Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year in Review

We have come a long way in the past year.

From our little apartment in Mississippi, and enjoying the holidays with our family...

to South Asia. Although it gets very chilly in our apartment in South Asia during nights in December, we wanted to get more of the winter feeling, so we took a few days to go up to the mountains near our home.

We will have much more to post in the coming days about our little get-away for New Years, but could not wait to show you some of the scenery here.

The view from our room

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mrs and Mr South Asia

Our good friend told us we looked like Mr and Mrs South Asia all dressed up in our garb and sporting the serious faces.

We were not going for that look, though, but rather dressing up for a Christmas party sponsored by Asha Bari (House of Hope), the group Kristie works with trying to help exploited women at a brothel in our town.

Several different Government and Non-Government Organizations attended the event, which was full of singing, speeches, and a unique "puppet dance".

But no matter what your opinion of our clothes is, promoting such a worthy cause was worth getting dressed up for.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning in South Asia

Santa came early in the hours of December 25th to South Asia (after his stop in America, according to what we told Rebekah--we were not sure if all the internet items would clear the tax department on time, so we had to think of something...).

When we awoke, there was an abundance of presents under the tree--95% of which were for Rebekah, which is fine. This was, in some ways, a "replacement" Christmas for Rebekah, since we were replacing some of the bigger items we had left in the USA with South Asian versions.

Her look of shock/confusion/awe/joy is classic!

We proceeded to Skype with some family back in the USA while we opened presents.

Christmas for us was much as it would be in the USA, with Kristie getting iTunes cards, books, and CDs,

James getting books and shirts, 

And us relaxing and enjoying the best part of the gift-giving portion of Christmas:

Watching Rebekah play and giggle and play some more.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve in South Asia

Instead of settling in at some relative's house, we spent Christmas Eve where no person in the USA would dare to venture--the mall!

But it actually was not too crowded. Many of the malls, stores, and even Christian homes wait until the week of Christmas, or Christmas Eve even, to decorate.

And it is amazing that in a country with so few Christians, so many people are fascinated by, and even pose to take their pictures with, the baby Jesus in the manger.

After our mall adventure, we came back home and baked Santa some sugar cookies, settled in with a bowl of popcorn, and stayed up way past our bedtimes.

But it was worth it hearing the excitement in Rebekah's voice as she got Santa's Coke and cookies laid out and prayed for Santa's cookies as she went to sleep.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Really, South Asia? Part 2

Christmas is a special time for friends and family, and we definitely miss our families during our first Christmas overseas: the parties, the food, the fun, the games, and the updates on friends far away.

Although we cannot be with many of you this year, we still enjoy getting the updates, including a few Christmas cards that have made it halfway around the globe to South Asia. But, if you mail a card or package and it does not make it to us, let us explain why. 

This is the street with our post office, where you might have to chase cows away from your laundry drying in the street.

And this is our post office. We did not get this unglamorous angle on purpose. In fact, this is the only thing about our post office that would make you think it was a post office rather than just steps up to an old building.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Really, South Asia? Part 1

With so many cows and water buffalo everywhere in South Asia (especially on the roads), you really have to watch your step. These cute little animals often leave quite a mess.

I actually heard an argument recently that sites such as the one below are not good for the environment because the dried cow and buffalo chips are burnt instead of reused as fertilizer.

But to us, seeing the spread out, drying dung does not make us ask why people would pollute the environment with those things as much as...

... why would you dry your clothes right next to them?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Throwing Yourself A Birthdy Party?

Kristie is all about holidays and birthdays and parties, so it is very unfortunate for her that she married James, who is not. She has thrown multiple parties for James, and in South Asia she continued her long tradition of throwing herself a birthday party.

Kristie baked herself a few small cakes (due to the size of our ovens, as seen at Thanksgiving), which were very good (even though the white cake mix was egg-less vegetarian).

We invited a few of Rebekah's friends, as well as some of our national friends,

And enjoyed Domino's Pizza (yes, the real Domino's Pizza, although they do not deliver where we live)... 

And chocolate cake.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Need of the People Next Door

"You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are rest-less till they find their rest in you."
 --Augustine of Hippo, Confessions 1.1.1

We believe every person, including all of the "Faces Next Door" (see here and here) who we are attempting to minister among during our time in South Asia, are seeking to calm their souls' restlessness by clinging to their religious traditions.

Yet visiting the holiest site on the "holy" Ganga River a few weeks ago, we saw no hope, but only sadness.

Besides a lot of trash on the ground, we saw remnants from the worship of Kali and Shiva...

Remnants of the cremations of loved ones, whose ashes are distributed in this holy river...

A priest maintaining the shrine (to us it just looked like a small room with no furniture where incense was burned) to one of the gods...

The idea of worship we saw while visiting this site was totally foreign to us. We saw a lot of tradition and a lot of devotion, but little hope...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Opryland Hotel

Because we were in Nashville for a work conference, we splurged and spent a couple days in the Opryland Hotel. The hotel is so big, and mostly self-contained, that it is just much easier when you stay there.

We had stayed in the hotel for the same conference when Rebekah was just a few months old, and here she is between the same two horses.

This time Rebekah also liked watching the light and music show,

Riding the escalator up and down repeatedly for no apparent reason,

And just hanging out with family in the hotel's gardens.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Beginning to Look...

... a little like Christmas, as evidenced by

Our Christmas Tree

Okay, so it is not really that bad. Some of you have heard the struggles we faced about trying to make our 80 degree days feel like Christmas. But between borrowing a tree from co-workers who will be out of the country for December, 

buying weird garland and Diwali lights in the local market, and importing some of our favorite ornaments in our suitcase, we had a decent looking Christmas tree.

Rebekah got into helping us with the ornaments (she liked to put all of the ornaments in very close proximity), 

And even decorated her own tree... with great concentration, as you can see.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Faces of the People Next Door, Part 2

Please remember the people living in our target work state. As we gave the statistics of the population and poverty (and, historically, the corruption) of the state, we never wanted to get overwhelmed and forget that each face has a story.

A story of need...

A story of desire...

A story of searching...

A story of pain...

A story of determination...

A story of hope...