shoo away the couple of sheep that were attempting to walk in the wide open front door and join our service.  Just another day in the life when you are living in India, I guess.

Boy and goat

While the orphanage and the church both owned dogs, most dogs seemed to be strays, eating trash and looking pretty grungy.  I used my foot move a teeny, filthy puppy out of the middle of the road one day.  It was just laying there half asleep, and I watched it almost get run over twice in about a two minute time frame.

Scroungin' for lunch

This guy's not roaming far....

I even, by a stroke of luck, managed to spot a bright green parrot-looking bird chilling in a palm tree one day.  Unfortunately, it was too far away to get a good shot of on my camera.  I heard it’s cry, turned and looked in the precise direction, at exactly the right moment to spot it’s bright green feathers amongst the darker green palm leaves while we were walking down the street.

India: Faces

I have been home from India for four days and I have yet to post.  Honestly, I’m a bit overwhelmed by thinking about what to even say about India.  It was an amazing trip, it was spiritual, moving, uplifting, eye-opening, and, surprisingly, even relaxing.  I have been really stressed and confused in life the past couple months, but after a minor break down at the beginning of the trip, I was given this peace, a stillness in my mind, in my heart that allowed me to just BE.  It allowed me to be present in India, to relax and take in the moments.

Taking in the beauty! On the road leaving the orphanage. Not a bad shot considering it was taken while reaching my camera around someone else to take a snap out the window of a moving vehicle!

There was a bit of a cultural adjustment while we were there, the eight American adults all with a love and a drive to go-go-go were not always keen on the relaxed, we will get there when we get there, I know we said 4pm, but it will probably be more like 6pm or maybe 7pm culture.  There was a lot of waiting, a lot of sitting around being served tea and coffee when we wanted to go DO SOMETHING.  But through it all, I was relaxed, I was less impatient than I think I have ever been in my life (okay, with one or two exceptions).  I was soaking up being there!  And soaking up a bit of the sunshine.  I was enjoying the company I was in, conversations, laughs, and just getting to know the group I was traveling with.

India is full of color.

From the first day, one of the things I loved about India was the people.  Not only are they amazingly friendly, hospitable and kind, but they are beautiful.  The dark skin, dark big eyes and brightly colored clothing make them incredibly photogenic.  But it goes deeper, their lives are written on their faces.  The hard lives they live, their stories, their struggles and their burdens.  They appear older than they are, even the children sometimes look like they have so much history, so much experience and maturity but they are stuck in a child’s frame.  They are full of character, of life, of stories and of beauty.  I was in awe of the radiance I saw in each face, I longed to take a picture of every person just to capture the unique features, wrinkles, colors, and emotions distinctive to each individual.

I would love to hear all the stories behind their faces.

It wasn’t always appropriate to take a picture and sometimes I didn’t when I wished I could have.  But luckily the children were always more than willing to have their photo’s taken, at the orphanage they would beg and beg, pleading with me to take just one more shot!  With a lot of my people pictures I made a quick video to share. I have uploaded this video to Facebook, but you can access it from the link below. Please check it out to see some of the beautiful people I met in India.


Boys at the orphanage

A typical scene: sheep, a child and mom in front of their house.

Going to India

There are many things I want to do in 2012, one of which is to travel and see more of the world.  Of course this is always one of my dreams, one of my goals, one of my desires.  There isn’t a place in the world where I wouldn’t like to visit at least once.  In the past few months, I’ve been looking forward to the Chinese New Year because I knew I would have time of work and I wanted to take the chance to see another part of the world.  I considered taking a trip to Vietnam or Thailand, both places I really would love to see. But time flew by, I hadn’t made any plans or organized anything and I wasn’t quite sure what would be going on with my work situation or my finances.

Last month, I learned of opportunity to travel in a different way and see a completely different part of the world.  A place I really don’t know much about, but as always, any new place is a place I’m willing to go.  Somewhere where I can guarantee the sights, sounds, smells and tastes will be different from anything I’ve ever experienced.  Not necessarily to see a tourist area, not a tourism trip.  But an opportunity to see the true lives of the people, experience the true feel of the country, and a chance to serve.

I learned a couple who attend my church, and also run a non-profit organization that serves underprivileged around the world, were organizing a trip to Bangalore, India over Chinese New Year.  Travel with purpose and see some place new, that is all I needed to know, I was sold.  There were some logistical issues that needed to be resolved before I committed to the trip, but everything, amazingly, fell into place and I am leaving on Saturday for 8 days in Bangalore, India.

I decided to blog before leaving on my trip, to give you a little background information on where I’m going and what I will be doing.  Then you can anxiously sit and wait for my return to hear more and see pictures.

Honestly, we don’t really have set plans when we are down there.  The people I’m going with have many contacts in Bangalore and the surrounding areas.  We will be working while we are down there in what ever areas we are needed, but we aren’t exactly sure until we show up and they put us to work what we will be doing.  There is an orphanage where we will be visiting and serving, Lara, who is organizing the trip, has a medical background and has often provided medical care on her trips down there.  The people we will be visiting with and helping out, it whatever areas they need, are mostly Dalits in villages around the city of Bangalore. As you may know, India has a caste system. Dalits are the lowest caste in India.  They are the “untouchables”, the poorest of the poor.

Bangalore (or Bengaluru) is the capital of the state of Karnataka, which is in the southern part of India.  With a population of about 8.5 million people, it is the 3rd most populous city in India. The average high temperatures in January are 80-85 Fahrenheit or 27-29 Celsius.  The lows are around 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 degrees Celsius.

From what I hear, India should be it’s own continent.  Everyone I know who has been there says it is completely unlike any other place on earth.  I have been told that coming back to Shanghai is a relief because everyone is so civilized and the traffic is so calm, and there are actually traffic laws which people follow.  I hear that I will be throwing away the shoes I wear while I’m there because the streets are so vile and disgusting that my shoes will be destroyed and no amount of cleaning will make me want to wear them again.

So… really I don’t know what my trip has in store for me.  I’m relying on the knowledge, connections and organization of others.  I’m going without expectations and with my only plan is to not have a plan.   Keep me and the group I’m going with in your thoughts and prayers.  It should be an exciting journey,  and I will share in detail my experiences when I return.

Below is a piece from Gathering Together‘s website about the India trip:

In the villages just outside the city of Bangalore (in the state of Karnataka), GT partners with locals to support Faith Baptist Children’s Home (FBCH), where many orphans are taken care of. Through the generous donations of our supporters, we have been able to start a vaccination program, help dig a well to provide clean water, purchase shoes for the children, and then return to give booster shots. During the service trip in September, 2009, we were also able to vaccinate the children in 3 villages and build relationships with the village leaders in order to return in June and do some more health education projects. Bangalore Baptist Hospital (BBH) also followed up on testing some villagers with symptoms of TB. BBH then registered the people with TB for the government program that provides free TB medication. There were also 2 groups of teachers sent and partially supported by GT that trained over 200 locals in the surrounding area.

This area is very impoverished and people lack the very basic necessites of life. Also, many of the people we are helping here are in the lower castes or are dalits (untouchable caste), so there is very little opportunity to improve their circumstances on their own. GT’s focus is to find sustainable ways to help people so that they can then help others. One way we are doing this is to help some of the children at the orphanage and villages obtain a higher education. Through our medical assistance we hope to improve the health of the next generation so they are able to better support their families and be educated on how to maintain their own health. This also helps families by reducing the need to spend as much money on the care for sick children and other family members.

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