Monthly Archives: June 2013

Post 83. The big drive

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Our last couple of weeks in Goa were excellent.  The friendships had developed so deeply and quickly and it was hard to say goodbye.

The night before we left, we packed our jeep until there was just enough space for the girls.  On the roof rack was a mattress, a metal trunk full of kitchen things, plastic buckets tied on, the girl’s little plastic table and chairs and our four different sized suitcases.  Inside there was a guitar, more boxes, pillows, a few snacks and us.

We left Goa at 3.30 am on the 21 March 1992.  Our blue Gypsy was surrounded by lots of teary and blurry-eyed friends and neighbours who had come to say goodbye to us.   Rosey and Melvin were there and so was Melba.   Chuppa had been naughty once too many times and had been released into the trees. The girls missed saying goodbye to him.  There was no sign of Shorty.  It was too early for him.

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Goa-Nasik-Indore-Mau-Agra-Delhi-Mussoorie (Dehra Dun)

The plan was to leave before 4 am each day, which was the best way to avoid most of the traffic in the small towns and villages.  We would drive for 7-8 hours, spend the afternoon and evening in a hotel and do the same thing the next day, until we got to Mussoorie.  We worked out that it would take us under a week.  Our route was Goa, Nasik, Indore, Agra, Delhi and finally Mussoorie.

It took us 8 days.  We stayed in all kinds of places along the way and loved seeing more of India.  As we were entering a town called Mau, we came across young men who were covered in coloured paint.  They were obviously not in their right minds and were creating human road blocks along the way.  There was no way we were going to stop with our girls in the car.  Teenage Tony wasn’t nicknamed “Crash” for nothing.  He put his foot down and they flew in all directions.  They could see the blue Gypsy wasn’t going to stop for anyone.  We took the wrong road and ended up in the middle of the town of Mau.  We drove through the narrow street  surrounded by wild looking men who were hitting our car and shouting for us to get out.  That was our first experience of the Hindu festival called Holi or “The Festival of Colours.”   People throw coloured water and powder on each other.  It is a time to get full of Bhang (hash) no matter what your age.  All the way through the towns and villages we were confronted by drunk and “bhanged up” people trying to get into our car to cover us with colour.  The girls were quite scared and started a game called, “The Pinkys are coming!”

We stopped in Agra to see the Taj Mahal on the way.  We were so exhausted, we couldn’t really appreciate the beauty or romance of it.  Mussoorie was just one day away and we couldn’t wait to get there.

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Old Delhi was quite a place.  We stayed with a pastor who Tony had met on his survey trip.  Asha and Zoes had fun with his two little girls who were simliar ages.  It wasn’t long after, that we heard he had been put in prison for misappropriation of funds.  We were really sad.

Asha and Zoes were such excellent travellers and our days of making them sleep anywhere really paid off. They spent their time entertaining each other on their “bed” at the back, in between sleeping and eating.  We sung all the songs we could think of, teaching them harmonies and how to sing in rounds. We played I-spy and colours of cars.  They made up a game that nearly drove us crazy.  There were thousands of trucks we had to pass every day.  Whenever we were stuck behind one, they would chant, “Truck, truck let us go, truck truck let us go.”  They only stopped when we overtook and then started up with the next one.  When they got bored of that game, they made a “NeeeeEEEEOwwwwww” sound every time a car past us.  I wished I hadn’t taught them that one.

Post 82. Daughters of Kings

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Our first visitors- Phil Maxwell and Dudley Reed

We had some money, which was for setting up house, getting an overhead projector and other things we would need in the North.   God told us to give it to the church in Goa, which we did.  We stayed quietly in the background and within a few weeks there were deep apologies and wonderful forgiveness flowed in all directions.  Our relationships had been healed and it was more than we expected.  God had done an amazing thing and taught us that running away was not the answer when we were in the fire.  Fire was something to go through, not around.

In February 1992, Dudley Reed, Phil Maxwell and Rigby came to visit us.  They were our first visitors.  We were so excited.  Tony met them in Delhi.  God had talked to us about being in a place near to the source of the Ganga River.  Dehra Dun seemed to be the place so they thought they would look there first.  They met with some people and booked what seemed to be a good place for our family to stay.

From there they travelled to Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayas.  It was a small town perched on a mountain, thirty-five kilometres North of Dehra Dun and 7,000 feet above sea level.  While they were there, they visited an Irish couple, James and Willi Barton, who we had met when they were on holiday in Goa.  They had invited us to visit them at Woodstock International School where James was principal.  While it was a Christian School, there were 60% Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and children of businessmen.   35% were nominal Christians.  It seemed that God was at work.  They also hinted that there was a need for a new vibrant Christian community there.  Over a meal, Willi mentioned that two princesses had become believers and Priyanka Gandhi (Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi’s daughter) had recently visited the school.

Years before arriving in India, Tony had been praying for “Daughters of Kings” while reading Psalm 45.  He prayed and cried for Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter not even knowing that he had one.  Now he knew her name was Priyanka. *

It had been along day.  Tony was reading through the Bible in a year so he quickly opened it up to the chapter he was on just before going to sleep.  Now, years later, he read the same Psalm;  Psalm 45.  He knew we had to be in Mussoorie.  The other men felt the same.  The next day they booked “Morning Glory.”  It was a small one roomed, furnished cottage at The Firs, near Chaar Dukhaan.  We were so glad that this huge decision wasn’t made independently and so grateful that Dudley, Phil and Rigby were there with us.

While Tony was in Mussoorie, I stayed in Goa with the girls.  The ladies on their verandas couldn’t understand why I was missing my husband so much.

During that time I read, “God Meant it for Good” by R.T. Kendall.   Something he said was, “Home is not a where but a when.  It is when you find yourself in the perfect will of God.  You can be in a place that can hardly be regarded as home and feel totally at home. You can be somewhere that is regarded as “home” and feel homesick and lost.  So, home is God’s will.  Home is where you are at ease and completely happy. It is an internal condition.”  It was the perfect book for that season in our lives; quite profound actually.

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Rig in our big bed with Tony and our girls

Rigby, Phil and Dudley came to Goa with Tony and we had such fun showing them around.  The girls loved Rig’s “Sydney the Slimy Snake” stories.  They didn’t give him much rest the whole time he was with us.

Our six-month visas had run out.  On the 1st March we flew out to Dhaka, Bangladesh to renew them.   How many weeks or months the Indian Embassy would give us was something we wondered a lot about.   Dhaka was difficult.  Riding along on a cycle rickshaw, face-to-face with badly deformed beggars was very hard.  They were very aggressive and persistent and pulled on us and shouted when we didn’t give them money.  Seeing so many people with huge goitres and growths was sad and disturbing.  We couldn’t protect Ash and Zoe from the pain, no matter how much we wanted to.

We didn’t have any contacts in Dhaka, so after looking at some very derelict budget hotels, we made the decision to stay in a five-star hotel.  There was no way we could afford it but we felt we had no option. We felt vulnerable with our girls.   It was a frustrating time.  After three days of being pulled and pushed in all directions, we couldn’t wait to get back to India.

We arrived back in Goa with one-month entry visas.  That meant we had one month to convince Home Affairs in Delhi that they should give us minimum one to maximum five-year visas.  If they refused, we were out.  We needed a miracle.

* See Post 74

Post 81. Bed of nails

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We were almost completely un-contactable.  The shop down the road had a phone and we gave our family and friends that number to get in touch with us.  If anyone did phone, we never got the message. There were no fax machines, no cell phones and the postal system was chronic.  Letters started coming in the mail very slowly and there was an occasional call home.  We started to feel cut off and realised soon afterwards that it was just the beginning of our “bed of nails” experience.

“First Sunday morning: 

I feel like everything of home has gone.  I am undone and needy.  Seems that the past is so far way.  I need to start all over again.  I need to fellowship with God.  Oh Lord, I am desperate for you and I really need encouragement.”

Our plan was to be involved with the church for six months, learning and serving and then make our way up North.  We were helping out at the training centre with meals and loved spending time with the young people.  We thought we had spelt out our plans very clearly but things got a bit tense with some of the leaders and it all came to a head.   We had only been there a couple of months and we had no idea where it was coming from or what had set it off.

It was a tough day and many things were said to us in anger.  God kept encouraging us, “ When you are in the fire, listen for anything that I may be saying.”   Tony kept hearing God saying,  “Just close your mouth.  I don’t want you to say a word to defend yourself.”  A tough call.  We tried to listen for anything that may have been true; hiding behind the unnecessary words.  Well, we did hear things and we wanted to run, but that night, Tony and I both knew that running wasn’t an option. There was nowhere to go.  We had to stay, humble ourselves, serve and keep giving everything we had.

While we were lying in bed, holding on to each other more tightly than we had ever done, the question He asked us was, “If you never heard from another friend ever again, would you still be totally happy with me?  I want you to get to a place of not depending on anyone or anything that should be found in me.  I have everything you need.  You can find all your heart’s desires in me.  I am taking you through these things so you can begin to find me and all that I am. There is a lot about me that you still have no idea about.  If you don’t go through everything joyfully and teachably they will remain hidden.”

We both felt that our answer was yes.  If we never heard from another friend or family member, we would be ok.   We were there for and with God and that would have to be enough.

We had come from a full, busy life in Johannesburg.  The Holy Spirit was moving and doing amazing things.  Now we had been told we weren’t allowed to pray for people or minister in anyway.  As we lay there He dropped another one.  “ If you never did another day of ministry would you be happy just with me?”  Our answer was, “Yes.”

We realised then how much of our security had come from what we did.  If all that went, what would be left of “us”?  He showed us areas of spiritual pride and started to deal with some deep things.

“Oh Lord, all this humility is killing me.  I feel like I know nothing.  Do I need to die to all the words, the dreams the visions that you have given to me?  So you can raise them to life? I am fragile and weepy, weak and humbled.  I want to learn quickly so that this can be over soon.”

“Such discouragement and hopelessness; Weeping on and off.  Missing fellowship, friends and family.  So despairing.“ 

“In a land far away from all shelter and care, I find you there.”

We knew that our “bed of nails” experience had just begun.  We were devastated and wanted to get up, but there was more.  Isobel Kuhn, a missionary to China was told by a returning missionary that, “When your feet touch the shores of China, the scum of your nature will come to the surface.”

Things in South Africa were so good.  Everyone who knew us loved us.  We had never had a clash with anyone.  We were broken and not sure how or when we would mend.  A few things we determined before we fell asleep that night:

No matter how difficult things got, there was no way we were going to run away.  We would stay, love, serve and give until the time came for us to leave.  We would paint the house any colour anyone wanted it coloured.  One day we would have our own house and we would paint it any colour we wanted to.  That was exciting.  That was something to look forward to.

Post 80. Wheels

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Asha:  Hello.  I like my new bedroom.  Daddy made us a swing.  There are lots of beggars here.  At first I was scared of them, but now I look at them.  Daddy and I took some food to town and we gave some to a lady and her baby and a man with no feet.  I felt sad because he had no money to buy more.  I got scared when I saw a man whipping himself in the street.  He doesn’t know Jesus.  I have also started to get scared of Hindu music.  Outside our house in Bombay, a mommy left her baby in a plastic bag in the gutter.  Everyone was looking.  I didn’t.  I felt very sad and mommy had a pain in her heart.  I like school and I like to write.  I also like to sing this song, “Love is a flag flown high on the castle of my heart, there are flies in the sky let the whole world know.”  I like doing concerts for mom and dad and Zoë.  We have fun.  We can also walk to the shop.  Our children’s church is nice but it’s so hot and I get thirsty.  I miss all my friends and I’m getting bored at home.  I went to sleep the other night and Zoë was tickling my face.  When I woke up I had blue pen all over it. 

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Zoë: Hello.  I am very happy and I laugh and play all the time.  I have also been a bit naughty.  It doesn’t matter ‘cause I little.  I got a wooden spoon called a “Bum Woody” and it can be sore but sometimes I laugh.  I love to play with onions and garlic.  The paper comes off nicely.  I’m “itsy” all over from sweating.  I’m a good girl now.  I don’t cry at children’s church.  The people pinch my cheeks all the time in the street. Sometimes it hurts.   I just shout and say, “No! Don’t tuts me!”  In Bombay a little girl in the street bit me and another one smacked me.  When mommy blew my nose it was black because the cars smoke.  It is very hard for me not to do naughty things.  I look and look and it looks so nice and I have to do it.  I am trying to be good.  Sometimes my monkey does things, but mommy says he doesn’t.”

Ash and Zoe with their Goan friends

Ash and Zoe with their Goan friends

We thought we would see how Ash would do at school.  We put her into the one that was attached to the church.  She looked so cute in her red, white and blue uniform.  It was shocking to learn how much 3½ year olds needed to know just to get into the school system.  They knew the alphabet, how to write it and numbers 1- at least 20, as well as the names of plants, animals, parts of the body and Indian festivals.  They also did exams, which put a lot of pressure on them and their families. We spoke to the headmistress and they agreed that Asha could do what she was comfortable with.  Within a few weeks of her attending school I wrote: “Asha is becoming sort of ‘wild’.  The Goan kids are very much like that so she’s probably copying them.  It is hard to cope with. She’s teasing Zoë all the time.  They are squabbling constantly.  They are driving me mad!!”

We got a bit of conjunctivitis, which was going around the community.  One in thirty people had it in Goa.  They called it “sore eyes” which was an appropriate description.   Apart from that we were all very healthy and got plenty of exercise walking around the town and market. It was like a gym circuit and we were exhausted by the time we got home.  Zoë put on 2kgs in a month, which was amazing for her!  The girl’s favourite was going on taxi motorbikes.  Tony would go on one with Ash and I would go on the other with Zoë.

One day we were in a shop and a funeral went past.  The music was so loud and so sad.  Everyone stopped and stood still in respect of the dead person.  When the music stopped, Zoë went to the door and shouted, “Don’t do that again!”  We had a quiet laugh.

After three months we made another twenty-hour train trip. This time it was to Bombay to pick up our second-hand, blue and grey, four-wheel drive, Gypsy jeep. We were so excited.   It took us sixteen hours to drive 670kms back to Goa.  We did an average of 40km per hour. The National Highways were a nightmare; hairpin bends, potholes, demonised bus drivers and fatalistic truck drivers all added to the chaos.

Visiting friends in Goa

Visiting friends in Goa

We were happy that we would be able to visit our Goan friends in their villages and not have to worry about trying to get a bus back in the middle of the night with two sleeping children.  Once we had waited for an hour to get a bus.  There was only standing room on the steps but I managed to force my way in to the second row holding onto Zoe.  There was only room for one foot so I leant against all the bodies around me as I balanced on one leg.   Zoë let everyone know that they were “skossing” her.  The driver was obviously on a mission to get home and so were we.

When the Watkinson kids, John, Esther and Grace, came home for the holidays we had lots of fun.  We would pile all the kids into the jeep and head down to the beach.   Tony loved being able to drive along the sand and in and out of the waves while the kids screamed their heads off in the back.   Once, while we were all relaxing and getting some sun, a fighter jet flew really low and started firing blanks into the sand as if we were it’s targets.  All the kids fell to the ground as if they had been hit.  They lay dead still until the plane disappeared.  Just like that and just another day on the beach in Goa.

Lying on our bed one night, after a particularly nice day in Goa, Ash made a comment.  “God has worked so hard for us hey?  God has done all the work”.   With happy hearts, we all totally agreed.

Post 79. Three headed chicken

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Goan friends

Goan friends

Goa was such a beautiful place; coconut palms everywhere, green paddy fields, lush vegetation and the people were so laid back. We weren’t far from the beach but we had to catch an auto-rickshaw to get there.  When we were on the beach, it was difficult for the girls to do anything.  People were fascinated with the two little blond girls and wanted to pick them up and take photos with them.  They got so upset at one point when they were trying to build a sandcastle.  We had all had enough of the attention.  Tony started telling people we charged Rs 1,000 per photo.  They soon disappeared.

We started to collect household goods and kitchen utensils. We stocked up on our food supplies and I learnt to cook all over again.  I had never used a pressure cooker and I was terrified. All the Goan ladies told me that I had to have one for lentils and tough meat, so I got one.   Mabel sent her house-helper to show me how to use it.

One day, Tony came home with a small black plastic bag and handed it to me saying, “Here babe, it’s still pumping!”   I was used to frozen chicken, not warm, pumping chicken straight from the butcher.   I tipped it into the bowl and tried not to touch it.  It tumbled out with its pale, boiled head still attached; eyes, beak and all.    I closed my eyes and chopped it off.  I felt so brave.  Then I saw that many innards were hanging out of its other end.  I wasn’t sure which end was worse.  I put my hand inside and pulled out two more heads and lots of other extra bits.  A three headed, two livered, three hearted chicken; surely not.   I went across to ask Melba.  She said it was to make it weigh more.  It took some time for me to gather the courage to keep going.  When I finished cleaning it, I propped it up on the chopping board.  Asha, had watched the whole process with big eyes.  She made me laugh when she said, “Look mom, it’s sitting like an old lady!”

“There are a few things to get used to here-

Boiling water to drink.

Boiling milk to drink.

Bathing from a bucket with a jug. 

Squatting over the Indian toilet.

Constant power failures and the heat that come with them. 

No transport (packed buses and walking to get autorickshaws) 

Our brightly coloured house.

Wet toilet seats from the bum spray. 

Stale chocolates.

Washing dishes under running water in a sink without a plug. 

Blocked drains.

Sorting through rice with weevils and sticks and stones.

No telephone.

Our neighbours were very friendly and very nosey, especially about foreigners.  If you were white you were a hippy, drug user and had lots of money.   They wanted to know everything about us.  The girls and I would go for little walks in the afternoons.  The ladies on their verandas were ready for me.  “Have you prepared your dinner?”   If I said, “No, not yet”, they would ask in a tsk-tsk tone, “Why not?  You are taking a walk when your food isn’t ready? You aren’t looking after your children and your husband?”  When the subject of their husbands came up the response was always the same.  “Let them stay in the Middle East.  When they come here they just drink and make our lives miserable.  We can’t wait for them to go back again.”

Siestas were so good!  Everything and everyone shut down after lunch so we were forced to rest after lunch.  There was only movement after 4pm and then life built up to a frenzy and stayed that way until about 11pm.  Children would be up and about all night and get up early in the morning for school.  I could never figure out how it worked for them.  I also wondered how parents got adult time together.  They didn’t seem to be too bothered about that.

Ash and Zo with their little friends.

Ash and Zo with their little friends.

A lady from our community offered to teach us Hindi.   It was relaxed so we didn’t get very far.  The girls picked up a few words here and there and we made up a number rhyme for them:

“Ek, do, tiin, chaar, panch

Once I caught a fish for lunch

Chay, saat, aath, nau, das

Then I ate it on the grass”

Well, at least we could all count to ten.

Post 78. Adjusting to our new home

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We moved in with our new friends Duncan and Vasanti Watkinson until we found a place of our own.  Dudley Reed and Tony had stayed with them during their survey trip.   He wasn’t sure what impression he had made on them.    In the middle of the night, Tony did a bit of sleep walking in his jockeys.  Duncan was still awake and met him in the passage outside his bedroom.  He very gently turned Tony around and led him back to his room.  They didn’t know each other at all so it was a bit awkward the next day at the breakfast table.  Tony vaguely remembered it but didn’t want to bring it up in front of everyone.   He could only imagine what would have happened if Duncan hadn’t been awake.

Asha turned four on the 21st September.  We had a party for her and her new little Goan friends.  She loved it.  We got her a brightly coloured cake from the local bakery.  It was Rs 90.00.  On our train trip we had seen an advertisement: Abortions: Rs 90.00.  The life of a baby was valued at the same price as a child’s birthday cake.

Flat in Goa

Flat in Goa

Within a week we found a two bedroomed, semi-furnished flat in Borda.  It was on the first  floor, right behind St Joiaquin Chapel.  The landlord interrogated us and asked if we were hippies.  We said no and took the keys.  It was so lovely to be in our own house. The heavy furniture was very dark Goan style.  Tony put up a little wooden plank swing in the doorway off the lounge and onto the veranda.  The kitchen was green, our fridge was blue, the plastic veggie rack was pink and to add a bit more colour, the sink was a bright turquoise.  We had two toilets; a western toilet/shower room and also an Indian one. The first time I held the girls over an Indian one they were terrified and closed their eyes through the whole ordeal.   It didn’t take them long to get used to it.

Ash whispering into Zoe's mouth.

Ash whispering into Zoe’s mouth.

Tony and I had a HUGE, very creepy, four-poster bed. It was so high that the girls couldn’t climb up without help.  I could hardly get onto it.  Their room was just across the passage and they were sharing a mattress on the floor.  We got them a little plastic table and chairs and they were all set up with their toys and books.  When they lay on their mattress they could see us on our big bed, across the passage.

One morning Asha asked us, “Who were those people around your bed last night?  They wouldn’t let me come to you.”  She described a lady with a long dress and long hair.  She was really scared and we knew it was some kind of demonic presence.  We prayed with her and it didn’t happen again but it added to her fear.

With all the travelling, Zoë had been a bit unsettled and miserable. She was crying a lot at night, not listening and being cheekier than usual.  Once we moved into our own place and she had some firm boundary lines around her, she was much happier.

Melba with the girls

Melba with the girls

Goa is predominantly a Catholic state and we were right in the middle of a very Catholic community.  Melba was our neighbour on the first floor.  Her hair was a lovely grey and she had a very kind face.  She became like a grandmother to the girls.  When we opened our door, she opened hers. Ash and Zo went in and out between the lounges with armfuls of toys and dolls.  They put them all over her lounge and had tea parties with all kinds of Goan goodies.  Melba’s husband was working in Abu-Dhabi as were many of the men from that area.  She had a little chipmunk called Chappa, which she kept in a cage.  He was quite aggressive and would jump against the cage and wee on her if she didn’t give him food on time.  The girls found him very funny.

Zoe and Rosey

Zoe and Rosey

We were surrounded by pig, rooster, cow, dog and cat noises. Ash woke up one morning and asked “ Mommy, why at night when we’re sleeping is there ‘woof woof , meow meow, cockadoodle- doo and talk talk?” Rosey and Melvin lived in a labourers hut just opposite our house.  They were poor and didn’t mix with the likes of Melba and the others who lived near them.  Asha and Zoë played with them in their cleanly swept dirt garden for hours.  Rosey was about sixteen and she worked in the houses in that area.  Melvin was nine and had a very big tummy and was very small for his age.  He loved coming to our house to practice his English and hear about Jesus.  When they went to church, they weren’t allowed to sit on the chairs like the other people who lived in the flats.  They sat outside and had to be very quiet.  When the statue of Mary came around to all the houses, it never went to Rosey and Melvin’s hut. They were poor and never expected it to.

It was shocking to find out that 50 percent of Goans were alcoholics.   Their pubs and bars pride themselves with names such as, “The Miraculous Jesus Bar,” or “Mary the Immaculate Pub.”  Shorty was a little man who drank from morning until night.  He would get really drunk and walk along the path in front of our flat, shouting and throwing stones at anyone or anything in his way.  He had a really gruff voice, which was way too big for his body.  We only ever saw him in tiny shorts and a dirty white vest.  His face was swollen and his legs were really skinny.  Ash and Zo had mixed feelings about him.  They would rush to the veranda to see him and hide when they saw him coming.  Zoe wrote a sweet letter to him with a drawing.  She hid it away in case he found it.