Corey's parents are visiting us in India for 10 days. His mother was kind enough to share her thoughts about the first their trip so far.

Lisa writes:

My experiences in India have been so varied I don’t really know where to begin, especially since I am not exactly a writer. It goes without saying that my personal highlight of the trip was exiting the Visakhapatnam airport and seeing Corey and Gina for the first time in over a year. Relief and joy were immediate emotions as we hugged and it was a great feeling to actually see them in person instead of through a computer screen.

We enjoyed our first authentic Indian meal at a nearby restaurant before the long journey to Koraput in a hired vehicle. I was overcome with exhaustion from only a few hours of sleep in several days of air travel and layovers but was too interested in the surroundings to care. We were very happy to finally arrive at Corey and Gina’s home and enjoyed a restful first night.

The next day was good from all perspectives since it was our Christmas celebration. We made cut out cookies and treats for evening enjoyment as we conversed and caught up on happenings both here and in our lives in the U.S. It was great fun to exchange gifts and see the delight of Corey and Gina upon opening the simple surprises brought to them from home.

Our stay in Koraput will be ending today and we are then on to Chilika Lake and ending in Bhubaneswar. In what sounds like a relatively short six days in this vibrant village in India, I have seen much and learned more.

What stands out most to me is the extreme contrast between the dusty, litter-filled streets and the gorgeous bright colors worn by the women. The saris and salwar kameez draped on Koraput women looked like regal garments. Many were embellished with sparkling sequins in beautiful patterns. Others were not as fancy but just as striking in their beauty. Above all, the rich colors of the flowing fabrics captivated me. They made any and all women of all ages and sizes look striking, even the elderly and frail.

Another fascinating wonderment that I quickly discovered was the sheer joy on the faces of the beautiful children of Koraput when we walked by. Some came running up to us just to get a better look at the new foreigners that were walking their streets but many loved to wave and shout excitedly “Hi” or “Bye”. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment when I could reach in my goodie bag of trinkets and “chocolate” from America and pass these simple treats out to each patient child.

All I could think about was how totally happy and joyful these children were with the simplest of things.

Certainly a highlight is the adventure that we took today. Our first stop was in Damanjodi at the bamboo temple. This is almost indescribable in its wonder and beauty. It was a solemn temple completely in nature as we strolled through the huge grove of bamboo and ancient trees.

Our experience was heightened even more by our participation in an authentic Hindu ritual! After a very scenic drive, we arrived at Deomali where we ascended the tallest peak in Orissa. This was quite a feat and I felt pretty darn good that this old gal made the 2,000 feet elevation gain climb! The view from the summit was breath taking.

We were fortunate to be here over New Year as this is a special time to Indian people. Never before have I been greeted with so many handshakes accompanied by “Happy New Year” greetings! There were also colorful, intricate patterns and designs painted in the entryway of many homes with the English words “Happy New Year” displayed proudly.

I tried to “blend” in during my brief stay here by adopting some of the customs of the Indian women. The adornments seem never-ending for the Koraput women and this adds to their striking appearance. I applied my daily bindi and sindoor to my face, wore the mangal sutra necklace and colorful glass bangles, and even had mehendi applied to my arms and hands. The highlight, however, was being outfitted in a proper sari for the SOVA New Year’s party. Who would have thought that six-plus yards of fabric could look so lovely when properly draped and tucked?

I will never forget the moment while at the SOVA picnic that I was asked to speak into a microphone in front of the attending audience about my experience here in India. Since I have always felt I was a terrible speaker, my first reaction was to run and hide! I surely did not want to embarrass Corey so I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and spoke. It was all a blur in my memory, but Corey and Gina assured me I did OK.

I would be remiss in my accounting of my India experience if I did not mention the rather crazy conditions when traveling by vehicle. I realized this immediately as we exited the Visakhapatnam airport upon our arrival. Multiple types of vehicles – cars, trucks, rickshaws, bicycles and many, many motorbikes converge in a seemingly random “pattern” onto an already narrow road (at least by my American standards). Add in the wandering cows and dogs and it seems chaotic to say the least. The horns begin their loud but cheery symphony that accompanies any passenger or foot-traveler wherever you go. At first I was shocked and somewhat stressed, but I discovered that there seemed to be a general courteous flow of traffic no matter the size of vehicle or speed of travel. I marvelled at this coordinated effort to allow all travellers to utilize the road system. Things seem quite a bit different for us in the U.S. where drivers are more impatient than ever. The result was a strange but welcome sense of relaxation while traveling that I usually do not experience back home. How ironic!

I must say that seeing the cows, pigs and dogs running wherever they pleased, and the obvious issues that accompany that, was a bit shocking to say the least. The women doing laundry in rivers and streams was a bit difficult for my grasp as well. My American life did not prepare me for these sights, but I realize that one of great things about these people is their ability to adapt to what their seemingly meager lives have in store for them. These are very strong people with even stronger work ethics. To witness women carrying huge loads of sticks, baskets or urns on their heads in bare feet on the side of the road… to see the men digging deep ditches with primitive hand tools…to drive by as people were bent over working feverishly in the fields harvesting whatever was growing…to see the men walking on the road heavily burdened by their load carefully balanced over their shoulders… all of these were a revelation of the human spirit that is alive and well here in Koraput.

I did my best to adapt to some Indian ways of life including squat toilets, bucket baths, and bucket laundry by hand, but I will be very glad to be back to the basic comforts of our American home. I will always include the Indian children in my prayers as I hope for their better future. While I am very happy to have had this experience, I find myself very proud to be an American. Thank you to Corey and Gina for being such gracious hosts and showing us a window into your Indian adventure.