Rented – Never Sold

India is an interesting place where interesting people do interesting things.

For instance, my mattress (though not itself a person) proudly advertises that it is in fact “Rented Never Sold.”  I’m sure this is really an awesome selling point.  …somehow.

I’m no social scientist, but I have come up with a rough theory of horn honking in India.  I believe it to be a similar scenario to Pavlov’s dog, except this time the dog rings his own bell.  That bell is a honk.  Every driver does this because it creates a wonderful reward for them.  That reward is that they get to honk their horn again at least once within the next 30 seconds.  Of course while this is a privilege and not a duty, per se, no one would pass up this treat.  Sometimes when they feel they’ve earned a particularly well-deserved reward, they will honk multiple times in succession.  Or they will honk because there is another car on the road.  Or they will honk because someone is walking on the sidewalk.  Or they honk because someone else honked and they figure, hey I want to get in on that too.  They may even honk to ensure their horn is still working (a lot can change in 30 seconds).  If my rudimentary theory is correct, Indian drivers must be some of the happiest people on Earth.

DSCN0075_resize

I bought some milk tonight.  It came in a bag.  This wouldn’t be terrible if I didn’t hope to use the milk more than once.  It’s basically the type of bag that frozen vegetables come in, only thinner.  No sealing that bad boy.

Things open late here, and close early.  The Bread Omelette guy doesn’t start up until around 10 AM.  For serving breakfast.  And you know what takes a lot of time?  The food you just ordered.  But you know what takes even more time?  The bill.  I have often wondered if it was just one guy with one hot plate making all dishes, then calculating the bill on some primitive counting device, perhaps an abacus.  However the funny part is, the server to customer ratio at some places exceeds one.  We got ice cream tonight.  There were four of us in the shop.  There were at least five guys working the counter.  One to scoop, one to receive, one to serve…

DSCN0081_resized

And then there is that maddening head bob.  When one seeks to express yes, they move their head side to side on the horizontal plane.  No is indicated from the vertical plan.  Indians have created a third form, however.  Rocking their head side to side towards their shoulders.  And you know what it means?  Nothing.  Or everything.  Who knows.  But the worst part is that nine times out of ten it is a silent head bob.  No positive or negative verbal indication.  Just a head bob.

India is an interesting place where interesting people do interesting things.

Photos are of me and some friends cooking, IE interesting people doing interesting things.  This is from weeks ago now, I hope to get some photos up soon.

Let’s Put the Cart Before the Horse and See Where This Thing Goes!

This post is mostly obsolete in all information (other than the paratha), but since I wrote it I figure I might as well post it.  Future posts will be more reflective of the present reality, and will include my photos / videos vs google imgs.  That being said…

So far India is pretty cool.  Which is to say it’s unbearably hot. Paratha And humid.  And sweaty.  The food is great, and I’m even ready to forgive whatever food made me exceptionally ill two weekends ago.  Though this is mostly only because I don’t know which meal it was so I don’t know where to focus my anger.  I have discovered paratha, however, which is, essentially, deep fried naan.  That should kill all the germs (check out the oily goodness; this piece happens to be filled with potatoe).  I’ve also seen two White people who have no connection to IJM in the city, my first sightings (since I began drafting this post last week, I have since been to a big mall here and saw tons of White people – at least 8).  I’m all settled in my place now.  I basically feel like Abe Lincoln because I don’t have internet I now have internet!!

The title, unfortunately, refers to the status of work so far.  Though, to be clear, I’m speaking only of my work specifically.  IJM has been hard at work, rescuing 273 people in one operation this month!  I played my part by sleeping off my jet lag while others made the rescue.

To be clear, this is not a pity post.  It is a post of wisdom gained.  They told me don’t come halfway around the world thinking I’d rescue slaves and be the big hero.  I even believed them.  But I still hoped.  And so now that I’ve been here two weeks and only now starting to get a little work sent my way, it would be easy to feel disillusioned.  After all, doing very little would at least be much more comfortable at my parent’s house.  And yet, the amazing thing is, 273 people are being rescued.  The great advocate team here is progressing cases in court.  The aftercare team is rehabilitating broken lives.  And every other team is playing their own vital role in the process.  And what’s my part?  Sleeping off jet lag.  Reminding people to please use English.  Technically I am not a critical cog.  And the work goes on.  This is painful and refreshing at the same time.  God doesn’t need me to get these things done.  Which makes me sad because I wanted to be a kinduva big deal.  But makes me so relieved because wow I’m sure it’d be sorta kinda hard if it really was all up to me.

carthorse

Elephants, Tigers and Naan, oh my! I’m going to Chennai

That’s right friends, in less than two weeks I’ll be boarding a plane for Chennai, India (cue the jaw-dropping for those who remember when I’d never leave the city, let alone the state, and certainly not the country!).  I will be serving as an intern for International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization I am very passionate about.  They operate to combat some of the world’s biggest injustices, especially sex trafficking and bonded labor.*   I encourage you to learn more about them, and you can watch the video below as a first step.

I’ll spend a week in DC for training first, where me the Pres will probs hang out.  From there I’ll be off to India for two months.  I’ll be based in the city of Chennai, which is a South Eastern coastal city, and capital of the state of Tamil Nadu.  The Chennai IJM office focuses on bonded labor.  I will be serving in a legal capacity (though details are very much TBA) through Pepperdine Law School.  One particularly cool aspect of my assignment to Chennai (I admit, I wanted Mumbai) is that a fellow Pepperdine Law student spent the summer in Chennai two years ago.  That Malibu and Chennai would have any connection is exciting; that it would be in the battle over bonded labor is thrilling.** 

Image

I hope to be more bloggy than I have been in the past.  I expect normal access to email, fb, etc.  Stay tuned for updates, photos, etc.

*To give a very simple sketch of bonded labor, much simpler than it deserves, imagine the following scenario:  Drought has hit hard this year, and Farmer Raj’s crops simply did not grow.  He now needs money to provide for his family, money that would have come from the crops.  As such, he goes to Mr. LoanShark, who assures Raj that he will provide Raj with a loan.  As a condition, Raj and his family will work for LoanShark, earning a salary that will allow Raj to repay the loan.  What LoanShark does not tell Raj is that the ‘salary’ he will provide Raj is less than the ‘interest’ he will charge on the loan, thus ensuring Raj and his family will never be able to purchase their freedom.  This can and does continue generationally.  In 2013.

**Granted there may be other connections I don’t know about, haha.

Homes Away From Homes Away From Homes

Since school has started, I’ve only been on two TJHB trips. This has been quite a change in my life; from 1-2 times a month to 1-2 times a school year. After the trip in December I recounted that I had returned to my home and my home away from home. I’m no longer sure which I meant to be San Diego, and which I meant to be TJ. Nine months in Malibu, and I was secretly happy the toilet didn’t flush today. On the last trip I felt out of sync. Law school has aged me. My beard keeps growing more salt amongst the paprika. Three long months absence but don’t worry, it’s just like riding a… unicycle through a flaming hoop. However this is all just poetry, didn’t we work on some houses?

40+ people being awesome.  NBD

40+ people being awesome. NBD

Four, to be exact. Tonight four families will sleep in completely completed homes, perhaps, for some of the children, for the first time ever. And if all goes according to plan, every time they see their new home, they will know they’re loved not just by some crazy gringos with nothing better to do on a Saturday, but by the Almighty God. And whether this is a reminder of something they had just been thinking about, or the revelation of a truth previously unknown, may this truth ever be so near as to be almost suffocating.

Law school has presented many challenges, but one of the most challenging has been the landslide that carried away my identity. I’m no longer ‘the guy.’ The guy who leads Bible study. The guy who leads TJHB trips. At best I’m occasionally ‘that guy,’ and no one wants to be ‘that guy.’ But this trip was different. This trip was about restoration. To truly understand this, I must make a brief digression about stucco.

Stucco is an art form. That is, stucco in Mexico with only the most rudimentary tools is an art form. Everything about the house leads up to the stucco. The foundation must be just so to allow the walls to stand. The walls must be wrap-able. And you stretch the bailing wire, apply the tar paper, and then the chicken wire. And this is where people tend to run into problems, with the confounded chicken wire. The wire needs to be tight. Think spandex on a fat dude. Then make it a little tighter. If you don’t do this, you create pockets in which the stucco falls, but never actually adheres to the wall. Needless to say these pockets are bad; small children have been known to cry when seeing them.

In two of the houses, previous teams had created pockets. And I got to repair them. And I got to repair them working alongside some of my best buddies. Suddenly, the 12-hour days in the library become bearable. I have rediscovered who I am. I am not the guy who runs things, though I could be. TJHB is not me. But I am TJHB. And I am the one You love so much that You’d allow me to come fresh from Malibu to Mexico and play a part in repairing and preparing a home for a family You deeply love, and which You express Your love to in the form of a house. I am focused on my studies for now, and occasionally this has led me to believe I’m someone I wish I wasn’t, or more precisely caused yearning that I might be someone that I used to be. And yet I am Your Beloved.

Ahoy Matey! I’m Headed to Haiti

Pardon the dust around here. We’re open for business once again, this time to share general musings in regards to my upcoming trip to Haiti, and anything else that strikes my fancy.

So, the rumors are true: I’m going to Haiti this summer. Please check out my fundraising page for all the details.

I considered including a "sob story" photo of rubble and amputees, but I believe there is still much beauty in Haiti to be seen and celebrated.

I still find it amusing that this time last year I had exactly 0 passport stamps. Sure I’d been to Mexico many times, but never on a ‘stamp worthy’ trip. Now I’ve been to Malawi last Summer and Taiwan this past Winter. I feel as though inertia is beginning to take hold; I’m in motion, and will continue until something stops me. Not that I have caught proverbial travel bug, per se, but I’ve become enthralled with the opportunity to see God at work in parts of the world I never dreamed to visit. It is a joy and an honor to experience how others experience God, and to participate with them in that in some small way. I suppose this may be Spiritual Tourism, but somehow that sounds a touch pejorative.

Fast forward, and now this spirit of tourism has led me on a trip to Haiti. This trip will be a stretching experience in many ways. I will be co-leading, in a country I’ve never been to boot. The trip is a touch nebulous, in that aspects of the trip are not expected to be finalized until weeks before we depart due to the state of fluidity Haiti is in right now. Plus I’m still learning to appreciate children, which I suspect we’ll be spending a lot of time with (honesty alert).

And somehow I am in every way stoked to be embarking on this journey. Ultimately it ties into life goals. As I’ve been touring law schools before I begin in the Fall, I am reminded of how deep my passion to serve those struggling with abject poverty, sex trafficking, and slavery really runs. Just yesterday my boss was telling me I was crazy (in kinder words) to seek a costly legal education, only to make a comparable salary to what I make now when I get a job. In some senses she’s right. Yet in another sense there is a part of me, that if I do not take this step, will never ever be alive. It will constantly be crying out, begging me to move forward, to suspend comfort and practicality. To ‘Stop at nothing,’ as a recent aid video has insisted. I have silenced the cry long enough. Haiti is another step along the way to serving those who don’t have lobbyists or advocates. Who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Who don’t know if anyone in the world loves them. And I, of all people, get the chance to assure them that yes, they are loved. We have that chance. Please, partner with me.

Lovin’ Like Crazy, or The Easy Button is Broken!

I’m writing this post to brag about some people I know (I’ve titled it in paraphrased homage), and even someone I don’t. I have a feeling this will get wordy, so I’m jumping right in.

Wednesday started out crapily (the first sentence of the Great American Novel, I know). The itch that I still haven’t figured out just how to scratch was back. I needed a new story.

My growth (ahem, life) group meets on Wednesday. It is a group of some of the most solid guys I’ve ever had the joy to partner with in life. On this particular Wednesday, knowing I was in a funk, they laid the love on heavy. Encouragement. Affirmation. Availability. The works. And it worked. And then Dave, one of my guys, started talking about how he wants to start ‘loving like crazy.’ Deeply focused relationships with people, including the homeless around his work. Being in a position where you just have to wonder what the heck you’re doing because you’re so far outside your comfort zone. Good for him, I thought.

Next he shared an email from a childhood friend who runs an orphanage in Asia. Dave recounted how this guy got waylaid in Cambodia, and ending up leading a former Khmer Rouge soldier to Christ. “I remember being in Bible studies with this guys at 11 years old,” Dave said. Imagine, being 11 and someone telling you in less than 20 years you’d be in a country you’ve probably never heard of leading a former soldier from one of the more evil groups in the history of mankind to Christ. Imagine living a life where your wildest dreams seem tame. At least I could celebrate that someone had gotten their new story. God is still in the story business.

So I leave group with a much lighter heart, only to find that the po-po has blocked off my normal freeway exit to get home. Ugh. By this point I’m tired. I just want to sleep. So I almost think I imagine it when I see a woman walking on the rain-soaked shoulder of the freeway. For a moment I ponder stopping, but then I give myself that all too familiar comforter – “She’s probably fine.” It takes all of 10 seconds for both God, and myself, to reject that idea. People do not walk on the freeway period, let alone at 10pm. So I pull a u-y. As I begin speaking with Lin, I learn she is from LA, and was left on the side of the freeway by her boyfriend, with no shoes no less. Had I taken my normal route home, I never would have seen her.

After trying to call some of her friends to no avail, I do the only thing I can think of – I bring her home. Home to my awesome roomies who have no problem with me bringing home a random stranger with no shoes at 10:30pm on a school night. We still can’t get a hold of anyone. So my roommates offer their home for Lin to spend the night. Long story short, we get Lin on a train back to LA the next morning. My Thursday is off to a better start than Wednesday was. I have my new story.

But not just my new story. A recognition, or acceptance of the recognition, that the best stories are often found outside my comfort zone. Places where the ‘easy button is broken,’ as Daniel said. I had just been talking about looking at law schools with international clinics; I was excited by the prospect of “doing what I want to do before I even do it.” And God gave me a helping of that with Lin. As I sought to understand her story and provide the most appropriate help for her, through much frustration in communication, I got a glimpse of what I suspect things may be like in my hopeful future career: working with victims of traumatic events, understanding events, seeking aid. Getting to do what I want to do before I get to do it.” Getting to live and collect stories even before I get to live and collect stories. To be a story. And to be a story with such an amazing host of friends and strangers who make incredible stories even better.

Threepeat

A couple weekends ago, the softball team I play on (ok, I won’t be humble: the team I coach awesomely to victory) had our playoffs. Despite finishing the season with a perfect 10-0 record, we had to enter the crucible with five other teams in a single elimination tournament for all the marbles (in this case the marbles are actually a t-shirt). Would we be forged into champions, or simply melt?

Suffice to say, we’ve been there before. We entered the playoffs as the back to back reigning champs, eventually finding ourselves destined to engage in a repeat of last year’s playoff game with our league rivals (if church softball leagues can really foster rivalries). Revenge is a powerful motivator. I brought two intense yet antithetical hopes and beliefs into the game: win at all costs, and no matter what the outcome of the game is, my identity is in Christ and not my championship t-shirt(s). The only real balancing act is how to balance the former on the altar of the latter.

The funny thing about God is that He is, well, sometimes quite funny. We absolutely steam-rolled our opponent in the first game, winning ~15-1. As the championship game got underway, we couldn’t buy a hit (“Save some hits for the next game!”). Things were looking dire. By the bottom of the 4th inning we were losing 3-0 and had less than 5 hits to our name. I was beginning to worry I might have to put all this ‘identity nonsense’ into practice. We started off the 4th with a moonshot by our resident slugger Ryan, and strung together a few more hits to tie the game up at 3-3. Our defense held in the 5th, and we added an in-the-park HR by ‘Big Daddy’ to pull ahead 4-3. The 6th was the last inning – all we had to do was hold them and we would complete our quest for a threepeat.

The inning got off to an inauspicious start, with one of their girls getting a single. As the next batter strolled to the plate, the “Greatest Play in the History of Softball” was about to be set in motion. He hit a towering drive to deep right field. Our right center fielder (we’ll call him ‘Joe’) got on his horse, chased the ball down, and chucked it towards home. Our first baseman Daniel got the relay, assuring his wife Heidi, the second baseman, that he had it. He in turn whipped it home to our third baseman, Jason, who was covering home on behalf of his wife Janelle (double husband-wife connection), resulting in a double play. That’s right. We got both runners out. They went from seeing a 5-4 lead with 0 outs crumble to a 4-3 deficit with 2 outs. Pure beauty. We notched another out, and secured our t-shirts.

And what of my identity? On the day of the game, I drove away from the field thinking “Huh, God, you never made me put that identity idea to the test.” Only now do I realize that it was put to the test, but He took the test for me, aced it, and offered me the chance to sign my name. My (our) ultimate identity is one deeply loved by God, who also happens to be a threepeat champion.

Love the smell of victory in the morning