After a breakfast during which we were still all laughing at a very funny scene in a film we watched last night, we set out to the church where the girls were to spend the morning studying, and I was to prepare a talk I have to give next week.
We stepped out into the morning air (cold enough for E to send me back for my coat!) and threaded our way through the very narrow streets. The road here is simply compacted mud with no tarmac surfaces, just occasional short sections of broken concrete, no pavements for pedestrians, and at frequent intervals there are drain holes which have lost their covers, a hazard for the unwary. The tenement blocks with their ornate wrought-iron balconies towered above us on either side as we passed along the narrow corridor between them. Rays of sun slanted tantalisingly through high above our heads, but never penetrated down to street level as we side-stepped the wild dogs, litter, overflowing pipes above us and drain holes at our feet, and dodged the traffic in this city where there are a hundred opportunities a day for the unvigilant to meet an untimely end!
Speaking of the dogs, one of the ones that reside outside our building has puppies. One of them is all-white, apart from a black smudge on its face and one black leg. I’m not sure how I shall be able to resist popping it in my pocket when it’s time to come home.
Now, as I write, I’ve completed the outline of my talk (about the dangers of valuing people only for their economic productivity, and missing the gifts that severely disabled people bring to us) and the girls are labouring (I don’t think that’s too strong a word!) over their English studies. A couple of days ago another volunteer guided them through writing a character description. This afternoon I plan to help them build it into a story by making something happen to their character that puts her in a predicament. Then on another occasion they will have to think about how they can resolve her dilemma – and then I hope they will have an idea of how to construct a story with character, drama, conflict and resolution. I have also brought some laminated photographs to help them think about setting for a story. I’m told they are not used to thinking imaginatively, so this will challenge and, I hope, stretch them.
Learning English phonetics
We’re now back at the home, and the girls are cooking lunch. After a while of studying English phonetics, they all took their books and chairs, and climbed the stairs to a sunny roof terrace. They were about to plunge back into their studies, but the roof space looked too irresistible for sitting still, so I lined them up against the wall and taught them to play “baked bean, dwarf bean, jumping bean, French bean, runner bean” (anyone remember that from Brownies or Guides?) and after running and bouncing around for a while they sat back down to listen to the story of “Town Mouse, Country Mouse” in English, with Hindi explanations for those who struggled to understand.
Meanwhile, S came to find me to sit and plan my diary for the next two weeks. I now have a creative writing workshop with the church planned, a training session on report writing, another on the effects of pornography – an engagement I would value prayer for. These are in addition to the teachers’ conference and the meeting of businesswomen which are already in the diary. Tonight the girls’ group counselling session is on forgiveness, and I am to share with them something of my own journey of forgiveness and what God taught me along the way. I have also been asked to look at the girls’ backgrounds one by one with S and E, and help to plan what educational goals are appropriate for each one and a plan of how to reach them, and also what counselling needs they have and how these can best be addressed. I feel very unqualified for the latter, not being a counsellor, but I do know the ways in which God has met me at the various points throughout my own history, and which interventions have been helpful, so I hope I can at least contribute a little. To those who pray, I know there are things on that list which I can’t do without God’s help, and things for which I need a supernatural wisdom beyond my own, so please do pray for me.
Walking through the streets this morning I suddenly realised that I had shaken off that feeling of being out of my comfort zone, and have started to feel much more at home here now, due in part I’m sure to the very warm welcome from everyone. My health is also holding up – even the asthma is not bothering me, and I suspect the reason it was so bad last time was because my system was already weakened by the Dengue fever. Not a mosquito in sight this time – last time I’d been eaten alive by the time I’d been here two days. So I can honestly say that so far it’s all good.