the taj mahal

was straight out of a fairy tale. i loved it.

although it was a smidge crowded…

and all of a sudden i had celebrity status. apparently i’m kind of a big deal there. people were lining up with requests to take pictures of me and with me. well not quite lines but there were people enough. i guess that is one of the special treats of being one of the few obviously foreign visitors there…

this man drove me around agra for the day. how great is his turban? and his beard?

the streets of delhi. a little crazier than ooty.

inside the red fort. there was a surprising amount of trees in delhi.

now it is good to be back in the U S of A!

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three months already?!

i leave ooty tomorrow morning. at 5:30 am. yikes! hope my alarm wakes me up.

it was sad to say goodbye to the girls and the staff today, but i did get some very sweet hugs and some good lovin’. except that one of the girls coerced me into drinking chai with them. what kind of a farewell is that?! they are serious about their tea here. it really is hilarious. everyday they asked me if i wanted chai. everyday i said no. (after the first couple of weeks i got over trying to acquire the taste…) but today i relented. and it was still not delicious. but other than the tea, it was a nice final afternoon at smyrna with the girls.

here are some recent pics… i spent my last full day with the girls at roja house. it was good times. ali came away with a little something extra. straight up oompa loompa hands. she went a little crazy with the henna… i.e.  she put henna in one of the girl’s hair and this is what happens.

PANTS! could these pants BE any longer?!

a nice afternoon to sit outside…

one last pic with the aftercare staff! l-r: yuimi, me, anik, anne, jaya, ali

one more kissing pic. he was seriously smothering the kisses on us. too precious!

i leave ooty tomorrow but not india quite yet. i fly to delhi. then on wednesday i go see the TAJ MAHAL! exciting right?! then it is back to TEXAS!! i will miss all the people here so much, but i am excited to go home!

feeling the love

this little guy was pouring out the kisses today.

last week in ooty

this past weekend ali and i put on our work boots and took to the farm. it was a horse weekend. we dished up corn and bran. laid out lots of hay. we rode bareback (we are so hardcore). and to top it off we had to twice daily hose down one of the horse’s recent surgical wounds (he was castrated last week…too much information?). but who can complain too much when they have this view for the weekend?

yeah. it was nice. anne, the head of the horse therapy, took the girls to a wedding of a former staff in kerala this past weekend, and the malstead’s went out of town (the horses live at their place). so they asked their trusty volunteers to step up to the plate. considering my extensive training and experience with horses, it was natural choice. but despite ali’s and my lack of skills, the weekend went pretty smoothly… well, except that one of the horses hurt his ankle. well, it was hurt already but then it was getting better but then it got worse with us there. wait, how did that happen?!

and now i am in the middle of my last week here in ooty. that’s crazy talk.

check out this cutie. this is anik’s (the aftercare manager) son. last week, anik and her family had ali and i over for dinner and a mean game of dutch blitz.

then last night was our last tuesday night dinner with the palm family. to commemorate, there was a musical performance, a fashion/dance show, homemade cards & “favorite rainbow dream” cookies with our initials in icing. we felt special.

tuesday nights were the best.

one of the girls keeps saying to me, “you leave one week didi. soo much feeling. you no leave. go back to america. then back here.” melt my heart. she is giving me even more hugs than usual. how sweet is she?

to market we go…

**name update: i am now “callie-ali” or “ali-callie” didi (sister). ali and i are one person. it is pretty funny. no one really confused us for the first month or two we were here… but the last few weeks? it is all confusion. i am ali. ali is callie. which was annoying. but now the girls play it safe, callie-ali or ali-callie didi. which has to make me smile.

india is always keeping things exciting. example: music plays while cars reverse. i mean, who doesn’t need more music in their life?

do you know what else is exciting? the market. oh yesss. the colors, the smells, walking through trash while buying your  apples and mangoes, the hustle, the bustle! –don’t go to the meat section though. too much smell! too much excitement! too much!–

these lovely flower garlands are everywhere! can i please walk around smelling this wonderfulness all day long?

pretty fruits and vegetables.

she knows what she wants.

gettin’ crafty

the past couple of weeks us aftercare peeps have been gettin’ a little artsy & crafty.i have been loving it. the girls on the other hand… well, overall they haven’t been super enthused. my excitement hasn’t exactly won them over yet…

first at the bequest of the aftercare director, we made some A,B,C posters to go up in the classroom… i think they are great.

then we made an album/scrapbook of the trip to mysore & bangalore.

beads! beads! beads! so many beads. of course lots of jewelry-making has been happening…

AND drumroll please… ali has been painting this bea-utiful tree mural in the staff room at smyrna. she isn’t finished yet, but it already looks amazing. im impressed.

kerala

at 10 pm on wednesday night (after waiting an hour for our taxi), ali and i set off for coimbatore to catch the train to the coast. our keralan vacation had begun. not ten minutes into the drive i thought to myself how this was going to be a long three hour drive down these hills… if only we had some good music for this lil’ road trip. not three seconds later the driver pops in a CD and the ace of base beats start pumpin. not even kidding. and that was just the beginning. the jams kept coming. there we were in the backseat of a taxi in the hills of southern india singing and dancing to backstreet boys and old school jennifer lopez. unexpected + hilarious + awesome. ali and i were loving life to say the least!

after waiting at the urine-saturated train station, we boarded the train for kerala and were pleasantly surprised with the a/c and decently clean accommodations. we both went straight to sleep. but then a strange thing happened. i awoke at 4 am to a crowd gathered in our little six-person cabin and enjoying a boisterous conversation. at 4 am. hi there. sorry to bother you, but yes there people are still sleeping. one person even felt the liberty to take a seat on my fold-out bed. oh don’t mind me. i didn’t want to stretch out my legs anyways. a few angry glares might have escaped from my face… i wasn’t super happy about this little party. oh india.

we reached cochin at dawn on thursday morning. hot + humid. felt like home. but without a/c… bummer.

crossing the backwaters early in the morning.

welcome to our own little fisherman’s villa. um, awesome!

on friday we ventured back into reality; we took a short ferry ride to fort cochin and spent the afternoon exploring. there was a lot of fishing going on.

these umbrellas are key when you get sunburned quite badly (on your first day) and you still want to be on the beach… thank you umbrella shade.

it was fun to see more of india and stay in a beautiful place. it was also a super relaxing weekend. i read the majority of the time. ***i read paul brand’s (with philip yancey) the gift of pain. have you read it? because you should. it is AMAZING. it is on my dad’s recommended books list, and i finally got to it. the gift of pain huh? interesting. this book is loaded with good stuff. paul hooked me from the get-go with talk of growing up in the hills of southern india (hello! that’s where i am!). then the history-lover in me loved reading about his adventures in medical school in London during WWII. then he talked all about working with leprosy patients back in india. fascinating even for me, a not so medical- or science-oriented person. and paul was not nearly done. he goes into why he is an advocate for pain. hurt so good. paul has something here. all i know is that i’m on board with him.