A day in my (current) life in India

Well hello again from Bangalore, India. I know some of my friends have been wondering, just what it is that I do all day, so ...here is my day in pictures. For those of you who aren’t Christian or Catholic...well...welcome to the School of Mission.

6:43am – the Dash to Mass

A (sometimes very quick) dash to the chapel for morning mass. It’s only one floor down from our rooms but somehow people still manage to make it just in the nick of time. Including me (the current challenge that some of us have is that there are some nuns here for a retreat and they’re ALWAYS starting with the first song early. Like a whole 2 minutes early :).

So there you are closing your room door at 6:43am and all of sudden you hear the singing and are now sprinting. Think sounds of flip-flops echoing the halls...Ya you can see you enter the chapel barefoot hence all the shoes outside.

6:45am – Mass (yes everyday)

With the 30+ nuns that are staying at the retreat centre for this month, the chapel is packed and hot...so if you arrive just in time for the start, most of the seats are full. This is just as well for me cause I prefer to sit on the ground (on cushions). You can sit on the floor in the front or the back. This is the view I have at 6:45am from the back.

I’d like to point out that people have scarves on their heads, even on top of the nun’s head cover thingy!! So there I am dying of heat and can’t even turn on the fans when I see that they are cold!!! So I manage to cool off by leaning on the cold wall.

7:15-8:00am Quiet Time/Prayer Time

People either stay behind in the chapel, go to their rooms or go outside to walk and reflect/pray. Since I am so hot in the chapel in the mornings, I usually bust out of there right away and either go to my room or go for a walk around the grounds. It is really peaceful outside and it sounds like I am in a bird sanctuary/rainforest. Not that I’ve ever been to either, but what I’m saying is that I’m really grateful for the beautiful & peaceful surroundings.

8:00am Breakfast

Ok so breakfast is the toughest meal for me these days. I find myself dreaming (for real) of yogurt, granola, toast, fruit... REAL coffee. You can see on that someone tried to put a new ‘spin’ on the white round rice thingies by adding jam, ugh! The plate with the white sauce is mine, the white sauce is chutney.

8:45-9:30am Praise & Worship

Arriving in the classroom we usually find a message on the board from one of the girls. It’s usually funny. I like this msg cause it shows how obsessive we’re about food!!!

Praise&Worship is one of my fave parts of the day. Even if I’m totally grumpy about lack of sleep or the coffee & breakfast situation, this lifts my spirits!

We get to stand & move around, be silly sometimes...and the songs are good and uplifting. It’s an all around good time...(with a spiritual flavour). Feels like team building every day! Especially when we have to walk around and tell people “YOU are a blessing!” with direct eye contact and say it like we mean it...which we do!

10:45-11:15am Tea Break

I’ve given up on the milky tea and stale crackers they serve us at tea time, so every Sunday when we go out, I stock up on snacks I can store in my room such as apples, crackers and laughing cow triangle cheese. Yes processed cheese yummy! Beggars can’t be choosers. The tricky thing is we don’t have access to a fridge so any food we buy must be able to ‘keep’ – you might all find it of interest that the cheese does just fine unrefrigerated for week in mid 20’s weather!

11:15-1:00pm Session 2 (cont’d from Session 1)

Ya the topics often feel quite “heavy” especially the spiritually heavy ones, so the 2 sessions a day are more than enough...

When it gets too much, I sometimes find myself looking out the window like some jailbird and daydreaming about a beach past that palm tree ...

1:00 - 1:30pm Lunch

Most of our meals are veg. We get fish or meat maybe 2-3x/week. This dish happened to be one of the more exciting ones and had chicken...but tough I’m usually silent about the food while we eat, one of the girls at my table was quite exasperated saying “it would be nice if there was more than just chicken flavor in this, something other than cut up chicken bones”.

This actually makes me laugh but it’s SO TRUE!! The chicken pieces are not meaty at all... more bone than meat and, oh ya, it’s not skinless either... Anyway, please note red circle on the plate, aka “salad” (onion, cuke and carrot slice stack).

1:30-2:30 Free Time

I usually spend this time by: a) doing laundry (hand wash on the stone)
b) catching a nap (when topics are heavy duty)
c) reading or writing (sometimes on email)
d) All of the above
e) None of the above
f) :)just kidding...(a, b or c for real)

2:30-3:30pm Room Cleaning or Work Duties

I don’t think I need to go to much detail about room cleaning. I mean it’s dusting, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom, mopping...done! Now as for as work “duties” ...we are split into 4 groups and most people have to sweep and mop some section of the retreat house.

As you can see the brooms aren’t what we’re used to at home...and the hallways are long!! I took the pic of the tallest guy cause it was so funny... the tiny little broom... poor back!

As for me, I’m on the ”hospitality” team. We make cards and stuff for people’s birthdays & as "thank you" to all the speakers. Sometimes I wish I was on the sweep & mop team cause you don’t have to interact as much (if u don’t feel like it) but it’s also nice to have a creative outlet!

3:30-4:00pm Intercessions

Back to the chapel we go, like good little sheep. Intercessions is a time when we get together again to pray for various personal or world intentions. Intentions such as poverty in India, the Church, our loved ones, world peace, our own struggles, the sick, the dying etc. Each session has a theme.

People usually voice an intention/prayer out loud one by one and the rest join in prayer after that. This part of the day has stressed me out a bit cause I’m very new to this format and unsure how to word certain things.

After a month of being mute I finally opened my mouth, I felt like I was doing public speaking for the first time!! Heart beating like u wouldn’t believe.

Sometimes we collaborate on a particular intention or link it to something in the bible. It’s all a new thing for me so sorry if I’m not explaining it too well!

4:00-4:30pm Tea Break

The chances of the afternoon tea break having a better snack are slightly better so I generally head down & we hang out, chat, plan our recreational activities etc. After 4:30 everyone’s schedule can vary depending on whether they have cell group, sharing time, or free time (see below).

That brown thing I’m eating...and trying to pawn off on Dominic... it wasn’t very tasty at all. So I thought... ’hey there are 2 stray dogs around here, I’ll save it for them’... and when I found them (all excited about the tasty treat I saved for them)... guess what!?! Even THEY snubbed it!

4:30-5:30pm Cell Group or Sharing Time or Free Time

This is my cell group. The cell group leader is Sheila (in black &white). I’m caught with a mouth full of ice cream.

Cell Group means... we’re split into groups of 3-4 and each group has a cell group leader (staff/instructor). The point of the cell group is to discuss any topics we’re covering in the sessions, to answer any q’s we have, to bond and share our thoughts in a small group environment.

This happens 2x/wk. We usually meet in a room and talk (which I sorta hate) so I’m including a pic of all of us on a special ‘outing’ one day when it was one of girl’s bday.

Sharing Time means... 1 to 1 time with the cell group leader. Happens 1x/wk. This is an opportunity to share deeper issues, and sometimes is a ‘bawl fest’ for me (especially on those days that I’ve been super frustrated or confused or just feeling like “i’m not getting it!!”)... even though I sometimes dread it, it’s good... and good for me.

I’m not including a pic of me puffy eyed... the pale and pasty complexion you see in most pics is bad enough!

Free time means... well, free time! Yipee!! This is the time when I write or chat with people or we go for a tender coconut just outside the property gate. The coconut water (as they call it) is delish!!

Then he cracks it in half and you get to eat the guts which is the best and healthiest snack I can have...esp if tea break snack is not exciting...

Sometimes this hour also means reflecting on stuff that’s going on, i.e. sit in the chapel, journal, read a book or stuff like that... depends on the week. But my head is usually fried by now & I need a head-break.

5:30-7:30 Free Time – Most Days...

This is when I try and do something active like take Jimmy out for a run or walk or we go and play basketball or handball! Being physically inactive most of the day drives me crazy, though I’m getting a major MENTAL workout everyday!!

Jimmy saves the day man...aww pets are the best aren’t they? Anyway there’s usually about an hour window to do something active...

The B-ball or H-ball crew...sports I never thought I’d be into but it’s great to turn off the head and just PLAY!!

Then... it’s BATH time and this is when you pray (literally!!!) that you get hot water. The water heats up through solar panels so no sun = no hot water. Then there are also some tap issues so sometimes some rooms get hot water and some don’t.

I took this pic on a night when I went knocking on a buddy’s door to get some hot water. It was a hair washing day so I splurged and got TWO buckets!! Use the little pink jug to pour it on yourself... fun times, one handed hair washing... but the hot water is MUCH appreciated!!

7:30-8:00pm Back to the chapel we go, for Rosary... yes, everyday

I won’t include pics since we’ve seen enough of the chapel already... it’s a half hour when we all burn it to the chapel, freshly showered, wet heads, sometime in our pj’s and say the rosary. This is the time when we’re most likely to get the giggles... I don’t know why but sometimes... as I’ve told some of you, this lady ‘makes us’ sing some song that no one knows so we sound like dying cats at it’s just SO funny! Once, the first person bursts out, it’s game over...

8:00-8:30 Dinner

I feel like I’ve complained enough already re: food! Overall it’s generally good, but no variance. Breakfast, lunch, dinner all seem to blend in my head... and you know it’s bad when the Indian folks complain.

I’m just missing FRESH veggies, fruits, eggs, etc... and chicken or fish that’s bigger than half the size of my palm. The pic here has rice (as per usual), lentils, and beans. So ya it’s good, but not continuously...

8:30pm and onwards...

Usually the day is over. There have been times when we’ve had an extra session (shoot me now) or a game night (ok!). But usually this is when people either go hang out in their rooms, the chapel or roam the hallways for a bit. It’s quiet time by 9:30ish and sarryously (:-) we’re all so dead, we just take it easy and go to bed. I get on email or sometimes talk to friends/family... and I get homesick too!!! This ain’t a cake walk!

Ok, some final RANDOM thoughts

  • Another article will have to be written for my SUNDAYS. Those are the “fun” days when we get to go out for food and just do something other than adhere to the sched!! Fun pics too... of something other than the chapel.
  • Speaking of the sched... it has been a real exercise in “surrender” to follow this schedule so strictly, with so little control over what I do and when.
  • The food situation (and lack of control over it) has been an even bigger surrender... I’ve had some GRUMPY days.
  • If it seems like we do church stuff and pray a lot...ummm ya, I think so too!! This is another thing that I’ve just had to adapt to and take it as part of my new/current reality
  • I guess there is something positive in having this solid structure schedule and that is that although there seems to be zero control, at least I don’t have to think about “what to do next”.
  • Speaking of “what to do next” sometimes I get a hot flash and anxiety about what to do next once I come home...it’s really stressful.. coming back to... well... no job & no place to live... mom, dad... i’m BAAACK!!
  • But part of being here is about learning to trust the process and all that so when I get a hot flash I turn on the fan and refocus asap!
  • Overall I’m really glad to be here, but it has definitely been challenging. Staying in touch with people back home has been really great...
  • Things I like about being here: wearing whatever I want, no makeup, real great people, learning new stuff both spiritually and intellectually, doing personal work (a lot more than would be possible if I’m working and living at home), new culture, Jimmy!!
  • Things I miss: my family and friends, having control over my life, my dog Mala, fresh crisp air, the forest, the water, greens and other food like mom’s chicken noodle soup!!, COFFEE, my bed, umm wine...

Kat Starosta

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