The following is excerpts from my journal from my most recent trip to see the girls of STEPS Home in India.
August 5 –
Sunday, our last day. How time flew by! We went to church and I wore my new sari from Faith. Church was two hours long today, per the norm. When the started serving communion at the end, we had to sneak out since Isaac had to at a memorial service.
On the way home, we drove through a cemetery because Tarun wanted to see the grave marker for their cousin (the one we were going to the one-year memorial service for). Cemeteries are an odd thing to see in India, since Hindus burn the deceased on a funeral pyre. We saw where Isaac’s cousin was buried, not far from where his parents were buried.
We stopped by the house to pick up everyone else, then headed to the memorial service. I thought the concept was a really neat one. A year after a loved one has passed away, a service is held where the family members come together to honor their loved one. After sharing some memories and a short message from the Bible, the family gathered for a meal.
Theresa and I went to the Home after the service, but the girls were napping. So we visited with Vanija for a while. Vanija was so sweet, she brought out some gifts for Theresa, Mike, and I; she gave me sari, too! I don’t have time to have it tailored while I’m here (since we leave tonight), so I will have to bring it back next time I’m here.
Tara picked us up from there to take us out for the afternoon. We dropped her off at the salon, then we headed off with Ben, Rohan, Sitara, and Tarun to do a little more shopping so Theresa could get some more gifts. An hour later we were back at the salon so Theresa, Sitara, and I could get mehndi (meh-hen-dee). Mehndi is traditionally done at weddings, but women in India do it just for fun too.
While we waited for the man to arrive to do our mehndi, we hung out in the waiting room. The guys started to get restless… so they turned Tarun into a pretzel.
The guy arrived, so us girls went back for some girl-bonding time. Mehndi is interesting stuff. It is made from the henna plant and applied as a paste-like substance on to the skin with a little icing bag. The guy who did ours free-handed the design (see the peacock head at the top of my arm?) and finished one hand, front and back, in 20 minutes.
The henna is then left to dry for a couple hours while it temporarily stains the skin. Mehndi will typically last for 2-4 weeks. (Mine ended up lasting for 4 weeks, and might have lasted longer except for an afternoon of swimming one day.) Tara told us that when a Hindu bride gets mehndi done for her wedding, they will hide the groom’s name in Hindi script in the design. Then that night, it is a game to see if he can find his name before they go to bed that night.
As soon as we had our mehndi on, Theresa and I had to gently get into the car without smudging our artwork, and we were off to the airport with Ben and Rohan to pick up Mike from his weekend in Bangalore. We waited in the car while the guys went to find Mike. By now our mehndi was starting to dry and felt like itchy scabs. Some of it was beginning to crumble off, and it was really hard not to go crazy and scratch it all off.
Once the guys had Mike, we headed off to meet the others for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. When we got there, Theresa, Sitara, and I immediately headed for the bathroom to finish washing off the rest of the dried henna. Our last meal together – it was a little bittersweet. Though the fortune cookies made us laugh.
We got back to the Home right before the girls went to sleep, so we had some time to say goodbye. The girls were very excited about our mehndi.
It was really hard to say goodbye to them. So to keep from crying, we acted goofy.
Reluctantly we left the girls since it was their bedtime. We had to go upstairs to pack and shower anyway. We have to leave the house at 2am to get to the airport to catch our 5:00am flight to London.
Our flight home was very uneventful – other than being very long. We did meet two Mexican Olympians on their way home from London though. And I was the only one to not have a working tv on the flight from London to Chicago… so I spent a while hanging with the flight attendants while the rest of the cabin slept. We parted with Mike in Chicago and headed to catch our last flight. The flight from Chicago to Knoxville was especially amazing, because on our way home, God set the colors of the rainbow in a sunset.
I wish the picture could do it justice – the colors were phenomenal! What an amazing trip to see my girls. Thank you Jesus!