Thursday, January 27, 2011

Top Twelve Things I've Learned in India

Yes this is a top twelve.

12. It has not been this cold in Rajasthan since 1905. According to my host mom at least.
11. I know how to carry cow poop. I am actually a master at this now. If you need any help making organic fertilizer from animal excrete, I’m your girl.
However, I will only explain what to do, I will not, repeat, WILL NOT, take part in the process.
10. Want to get somewhere? Speak in an Indian accent. It helps get you where you need to go. (Can you see me talking to an auto rickshaw driver in an Indian accent, headbob and all? No? Well I have. And I do.)
9. I am obsessed with peanut butter, and it’s possible that I can’t live without it. (Thanks to Shopper’s Paradise, I don’t have to!)
8. I know how to juice, cut, and gel aloe vera plants. I also know how to slice up my fingers in the process.
7. I am capable of not eating meat for an extended period of time.
6. The headbob is essential for communication. A simple wiggle or shake of the head can communicate acceptance, appreciation, happiness, that you’re fine. Surprisingly though, this form of communication is never used for, “no.”
5. Anokhi is the place to eat. End of story.
4. You must honk your horn. If you don’t, you will get hit by another vehicle, and you will die.
3. You have to go to the bathroom? And you’re male? Don’t worry about walking all the way to a bathroom! Just grab a bit of wall and face away from the road—problem solved!
2. Staring is okay. Like really—it’s fine. You can stare at the foreign white girl walking down the road. Actually, you know what, just go ahead and leer. That’s what really floats my boat.
1. Grow organic. Eat organic…SAVE THE EARTH!

"There is no Frigate like a Book/ To take us Lands away..."*

Book: The Magician's Nephew
Author: C. S. Lewis
Quote:"Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it...cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second sound was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars....One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out...The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing."
Thoughts: I know that was a long quote. Forgive me. But this book, which is actually the first of seven in Lewis' Narnia series, is one of my favourites. Lewis give us the creation story of Narnia--before it was spoiled by the winters of the White Witch. He uses beautiful imagery; the Lion, Aslan, creates the world of Narnia through song. Lewis cleverly provides backstory for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: he not only shows how Narnia was created and how the White Witch came into being, but he also tells us how the Wardrobe was made and why it leads to Narnia. It's short, easy, and definitely worth the read.

Book: Half the Sky
Authors: Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Quote: "It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely
because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth
century. More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one-decade than
people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.
In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the
twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in
this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender
equality around the world."
Thoughts: This was part of the TBB library for India, and I am so glad I read it. Kristof and WuDunn, long-time journalists, shed light on many problems that women face worldwide: from maternal mortality, to sex slavery, to female genital mutilation. It is an easy read, with story after story of women who are impoverished, have been rescued from sex slavery, and have had fistula repairs. Not all the stories are happy and successful. There is no sugarcoating the issue here. But Kristof and WuDunn make it clear that these are not impossible problems to tackle. In the back of the book, there are a number of remarkable organisations working with women all over the world. Some were started by women who faced and conquered these issues, others were started by school kids. In the end though, Half the Sky makes you want to DO something. And it makes it clear that you actually can.

Book: A Crime So Monstrous
Author: E. Benjamin Skinner
Quote: "Immigrants, the lifeblood of America, usually come into the country only if they have the means to pay for the journey. Now, some human smugglers offer the chance to immigrate with little or no money down. The offer always comes with strings attached, however. And sometimes, it comes with chains."
"This is an act so unnatural, a crime so monstrous, a sin so God-defying, that it throws into the shade all other distinctions known among mankind." -William Lloyd Garrison
Thoughts: Another find from the TBB library! This book is an interesting review of modern-day slavery and the steps that have been taken (or NOT taken) to abolish it. It is again filled with personal stories from Skinner and different slaves he encounters. He looks at sex slavery which is the most obvious or globally known form of slavery, debt bondage, child slavery, and many other instances of forced labor. Skinner defines slavery very clearly. There are some sections where Skinner talks about US efforts to stop slavery, and I wondered, "Why is this relevant, and why are you continuing to talk about this?" Ultimately, however, this was an eye-opening book demonstrating that slavery--true slavery--is a reality for people all over the world; there are more slaves today than ever before. And I just had to ask myself, "What am I going to do about it?"

Book: The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Quote: "Gogol says nothing. He has not read the story himself. He has never touched the Gogol book his father gave him on his fourteenth birthday. And yesterday, after class, he'd shoved the short story anthology deep into his locker, refusing to bring it home. To read the story, he believes, would mean paying tribute to his namesake, accepting it somehow."
Thoughts: I loved this book (also from the TBB library). It was an interesting novel about an Indian family living in America. The parents grew up in India, but their children grow up surrounded by American culture (and they clearly prefer it). It made me ask myself how I view foreigners in America, how I view my surroundings in another country (aka someone else's home), and what makes something "home." The characters are relatable, and it was an easy read. I felt like I'd gotten to know Gogol throughout the course of the book. It was definitely a good read.

*The title of this blog is from the first two lines of Emily Dickinson's poem "There is no Frigate like a Book." It's one of my favorites. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ask yourself once...Ask yourself twice...Ask yourself three times...**

Here are some questions I've been asking myself about food. I'd encourage you to consider them for you and your family as well. I still don't know the answers to most of these questions--they will require a lot of research for me when i get home. But i think they're important questions to ask!

1. Where does my food come from?
-if I get it at the grocery store, it's likely being imported to the store--meaning that there are severe environmental impacts when they ship it here--SO
2. What can I get locally? And what would be the benefits of getting my food locally?
-i've realized that it supports local, small-scale farmers; AND it has less of an environmental impact (not as much transportation, meaning less fuel used, etc.)
-if i get my food locally, it's building community--a relationship with the farmer and perhaps other regulars at a farmer's market
-as a believer, i think those relationships could lead to sweet friendships and GREAT opportunity for the gospel--that's something i couldn't get if i'm getting my vegetables from a farmer in Chile!
3. When asking WHERE food is grown, you also have to ask HOW is my food grown?? (This obviously relates primarily to fruits and veggies)
-is my food being sprayed with pesticides? Are farmers using chemical fertilizer?
-if you eat locally, it's easier to figure out what your farmer is using on his crops.
4. What are the benefits/harms of pesticides and chemical fertilizers?
-do the benefits (more food and faster) outweigh the damage it could/does do to my body?
5. Where does my meat come from/how is it fed?
-is it grass-fed? (did you know that the majority of US cows are fed corn--cows don't even naturally eat corn)
-are the animals given hormones to make them grow faster?
-is my meat being treated humanely?
okay, with this one, you may be saying, "I don't care how it's treated, I just want meat." BUT in my readings here, it's generally shown that places where the animals are grass-fed/free range and are treated better produce better meat. Also, you have to ask:
-as a part of God's creation, don't animals deserve a little better? And as stewards and caretakers of God's creation, shouldn't we be ensuring that we treat God's creatures well--without giving them things that aren't natural and that could potentially bring harm to OUR bodies?
6. What is my responsibility as a Christian to ensure that I am being a good steward of God's creation? And what does that mean for my life with regard to food?
7. What is my aversion to eating organically grown or prepared food? Is it because I'm uncomfortable with the changes it would make to my lifestyle? Or is it because I consider organic food to be the realm of "hippy liberals?"
8. HOW can I become a responsible steward of the creation around me? and how can I change my lifestyle to support more sustainable practices of growing/producing food?

**The title of this post is a shoutout to the TAR class of 2010. Don't you miss Mrs. Cox?? :D

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Reminder

More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves his gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realise that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realise instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.
-Perspective in Trials, A Gospel Primer, Milton Vincent

Thursday, January 06, 2011

What Does Food Mean to You?

**I've been asking myself a lot of questions about food since I've been here. One of them being, "What does food mean to me?" These are just some thoughts I've had.**

Family dinners are common in my house. Granted, the past 3 years have been insanely and unfortunately busy, so they have become a little less frequent. However, I am lucky to have a family where it is important to eat dinner together. We sit down all together at the kitchen table, maybe turn on some music, and eat.
And I've realized from shoveling cow poop every day (and I suppose from our seminars as well...) (okay mainly from our seminars, but still!) that food is somewhat essential in bringing us together. Dinner is where I have some of my favorite memories growing up. Dinner is where I learned how to think for myself. Dinner is where my family and I learn about what's going on in each person's life. And dinner is where we share food together.
It's a food culture, you see. And I think it's very important in the US.  At least in my circle of friends at home, when there's a party or social gathering, there's typically some sort of food involved, whether it's a meal or snacks or dessert. When you want to get to know someone or catch up with them, you invite them to dinner or lunch. On birthdays, we look forward to cake. During the holidays, there are certain foods we can't wait to eat.
This is just one part of our food culture in the US, but it's one that I really appreciate. Food is a way to bring people together. It's a bond we share. That's what food means to me.
So I'd like to ask you too: what does food mean to YOU?
Just thinking out loud. :)