Friday, November 30, 2012

Being Inspired

In 1988 when we first met "J", he was half way through a six month missions training course near Mumbai (then known as Bombay). He owned a spare shirt, a bible and the clothes he wore. He was likeable, single (as were we) and easy going.

Although from the south of India, J felt lead to move to the northern state of Bihar, one of the poorest in India. Moving from Kerala to Bihar is like changing countries - the language, food and culture are all different. Starting with nothing but a deep desire to serve God and help the people of Bihar, his work has grown incredibly. J is fluent in Indian languages, as well as speaking excellent English.

I only know a little of what he is involved in - let me share:
He has established and directs several English-Medium schools. New levels are being built on this particular school as finances allow. The room below is unfinished and being prepared for a conference that weekend (a future post).


Experimenting with new and better ways to grow crops to assist local village farmers. Exploring fish farming, coffee growing and much more.

They have just completed a training centre for village farmers, close to the new school which is just beyond the city of Purnia. Our team had the honour of being involved in the official opening.

Within the new school compound another building is taking shape, one debt-free floor at a time. This will be a hostel for students who need to board away from home. There is also a wonderful meeting room on the ground floor. While J and his family continue to rent a modest house for their own use, new projects and plans to bless others are continually in progress.

He has also initiated daily feeding programs and education for hundreds of poor village children, church planting and much more as well as raising his family. J and his lovely wife M, stayed with our family in Australia for three weeks in 2009. M is gracious and caring and a fantastic cook.

A Godly man of tremendous vision and integrity, a natural leader, very intelligent yet selfless. J is hugely inspiring to be around. The way he thinks, acts, delegates and explores ideas is humbling and encouraging, making one want to live each day with purpose and to aim for excellence. Yet at the same time he has a wonderful sense of humour and is very generous. No wonder my husband named our first son after this man.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making it "Real"

Have you ever eagerly waited for photos (back in the days of film) only to be somewhat dismayed that they didn't capture the scene as you expected? During my first trip to India in 1988, a ten week low budget visit during India's summer, I carefully chose my shots hoping to capture the experience to share with family at home. The photos were such a poor reflection of the reality. You cannot capture the smell, excessive heat, constant movement, draining humidity, grittiness on the skin and cacophony of sounds in a photo.

Above we have a traffic scene in Purnia from the team's visit this month. Looks interesting - however, their video clip below gives a much more accurate sense of what it was really like. Now if only we could breathe the air too......

[You may want to stop the regular blog music first by pausing the small You-Tube clip at the very bottom of the page.]

Did you notice the mobile phone signs along the way?

Thank you for watching.

You can recap on the "why" of the team going to India here.
I was at home in Australia, looking after the rest of our family (see previous posts for more details).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Welcome to Purnia!

A two hour flight from New Delhi to the south east brought the the team to Bagdogra Airport at Siliguri. Miss E managed to snap this shot of the snowcapped Himalayas to their north, even briefly spotting Mt Everest.

Siliguri is still in India yet only 20km from Bangladesh and Nepal, and around 100km from both Tibet and Bhutan. Coming from Australia, being so close to four other countries is quite mind-boggling.

Siliguri is in the Darjeerling district of West Bengal, an area famous for its tea plantations, which are very picturesque, in beautiful shades of vibrant green.

From Siliguri they were driven to Purnia, the home city of our friends. Much of the way was four lane highway which is mostly quite busy with traffic of all sorts.

Note the mobile phone towers in the background.

A town along the way where the highway no longer exists.

At last to their hotel in Purnia which was clean (although no hot water) and served good food. Purnia is a city of around 300,000 people in the northern Indian state of Bihar. Although coming into their winter, the daytime temperatures were around 27C/80F. Like much of India, their summers are very hot.

This is the view from Miss E's hotel window. Can you see the wild pig?

 Zoomed in on a pig at the same spot another day. "Were there many pigs?" I asked.
"Yes, quite a few, but there weren't as many pigs as street dogs and cows," she replied.

This is the view from the front of the hotel - note the internet cafe on the far left - which happened to be closed several days in a row due to a Hindu festival, then a Muslim festival. When open, the connection was unreliable and very slow. This helps explain the great lack of communication with home. One team member had a computer literally blow up in front of her.

On the first morning my husband decided to take a walk around the area. It was all so quiet due to the public holiday. Mostly this "street" was very busy and noisy with cars, bikes, pedal rickshaws and people continually passing through in both directions.

A nearby intersection, again everything is closed due to the holiday. My husband said he had a brief look in the jewellery shop on the left one day (green grills) and they had quality items for sale, including a pair of earrings for $1000 - no he didn't do any shopping there!

A land of surprises and great contrasts. To be continued.....

Sharing at Weekly Top Shot (although taken by my family, not me).

Monday, November 26, 2012

They're Back!...... Let's Travel to India

Miss E (20) and my husband arrived home safely from India yesterday afternoon. There has been much catching up and story telling over photos. Let me share their trip over to India to start with. You can read on the story of leaving the team at Brisbane International Airport here.

Flying over Brisbane you can clearly see  the Brisbane Cricket ground, affectionately known as "The Gabba".

Amidst the fuel fumes you can just make out the players. There was an international test match in progress between Australia and South Africa. Miss G and Miss N - this is for you! (Miss G and Miss N are currently interstate themselves playing cricket - it will be over a week until we are all together at last as a family).

Continuing over Brisbane city and you can see the CBD and the iconic Story Bridge.

My husband was on the opposite side of the plane.

Over 2000 km (1200miles) travelled and still passing over the various landforms of our continent.

The changing cloud formations are fascinating.

This appears to be a small active volcano island amongst Indonesia's 18,000+ islands.

At last they arrived in Singapore Changi Airport. Being very late at night it was unusually quite.

Changi Airport looks like a pleasant place to pass some time, even though it's nighttime.

These are the cameras they took with them. Most the photos shared are taken by Miss E with Miss V's new little Sony Cybershot (which cost under $100). I'm quite impressed!

A few hours later they caught their flight to Delhi where the airport is very open and welcoming.
The real adventure soon begins......

Sharing at Our World Tuesday, SkyWatch Friday.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24.......2007

No matter how you look at it, the Taj Mahal is a magnificent sight. Exactly five years ago today my husband and Miss E (then 15) were at "The Taj".

I had the pleasure of visiting the Taj Mahal with my husband at the tail end of our five month stay in India in 1991, my second and most recent visit in India.  Let me share a little of this famous Indian landmark with you through my husband's photos from 2007.

Miss E is the one with the long plait and white shirt. Her hair is much longer now.

The sheer size of the Taj Mahal is hard to imagine from photos alone.

The Persian calligraphy is mostly quotes from the Qur'an. What amazed me on close inspection was that the writing and and the intricate designs are all made from precious and semi precious stones, inlaid into the white marble. The calligraphy is made from jasper or black marble.

Another thing which surprised me was that there is so much more than just the main building which is a tomb. The complete layout of the site, the gardens and other buildings are beautifully symmetrical and detailed.

 Wikipedia is a great source for further information on the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.

 Again the tremendous contrasts of India are clearly evident - this is the view behind the Taj Mahal.

Miss E and my husband are currently on their way back to Australia. I know they were not visiting the Taj Mahal this time. The Taj Mahal is very much "tourist India" yet certainly worth trying to see if you have the chance.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Five Years Ago

Five years ago this week my husband and Miss E were in India, just as they are right now. This morning I located the photos they had taken while there. Much is the same as when I was last there 22 years ago, but also much has changed.

Today India has better mobile phone reception than Australia, however other infrastructure is definitely not comparable in most localities.

India remains a land of tremendous contrasts and is culturally varied and very different to Australia.

Miss E was 15 then. My husband lead a small group from church to visit and assist some of our Indian friends (different ones to the current visit) who were holding an annual conference in the middle of India for their workers, most of whom are working in northern India.

After the conference our friends took our little team to a tourist destination in north India for a day of sightseeing before a little more work.

The scenes are a feast for the eyes, although somewhat overwhelming at times while you are there in person. Miss E is enjoying her current trip much more, being older and having been before makes a big difference.

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