Friday, May 26, 2006

indian birthday

Hello everyone!

Thanks again for the emails and prayers! You are all serously the best ever!

The past few days have gone well for me. The old lady I was telling you about died yesterday at 2pm. She had a peaceful death, which made me glad. Now I have a friend in Heaven to watch over me as I do my work!

Today I also met one of the patients who is very lonely because she doens't speak Bengali, which everyone else does. She speaks English and some Hinidi. So I gave her a massage and talked to her for a long time. It must be so hard for her to be so alone without any family or friends!

Last night we had a volunteer's day of prayer. I got to sing in the choir and we used 4-part harmony! I sang alto and it reminded me of the good old days in high school! (Except this time I could figure out the alto part on my own by the music instead of listening to Dana, who sat next to me!) It was a good and peaceful night!

Yesterday was Kyli's birthday and she was treated like an Indian princess by our hotel! We woke up and there was a floral arrangement from Hakim and Nani waiting for her. Then I went to ask the owner, Mrs. Smith, if we could decorate one of the small lounges for her birthday. Her reply (while pinching my cheeks): "Of course, darling! You treat this like your home!" So we did.

The men working at the hotel were so eager to help! They kind of took the job over, actually. After we'd finished decorating, Nani came up with another floral arrangement and a cake from Mrs. Smith and the hotel staff! It was so sweet! Shortly after, another floral arrangement arrived from Sam, the receptionist!

Tonight we are going out for her birthday and are going to break open a pinata! It promises to be a good time! Maybe we'll even wear our saris!

Besides the cake from Mrs. Smith, Kyli got an enchanted barbie birthday cake which we shared with the hotel staff and some of our friends. There was still a lot left over, though, so we took the remainder into the street to give to the beggars. The cake was gone in about 90 seconds! It was incrediable! I guess we know where to go if we ever have way too much food!

Tomorrow I'm going to go into some villages with Kim and some other nurses to do care there. I am pretty excited about it!

Thank you again for your emails and your prayers!

Know that you are in mine!

God bless you,


Monday, May 22, 2006

one week into india

Hello everyone!

Life has been going well for me in the past few days. I am really beginning to like working at Kalighat (home for the dying). It is good to be able to help the people there in ways that others cannot. I am beginning to realize how fragile life is. For the past three days I've been dressing the wounds of an old woman who I'm sure will die very soon. Each day she gets a new wound because she is so full of infection. I think her heart is failing too. I'm working with another nursing student and we were trying to remember all of the signs of heart failure yesterday. Of the ones we knew, she met them all. It is just so sad to see her suffering so much. I cried yesterday while I was doing one of her dressing changes (she has six to do).

But I am comforted to know that she is in a safe place surrounded by people who are willing to show her love and care in her final moments of life.

I keep thinking of the following song and it is consoling to me when everything seems dismal.

We have a hope in Jesus
We have a hope in Jesus
That all things will be well
That all things will be well
That all things will be well in Him

I sing it to the lady as I sit with her. She seems to like having her hand held and being sung to.

On a lighter note...thanks for all of your concerned emails about Kim. She is still alive and well. We went to the hosptial again yesterday and she got her second of five rabies shots.

And we experienced our first Indian rain! We were shopping when it started raining. Kyli got really afraid and no matter how much people reassured her, she was convinced that monsoon season had begun. So she wanted an umbrella. We went to a shop and they tried to sell us one for Rs450. Umbrellas should only be Rs60-100, so we decided to walk in the rain. It was pretty fun. The water was about a foot deep in the street and we didn't realize until we had already been walking in the street for a few minutes that we could have used the sidewalk. Oh well.

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful day!It was great to hear from you!

Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers!

God bless you,


Friday, May 19, 2006

finally started working

Hello everyone!

Thanks for the emails and prayers! Things are going well here. I had my first day working with the sisters today, which was a bit crazy at first. I've always felt really called to work at Kalighat, the home for the dying, but the other three girls i'm here with were going to work at ShiShu Bhavan, a home for children waiting to be adopted. So I was nervous and didn't know anyone or where to go after morning Mass and breakfast with the volunteers. I found some people, though and we were off.

As a nurse, I can help in a different way than all of the other volunteers. The "normal" volunteers work get to Kalighat and do laundry, then they sit with the patients for a while, usually just holding their hands, hugging them, singing to them, etc. Then there is a 10:30 break for tea and biscuits for the volunteers and after that the dry laundry is folded, the patients are fed lunch, and then we go home.

As a nurse, I did dressing changes all day. I won't tell you about it in detail because the wounds are very graphic. I'll just say that wounds rarely (I hope) get this bad in the United States. It is very sad to see people enduring this amount of suffering in their daily lives. Most of them are so patient, though, it's heroic. I know that I am helping people a lot by being able to do their dressing changes, but I see the other volunteers being able to be there for them emotionally in possibly a deeper way, which I am slightly envious of. I guess I can work on being more like this while I'm working with people too.

As far as life in India, we are all adjusting well. It's not nearly as hot as I imagined it would be, which is good. Everyone is so nice to us and had been helping us with anything we need.

Yesterday we went to see Victoria Memorial, a museum about what life was like when the British were here around the 1800s. One of our friends from the hotel took us, which was very nice. As we were leaving, we wanted to get some bottled water, so Hakim (the man who took us) went to go get some. We saw a men with monkeys on leashes and wanted to see them. They came over and the monkey danced for us and we took some pictures. Then he told us to give him 200 rupees, which is rediculously expensive for watching monkeys dance. Kyli, one of the girls with us immediately gave him Rs200 and then he asked for 100 more rupees. Kim said "no!" and then one of hte monkeys came over and bit her hand!

Just then Hakim came back with the waters and said "I leave you alone for 10 minutes and you spend 200 rupees and get bit by a monkey!" So true. People always ask us how much we've paid for things and then usually tell us that we've paid too much. The man probably should have gotten 10 rupees or less.

So Kim and I had to go to the hospital so she could get rabies shots. It was a far cry from American hospitals. It reminded me of the hopsital in the movie "Pearl Harbor." There were bugs and everything seemed like it was at least 50 years old. We were a bit afraid but everything has seemed to work out so far. She has to get 4 more shots now. Poor Kim!

Well, I should go now! Thank you so much for your email! I love hearing from you and am so blessed to be included in your prayers!

Know that you are also in mine!

God bless you,


Monday, May 15, 2006

calcutta day 7?

Hello everyone!

I am in India now and have been for maybe a day and a half. I am
not really sure how long.

Our trip here was a bit rocky. Kim and I were supposed to meet
Kim's cousin, Jill and her friend Kyli at the London airport, but they
were not there when we arrived. By the final boarding call they were
not there either, so we were really worried. We asked the lady at
the desk if they had checked in and she said they hadn't. Their
flight from Chicago to London was delayed and their plane had
landed 30 minutes before takeoff in a terminal that was miles away.
So the plane left without them! The lady also told us that Jill was
all alone! So, Kim and I left a note for her telling her to take a
prepaid taxi to our hotel and the lady told us we would be updated
when we got to Calcutta. We ended up gettting her flight info on
the plane. She was rerouted to Delhi and then flew to Calcutta
from there.

When we arrived, Kim and I had no idea what to do or how to find
Jill. Kim ended up asking God to help us sort everything out and
as she was praying, an American who had been sitting behind us
on the plane came over to us. She helped us figure out what to do
and made us feel a lot better about the whole thing. It was really
quite amazing, in fact, because she would always show up just as
we were beginning to get frustrated and offer us just what we needed.

God is truly faithful!

Thanks to our American friend, we figured out that Jill had never
checked into her Delhi to Calcutta flight, so we were worried once
again. Eventually we found the British Airways offce and they
gave us her new flight plan. She was scheduled to arrive at 2pm
so we decided to check into the hotel for about an hour and then
return to pick her up.

The 45 min prepaid taxi ride was the biggest culture shock of my life! I
honestly thought everyone on the road was going to crash at the
same time. It was like the "drive as fast as you want and break
as many rules as you want" game. But everyone seems to get
by well this way. (They us their horns A LOT!) Everywhere you
look there are people and animals. The strangest thing for me to
see was people bathing in the streets and little kids running
around without clothes on. It makes you sad.

Our hotel was a breath of fresh air for me. Compared to American
hotels, it doesn't seem very luxurious, but it is clean and the people
are SOOOO nice! (And we have AC, which is really nice in 120

The hotel sent us back to the airport with one of their drivers to
pick up Jill. When we got back in there her flight ended up being
an hour later than planned. When she finally arrived, Kyli ended up
being with her and their luggage was lost. (It's in Calcutta now and
the hotel will pick it up for us.) When we got to the hotel we slept
pretty much all night.

Today we went to a market and bought some Indian clothes. I
got a very fancy sari and a salwar (long shirt with pants). I think
we ended up paying too much for them, though, but we have NO
clue how much things should cost.

When we got back to the hotel, the owner's handmaid helped us
put the saris on and then we took several pictures with her and
some of the other employees. It was a lot of fun. We wore them
to lunch too, but changed into american clothes later.

Now we are finishing trying to find a new hotel. The one we are
staying in is going to be much to expensive to stay for a month.
So far we have a couple that seem decent, so hopefully we can
figure it out.

I am so happy also because it only costs about $2 to talk on the
phone to the US for about 10 minutes and only $0.50 to use the
internet for an hour! (So I can update you guys frequently!)

We will start working with the sisters on Wednesday, after we
get the hotels figured out. We didn't do this before because we
wanted to see what they were all like before we committed to staying
in one of them, which is good. I am beginning to adjust to the Calcutta
way of life and know that I will feel more content after we begin
work. At the moment everything is a bit disjointed.
Thank you guys for the emails! They are very encouraging to me!

I hope you all have a great day! Know that you are all in my thoughts
and prayers!

Friday, May 12, 2006

london, day 5

Hello again!

I hope you are all doing well! The past couple of days have been good.
Well, the first part isn't good but the rest is.

Yesterday Kim was sick in the morning so my cousin Dave and I went
on a walk around his town with Abby, their 9-month old golden retriever.
It is such a beautiful place to be! We walked through lovely gardens
and by the river and through the town shopping center.

After Kim woke up, we went to go see Windsor Castle. The last admission
was supposed to be at 4pm and we got there about 3:59pm. But, they
were closed and obviously had been for at least five minutes because
everything was closed and barred. So, insead of being discouraged, we
decided that we'd at least get a good outside shot of the castle.

So we found a postcard with a good view and walked around to where we
thought the photo was taken and then got the picture! We had a lot of fun
despite the potentially unfortuante circumstances. We also saw some
Indian people shooting part of a dance scene for a Bollywood film! So of
course we had to sneak around trying to end up in background shots!

Today we woke up early and headed into London. We saw the changing of
the palace guard at Buckinham Palace, which was not that exciting. Then
we went to Westminster Abbey, but they were charging to get in and there
was a long line of tourists. So, Dave pointed out the Catholic cathedral and
we went over there and walked in during daily Mass! So we got to go toMass, which was an unexpected treat.

Then Kim and I went to the Tower of London and Dave went to a bookstore.
The tower of London was not too exciting, but we did find one of the palace
guards and managed to put a smirk on his face by the fuss we were making
over trying to take a picture with both of us plus him in it by ourselves.

We were so proud!

Then we went to St. Paul's Cathedral for some Anglican Evensong. In the
church yard, we saw an Indian family feeding a little squirrel! The boy saw
that we wanted to feed her and take her picture, so he gave us some of
his peanuts and led the squirrel over to us! We took so many picutres and
videos! It was the most fun ever!

For dinner we met up with Dave and Lara and ate at a little pub/thai restaurant!
On part of the way home we rode on the top of a double-decker bus, which
was fun but slightly scary!

And tomorrow we leave! I am so grateful to my cousins for letting us stay
with them! This has been a nice break to what would have been a 24 hour
plane ride!

I hope you all have a wonderful day! Thanks again for the prayers and emails!

God bless you!


P.S. We added/will soon add more photos so be sure to check them out!

You can also try to go to Kim's myspace account to see some of our videos at

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

going to india!

Our journey has gone very well so far. We left Des Moines at 4:38pm
on Monday and got to London yesterday at 10am. (There's a 6 hour
difference between London time and US Central time, so we were a
bit tired by the time we got there.) The flight was super nice, though.
We each had our own personal entertainment center in the seat in
front of us; we got a pillow, blanket, and headphones; and we got
dinner, breakfast, and several drink services. The seats were bigger
than the small planes that fly out of Des Moines (it was a 777) and
there was actually a relatively nice amount of leg room. I even managed
to get about 3 hours of sleep.

When we got to London, we got our bags, got some pounds ($2 is
about the same as 1 pound) and took a train the Paddington station where
my cousin Dave met us at Starbucks. (I found it ironic that the first thing
Kim and I did in London was eat at Starbucks.) After taking the train to
Richmond, where my cousins live, Kim and I took a nap, ate dinner, and
then we all headed into downtown London to walk around a bit.

Today Kim and I went exploring. We went to go see the Tower Bridge
and then walked around some of the other monuments and attractions.
Everything closes very early...usually between 4 and 6...and we didn't
get into London until close to 2pm. We did get to see a lot of churches,
thought, which was really cool. (Although it is weird to see people
walking around a church listening to audio tours!)

It was really fun just being able to wander around, not really having any
place that we needed to be. We didn't necessarily know where we were
going the whole time, but that was ok. We always had maps, my cousin's
phone number, and friendly shopkeepers to ask directions if we needed.

I am very glad that we were able to come to London. Our original plans
were to go straight through from Des Moines - Chicago - London - Calcutta
without stopping. We saw, however, that there was about a 5-hour layover
in London, so asked the travel agent if we could just stay there for a few
days and we could, which was great!

Kim made a Yahoo! Photo account and has uploaded some of the photos
we took today. We'll try to keep that updated as much as possible! You
can see them at this website, which I highly recommend!

Anyway, thank you all for your wonderful emails and your prayers! Know
that I am praying for each of you and hope you are doing well!

God bless you!