India: Bottoms Up! (Gardner's blog)

“Good morning everybody! Good morning! How are you? We are fine tank you, and you? I am also fine wsdkfjgbspdiouhvpongf…” Is my favorite part of the morning exercises at Mugla school. There’s nothing like little children speaking English in their little Indian accents and then rattling off Hindi nursery rhymes. I myself am better than fine, I’m in Chamba and I’m pleased as punch about it. Arriving in India was different this time. Last time, and obviously the first time, there was a shock and awe feeling that immediately made me realize that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. This time though, (I think because I was here so recently) it felt strangely normal. I keep having to tell myself that I’m half way around the world, in India, in Chamba! Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a fantastic time. We have a great team, an excellent school, and the YMAD girls never fail to put a smile on my face.

Some highlights so far:

Clara and I stopped by the fresh juice stand in the sketchy food alley in Chamba town. We each got a mix of fresh squeezed sugar cane and fruit juices. By the time I realized it might kill me, it was too late, and it was bottoms up. It would’ve tasted good without the spoonful of salt. The good news though? I didn’t feel the least bit queasy from it! In fact I’ve been pretty healthy so far. I wake up a little congested and my throat has to warm up in the mornings, but I’m not complaining

All of the kids at our school are darling, but Tanvi steals my heart every day. She is the most animated, sweet, nutty, adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll try to send a picture. She will yell at me “Bhaia” (Not sure how it’s spelled, but it means brother) and then go on a rant in Hindi as if I understand, and somehow I almost do just from her expressiveness. One of the frustrations of the school days is the countless nametags that I have to replace. The flimsy notecards tied up by yarn get destroyed constantly. I’m always running up to the bag to grab more tags, I’ve learned to keep a marker in my pocket.

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Today, after I washed the henna of my hands, I pulled out my uke at the house of learning. Rupali was sure she was a master, true to her character. A few of the girls listened to me play ‘lemonade’, but after attention shifted elsewhere, Priya stayed sitting by me and asked me to play ‘one day’. When I was born, and when Priya was born, I’m sure neither of our parents would’ve guessed that we’d one day sit side by side -- a white boy from Utah and a girl from the mountains of Hiachal Pradesh, India – and sing a song together like old friends. Life is beautiful.

This was weird. So our translator is named Tanu, and I thought I recognized her, but wasn’t sure from what. Apparently she thought she recognized me too. It wasn’t until yesterday though that we put it together that she was my translator at Nihan in 2011! We had a good laugh, she said she and her brother Vinayek argued about it the night before. She said that Gardner was much less tall and had long hair, and no beard, Vinayek said that it’s been five years! It was very fun to catch up and reminisce about our days at Nihan.

To everyone who reads this, know that I love you. I’m so grateful for the blessings I have. They are many, but the people in my life are by far the greatest. Part of me can’t wait to get home and get ready for the wedding. I’m so excited to celebrate with all you beautiful people, but mostly to marry (as cheesy as it sounds) my better half. All that will come, but until then, I am trying to stay present, to live and love this experience to the fullest. On that note, I was reading Lord of the Rings (fellowship) yesterday morning, and came across one off the great quotes that I’ve long loved from the movie “All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” I’ll leave you with that and tell you that no matter what, your life is what you make it, so make it happy!

Love, G