After some breakfast at our hotel in Amritsar, we jump into our minivans and start the 3 hour drive through dirt roads, farm country and alleys to the city of Abohar. Abohar is within the province of Punjab and lies close to the border of Pakistan and the provinces of Rajasthan and Haryana. As I mentioned in my first post about India, I was here on a mission trip. Our church had labouriously fundraised, raising $100000 ($50000 of which was miraculously and very generously donated by an anonymous Vancouver businessman) to build a school in Faridkot, India that would offer an English education to impoverished communities.
Abohar was a 4 day stop we had before reaching Faridkot. We arrived on a Friday afternoon so we caught the kids as they were getting off school. Some of the kids immediately asked us to play with them. Two of them, Abanesh and Jobanpreet. were particularly friendly with me and Sam. As we were waiting for lunch, being prepared by the school staff, we played with some of the boys in the yard. As if straight out of an Asian stereotype, the kids asked us if we could teach them kung fu. I took karate lessons back in Argentina when I was 4 years old, which hardly qualified me to teach anything! Yet when I insisted I didn’t know any kung fu, they begged me as if I was withholding information! Not wanting to disappoint them, I improvised what I thought might be a well formed punch. Sam and I really couldn’t stop laughing haha.
The following nights were spent doing studies on last minute prep work for our lessons. An alarming development was Sam’s student visa status, which would expire while we were in India. There was some confusion before we left YVR but long story short, it was starting to look like Sam wouldn’t be able to return with us to Vancouver. I found the food here pretty salty and had to each it with plenty of naan and rice. It was very tasty nonetheless. All our favourites were here: chicken tikka, butter chicken, goat curry, chicken curry, dal etc. It all seemed pretty similar to the Indian food we had back home and I’m told this is because many of the Indians in Vancouver are from Punjab, speaking Punjabi rather than the more common Hindi.
The hallways at our hotel were extremely humid and warm and our rooms become little oases from the sticky air. My bed was pretty rock solid, but hey, I thought the fact that we were staying in a hotel room on a mission trip was relatively pretty luxurious considering Hannah, who has been on long term mission trips in Thailand, slept on bamboo mats last time.
On Sunday, we visited a local church, located just down the block from the school (I use block as a term of measurement since these buildings are connected by a series of dirt roads). This ended up being the only time I wore pants. The building itself was small and a large crowd gathered, seated on the ground as the service began. I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I’ve never been to a service outside of a western church. As people settled down, I could see a portly, dark skinned man in the front start beating on some drums. He began belting out a string of words that was repeated by the congregation. The voices of the congregation followed each phrase that boomed out of his mouth, and those who knew the song sang with the portly man. The songs were upbeat, rhythmic and sung in Punjabi. It was so refreshing to hear how the locals have adapted praise and worship into their local style of music and I couldn’t but clap along and smile (that was about all I COULD do, seeing as I knew no Punjabi haha).
Cindy and Sam shared some very personal testimonies. A tall man in glasses, who was introduced as pastor Joe (name changed) and his brother in law and pastor in training, Raj (name changed), took turns translating. Pastor CP and pastor Billy stayed to pray for the congregation members but the rest of us moved to the back room to teach a Sunday School lesson. We acted out the story of Noah’s ark. I blew up some balloon animals to go along with thes story, which the kids really liked. This was an especially rewarding day because firstly, I got to witness firsthand the work of the church in India and secondly because the kids here were so attentive and eager. They weren’t at church because their parents were there, but because they wanted to be there. They were fully engaged in the lesson and activity. I was truly touched and if this was any indication of what teaching at the school would be like, I couldn’t wait to start!
It seems I’ve started stealing Emily’s pictures as well. Be sure to check out her blog!