August 10th - It has been a few days since my last post. Most the time was spent in airports and airplanes to may the 36 hour trek home. My final meal in India with Abraham and Feba was at a local restaurant where they serve a 5 course meal. It is a traditional Indian meal that was served once a year for a festival celebrating the harvest. It gave me all kinds of things to try and after 3 courses of the meal we all folded our banana leaves satisfied and full for the day. After the meal we headed to an art museum that was in one of the palaces in Kerala. The final treat of the day was going back to the college where the students sang two songs for me and thanked me for coming to teach at the college and then presented me with a kurta. I hope that is the right term. If not, any of my students are allowed to correct me in the comments. I promised them I would wear if on Sunday here at home when I share at church about my trip.
The trip home was long but was smooth and all the flights ran on time. I enjoyed a couple of deep conversations with fellow passengers. The best part of course was getting off the plane in Omaha and being greeted by not only my wife but my mother all my kids! I started the trip at 9:30 p.m. (India time) on Sunday evening and ended the trip when we finally pulled into the driveway at home at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Needless to say, Tami and I slept rather late the next day but enjoyed the day together, the whole family was together that night for dinner and then we headed out to see the Beatrice High School Band Exhibition where Keeli conducted the band as the head drum major. Tami and I will continue the celebration later this week as Tuesday was our 30th Wedding Anniversary.
Those of you in the local area, I will be on KWBE 1450 am on Friday morning at 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. to talk about the events of the past month. The local radio station does different programs throughout the week and when they found out I was headed to India for a month to teach they asked when I got home to come on the radio and share about the experience. There was a message in my email today asking if I could come in on Friday, so if you want to here a little more about the trip, tune in.
I will be doing another post after I share on Sunday at church. I promised my students I would get them a picture of me at church and many of them have been following the blog and are my FB friends. BTW... thanks for all the anniversary wishes from India. That was a fun perk I didn't expect.
August 6th - All my teaching is finished and all that is left are the finals, a thing every students dreads, I know. The past three weeks has gone pretty quickly and we have covered a large amount of material in a short time. It was like taking a summer course were you cram a whole semester of material into a three week session. The theory class was even tougher because we did not meet everyday for theory. The first two weeks we met three times and this week we met four. I had an extra day of class so we could do a review and go over what would be on the final exam.
The composition class and conducting class do not have written exams but instead their final projects they have been working on for the whole three weeks will be presented. I have been encouraging them along the way to be sure and work on the projects and in fact in composition I gave assignments that if they kept up with them they simple would have to put everything together and their final piece would be complete. There are some things that are universal no matter where you live in the world. I saw a group of 3-4 students working in the piano lab right after class and I know they were going to have to work most of the night to get everything done for both projects. The third year students were in all three classes I taught.
The theory students are taking the exam as I type. I am sure this will be the hardest exam for them (that is the same in the USA for music students as well.) They stuck it out and now they will not have to take another theory class. I think they should all go out and party this weekend. They won't have an exam to study for or projects to complete. They deserve a nice break before the next classes start up. Thanks to many of the students who worked hard throughout the three weeks I was here. There were a few that could have given a little more effort... I think they know who they are. Still, I can say I truly love these students and they are what have made the trip a great experience for me.
As I travel home tomorrow I will gather my thoughts and do a blogpost on the things God has shown me while I have been here in India. I have been keep a journal and taking some notes along the way. I will be sharing about my trip in church the Sunday after I get home (August 14th) at the morning worship service. If you are in the area and want to join us at Christ Community Church in Beatrice the service starts at 10:00 a.m. It will be good to be home to lead worship and my choir will be singing as well. I have many great memories I am sure will stay with me for many years to come and I am humbled and honored that God has allowed me the opportunity to get to know and work with so many amazing people around the world. And I can say that literally now!
August 4th - I am down to the last two days of class. Tomorrow will be the last class I actually teach since Saturday the theory students will be taking an exam, the composition students will present their pieces and the conducting class will be conducting the pieces they have picked for their final project. I have made a few modifications to my original lesson plans but for the most part I have been able to follow them through to the end. We continue to have some students out with a virus, one was bad enough he had to be hospitalized for a short time. Thank you to those who have been praying for the students and a BIG thank you for the prayers on my behalf as well. I have felt very well the entire time I have been here. I attribute that to prayers from home and be well cared for by my hosts here in India!
There are many things that are very different here in India than home but one major difference you can not escape every time you go out is the traffic. I am sure I have mentioned it in previous blog posts but it is worth another mention. The picture really does not give you an idea other than there are cars, auto rickshaws, motorcycles and pedestrians every where you turn. If you need to turn on the main highway you simply ease out and honk your horn and move into the flow of traffic. Horns are used not in a “Hey! get your tail out of my way!!” fashion but as a signal that I am coming up behind you or I am moving in. I have crossed the street a couple times on my afternoon walks but I try to avoid that if at all possible. Abraham says that Chris Monroe (our mutual friend from Virginia) says that all the traffic signals and signs posted and suggestions. It is very true. We even saw a policeman who was at a busy intersection look like he was checking Facebook on his phone while cars moved past him. Needless to say, I think my wife would need to sit in the back of the car and just not watch as we travel the roads. I am afraid the driving would stress her out. Am I right, kids? Abraham tells me the traffic is pretty good here in the city. In some places in India the roads are so crowded hit and run is common. I think I will be grateful for Lincoln traffic when I get home.
Speaking of home, I am anxious to get back. I have truly enjoyed my time here and I give most of the credit to Abraham and Feba. They have gone over and above to make my stay here great. They have taken me places, provided me with all kinds of different food and snacks to try and given me a place to rest and relax each day. It will be good to climb into my own bed and drive my car in Beatrice traffic and get back into the routine of life. I am putting in a request now, however, the last couple of days I keep thinking about a Val’s family pack. I think a big slice of pizza, salad and bread sticks will be in order one of the first days I am home. I might also have to hit the Runza drive-thru as well.
August 2nd - Yesterday was still part of my weekend. Monday is a day off from the college and the teaching week runs from Tuesday to Saturday. We did head out early evening yesterday to do a little shopping. We hit a local music store and I couldn’t resist making a couple of purchases. I am looking at the stack of things in the corner of my room and hoping I can get everything in my suitcases to come home. It might be a challenge. Most of the things I have bought will fit easily but I have a couple of things that will make it a tricky packing job.
After shopping we headed to the beach. It was after dark and the beach we went is a huge place for people to go on the weekends. We found an open spot to sit and just watch the waves roll in. It was SO relaxing and as the time went by the waves got bigger and bigger and moved closer in. There were men walking up and down the shore trying to sell lighted balls, toys and gadgets. You can imagine what a magnet Ryan was for everyone of them. At one point there were three of them standing right next to us. They would hand one of the toys to Ryan. He would look at it. Abraham would quietly tell him to give it back and the seller would walk off. If that was one of my kids at 2, I am not so sure they would hand it back so easily. As we drove away, Abraham pulled over so I could go out and see the mermaid statue near the beach. It was dark and he pointed to where the statue was and I walked in the direction and was amazed at the size of this sculpture. Even though it was night, it was well lit enough I was able to get a picture. It is made out of sand!
Today I started the final week of classes and we are getting to the point where the students will need to finish up their projects and prepare for a final exam. I will be grading the projects and exam on the long flight home so I can send Abraham everyone’s marks for each class. I am starting to see more of the students composition pieces and I am looking forward to seeing the final conducting project as well. As the students have been working on their compositions, I have been working on one of my own. I have been sharing my work with them to encourage them that we all have to put in the work in order to get to the end product. My piece is an orchestral work I hope to perform with the Beatrice Regional Orchestra on the October concert. It contains original material, an Indie spiritual and the old hymn “Abide With Me.” The hymn has significance here in India because it was one of Gandhi’s favorite songs and it is used in ceremonies across India. It has been hard work to be able to notate the Indie song because there are so many bends and pitches that we in western music do not have. The good news… when I played my version of the song the students could recognize it. The bad news… it is a tune in the language of Tamil and I can’t spell the name using our alphabet. I will simple refer to the tune as “Tamil” in the score. It will also be an Americanized version of the tune since I was the one who came up with the notation for it. I wanted a Malayalam name for the piece and the students came up with “Avial” which means mixture. I think that is a good fit! There is also a popular Indie band called “Avial” but I think I will be safe using the name at home. I will explain more about the piece at the concert in October so if you are interested you can come on down to Beatrice on October 4th at 7:00 p.m. and check it out (shameless plug!)
August 1st - It’s the beginning of a new month and the start of the my last week here in India. Yesterday was my day to preach at Life Fellowship. I always have a hard time evaluating if I effectively communicated or if I simply rambled on and on. At least I know the verses I shared from scripture will be profitable. God promises where His Word is spoken it will never return empty. I continue to simply say “Yes, God, I will do that” and then He will take care of the results. It was encouraging to have people stop me after the service and thank me for something specific I said that touched them personally. God was gracious to let me here those words. I also sang “Word of God Speak” by Mercy Me. I preached on God speaking so it was a great way to end the service. I also wanted to lead a worship song we all could sing together. I picked “How Great Is Our God.” Can you believe that was one of the songs that was planned for the service and we sang at the beginning of the service. Again, God was gracious, He closed out the service with us all singing to His greatness together. It was an incredible experience!
After church we headed to the college where Abraham had set up a recording studio in the main teaching room (where there is air-conditioning). Not only did they record the students playing but also recorded video in order to make videos they can use on either the website or YouTube. Most of the students were part of the music school that comes in each day following the college classes but a couple of the college students were there helping and also did a little recording. The session lasted from around 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. We did take a break for lunch around 2:00 p.m. and also had a break for tea at the shop next to the college around 5:00 p.m. The day actually went by pretty fast. Abraham kept making sure I was OK. I keep assuring him I am fine! Not only have I had enough to eat but I am getting plenty of sleep as well. I slept in this morning until 8:30 a.m. and then had a lovely conversation with my wife before she headed off to bed. Abraham on the other hand not only was out Saturday night very late setting up the studio but had to be up in time this morning to go to a family visitation for a student whose mother had passed away. He puts in lots of hours and works hard.
Later this afternoon we will head out and I can do a little shopping for the fam. We are going to hit a music store and then I am not sure where. Abraham has never steered me wrong so I am sure it will be a fun outing. Before we go I need to look over the lesson plans for this last week. I can hardly believe it is nearly over. It seems everyday goes by a little faster. I will be sad to tell the students goodbye but I know I will keep in contact with some of them when I get home. I have to say the idea of getting home and sleeping in my own bed and getting back to my routine sounds appealing to me. I look forward to getting back on the podium to conduct my choir at church and my orchestra at home. I have lots of stories to share so you all better be ready. You know how I LOVE to talk!
JULY 29th - The second week of classes is coming to a close. I am sure if you asked the students that are in all three classes which one was their favorite without hesitation they would say conducting. For me, I have really enjoyed all three and my favorite part of the whole trip has been the students. Today in the composition class we talked some about their goals, what they hope to do in the future and how God has gifted each of them uniquely for His special purpose. There are many things that these students share in common with students in the USA. It stresses them to think about being on their own, making a living, wanting to serve God and follow His lead. Things we all stress over. The things my kids would call “adulting.” Many things we face as humans are universal and it doesn’t matter if you live in India, Nebraska or any where in between. I have now found a whole group of new brothers and sisters to pray for in the coming months and years.
We have had some laughs in class as well. The students laugh everything I try to even ask about something in Mayalayam (their native language) because I can not even pronounce the word. Vena and all the SCC college students I went to Italy with in 1999 will know exactly what I am talking about (Pardon!!! - inside joke). I have a hard enough time speaking English, how can anyone expect more from me. I told the students all about how I worked hard to learn how to say Thiruvananthapuram. When I checked in the airline in Omaha the clerk said, “Oh, we never say that we just say TRV, the airport initials.” As I travelled that day I found out no one uses that name. They all say Trivandrum. The students confirmed today with a chuckle that no one says Thiruvananthapuram. I have to admit, it is a little disappointing to me because I can actually say it and now I have nowhere to show it off.
The weekend will hold a new set of activities for me. I will be sharing and singing in church Sunday morning. Please pray that what I share will be an encouragement to the people here. Then we are headed to a recording studio to see some of the students at work. I am not sure what else is on the schedule. I think there is an outing planned with some of the students but Abraham thought it might have to be changed since they had been sick this week. Thanks for praying for the students. Most were back today but we were missing two. They have a viral fever that forced many of them to stay home because they did not want to share it with anyone at the school. I have been very fortunate. I have been feeling very well. I am attributing that to your prayers, getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water and being well fed.
July 28th - You have heard me talk about Abraham. He and Thomas run the Asian Christian College of Music. He teaches keyboard, piano and many of the classes here at the college. He is also a very active composer. A friend of his posted a video of him doing work on a film score. He does amazing things with the keyboard and I thought I would share this with you. Take a few minutes and see him at work. I think he told me he was working on film music for a movie about the Incredible Hulk. I know you will enjoy watching the video.
I took my daily walk this afternoon and decided to do a little shopping. I have walked through the Big Bazaar a couple of times but have never bought anything. I thought it would be nice to have a couple of new shirts to bring home. I also decided to buy a water bottle I could take back and forth with me to the college. I am still trying to decide exactly what I might bring home for my family. I bought a few things when I was down at "the end of the world" but I want to bring home something nice for Tami since I will get home 15 minutes before our 30th wedding anniversary (if all the flights are on time). Those of you that know Tami and I well know that neither one of us are avid shoppers. It’s a good thing! Gentlemen if you have a wife or kids that love to shop do not bring them to India. Everything is very cheap here. I walked out of the Big Bazaar with 3 shirts and a water bottle for less than $20. This would easily be an $80 purchase in the states. Keep in mind I only bought one shirt that was full price. The others were on the clearance rack. I guess if a person is cheap in the USA, you remain cheap when you travel abroad.
Keep praying for the students some have returned to classes but the doctors are telling them not to do anything strenuous for the next 3 months. It will be good to get everyone back in class. I have missed the students who have been gone and I have such a short time with them to begin with.
JULY 27th - I am now week two and day two of teaching. I realized today begins the second half of the trip for me. If you count the traveling days I am at the midpoint. It hardly seems possible. I know the rest of this week and next will probably go pretty fast. We have covered quite a bit of material if you consider the number of classes we have had. The air-conditioned class room is on the second floor of the school. I get to spend most of time teaching there and then I spend a couple of hours each day in the piano lab working with the piano students.
I appreciate all your prayers. Please pray for the students health. We have missed a few the past few days due to fever and illness. I have been very fortunate to not have any issues with health. I really have felt very good the whole time. I think it must be all the good home cooking from Feba and the insistence that I eat! I feel like I have a routine here now. I teach from 9:30 until about 3:30 and get back to the house around 4:00 or 4:30. I have been taking walks when I get back and then spend sometime looking over the classes for the next day. I also have been composing some each night as well. Supper is around 8:00 p.m. and then I can read or do devotions and connect a little to home. This week I have been also preparing for what I will share at church Sunday and also what I will share at home on the Sunday after I get back.
It seems it has taken the first half of the trip just to get adjusted to my new surroundings. I now can focus a little more on what God has been showing me and teaching me while I am here. Without the crazy schedule of home and interruptions that occur on a daily basis, it is easier to simply be quiet before God. I hope Abraham and Feba don’t mind that I spend quite a bit of time in my room. It really is a productive time for me and something I can rarely do at home.
Speaking of home, I think I am getting a little homesick. I switched the desktop picture on my computer to a pic of the fam. I really am doing OK with it. The only time I can think when Tami and I were apart for this long was when she went to Africa for two and a half weeks three years ago. It will be great to see her smiling face once I get back. I don’t think I have been away from my kids for this long either. I am sure there were times they wished they had this long of a break from my presence but I am pretty confident, now that we are all a little older, they would be OK with me coming home. It is funny the things you miss when you are gone. The jingle of keys getting dropped on the counter when one of the kids walks through the back door. The random Pepsi Tami brings in to my office on Tuesday morning when she comes to church for Bible Study. The Thursday lunches with my Mom. The not often enough evenings visiting with friends and the list goes on. I look forward to each and every one of those things when I get back in August.
JULY 25th - I had a beautiful weekend getting to worship again at Life Fellowship and then spending the day with Abraham and his family. I can not say enough how gracious and giving they have been to me. I feel like I have my own personal tour guide to India. They make sure I have enough to eat (and yes, Abraham, I am getting plenty) and they are making memories for me.
Following church I visited with Pastor Sam and he asked if I would share next week and also share a song so I will be preparing a short sermon and song for the worship next week. After church we headed to the Indian Space Museum and Planetarium. It is a hands on museum and we also stayed for the planetarium show. It was great fun. We headed back to the house for lunch and then headed out on our road trip which ended at the southern most tip of India - “the end of the world.” It is the point where the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal come together. It was a beautiful sight. There are also vendors ALL over. It is a very big tourist spot with lots and lots of people. Did I mention there were lots of people? Oh and BTW it was pretty crowded! I found some great gifts for my family at home. I did not even spend $10 on them. If I had bought the same thing in the states, it would easily cost $50-60 dollars. I just wish I had a little more room in my luggage.
We stopped at a restaurant on the way back and I had dinner on a banana leaf. I could not tell you the name of what I ate but it was fried and stood like a cone and then there was a white paste and green paste to dip it in. I had to eat with my hands which sounds harder than you might think. I have tried a couple of times and given up because it is much faster to use a fork or spoon. It was late when we got back. Around 11:30 p.m. but I was so glad we were able to stop and see Chris Monroe and his team before they flew out the next morning. They had a great week and were headed to see the Taj Mahal before going back to the states. What a great team of people and it was good to see people from the states. I feel very comfortable here but it is interesting how seeing some people from home can encourage you and rejuvenate you. It would be interesting to see how different this trip would be if I were traveling with a group or even one other person from the states. One good thing about doing this alone, I spend more time with God and I feel like I have gotten to know Abraham and his family and the students I teach faster. God uses everything to teach us and speak to us. I think that will be the main point of what I share on Sunday at church.
Hope you are enjoying the ramblings and pics. I love that when this is done, I will have a permanent record of the trip and can look back at how faithful God was to me. Continue to pray as I go into another week of teaching and as I am sure I will start to get a little home sick. It has been good that Tami and I have been able to talk or text almost everyday. It does me a world of good just to hear her voice and to hear about how things are going at home. I miss you all and I know it will be sweet to see you all when I come home. Maybe I can convince Abraham, Feba and Ryan to come back with me. Who can resist that smile!
JULY 23rd - So today marks the end of the first week of classes for me at the Asian Christian College of Music. Things have gone well and I appreciate all the prayers at home as I continue to teach for the next two weeks. The students have been very welcoming and I have enjoyed the time we have spent together in class. I have officially posted selfies with each of the classes on Facebook so that is a mark of success, right? If that is not success, I have also become Facebook friends with several of the students and they informed me they are reading the blog and have already seen my website. I guess that means I can remind them all to not fall behind on the assignments for class here on my blog as well!
Tomorrow is Sunday and I am looking forward to attending worship at Life Fellowship for the second Sunday in a row. A few of the college students attend as well so I will get to see them as well. Monday is our day off and then I will start the next week of classes on Tuesday. The schedule is a little different each day to make time for other classes the students are taking. Mary teaches a vocal class for each year the students are at the college. She comes in on Tuesdays and Fridays. She told me yesterday that a number of her vocal students were conducting while they sang in her class. I know for sure they are practicing what we have learned.
After lunch today I ventured out for a walk. I have done this a couple of times and each time I go a little further and explore a little more. I stay on the main road because it would be very easy to get lost on a side street. The streets you turn down to go into the residential areas look like an alley in our town and most are a little wider than our sidewalks. If I did not know the turn was there, I would totally pass it by. I have learned to look for stores and signs I can use as guideposts to get me back to my temporary home. I found the entrance to the Mahatma Ghandi College today. I also stopped at the Big Bazaar on the way back. It is like a department store with everything you need. Each section of the store is on a different level, it was 6 stories high. I took my time and browsed a little. I just might have to get a couple shirts and pants while I am here. Clothing is really cheap here. On the way back I even saw a KFC across the street. I really don’t think I am going to come all the way to India to eat at a KFC. I can do that in Beatrice.
As I look back over this post I realize how random and scattered it is. I would apologize but I think the point of a blog is to record and share your thoughts and for tonight, this is the best it is going to get. I do miss home but I am also grateful to the college, the students and Abraham and Feba for taking such good care of me and giving me a wonderful appreciation for India. One other random thought, Feba’s mother has been with us for the past few days and it had been a joy to meet her!
This blog will journal my experiences as I prepare to go overseas this July and teach at the Asian Christian College of Music in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in India.