Sep 22 2011
I just walked in the front door of my house here in Nashville. It’s nice to be home. Interestingly, Seth and I commented in Chicago how anti-climactic our return from India has been both times. We don’t feel the slightest bit of culture shock. Maybe these 10-day trips aren’t long enough for something like that to hit me. It’s strange to see so many white people and I wanted to walk on the left hand side of the airport walkways, but other than that, I feel fine.
As I stumbled in the door with my bags, I began searching for something to eat and was forced to scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel (or refrigerator). I’ve been slamming Kraft American Cheese Singles like they’re Tic Tacs! And now I’m popping Cheddar Goldfish like they’re……..well, Tic Tacs. Here is my final blog entry from our time in India. I’ll be posting more in the coming days about random things, our Hipster Abroad series, and some other junk. Peace for now, my dear brothers and sisters.
We’re sitting in our plane on the tarmac at Kolkata, about to leave for New Delhi, retracing our steps back to America through the air instead of by rail. And as I consider this final day we spent in Kolkata, I’m thinking about the gift that just wouldn’t give.
Before I do anything in life, I read for at least 4 hours on whatever the subject is. I don’t like doing things that are totally foreign to me. Some of you will assume this makes me a control freak. Fair enough. I’ll assume those of you who think that are know-it-alls. For real, though, I just like learning. So when we booked travel for a trip on the Indian rail system from New Delhi to Kolkata – a 900-mile journey – I read up on it.
Grand Prize Game
I learned that locking your bags is very common when traveling across India by rail. Underneath each seat are two metal hooks through which you can pass a chain lock to secure your bags. I already had a braided steel bike chain so I brought it with me. The only problem with my ingenious plan is that I couldn’t remember what the lock combination was when we arrived in India. I’m a clown. I knew it started with a “G” (it’s one of those Word Locks where the combination is a word) but couldn’t remember anything else. It wasn’t long until I discovered another problem. The lock doesn’t have a single “G” anywhere on it. I’m Bozo the Clown. That is, as Jesus is King of Kings, I’m the Clown of Clowns.
I haven’t been to many international airports, but as I’ve passed through the security of each one, all of them have made me almost completely empty my shoulder bag of all my electronics gear inside. It makes me wonder what the purpose of the x-ray machine is. Imagine a doctor takes an x-ray. “Yup. Looks broken… We’re gonna have to cut you open to check for sure.” (Yes, I know I’m being a monkey.)
Anyway, on this occasion tonight, the guard found the unopenable Word Lock in my bag (I forgot it was there) and took exception to it. He went and checked with a superior, returning to inform me that the lock wouldn’t be allowed in either my carry-on or my personal bag I was taking on to the flight. He suggested I put the lock in my carry-on and return downstairs to check that bag. Ummm, no. Do I look like the kind of guy who returns downstairs to check another bag!? Homie don’t play that. I looked over at Seth and said, “I don’t even know how to get this thing open.” So I turned back to the guard and said, “It’s ok. You can throw it away.” His demeanor changed immediately. “Hold on,” he said. After talking with the same superior, he returned and said, “Ok, you can put it in your bag, but it’s not allowed anymore.” GSA. Ghetto Security Administration.
Chew It Or Lose It
Meals in India are a full contact sport. Amongst my friends in the US, I’m notorious for eating slowly. Even though I’m technically an introvert, I talk a lot at meals. When words are coming out, it’s tough to put food in. Continuing this same pattern in India, I became the cause for schedule delays. When Indians get food, there’s no messing around. The NBA has a shot clock. If you don’t hit the rim with the ball inside 24 seconds, your team loses the ball. Indians seem to have an internal food clock. They eat as though their food is God’s manna and could potentially be taken away from them. The Israelites had to collect their manna every morning before it evaporated like the dew of the morning. My friend, Piyas, summed it up simply: “Eating will take 10 minutes maximum.”
10 Minutes To Win It
But don’t be deceived. A lot happens in those 10 minutes. First, when Indian food is served, it seems as though it’s just arrived from the surface of the sun. I’m not sure that steel is smelted at such a high temperature. What makes things more incredible is they eat with their hands. At one point this trip, I considered going to the hospital as I was concerned I had third degree burns after recklessly plowing my hand into a stack of rice. Serves me right for trying to be all native and stuff.
Second, I’m convinced Indians only need three things to live: oxygen, water, and rice. Some geological surveys would classify the portions of rice on each person’s meal dish as a notable mountainous region. The Himalayas. The Alps. The Bismatis. I’m guessing an Indian eats their own body weight in rice every month of the year.
Third, I would like to unofficially declare cucumbers as the national vegetable of India. Most meals are served with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. I haven’t seen much of the other parts of India, but I’m thinking it must be at least 70% a garden because Indians love their vegetables. Seth LOVES vegetables, too. For those who are curious, his CPD (cucumber per day) ratio was 1.2 while we were in Kolkata. Beast mode!
The Cool Daddy
As a closing item today, I want to write briefly about my aforementioned travel partner and best friend, Seth.
Meet and Greet
I met Seth on January 27, 2009. It was one of the best days of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s turned out that way. That probably seems a little ridiculous, but let me explain. Since college, I’ve prayed to God that I could have a best friend – someone that would sharpen me and someone with whom I could soldier through the ups and downs of life. Someone I could stay focused on the important things of life with. For at least 8 years, I’d prayed to God to provide a friend like this.
On the days I’m not jealous and hateful toward Seth for having so much talent in almost every area of life, I thank God for everything He’s built into my friend.
Seth is a songwriter and music producer (how he makes his living), a scholar, an athlete, a scholar-athlete (he pole vaulted in college), and a true follower of Jesus. I love all these things about him. But what I especially, and selfishly, love most about him is that he’s helped me become a better man. Through our conversations on the phone, in person, over email, and text, he continually pushes me to actually do the things Jesus says to do – to cut out the major and minor sins in my life and to more firmly establish kingdom living as a pattern of life – to do justice and love mercy and to walk humbly with God. To seek first His kingdom. To set my mind on things above. To show my faith by doing instead of merely talking – to be a doer of the Word.
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick
An example of one of his many talents…While we were in Kolkata, Seth did some incredible things that impressed me, some of which I captured on video that you’ll see in the coming days. His greatest achievement happened a few nights ago. We were in an extremely busy part of town where hailing a taxi is virtually impossible. Our friend Piyas would flag one down, tell the driver where we wanted to go, and get denied. We’d then walk a little further down the street and try again. After 3 or 4 false starts, a taxi came whizzing around the corner and passed us but suddenly slammed on the brakes. I pushed Seth toward the taxi and yelled, “GET IT!!!” Seth ran down the street and after a moment, motioned to us to come get in the taxi. After we got back to our room, I said, “Dude, what’d you do to get that taxi?” He answered, “Actually, I have no idea. I didn’t even know where we were going. I didn’t say anything. He just looked at me for a second and told me to get in.” If Kolkata taught us anything, it’s that Seth’s most hidden talent is his ballin skills as The Taxi Whisperer.
Masters in Teaching
During our visit to Ghoraghata, Seth gave a small devotional to about 15 mothers who, through the work of our friends at SEED, recently learned the art of making and selling jewelry to earn more money for their impoverished families. The program has been a monster hit. On this particular work day of theirs, Seth’s word to them was awesome. If you have interest in listening, it’ll most likely be the best 7.5 minutes you spend today. He spoke from Luke 4 – when Jesus talked to the woman at the well. Our friend, Piyas, is translating.
CS Lewis once said that our joy in something isn’t complete until we declare it publicly – that we’re compelled by our happiness to express our joy in that thing to others. And so, to You, Lord, I thank You for answering my prayers for a friend like Seth. And to you, brother Seth, I thank you for being such a good friend. My life would be doubly lacking without your friendship. I wouldn’t be the dude I am today without you and I wouldn’t have gone to India without you. Either time. As long as we live, may God give us the same spirit – His – in order to do the work He’s prepared for us since the foundation of the universe.
I’ll travel anywhere in the world to get sick with you.
We’ll go! India is great! And you’ve got all your bags! Someday, I’ll show that Travellator who’s boss. Yummy, yummy, yummy!
To Jaiashree and Piyas… Hear me when I tell you that the lives you’re living are among the most inspiring I’ve seen in all my days on this earth. May God richly bless you in this life and the life to come because of the sacrifices you make on a daily basis for His Name’s sake. The example of your lives burns so bright, it’s consuming the chaff in mine. Far better that happen to me now than at the end of the age. I believe many of my tears I cried there were from brokenness. We’ve brought nothing into this life and we can take nothing from it. You are very practically showing me what that means. Thank you, thank you, thank you for listening to the Lord’s call on your life. How grateful I am to Him that we’ve become friends – an improbable friendship spanning 8,000 miles and 11.5 hours of timezones. Of all the 1.1 bllion people living in India, I’m thankful to know you two and the rest of the SEED staff! Lord-willing, the next time I return, I’ll be the taxi driver. I’m going home to practice my skills in honking, pothole avoidance, and fitting my car into impossibly small spaces. Everyone will have to wear seat belts in my car, though. Sorry. Our plane is just now making its final approach into Chicago. I’m almost home, but I miss you already.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)