05 December 2013

bangalore weinachtszeit

Christmas time in Bangalore is quite warm and comfortable.  News from home says Christmas time is exactly how I'd like to have left it: miserably cold.  While I miss Christmas activities and my cute husband and family, I am so relieved to be on the other side of the world of Utah snow.  I miss my students, too, but will be surrounded by students next week.  So far it's been a comfortable transition coming to India as a teacher.  It's nice to have pieces of my American life stay constant while away from the things that I love.

Bangalore, India is filled with ideal weather, endless culture, business & technology, good company, and although it's part of culture, it needs to stand alone: good food.  The weather is beautiful--t-shirts and pants work fine and there are rare moments in the day where I may want a sweater, but overall it's dream weather.  I love the sound of rickshaws, bikes, and cars weaving through each other like wild animals, but still in the end all making it out of the commotion unscathed.  Jingling jewelry lets you know someone is near, and adds charm to a stranger right away.  So many sounds permeate, my favorite being religious chanting.  Although the people are solemn and peaceful while they worship, there's also an element of happiness and joy in the process that comes off as a strong, almost visible feeling, as opposed to a gesture.  The sights too!  The saris, the gold, the bindis, the paint, the temples, the buildings, the hairstyles, and then there's the frumpy western business suits.  Business and technology have exploded in this city, metropolizing it and somehow inadvertently calling for western business wear.  The city is fast-paced and ever-growing, while at the same time slow and easy-going--Indian style.  Although I've heard many lament IST (Indian Standard Time), it's actually another charming part of the culture I'd love adopted in the U.S.  Probably less teeth would grit to alarm clocks until the inevitable trip to the sanatorium.  IST is evidence of the unique love and value Indians have for human life.  Meetings can go longer because it's okay to really sit down and get to know the person, which has been another treasured experienced while being here.  Such great company!  Both deep and shallow conversations have developed into lifelong friendships with people from completely different backgrounds, but similar feelings about love and life.  And lastly and most superficially, the food is rich, spicy, multi-textured, and so pungent that it tells a story.  FOOD'S HERE NOW.  SO THERE'S JUST NO REASON TO BE ON THIS POST ANYMORE.

16 August 2013



Britany Barnes
Britany Barnes
By Britany Barnes
Pathway, Chennai is a place where a work of powerful love is being done, unbeknownst to many in the world. Several students with disabilities attend special education classes there, as well as participating in vocational classes and even paid work by creating beautiful works of art—from jewelry to nativity sets. No matter the severity or type of disability, all staff expect something great from every student. High expectations have made all the difference at this magical place. Many times throughout my tour of the facilities, I found myself choked up at the special work being done by very special people, both staff and students.
What was most charming about Pathway, Chennai and Chandra was the attitude of “ability,” rather than “disability.” Chandra never used negative words like “dis” or “unable” to describe the students skills, nor did she praise them like little children; she simply spoke of them as they are, human beings making a contribution to the world. She explained the importance of giving the world a more accurate view of what people with special needs are capable of and how they are indeed assets to the world. It is not her desire to yield sympathy of any kind from the public, only a better understanding of our responsibility to care for and love all people and value the contributions they make, despite obstacles their disabilities might make.
I felt a powerful jolt while sitting in the room with Chandra viewing the students’ final work all in glass cases when Chandra held her index finger up and said with a sincere expression, “Let them live with dignity.” What is most profound about her statement is the word “let,” which implies that there lies a responsibility for all mankind to pave the way for a change in thought, a change in action, a massive change in well-set norms. It’s time we let all kinds of people in our world live with dignity by first loving them, and next learning to understand and appreciate what they have to give. Chandra, Prasad, and all the people at Pathway are embracing that responsibility by dedicating their lives and hearts to this great work, and they do it with a sense of dignity, love, and the most humble gratitude.

14 July 2013

seminary in india

My biggest surprise has come from realizing that students want to come to school, as well as seminary and church.  Seminary and church both seem so optional here, yet they all attend and are excited to be learning about the gospel.   I taught seminary five out of six days last week and was surprised to have several—dozens—of students find me in the hallways during the day I didn’t hold class to ask why there was no seminary.  Finally, after the 10th student asked, I responded with a question in the sweltering heat of the hallway of an afternoon in Chennai, “Well, don’t you usually just do 2-4 times a week?”  This 17-year-old, less than 5-feet-tall, 10th grader responded, “Yes, but we would like every day, please sister.”  Thinking she was definitely joking, I laughed loudly in her face, but was quickly dismayed to see she had stood completely still, save for a twinge of confusion in her demeanor and facial expression.  I immediately shut my stupid, loud mouth and said, “You are you being serious?”  She said earnestly, “Yes, sister, please.”   Seminary is being taught early in the morning during a study hall period wherein the students could have extra time to work on assignments, study for tests, or enjoy talking to their friends.  The assembly room is filled each morning for seminary; dozens of students come to my seminary classes, eager to learn, with only intrinsic motivation.  Their teachers don’t care if they go to seminary (they’re Hindu or Catholic), the directors are nowhere on sight until at lest 11 o’clock (hours after seminary has ended), and no one reports who went to seminary and who didn’t.  I’ve been completely blown away by the attendance, participation, and determination to attend seminary among these young Indian teens.   I can’t say I’d have the same attitude and behavior were I in their sandals.  Was that funny?