Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friends In Tenali :: Nani

Meet Nani:

Nani has worked for Harvest India for a few months now and is a driver for school buses and other programs. He also helps take the other girls and me to the different schools we teach at each week. Talking with Nani in limited Telugu and limited English has been really fun. He is a very nice man with a great heart and an awesome smile. We laugh most of the drives home when trying to have conversations and learn more about one another. 

Last week was an especially fun week driving around with Nani. Last Thursday we taught at Quarry Junior College and were in the middle of a three day torrential rain storm that flooded much of Tenali town center. We had to drive a different route to head out towards Quarry, so we drove through a different part of the market. On the way Nani stopped two times. First, we stopped outside a corner store and met his older brother. We also stopped at the next corner and met his mother-in-law, who was roasting corn for purchase while sitting under an umbrella in the rain. She smiled and waved at us, then took three ears of corn off of the coals and handed them to me through our car window. It was so generous of her. Nani was really happy that we had met some of his family. He talked about them much of the drive afterwards. Before we reached Quarry, we stopped at Harvest India campus to drop off Carli who teaches 10th class (grades 1-10 have been moved from Quarry to campus now). Nani drove straight tot he Ashraya sewing center and called out to a woman to bring Brianca outside. One Brianca came out we were introduced to her as Nani's, "wife and life partner." They are a love marriage. Nani's face shone with love for his wife as he introduced us to her. He said he was very proud of her job at the sewing center. They also now live on campus next to Peter and his family. They have one daughter, Sweety, whom we met as we left campus. She is an adorable four year old.

Nani says that he loves working for Harvest India. He says, "It is because of God's grace that I am here with Harvest India. I am so thankful for this family and job." 

Nani, we are so thankful for you. It is also by God's grace that we all get to work together for his kingdom in Tenali. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Friends In Tenali :: Rama Raj

Meet Rama Raj:

We love this man! His family lives on the top floor of the house we rent from Harvest India. Every morning he is there to say "Good morning before" he leaves for the day and we get to welcome home his kids from school most afternoons. If we hang laundry from the roof, we are usually ushered into his home for chai. Rama Raj and his family are incredibly generous and loving towards us and have welcomed us into their family. Last week, we celebrated Tony's birthday with the family and it was a blast! We love Rama Raj and his family.

Rama Raj is photographer by trade and works for Harvest India, as well as being a freelance wedding and function photographer here in Tenali. He has a very big heart, is great at helping us integrate and navigate Tenali and has a fantastic Mr. Bean impersonation. Anu, his wife, is a preschool teacher and an amazing cook. Her mutton leaf curry, chicken curry and coconut rice are some of our favorite Indian meals in Tenali. The girls on our team have also gone with her for eyebrow threading and sari girls only outings here in town. :) They have two sons. Tony is 13 years old and Funny is 11 years old. We really enjoy playing card games and computer/iPad games with the boys. It is pretty fun meeting their neighborhood friends also. A few weeks ago we watched The Avengers movie with their entire family and it was so fun just being together.

We are grateful for Rama Raj and his family and the way they have welcomed us into their home and how we get to live out a life of ministry together.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Friends In Tenali :: Gopal

Meet Gopal:

Gopal owns a wholesale fabric store in the Gandhi Chowk market area in Tenali. It is a shop where people can shop for personal purchase, as well as a wholesale store for local village store owners to buy material in bulk for their own reselling. Which means Gopal's shop is forever exploding with fabric. It is amazing to sit in his store and be surrounded by shelves and piles and piles of beautiful cloth.  I love being there when he unloads new shipments of saris (girls...this is when you start smiling and imagining how awesome this shop is). 

I first met Gopal during my first time in India on the ROCKHarbor two week trip in December 2011. He partners with Harvest India to provide the fabric and tailoring for women's punjabi dresses and saris. When we moved to India in October 2012, he visited our home with a few selections for dresses and saris also. This helped us a TON since it is important to dress culturally here and we were ready to be out and about, dressed in Indian wear, in a matter of days. Eventually, we found out where his shop was located and have made visiting him a weekly activity. Think of it as Indian window shopping meets our tiny monthly allowance "splurge fest" for the girls. :)

But, visiting Gopal is not just about looking at fabrics and choosing new clothes (which looking at saris is amazing here!! So much creativity and beauty in every cloth). We like to ask Gopal about his family, his children, his workers. He buys us a Sprite or chai from an outside vendor and takes a lot of pride in showing us all his "latest fashion, very comfort, very smooth, high class" cloth at "small, small cost." This really means that we can purchase a sari or complete punjabi outfit, with stictching, for under $6-$10, usually. He has brought over his daughter to our house when he delivered tailored clothing and we sat and chatted with his daughter in English for a while. We have become friends. He especially loves John. Gopal even called John on Christmas morning (a holiday he doesn't celebrate) to wish John a Happy Christmas. When we returned to Tenali in July, he called us a few days later and wished us a happy return. We simply enjoy his company and sharing joy and laughter with him, while being surrounded with beautiful material. 

And what is also neat is that his shop has become a great place to meet other women in Tenali and have small conversations in broken English and Telugu. Shyness and language barriers seem to crack and break when local women and me and the girls are all sitting on the ground, admiring a sari that is draped over all of our laps. Choosing saris and punjabis together is really fun. We learn more about culture and continue to feel more at home in Tenali, a little bit more a part of the community and town.