Along the Bumpy Road

The journey to the center of the Sirohi district was an hour long on bumpy roads filled with swerving drivers as they attempt to pass each other even as you climb higher into the mountains. It was completely worth it. St. Paul’s Sr. Secondary School is much larger than its related St. Anselm’s school with fifteen acres to St. Anselm’s three. St. Paul’s even boasted a miniature zoo with several different types of birds as well as rabbits and guinea pigs. But wait, there’s more! (Now go back and read that last sentence with the voice from the SpaceBags TV commercials. Oh yes, I went there.) The best animals at the mini-zoo were the four emus!

We luckily arrived just at feeding time so we got to see all the small furry critters come out of their homes within the cages to eat. I have not missed having a rabbit at home for a while but these fierce reminders of their cuddliness and big floppy ears brought many memories to the surface.

After watching the rabbits eat, I was introduced to the nuns who live adjacent to the school. All three of them were so wonderful! It was very uplifting to have women to talk to. I don’t mean to be sexist but I will admit I was more comfortable among the sisters than with the two priests that I am living with. I think there are just different ways that we show interest and I noticed the sisters’ interest in what I had to say more. On the other hand, maybe it is all in my head because they have no idea what I’m saying. That is definitely a viable reason.

Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary with them. It has been a while since I have felt that relaxed and I am very thankful for that feeling! On the funny side, before we said the rosary, the girl who cooks for the nuns brought me a cup of tea. I responded, ‘dhanyavaad’ (<–phonetic, that is not how it is really spelled) which means thank you in Hindi. The look of surprise on the girl’s face after hearing perfectly pronounced Hindi (I practiced it a ton!) was priceless! The sisters were very pleased and had me tell them the five words I know in Hindi: hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me and sorry.

We then gathered for dinner together where I had something new. Instead of fish curry for my japati, they cooked me an egg over medium to dip it in. I have never been an egg person unless it is an omelette with lots of ham and cheese so I ate a little of it just to make them happy. They also thoroughly enjoyed when I told them about my dilemma with using my fingers to eat. They tried to offer me silverware but I told them that it now was a challenge. As any self-respecting, hyper-competitive person will tell you, I had no choice but to eat every last bite with my fingers! I’m starting to feel less like a naughty child but…it is still very strange! After dinner, I ended up eating a full mango because the sisters didn’t think I had eaten enough. They would not take any of the mango cubes off the plate even though I offered to share!

Then I got to share in one of the nuns’ nightly rituals. We all switched sides on the table and the TV went on. First we watched the last bit of what looked like an Indian version of America’s Best Dance Crew but the important show was to come one afterwards. The only thing I can compare the show to is a soap opera; it was an Indian soap opera. It was remarkably like Spanish soap operas with a large amount of far off gazing and meaningful glances. I’d like to think that our American soap operas aren’t quite as, hmmm, emotional but I don’t think I would win that bet.

After saying goodbye to the sisters, I joined all of the priests who were playing cards. I had watched a few hands when one of the players (whom I knew) had to stand up to take a call and no one was immediately nearby so, well, I hopped into the chair and picked up the cards. I think they were shocked at my brashness but that soon faded into awe (I would like to think) as I started to understand the game with only a few hands. It was called Forty (I think) and was a mix between different aspects of euchre and pinochle. My team did not win but I could tell that they were impressed with my playing. I told them how my family always plays competitive pinochle and about our concept of bragging rights. They had a different name for it but I can confirm that bragging rights are universal! My team won the last hand (I called trump) and as Fr. Provincial said, the team that wins the last hand wins it all. I agreed wholeheartedly with him…the other team did not. The five of them wanted to learn how to play pinochle but we only could scrape up half of the cards needed to play.

All in all, my trip along the extremely bumpy road to St. Paul’s was a blessing to me. Homesickness had been slowly creeping in and was getting ready to explode across my psyche. But I can honestly say, I had so much fun there. I may be going to Mount Abu next week with the sisters because I requested to get to see them again soon. I am also going to ask them to take me shopping because, being the smart person I am, I only brought two pairs of long pants which I am alternating wearing to teach in. I’d love to buy a couple saris and at least look like I fit in a little! Not to mention, they are absolutely beautiful!

More and more, I am getting used to being here. I am about to head to school again, on a Saturday no less. If you can think of anything that Americans do that they might find curious please leave a comment! I am still looking for more ideas to teach my children!

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