Now into the swing of life in India, specifically in Panjim in Goa on the west coast. Have fully settled into my new room and am very comfortable. Antonio and Joanita Colaco (Indian Portuguese Catholics) are very nice and friendly people and they love the Lord, we often meet for prayer, which is really great. They also have a large TV where Antonio invites me to watch a little cricket with him, especially when India or England are playing, we have a lovely time, we don’t always understand what each other says, but we do laugh together, I am sure at times both think ‘what in the world is he talking about’ ha ha. It reminds me of the Italian au pair who Nicky Gumble of Alpha talks about, she did not fully understand English and when disciplining the children she meant to say ‘What on earth are you doing?’ but when she said it, she said ‘What are you doing on earth?’ I think there is a biblical message there somewhere! As an added bonus, Antonio’s flat has an AC, very nice to cool down sometimes, my room just has a ceiling fan, but I am very happy and just thankful that I am blessed with what I have. There is also a Hindu lady called Sidi who lives in the flat below me, well educated and speaks good English, very nice lady.
This diary note focuses on the day to day living here in Panjim. My day starts about 7am when at home. When I awake I thank the Lord for my nights sleep and the yet unknown gifts of the day that He will bless me with, put on my cotton lunghi (like Gandhi), walk a short distance outside to the front of the building to fill my water bottles with cooking water from a tap, it is only available for use between 6 – 9am then it cuts off, I have no filter for drinking water so for safety sake I normally purchase 5 litres of bottled water when I go to town. Then I make a cup of tea, and settle down for prayer and bible reading on the veranda, until about 10am. The veranda is an extra space which Antonio and Joanita kindly has allowed me to use, totally unexpected but a pure blessing, it just has a concrete floor which has now been swept and scrubbed, have found some disused and old furniture of chairs and tables and bought some colourful bamboo matting so it is very comfortable and nice for studying, use as a prayer room and teaching Alpha, also have the starting of a Christian library, have put the buzz around to collect in any free books that anyone would like to donate, none yet! Then change into shorts, shirt and flip-flops and walk down rather a steep road into the town of Panjim, about a kilometre, where I go and introduce myself to people, and engage them in conversation. If I see the opening in the conversation then I evangelize and tell them of the Gospels, of course it does not always happen and unless I am invited into dialogue then I do not force it, to be effective it has to be natural.
Prayer walking is a great and rewarding activity as I am sure many of you know, just praying for people who are on the streets sleeping, homeless, begging, or just high on drink and drugs. It is rare that I give money to beggars unless they have obvious disabilities, never give to children as invariably their parents or guardians are around the corner to take it off them. Will however go and buy small amount of food for those who look in desperate need, give them a smile and sit with them a while just in fellowship. Will also go into dives and bars, purchase a bottle of water and quietly just sit, read a scripture reading and pray. It is not really possible to do anything directly for people who over indulge in alcohol and drugs, unless of course they ask, even then it is difficult, and It is certainly not about judging them or their lives, but I know prayer will help. Would add here, that I tell you these things, not to boast, but just to show you a simple prayer life of where one can help others.
Have found a Christian group that I am comfortable with, known as the New Life Fellowship (Pastor Archangel), this is the group I told of in diary note 2. Sunday service last week lasted for three hours and the time seemed to just fly by. So Sunday is with them, then on Tuesday evenings is the prayer meeting for one and a half to two hours, then on Thursday evenings there are different things happening, like visiting preachers or teachers which is always interesting to be part of. Weds is home group which I confess I have not got involved with yet. Other days are filled with field trips away from home, sometimes for 3 or 4 days, will comment in the next diary note on those that have taken place so far.
Cleaning of my room and the veranda (terrace) is done by me, the maid of the Colaco’s – landlords, does a little work so she can earn a little extra, I pay her £1.30 (100 rupees) per month for sweeping and scrubbing the veranda floor which is 25ft x 18ft so quite sizable. She appreciates the extra way to earn a little more money without it being seen as charity, so everyone is happy. My personal room is tiled so is easy to keep clean; it is only 15 ft x 10 ft including the small kitchen and toilet/shower room, hardly a massive area. Laundry is done each evening at main shower times, its important not to have dirty clothes around due to quick infestation, so have got into the routine that bathing times are also clothes washing times, this includes sheets which are changed weekly and towels every 3rd or 4th day.
Concerning food, have found a great home family restaurant, only open lunch time, which does a really good biryani and a samosa for 42 rupees (58p) uses very little fat or salt in their cooking process and certainly no guee which is the India animal fat oil, nice but lethal for cholesterol, so I have a take away maybe twice a week. There are a few other restaurants which I now trust so use them for various Indian type dishes. Others times I cook for myself, vegetables, pasta’s, packet soups (no room to make), eggs and eat lots of fruit, all of which keeps me regular if you know what I mean. Have also found a source for wholemeal bread, so able to make sandwiches when not eating the Indian chapattis, nans, or the likes. Sometimes the vegetables are just cleaned and eaten in a raw state. I use small 10gram butter portions in containers, they are ideal for frying eggs and with pastas etc in addition to sandwiches, that way I do not have fat around which will attract the insects. Immediately after each meal all utensils are washed, dried and stored in open air so they are visible to ensure no infestation. All food items are kept in sealed clear containers and never stored in cupboards (not that I have any) so once again infestation can be seem immediately. Have no hot water for washing up so use cold but with washing up liquid, not using fat makes it easier to keep clean.
So there we have it, the cleaning, eating and regular day type activities, excluding prayer and leading Alpha, the latter of which has not yet started. There are of course other things that go on but basically that’s it, much the same as we would do in the UK. But from experience it is necessary to not have dirty kitchen, dining and laundry items left around as that will cause infestations and thus leads to health and hygiene problems. Also as far as possible to use cotton clothing items which are much better in this climate and more comfortable.
Outside where I live, there is a small Hindu temple of Ganesha (Gunapathi) one of the Hindu Gods, not always manned but open. A few days ago there was a minor type festival and people were coming at different times to pay homage and to feed Ganesha. A Hindu priest came and prepared incense, fruits, leaves and a mixture of some type, each person took and left it at the feet of Ganesha and said their prayers. Also the people themselves had a drink which was informed to be the saliva of Krishna one of the main Hindu Gods, mmmmm I thought not for me thank you, ha ha but they seem to enjoy.
Have agreed with Antonio and Joanita to take the room and veranda (terrace) for a year, to include having occasional guests to stay, they have agreed so I am very happy with that. Guests staying will get only the basic needs, of a space on the veranda, a mattress to lie on, a pillow and blanket, and possibly a mosquito net which I am working on. The building is a good stone building and quite sophisticated, has a clean black tiled stairway, is well decorated inside and out, with coconut trees in the inner courtyard and front grounds with a flower border outside. It is located in a built up area, but from the veranda you can just see the sea and ships. So Luke Ingledow and John get yourselves ready! This of course is only where part of my time is spent, others times is spent in outside villages with more primitive type surrounds.
The bus station (Kadamba) is used for most local travel, it is about 3kms away, whilst there are rickshaws, taxi or bike transport available at fairly low cost, I mostly walk, saving on cost, keeps one fitter, better also to get to know your way around, gets a little sweaty sometimes though, in the heat of the day especially. Bus journeys are always within about 20p where ever you go, even a journey up to 50kms away. Forty seater buses are normally crammed with twice that many, how the conductor collects money is just masterful, he seems to know everyone who has to pay even though it is difficult for him to see them when they get on with so many already on the bus, he gets very tough with those people trying to pay a lesser fare, he knows where they get on so is able to know. The bus stops and starts by the conductor whistling at high pitch, all it is always noisy the bus driver know his conductors whistle and responds quickly, incredible to witness and my explanation does not really do it justice.
The evening and night times I confess, can get a little lonely when there is nothing going on, don’t have a TV but there again that is no real loss. When I get a little bored, it is time to pray and have a chat with God who I know is always there. Psalm 23 is good to recite, also John 14:15-21 is good, am trying to commit this to memory, these readings quickly pull me up again. Of course I miss my family, having two sons and family living close by in the forest tends to spoil one, when they are not around the corner to go and see or my third son and family and my daughter who live away are always easily available on the phone. Not forgetting all my church family whom I love and miss. But the loneliness and boredom lasts for just a few minutes, just have to get on with what is a wonderful gift of life.
This ends diary note 3, dated 27th February 2011