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This young lady lives with Sam’s. She served us tea twice a day, as is Indian custom. While we were there, Sam’s mother–the shepherd’s wife–spotted a young man who she thought would be a good match for this young lady. So Sam’s mom contacted this boy’s parents who contacted Sam’s, who are acting as this young lady’s parents. So, one evening the young lady got all dressed up–she took quite a long time to do this–and Sam took her over to the young man’s house so that he could “look her over”. Apparently he and his mom liked what they saw, so marriage arrangements are proceeding. They will be married in several months.
My shy little buddy Judson
Sweet young Sonya
Sam and Craig talking
My wonderful little sidekick, Jason, helping his mom in the kitchen by grating cheese
Playing cricket in the living room
Hey, we were using a soft ball!
Craig gazing at the same stars that Rachel is gazing at
We went to India to visit my good friend Sam who lived across the street from my family for several years. He married an American lady and moved back to India.
I am going to do something a little bit different for this trip. I am going to photoblog topically instead of chronologically. So, here ya go. Hope you enjoy.
Playing rook in the Thai food court in the Bangkok airport. It’s a really sweet little out of the way place in the basement. We were about the only Caucasians there. It was really cheap Thai food.
Craig chatting with some Sikh men from India in the Bangkok airport
“A stellar black hole much more massive than theory predicts is possible has astronomers puzzled. Stellar black holes form when stars with masses around 20 times that of the sun collapse under the weight of their own gravity at the ends of their lives. Most stellar black holes weigh in at around 10 solar masses when the smoke blows away, and computer models of star evolution have difficulty producing black holes more massive than this. The newly weighed black hole is 16 solar masses. It orbits a companion star in the spiral galaxy Messier 33, located 2.7 million light-years from Earth. Together they make up the system known as M33 X-7.”
I know the atheists aren’t going to like this, but I offer this as yet more evidence of how prone to error cosmic calculations are. Get one small factor wrong and you start seeing impossible things. I applaud science for trying to figure our world out–I benefit incredibly from their endeavors and find it extremely fascinating.
However, this fallibility is why I find it absurd to think that fallible science somehow disproves the literal existence of an infallible, eternal God who has given us His infallible, eternal Word, which has never been shown to be wrong. Many times people have thought that the Bible was indeed wrong based upon science, archaelogy, or history, but a few years later new discoveries have shown that the Bible is faithful and reliable.
(I am slowly working my way through The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. It is an incredibly fascinating book that is challenging my thinking. However, one of the things that I am amazed at is how his very book does so much to support a Creationist perspective.)
We went to a very interesting choral concert Saturday night. It was at Chiang Mai University. It was a choir that was practicing to compete in the World Choir Games. They sang a diverse range of songs from madrigals to American folk.
The two baritones performing “Tell Him”
My favorite of the night was a tenor solo performance of “Why God, Why?” from Miss Saigon (a musical that ran for an entire decade with more than 8000 performance between Broadway and the Theatre Royal in London). It’s the first time a secular solo was done so well and feelingly that my eyes actually filled with tears. I could feel the deep soul cry of asking God, “Why?”
My second favorite was the baritone solo “Una furtiva lagrima” (from L’Elisir d’amore) by Mozart. My third was probably the baritone solo by the director, “This is the moment” (from Jekyll & Hyde). I also enjoyed the choir singing “Misty”, “You Raise Me Up”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was an unusual Broadway-style performance with drums thrown in and a touch of electric guitars. It also a quite depressing song that speaks of a very young man that threw his life away by murdering someone. It ends with a godless, hopeless cry of “Nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me”. It was quite sobering and sad.
I also enjoyed a very unusual arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. We Americans were highly amused by the ensemble performance of “Tuxedo Junction” (Glenn Miller). To start with, the main soloist for this song was wearing a tuxedo, had a beard, and had dark glasses–he was the epitome of trying to look like an Asian pop/movie star. Definitely the Bollywood look. But the really funny part was they were trying to sing southern style (” Way down south in Birmingham, I mean south in Alabam’”) but their Thai accent just didn’t quite fit. They couldn’t quite get the “th” sound of south and it came out sout. Let me hasten to add that their English was *excellent* throughout–I was highly impressed. However, this was one place, one part of American culture, that they just didn’t replicate very well. The ensemble that did “The Boy from New York City” did an exceptional job of portraying that song. The subject matter of the song was somewhat less than excellent, but they portrayed the content skillfully! *eyes roll*
Use of actors as an illustration to talk about the masks we put on (see Greek word hupokrisis which being translated means hypocrisy; means “to speak from under a mask”; it’s an acting term)
Shouldn’t be attached to material possessions because they are temporal
God is outside of time—eternal and unchanging
Equality among people
Our minds are unstable
Everybody has a responsibility in life to seek the truth
Close identification of the Word (11th guru) and God
Bad is when we make other things more important than God (this is in a way the root of all sin, from a Christian perspective)
God is not no-where, He is now-here.
We can talk to God, but we can only hear Him if we are one with Him (and Christians would clarify, submitted to Him)
Evils and incongruities of Hinduism: caste system and dead idols
God is not affected by sin
God is an impersonal set of attributes
We become part of God when we correctly know Him
All religions lead to God
Heaven and hell are in our mind—our condition of guilt
No supernatural miracles
There is no good and bad in this world (“It’s very complicated.” she hastened to clarify. Indeed it must be. They talked quite a bit about the importance of living a good life, including non-violence, charity, etc.)
Below are my rough notes of what they said. If you want a more organized, cogent presentation, check out Wikipedia.
This morning we got up quite early and left Dalat. One the way back to Saigon, we stopped at a waterfall. It had rained hard the night before and that morning and the river was a muddy swollen torrent:
Some of the more “adventuresome” ones walking underneath the waterfall on a flooded catwalk.
A hanging bridge across the river
Some people who lived on the river
We ate a wonderful breakfast of french bread, fish, eggs, and pork!
Arlin peacefully sleeping much to Phil’s chagrin
After we got back to Saigon, we went to the hospital to visit the man that had the stroke during the church service. He was unconscious while we were there but we had a good time of encouraging his family and praying for him. The hospital was nearly indescribable. The hallways were outdoors. Everything was built with bare block walls. 20-30 patients were in each room. The outdoor hallways were lined with the sleeping bags and miscellaneous possessions of the family members who were staying with people in the hospital. We had to don special sandals and a bright yellow lab coat to go in to visit the man.
A view through the window into a typical hospital room.
“We’re going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth.” –Barack Obama speaking to a church
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” –Jesus, in John 18:36
While I was in Hyderabad, India two weeks ago, Ganesh happened. We saw the signs building during the 10 day festival. People covered in pink dye danced in the streets to loud drums. They danced around huge elephant gods on the backs of trucks.
Devotees riding a decked out truck with an elephant god on the back
Dancing in the streets as we drove through this small town
Soaked and eating Haleem in a small Muslim restaurant in Hyderabad
So Sam and his boys loaded us up on motorbikes and we went downtown to watch the final climactic part of the festival, Ananta Chaturdashi. On the way, a drenching tropical downpour started which got us totally soaked. As we rode on the bikes, we passed 20-25 trucks laden with an elephant god and 10-30 dancing, drumming, screaming worshipers. The streets were packed with people walking, riding, driving, biking, etc toward the river.
It was also the month-long Muslim Ramadan fast and Hyderabad is 30% Muslim. So, Sam wanted to treat us to a special Muslim food that is made only during Ramadan–Haleem. So, we stopped in a Muslim neighborhood and pushed our way into a small hole-in-the-wall Muslim restaurant which was serving Haleem to hungry fast-ers who had gone the whole day without food. The Muslim men–it was exclusively men, no ladies–stared curiously back at us: four Indian men, two bearded Americans, and two unbearded Americans. Fortunately, we drank out of bottles of water we had brought. They soon brought out the Haleem along with some wonderful fried flat bread. This is what Wikipedia (1, 2) says about Haleem:
The rich haleem is a thick paste of lamb, cracked wheat, lentils and spices. It is slow cooked for at least 10 hours in the bhatti (an oven made with mud) until it gets to a sticky-smooth consistency, similar to mashed mince. It is served hot with lime wedges, coriander and fried onions as garnish. In India, haleem prepared in Hyderabad, during the Ramadan season, is very famous and is distributed all over the country.
Our meal of Haleem and associated dishes
It is wonderful stuff! It has a slightly lower viscosity than refried beans and is about the same color, but it tastes far different.
We trundled back out in the rain after sitting around hoping it would clear up. We watched as hundreds of thousands of devotees of the Hindu elephant god thronged the streets. Covered in pink dye and dancing frantically to beating drums, the devotees rode and followed caravans of trucks carrying humongous elephant gods to the river. Legend has it that the elephant god enjoys sleeping under the water. Cranes lined the waterfront to lift the gods off the trucks and place them in the water. Hindus sent tens of thousands of little elephant gods arcing through the air to land kersplash in the water. Street vendors hawked their snacks while Bollywood stars and politicians arrived to soak up the adulation of the crowds. The Muslim population walked by the outskirts of the festival in hurried silence, pausing every now and again to offer a quiet “Salaam Walekhum” to my bearded and apparently Muslim figure. Terrorism concerns—44 people were killed last month in terrorist bombings and 9.5 kg of RDX explosive is still missing—and rain made the festival minuscule compared to its usual size. Normally 23,000 gods are dumped in the river, but this year it was only 1,467. 30,000 police (some in riot gear) filled the streets, blocked off roads, and in some places outnumbered the worshippers!
The largest Ganesh idol of the festival. I had to stitch several photos together to get the whole thing.
A street vendor selling a spicy little snack mix in newspaper cones that we thoroughly enjoyed.
Here’s a video of the festival, including some pre-Ananta Chaturdashi festivities: