Dear Friends and Family,
February has turned into March—I had written—lost and found—February's blog; I liked it and disliked it. And so here are parts of it, plus more about March.
We have decided to settle here in India, in the high Nilgiri mountain range. Nilgiri means blue—so we are living in the Blue Mountains, just south of the city of Ooty, in Tamil Nadu. Thank you for your suggestions of other places to live. Our four dogs and three cats are also instrumental to our decision to stay in India.
What was the deciding factor, you may ask? And this I can say that it is first of all beautiful, but secondly, there is a peaceful pace of life here. Local people are kind, and they will talk to you and invite you into their homes for a spontaneous cup of tea. Sometimes we accept, and other times we gracefully decline, because we have experienced that some people have an agenda that goes along with their invitation—like a doctor's consultation “on the fly.” You should see how fast they whip out their medical documents.
Oh, human relationships!! Every day I have a different experience with new people. One of my nearest neighbors I feel very warm for. It's an interesting thing when we don't speak the same language very well—or at least she speaks a little of mine and I a little of her's (Malayalam). I've had to leave my “intellectual mind” behind, the one that thinks critical thoughts about supposedly complex subjects (being a college graduate and one who used to love complex literature.) Of course, I slowly let this aspect of knowledge go when I started to understand more deeply the workings of the spiritual universe, and my focus on only the good things in life. I've found that far deeper friendships can be attained that span far beyond the level of education, class, nationality, and religion. My new friend and I are able to laugh at simple things that concern nature, cows, prayer and general life. We speak God language, or the language of the heart. I invited her for a cup of tea a few weeks ago, and we sat inside of our home talking for two hours. Raj went for a walk so that she and I could have time to talk about whatever we wanted. A week later, she offered to stay with me—Raj had been delayed in Trivandrum with his patient for an extra day—and because women shouldn't stay alone (anywhere in India) at night, she brought her son to stay over also. We munched on masala popcorn and drank hot milk. There are construction workers building two houses next to ours, and they were at the site after dark waiting for a truck to bring in supplies. She didn't have to offer to stay, and I was at a loss for words when she offered.
The other day, Raj and I went up to the main junction to have a cup of tea and to buy some provisions. It was starting to get late when the bus finally arrived. I sat next to a woman in the back. She began her conversation with the statement, “Your face is covered with the power of Christ. No, it's all around you. You are completely covered with the mantle of Jesus.” Wow. I almost started crying—it touched me so deeply. Her heart was so open. I'm not really familiar with her words, because I've never really attended a church for more than a year, and that church used a different language (believe it or not.) But I was happy to meet her. She lives in the little village just below our house.
Raj and I have been to the botanical gardens in Ooty four times these past months. Some of the trees are so big and ancient. Ahh, it makes me feel so good to be in an environment where there is care and interest for nature. In reflection, I can't imagine how I survived living in the city for four years. On our first trip to the botanical garden, we met a very nice man named Frank (Francesco) from Spain. It was very fun to have occasion to speak Spanish (after all of these years.) He was surprised at my dress. I have taken up wearing local style of clothing, which includes a sari, sweater, shawl, and a head scarf. I told him I'm looking local “hasta las calzetas” (all the way down to the socks!) This encounter, which happened two times, once on his trip up and once on his way down the hill, had a certain significance for him. While we were talking about his children, and about his life, I mentioned how small our world was, and how connected everything is—and what I meant but didn't say it, was how connected spiritual information and people are when we are open to it. And then he prefaced his next statement with, “I don't usually believe in these kinds of things, but a friend of mine gave me a pendulum reading before I left for India. She said that I would meet a woman from America who would speak Spanish to me.” We were pleasantly surprised—and I was happy to be that person to fulfill his friend's prophesy. His son called him (moments after we spoke about him) so we said our adieus.
Today I made butter. I do this every day. We buy fresh cow's milk from our neighbor, and every other day I have enough fresh cream to make at least 200 grams | ¾ cup of sweet butter. This is thrilling to me—almost magical. During kindergarten with Miss Kriddle, maybe some of my friends remember this, we made fresh butter for Thanksgiving. We shook it in a closed glass jar, watching the butter slowly separate from the milk. We spread it on freshly made pumpkin bread. These kinds of memories are special, and I feel so grateful to have it tucked away in my heart with most of my little play buddies that I grew up with.
In February, Raj and I went to the state of Gujurat. We went to an annual spiritual healing conference for India (a national conference.) This was a lovely occasion to see friends from Germany and other parts of India, and to “recharge” our batteries. We took buses and flights. Our bus ride, the nice men at the bus office told us, was 9 hours from Ooty to Bangalore (with a drive through Mysore.) We drove through a tiger reserve, and saw wild elephants and deer. Our bus driver made it to Bangalore in 7 hours! Needless to say, we were surprised to find ourselves at the airport extra early for our flight. Once I regained my appetite, we bought 6 inch sandwiches at Subway. Yes, there is Subway in India. They even have Teryaki Chicken sandwiches. At that time, I wasn't completely vegetarian, and on trips I did eat some chicken, although it's easy to find vegetarian food everywhere in India.
Thank you for your feedback on the cornbread recipe—a little too wet. I think that baking in the high mountains requires more moisture and longer baking times, and also for the cracked corn...my apologies, but also many thanks on your determination to make it “right” by toasting it. ;-) I need a schooling on high altitude baking and low altitude conversions, so if anyone can help me with this, I'd appreciate it.
In March I began to tutor my young neighbors (three students) in English. My teaching style is more interactive/English as a Second Language (ESL) based. I'm teaching them how to think outside the box by using sense, logic/critical thinking, and songs. This is very different from learning by rote, because I encourage my pupils to think for themselves and feel inside for the right answers. We are having a lot of fun. Last night, one of my students brought his cousin to see me while he was delivering the milk. His cousin stepped up to me and said, “Madam, may I also join your tuition please?” I could feel my heart open, and I was touched by his genuinely polite inquiry. “Of course. Please ask your parents before you come.”
I'm happy to announce that my husband and I will be renewing our wedding vows in early April. Please think happy thoughts for us (and pray and tune in for us.) We've made a lot of changes since we were wed in 2005, and this “refresh” will give us a stronger foundation. I'm also going to be baptized. My first baptism (some of you remember) was in 1981 while I was a foreign exchange student in Mexico, but it wasn't in my heart—the nuns insisted—and so I considered it a “cultural experience,” to say the least.
Yes, you have asked about photographs. Still working on it... For those of you who are interested in my spiritual writing, please visit www.divinerite.com. Wishing you all the best, and a very happy spring to you. Ivan tells me that it is still snowing in Moscow...so I wish for the right weather at the right times!
Tags: susan flint susan rajkumar living in india tamil nadu loving god