I was only in India for two weeks but I really felt at home their weird huh, considering I was born and raised in New Zealand and had never been to India before. Being part of a missionary trip with Leprosy Mission New Zealand was an amazing and life-changing experience. I learnt a lot, more than I expected which is ironic because after working for Leprosy Mission for the past two years I thought I ‘knew a lot’ about leprosy – turns out I don’t!
Being my first missionary trip I was excited and full of anticipation, stepping on to the plane was great since we had been planning it for the past six or so months. The 12 hour flight to Guangzhou, China where we had a three-hour stop over was too long especially at 5am in the morning. We ended up waiting outside the coffee shop for it to open, an hour and half later it opened at 630am and we dropped in for a quick breakfast snack and caffeine fix.
Jumping on to the plane and off to Delhi we went, arriving in around 11am local time. Walking out of the airport was surreal for me as I had been dreaming of this day for a long time. The first thing I noticed were crowds of people outside the international terminal waiting for their loves ones, friends or colleagues to arrive. Stepping out in to the fresh Indian air was a great sigh of relief for me as I had finally made it to India. On a quick side note, before becoming a Christian I always told my family and others that I would love to travel everywhere and anywhere in the world except India because it looked so dirty and ‘ruthless’, well our God sure knows how to turns things around! Cutting a long story short, God has turned all my past situations around and utilised them in my Christian walk.
Weaving through the hustle and bustle of Delhi for the first time was a real thrill, auto rickshaws ruled the road along with motorbikes filed to capacity with three and some with five passengers – I had never seen anything like it! With the window down I started to understand the smell everyone had ‘warned’ me about, the ‘smell of India’ was definetly ripe in the warm air, it smelt a bit like the proofing room we used at Pizza Hut where I worked at high school – a warm doughy smell filed the air mixed with cow manure. No roadrules applied with people overtaking and driving towards us on our side of the road, I peered at our driver to see his reaction but he didn’t seem fazed so I didn’t ‘raise the alarm’, I just sat back and enjoyed the city streets pass me by.
We arrived at The Leprosy Mission Trust India guest house about 45 minutes after leaving the airport and were greeted by a security guard opening the double armour gates out of a James Bond 007 movie – you know the bullet proof looking ones (see photo below). The guest house was very welcoming, the driveway was flanked by beautiful flowers and the trees were fill of chirping birds. Sunil, the on-site cook plus much more, came out to greet us and took our bags inside. Brent had told me about Sunil before we arrived at the guest house raving about his delicious authentic food – I couldn’t wait to try it.
We were given rooms at the opposite ends of the guest house each with an en-suite and two double beds pushed together then we were called for lunch. Sunil sure did live up to expectations by providing us with not only authentic but also delicious Indian food, we had chapatis’ chickpea curry, mutton and vegetable curry with rice – scrumptious! We then set out to the local Khan markets where the two guys could get a suit made and I could soak up the local shopping scene. We took an auto rickshaw to the market, it was so much fun and an experience in itself – winding through the roundabouts where no one abides by the roadrules, I felt a bit rebellious and nervously laughed a lot.
We spent a good hour and half in the tailoring store picking out fabric colours and types for Brent and Tom’s suits, it was like being in fabric heaven. Being in the tailoring brought back so many good memories from my childhood, our mother was a dressmaker and turned out rumpus room into her sewing room, we would spend hours after school and on the weekend playing with the scrap pieces of material. I remember one day jumping into a rubbish sack to fish out my favourite swatch of fabric, pink, and getting half stuck I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time as I was only about six but it would have been something like this is a nice way to go, being surrounded by fabric of all pretty colours, designs and patterns’ my sister pulled me out and I remember falling even more in love with fabric after that.
After much umming and arring and friendly persuasion by Brent I decided to get a shirt made, yes you guessed it in pink! We arrived home from shopping and enjoyed a lovely dinner cooked by Sunil then off to bed we went so we could get up early the next morning and fly to Patna and visit the Women’s Empowerment Project which Leprosy Mission New Zealand supports. If only I knew what I was in for …
The fruit of faith is love – Mother Teresa