Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reentry: the pictures I didn't take.

Written about a week ago, but still as true as ever: 

As I reenter American suburbia and try my hardest to not act like I'm miserably out of place and totally wrecked on the inside, I'm finding myself experiencing a little bit of reverse culture shock.

I close my eyes and see the faces of fifty orphaned kids laughing and playing,
or I see the colony girls that just wanted to hold my hands and walk,
or the faces of patients, of friends, of people I came to dearly love.

And then I open my eyes....
and I see excess and comfort and shallow and sadness.
I want to talk to people, but when conversations turn to television shows, or politics, or judging someone for something, or buying bigger and better I have to fight every bone in my body not to make a B-line for the bathroom as an excuse to escape. 
I'm afraid I'm a little jet-lagged, a little bit confused, often grumpy, becoming a little bitter, and entirely unsure of how to slip back in to this totally different world.

As I actively tried to be present in the moments of my time in India, I find that I have far fewer pictures than I'd like. Actually, that's not entirely true. I have plenty of pictures...but just not of the moments I most want to remember.
So, I'm fighting to remember them all, to not let them get lost in the onslaught of the American Dream that I'm once again surrounded by, and that's a lot more difficult to do when you don't have a visual reminder.

There are no pictures of the two oil-workers that I ran into on various legs of my travel journey, one of whom called me out of an hour-long check-in line at the airport, zipped me through the first-class line with him, and then paid for me to relax and eat in a lounge while we waited for our plane together.
And I couldn't take a picture of the six people that were all from southern Michigan waiting with me in an airport in Doha, Qatar, one of whom designed the very machine that kept my premature nephew alive while I was gone.
Click. A mental picture will have to suffice. What miracles! 

Or what about the drunk Hindu man on the plane that was easily 30 years my senior and yelling loudly at me in attempt get my number while we waited for the bathroom...because isn't that just what every girl wants? Who would want to forget that?
Click. I'm sure there's a lesson in that somewhere.

I couldn't whip out my camera for a picture when a woman sat chatting as though everything was normal, though I was looking at the end of her tibia that was coming out her heel; and I still so vividly remember the first few days of shock from the dramatic ulcers and complete lack of pain.
Click. Never will I forget that.

There's the medical cases that were once in a lifetime and so heartbreaking: elephantiasis, vitiligo, herpes zoster, leprosy, HIV/AIDs, a Bartholin's cyst turned ulcer, encephalitis, myocardial infarctions, dysentery, & so much more... 

There's all the little things: like the toenail that went shooting across the operating room and had everyone cracking up, the lizards that crawled on my walls at night, the monsoon rains & earth-shaking thunderstorms, the solitude & companionship, the never ending church services that I didn't understand a word of, the demands for kisses on the cheeks and piggyback rides, the weeding the grass with the kids on a Saturday, the attempt at homemade "cheesecake", seeing millions of people come to be cleansed in the Godavari River, teaching Annie what star tipping is, hanging out with the water buffalo and trying to milk them, the constant inquires about my diet from concerned mamas, and the list goes on...and on...and on.
Click. Click. Click. Click. 

And then there's the bigger things: like the evening one of the colony girls had gotten past security and showed up at my door, the gut-wrenching sobs that I pounded into the floor as the Lord unraveled me in so many ways, the deaths of patients who shouldn't have died, a personal stay at the hospital for a few days, the times I said no to the Lord and realized how disobedient my heart really was, the man that drowned his baby girl in a river, the joy-filled days spent with the kids at the orphanage & hostels, showing a newborn baby girl to her parents and watching them scowl because they wanted a boy, watching M. suffer day in and day out, the appreciation ceremony held in my honor when I deserved nothing of the sort, and the rainbow that surrounded the sun in a perfect circle.
Click. Ouch. Click. Beautiful! Click. That hurts. Click. I hate this. Click. I love this.   

With this and so much more burned into my eyelids when I close my eyes, I find myself caught in the place of not wanting to forget and the place of desperately needing to forget in order to press on, to do this life again. 

I don't know how you do that- stay & move on all at the same time. 
I'm unsure when the guilt of not being there ends or when the joy & purpose of this life resumes, but I patiently wait, & I desperately pray, & I often hide, & I consistently cling to the promise that God is good and that he does not forsake his children, no matter if they're Indian or American. 


Now for some of the pictures I did take: 


  1. I am amazed and moved by your writing....inspired...fed....Thank you for allowing God to use you and for being so transparent. Thank you for sharing. I also do not know what star tipping is??

    1. Transparency is a hard thing, but I'm honored to hear it blessed you. The Holy Spirit is good like that. :) Star tipping is a silly game where you go out at night, look up at the stars, and spin around as long as you can. When you can't spin any longer, someone shines a light in your eyes & you fall down. I don't know why, but it becomes impossible to stand... & it can be quite funny to watch. :)


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