The girls loved to look over the balcony of the flat. There was always something interesting to talk about. We would hold them up and they hung onto the wall to look down onto the street.
One day we heard someone beating on a drum so we ran to the balcony to see what was going on. A young man was walking past with just a piece of cloth wrapped around his waist and his face painted orange. He was whipping himself with a huge heavy whip and screaming and shouting. An old lady was following him beating a drum. The whip made a huge cracking sound. Zoe said, ”That’s a poofy devil mummy”. The girls spoke about it for a long time and wouldn’t go to the window for the rest of our stay. Asha was visibly scared.
“For some reason, the girls are very active and energetic, especially Zoë. It’s taking them a while to get into the time change, so they are a bit drowsy during the day and then full of nonsense in the evenings. We all lie awake during the early hours of the morning listening to the night sounds. One night I heard a baby crying for hours. I was so distressed by it, thinking it was a baby out on the street. It may have been, but it may also have been coming from one of the flats nearby. Traffic noise reaches a peak in the evenings and then quietens down in the early hours of the morning. Even then, there is always someone beeping their horn somewhere.”
On the Monday after we arrived, we went on a four-hour train journey to an NFI leaders and wives camp in a city called Pune. We were so welcomed and looked after. Asha and Zoe were happy to be with lots of other children. When we arrived we realised there was nowhere to buy “Western” food or snacks for the girls. They were just going to have to get used to Indian food. There was no option. We knew if we pampered them or offered them a yummy alternative, it would take them longer to adjust. If we showed sympathy they would get the idea that we felt sorry for them. So, with a glass of water close by, we sat with them and watched them eating their spicy Indian food. They would puff and pant and their tongues would flap around. We calmly told them to have a sip of water and keep eating. That was that.
The camp was just what we needed. Being surrounded by lovers of Jesus made us feel at home. During one of the prayer times, one of our new friends, JoyAnne, said she had an image in her mind of us lying on our backs on a bed of nails. Jesus was right there next to us. We tried to get up and He said, “No, not now. Lie down again.” We lay down on our tummies and tried to get up again. That happened three times. When we were bleeding all over, He said, “Ok, now it’s time.” He held our hands and led us into a rose garden, which was covered with thorns and brambles. We started pulling out the thorns and brambles and freeing the roses without feeling any pain.
That was the word I had been waiting for. I knew things weren’t going to be easy. A “bed of nails,” sounded painful and it wasn’t going to be quick. We wondered what it would mean and how long it would go on for.
Asha and Zoë were going with the flow and blissfully unaware that they were thousands of miles away from South Africa. At the camp when Tony popped out to the market, Asha asked where he had gone. I told her he had gone to get more paper plates and she asked, “Where from, our house?”
When the camp ended we said goodbye to all our friends and went on a twenty-hour train ride to Goa. We travelled with a lovely young couple, Samir and Jackie, and other young singles that had signed up for a year of bible training with NFI. They played with Ash and Zo for hours and it made the trip go faster; at least for us.
We could see Asha was struggling. She was scared of the old beggars and wild looking characters. When we arrived at the train station in Goa, we did our best to distract her. They were everywhere.
I love this post. It’s not easy to make kids adjust especially to India, but I see so much of what you did in what I’m doing now with my 3. Aditya has problems with spicy food and we have to keep making him eat slowly so that he adjusts properly. Love your writing!