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!
JULY 21st - I can finally say I am feeling settled in here in. I left home one week ago and with travel time, getting settled in my new home and getting used to being in an unfamiliar place I have a routine and schedule. Everyone here has been so gracious and amazing. I sometimes wonder if I would be as generous if our places were reversed. I hope so! God’s light shines through the people I get to work with and live with for the next few weeks. I have experienced this several times in the United States where you meet someone and immediately you feel like you have been friends forever and have known each other for a long time. The Holy Spirit truly binds us together and even when our cultures are different, we can still have this amazing bond with people from around the world. Our God is an awesome God!
I think Ryan has also accepted me as a member of the family. Today at lunch, Abraham had a headache and decided it was best to rest for a bit. Feba brought out a laptop Ryan was watching in the other room. She was showing me some of the videos he liked. It didn’t take long and Ryan climbed up in my lap and there we sat watching Charlie Chaplin together. I guess the idea of being a grandpa is starting to grow on me. (SIDE NOTE: Don’t worry Kelsi, Tevan, Tanner & Annie, I will not be pushing to become a grandpa anytime soon!)
I have become Facebook friends with several of the students and they have told me already they found my website and have been reading the blog as well. The last two days I have posted selfies with the conducting class and the composition class. I will do one more selfie of the theory class. All of the students in the theory class I have in the other two but I like having the reminder of who is in each class. So you will see some of the faces in all three class selfies. Those are the students you should probably pray for the most. They have to spend the most amount of time with me.
I am excited to see what each student will bring to the composition class. When we are done, each one will have written a song for the final project. I looked over lyrics today and tomorrow will get to hear some of the melodies they will create. What a privilege to get to see these pieces come to life.
Tonight I have a special treat. We will be going upstairs to have dinner with Thomas and his brother and wife. Thomas stays upstairs in the house and is Abraham’s partner at the school. There are two different schools that are in the building. The college students are there from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and then the younger students come in for the afternoon and early evening. It is Thomas’ birthday today, so we gathered in the lecture room and the students sang “Happy Birthday.” We also celebrated with cake. We will continue the celebration tonight.
I do miss my family terribly! It is hard to be away for such a long time and also so far from home. But God is being very good to me by providing just what I need when I need it. I look forward to sharing much more in person. Continue to pray for the college and the students. They will have great opportunities to use music to bring glory to God. I plan to stay in touch with them as best I can. It will be great to hear what God will continue to do in there lives!
Oh, I shouldn’t rub this in BUT, the weather has been very nice here. Mid 80s all week long. I see on my weather app that back home it is 100+ all week. I guess you all should have come to India with me.
JULY 19th - My schedule is set for this week and I am off and running. I taught all three classes today and got to work on my name recalling skills. I have to say, I am doing better with this than I expected. It must be the prayers of you faithful followers of my blog. I know it seems like a trivial think to pray for but I really want the students to know how much I care and respect them and calling them by name is a small way I can do that.
As I walked into my first class of the day, all the students rose to their feet and greeted me with a “Good Morning, Sir.” Already I could tell things will not be the same as at home. How about it choir and orchestra? Can I get that same kind of response when I walk into rehearsal? The students were very quiet and attentive. When the class dismissed the students responded with “Thank you, sir.” I have to tell you. I did not mind being referred to as “sir.” At home “sir” always feel like… old man. It will be so good to get to know these students and connect with them. I am sure there will be days they will be sorry I came but overall I pray it will be a great experience for them. I know already it will be for me!
So my daily routine will looks something like this: 7:30 wake-up (which is a great time for me!) - 8:30 breakfast - 9:30 classes at the college (including Music Theory, Conducting, Composition and Piano) 12:30 lunch - 2:00 class ending around 3:30 and then heading home for the day. I have some down time where I can look over lessons for the next day or do some blogging or composing and then dinner around 8:00 and the rest of the night is mine. I am excited because without the distractions of my regular routine at home, I can spend extra time composing, praying, reading and just really working on deepening my relationship with God. I am learning many things as I go on this journey and I know that was part of the plan all along.
Please continue to pray for my family at home. Also pray as I really get to spend time with Abraham & Feba and the students that I can encourage them as much as they have already done so for me.
JULY 18th - Although I did not have to teach today, I did get to meet the students and give them a brief introduction of myself. Chris came for the morning to do a workshop on Church Music for the students and Abraham and I sat in on the class. The team from Vinton Baptist (Chris’ church) joined us after the workshop and got a tour of the school and we headed out together to have lunch. When you are a group of 10 Americans walking around India you tend to draw attention to yourself.
We had a great meal and I enjoyed an oriental noodle chicken dish. Yes, Tami and kids you might get me to a Chinese restaurant yet. And we topped it off with a little ice cream. The Vinton team wanted to do a little shopping so we headed to a nice mall and took a look around. It was 5 or 6 stories tall and had anything you might need. As we waited outside a local stopped and asked if I was an American. He struck up a conversation and then asked to take a selfie with me. I thought that would be all but he kept hanging around and as I moved closer to the group he followed me. He asked a few more questions about where I was staying and why I was in India. It was a very pleasant conversation but I could not figure out why he was so interested. I found myself feeling suspicious and constantly had my had in my pocket to insure that my wallet, camera and iPhone remained in my possession. He also talked to Abraham and asked how he found me to come and teach at the college. When we left the man shook my hand and then hugged me and wished me well.
After we parted I felt bad I had assumed the worst about him, although I think Abraham wondered as well since he kept hanging around. I have included a picture outside the main entrance of the mall, mainly for the percussionists in my family!
We headed back to house and made one last stop for “slippers.” Abraham has been concerned that I might fall on the wet floor in the bathroom in the mornings where I shower and wanted to make sure I would be safe. The “slippers” were rubber flip-flops to give me traction. He and his wife, Feba, have been SO gracious and are really taking wonderful care of me. I feel very comfortable and safe because they are always on the look out for me. I leave you with a picture you can not resist!! This is Feba and their 2-year old son, Ryan outside their home. I think Ryan and I are becoming friends. He let me unwrap his candy for him and I let him conduct with one of my batons.
JULY 17th - I can’t always post these on the day I write them so I will put the day the events happened on each post.
I attended church this morning with Abraham. He is the worship leader for the church. They have an English service at 8:00 a.m. which was the one Abraham played and lead worship and a Malayalam service at 10:30 a.m. which is the largest service. The church is called Life Fellowship and started 20 years ago. Their pastor, Sam, started the church. Life stands for “Living In Faith Everyday.” It was a wonderful service and most of the worship songs are songs we sing at home, “Great Is the Lord,” “How Great Thou Art,” “How Great Is Our God” just to name a few. They sang a beautiful praise chorus in Malayalam that had a chorus of “Hallelujahs.” I was able to pick up and sing-a-long on the choruses. The pastor shared a great challenge on lifting the Word of God about our heads like Moses who held up the staff to give Joshua the victory. The symbol of raising the Word above the struggles of life to keep our focus on God and His word was a great reminder. He actually had everyone raise their Bibles above our heads to drive home the point.
After coming back from church I had a little down time (I took a nap) and then we drove south to the beach and a hotel where Chris Monroe and the team from his church in Vinton, Virginia had just come in earlier in the morning. It was great to meet Chris and his lovely wife Mary Beth in person. They all looked exhausted from the trip and it was hard for me to imagine I had just made that trip one day before them. Chris will be coming to the college tomorrow to do a workshop on church music for the students of the college. I will actually start teaching on Tuesday and my week will run from Tuesday to Saturday each week. Abraham says we will be able to do somethings on Sunday afternoons and Mondays that way.
I am anxious to see the college tomorrow and meet all the students. I won’t have to teach but I will get to introduce myself and hopefully learn some names. I did meet two of the students who were at church this morning. Pray for me to remember names well. This is not a strong suit of mine so I will really have to work hard on it. Also pray that I can get into a good rhythm of teaching for the students and will be productive with the composing I would like to do while I am here.
Oh, for supper tonight, we went to Subway. Abraham is so worried I am not eating enough. I keep reassuring him that I have had plenty to eat and I have truly enjoyed the meals. It has been great because Feba (Abraham’s wife) has been preparing meals and they are being very careful to not give me anything too spicy. They also make sure I have silverware each meal, they use only their hands when they eat. I did attempt to eat my lunch with my fingers but failed miserably. I know that sound crazy but there is an art form to eating a rice dish with your hands. Anyway.. I had a turkey sub and Pepsi tonight for supper so don’t worry Tami and Mom, I will be fine!
JULY 16th - The journey here was not without a few bumps. The long flight was delayed for a little over an hour. I only had a 90 minute layer over in Abu Dhabi. I did make it on the connecting flight but it was necessary to be on a dead run from the minute we landed. It was wonderful that the airline had an attendant at the gate waiting for me and another fellow that was also on the connecting flight. We made the flight but our luggage did not! Abraham was gracious enough to find me something to wear and the luggage is due to arrive this evening.
I had an eventful first day. I had the honor of attending an Indian wedding at the church where Abraham leads worship. It was all in Hindi so I just soaked in the atmosphere of the event. Several pastors spoke from all the churches the couple had been a part. There were several worship songs. “Blessed Assurance” and “In His Time” were sung in English, a soloist sang “Oceans” from Hillsong. It was great experiencing these songs in a new way. We also attended the reception at a beautiful open auditorium and enjoyed the Indian food.
I have been surprised at how nice the weather has been. It is warm and humid but really not any different than it has been at home. In fact today has been really nice and after talking with Tami for a while this afternoon, it sounds like it might actually be hotter at home in Beatrice next week than here.
I also ventured out for a short walk from the house to the main highway and down the highway. I was careful to note signs and things I could use as landmarks to find the right street. The streets are extremely narrow here and you can hardly even see the turn off for your corner. You just have to know it is there. The pictures are the street down to the house (which takes a couple of turns) and then the house where I will be staying. I have a room on the main floor for the first two weeks and then for the last week I will move up to the second story. I have met a couple of neighborhood boys. As a sign of respect they will not call me by name but will either call me “sir” or “uncle.”
Abraham and I are headed to the airport to retrieve the luggage later and than it will be time for a dinner with the family and lights out. I am really excited to go to church with them all in the morning.
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.