We spoke about our upcoming trip to India with our kids on Sunday, and on hearing about all the delights in store for us, Gabriel said, “Je n’ai jamais assister à une aventure.” (I’ve never attended an adventure before). We had just gotten done having lunch with our friend, Hisill, who was in Paris for work – and with whom we’ll be staying in Chennai. I was still digesting everything he’d proposed for our pleasure trip when Gabriel piped up with his comment. And something about attacking this adventure with children in tow had me nodding my head in agreement. Me neither, kid!
I mean, yeah. There were those two years in Taiwan and the two years traveling to Asia for work. And there was that year in Africa and all that, but mah goodness! It’s one thing to endure a less-than-pampered existence on one’s own. (A person can bear anything for a day, says my friend Andrea). It’s another thing to bear it with kids.
(Jobby and Hisill, I don’t think you read my blog, but if you happen to chance on this post, don’t think for an instant that I don’t want to go! I’m just tackling my fears publicly).
So we already told our friends we wanted to go to the orphanage through the charity associated with our church. There are only 15 boys there and we plan to bring our lego collection (it’s huge), and are collecting money, clothes, and school supplies from members of our church and friends who care to donate. We also plan to spend a day at the home for children with AIDS. You can read a little about this – and even donate – on their Facebook page: Blood Brothers. We’re collecting things for them, too, and the kids know that this trip is their Christmas present. We are going to give, not get. (If this sounds saintly, please know that I wear sainthood like a pair of too-tight jeans). 🙂
We will also make a day trip to the former French colony, Pondicherry, and perhaps make a few stops at the nearby ocean to swim in places where it would be acceptable for a woman to wear a bathing suit.
All amazing, right? So what has me gulping a little is the plan to visit Jobby and Hisill’s hometown, Kerala. It looks like this.
There are lots of waterways where you can take a several-day tour via houseboat.
So gorgeous! There are even promises of riding elephants and spending Christmas day in a cabin somewhere there. The only hitch is that to get there, we have to take an overnight train. I asked Hisill what the conditions were like on the train, and he said, (laughing. Hisill is always laughing), “Dirty! Everything is dirty in India. Perhaps you should warn your kids.” He nearly rolled his Rs with his strong Indian accent, and Matthieu wondered at my deer-in-headlights look.
“And the bathrooms on the train?” I ventured.
“Dirty!” he exclaimed with a flourish.
I don’t know what it was about that little piece of information that had me quaking in my shoes. But perhaps I was envisioning one of my kids trying to do his business while squatting over a filthy toilet on a moving train. I envisioned the same scenario with “Delhi Belly” – that nearly certain bout of stomach distress from being in a place that’s “dirty!” (with a flourish). And I was laying awake at night, thinking about what else I would need to bring:
Disinfectant wipes – I hate the way they smell – baby wipes, hand sanitiser, lice treatment? I’m going to have to braid Juliet’s hair. Oh! Maybe we can buy those cheap cotton Indian scarves to put down on the sleeping bunk to protect us from the dirt. And what about my mask for sleep apnea? I can do without it the night we’re on the train, but what about the houseboat? Surely there will be no electricity there. And what if one of the kids pushes another into the river and a crocodile comes and eats him. What if we meet this!
I have an especially active imagination at three in the morning, and my anxieties went into overdrive at the thought of all this. My husband’s brother took his wife and two kids to India a couple years ago and he didn’t even have the benefit of local friends to guide them. He had never lived in Asia or Africa. And they traveled everywhere around India by train. So it appears to me that I am a great fraud setting myself up as an adventuress because I falter at the thought of dirty bathrooms.
Until I remind myself that courage is not the absence of fear, but the resolve to go through with the very thing you fear. And then I look at the pictures of where we’re going, and think about our friends, the orphans, the AIDS home, the adventure our kids will get to have, and yes – the character building that will go along with it, the beautiful, amazing sites – the fact that we get to seize life by the reins and ride into the fray …
Oh, heavens. Life is so good. Adventure is so good. What have dirty bathrooms to say in the equation?
If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! (Proverbs 24:10)