Caught up on blog in the morning. Had 8th and 9th standard combined. It was a big class but went well! They had some really creative ideas! Wrote notes to the housemothers and watched Anna paint one of the pillars by the greenhouse gate. For LifeDance that evening, the first half of class was just LifeDance. We warmed up and I tried to take some group pics, but that didn't work so well :) Then let them run any dances they wanted to. The second half of class was an open class that anybody could come to. I taught the Bollywood “line dance” I came up with and they really enjoyed it. They just followed and learned. Then we just made a circle and had a free dance where anyone could go into the middle and we would follow them or watch them. I will miss that a lot! I absolutely love just watching them free style. Shows so much about their culture and who they are. Dance tells a lot about people. I gathered LifeDance at the end, said a few final words, and gave them all a treat and note. After dinner, we had the student talent show. It was lots of fun! Gosh I love these kids!! There was lots of singing, dancing, and skits. Went to M. Vignesh's room for storytime again and just made up stories on the spot and about how India was winning the semi-finals for cricket! The power went out for about 20 min. tonight so Jamesen, Kaylee, and I went to the roof and looked at the stars. You can see so many stars here!
Got up at 4:15 and said goodbye to Jamesen who is leaving to go on an adventure to an island on his own. Sad to see one of our foursome go! Got up at 6:15 and left for Chennai at 7 am. Got to hang out with Anna all day, it was fun! We went to a Hindu temple first. It was really cool! There was a lot to see and it was really interesting to see all the different ways people worship in this religion. We went to the Pondi bazaar after and walked around, got some lunch, and then walked down to Mambalum for some shopping. We had fun playing “Frogger” to get across the streets :) Went to the last half of playtime when we got back. These kids make me so happy! Found Vino, my LifeDance president, and she did some henna on my arm for me. She did it free hand in about 8 min. and it was amazing! Did some last min. packing and went to movie night. It was a Tamil movie, it was long, but just so good to be with the kids. I was nervous about having to say goodbye to them. I felt like I couldn't hold them, touch them, look at them enough. Tried to sit with different groups. Went back to the hostel with the kids and had to say goodbye. I was doing okay until my dear Angel, from LifeDance, hugged me. Then I lost it and couldn't stop. I went to the top floor of the girls hostel and hugged them all. They were all so sweet and told me not to cry and to be happy. They have to say so many goodbyes, they are so wise for their ages in this way. Especially hard to say goodbye to my dear Theerthi. Finally pulled myself away. Went to boys hostel and said goodbye to those that were awake. Watched “Recess” and ate chocolate cake with Kaylee to cope :) Hard, but good day.
Left by 7:15 am for church with all of my luggage. Fast and testimony meeting was good as usual. Primary lesson was okay. Lots of distractions today. We read lots of stories and gave out treats. The branch president thanked Kaylee and I for teaching primary and we said goodbye to our church friends, Daniel, David, and Vijay. Kaylee and I then went to Vennila Mary's home for the day. Said goodbye to Anna, Lily, and Dale. Vennila was so sweet and welcoming! We spent some time rearranging bags, she fed us lunch and dinner, we chatted, played games, made cookies, and read a book of her life story. She is an incredible woman who has been through so much! Left for the airport at 11 pm. So glad we got to spend the day with her! In the Chennai airport, we ran into a man we had met at the beach one time at Mammallapuram and he recognized us! So we sat and talked with him before our flight and during the layover before our next flight. I was so tired and actually slept a lot on the first flight. It was 10 hours long. Had a 4 hour layover in Frankfurt. The second flight at 8.5 hours. There was a lot of empty seats so got to sit by Kaylee. This flight felt very long though. Made friends with a Norwegian man that we talked to on our next layover. Last flight was 3 hours on a tiny jet. We had beautiful views of the mountains on the way in! Many ups and downs on this long journey home! Glad I had a friend to do it with! Mom and dad greeted me with balloons—they are so cute :) Kaylee's whole family came and surprised her! I showed mom and dad everything I had gotten in India before bed.
It still feels weird to be home at times. There is toilet paper in every bathroom, I can plug things in without an adaptor, I can brush my teeth with sink water and hot water comes right out of the faucet. Sometimes when someone turns out the lights I think the power has gone out. I can walk to church. We are so blessed in America to live in such a land of plenty! Yet, many things are also the same. The Spirit can be felt anywhere and the Gospel is true everywhere. People are people everywhere and children are always children. Everyone is a child of God.
What an incredible journey it was! I learned so much and I became a better and stronger person. I made many weaknesses into strengths and made many strengths even stronger. I learned more about independence, humility, sharing, patience, a greater sense of motherhood, the power of physical touch, dedication to the most important things in life, leaving regrets behind, and a greater passion for humanitarian service. I learned a greater respect for other cultures and religions and can now learn new names much quicker! I learned to become instant friends with everyone I met, how to be more observant, and be happy with who I am. I can now more easily go with the flow, make my situation positive, and be more spontaneous. I now even enjoy spicy food, and will eat tomatoes, peppers, and watermelon by themselves! :) I know my life will forever be different because of this experience.
As my henna is fading and I am almost finished taking my malaria pills, I feel as though the last bits of India are slipping away. However, I know many things will never leave me. I met so many of God's beloved children and created unending friendships. I have a journal, many pictures, and videos. Many things remind me of my time in India and I know that this will continue to happen. And most importantly, I have my memories. And these I am eternally grateful for. I take away with me, overall, a greater and deeper understanding of love and its power. Even as I settle back into daily life, I know that these children and this experience will never leave me because part of my heart was left in Tamilnadu, India.