New Year's Eve! Breakfast was fried eggs, but it was like they had been scrambled before being fried, toast with mixed fruit jam, and some interesting sweet stuff that looked just like sweet potatoes but definitely wasn't. Then we heard two lectures that each tested my ability to understand Indian accents. The first was about the Caste System in India and the next was about the history of Christianity in India. They were both really informative, though. Then we took a tour of UTC's library and archives, which was incredible! They have thousands of books from the early 1800s- the earliest I saw was 1809, which is very impressive for a seminary in a non-Christian, developing country.
After lunch we drove one and a half hours outside the city. It was so interesting to see the country, with palm trees growing above vineyards and cows, goats, and sheep strolling through the red grass. We drove through two or three village centers which was eye-opening but also awkward because our bus has huge windows and literally and figuratively has "TOURIST" written in red letters on the side of it.
I felt like I was inside a zoo: lots of staring and pointing. Anyways, we eventually came to a little church building in a poor village (not a slum, but definitely impoverished). We took our shoes off before entering.
When my eyes had adjusted to the dim room, I saw that it was filled with dozens of people: women in saris, children in a mix of clothing styles, and maybe five to ten men standing at the back of the room. It was a branch of Glades Covenant Church's Community Development Project, which includes things like parenting classes, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, education for children, teaching better sanitation, etc.
A small group of girls sang us a song, we probably prayed, and then we were able to interact with them. Everyone wanted a handshake or a high five, and maybe 1/10 people spoke any English, which made things interesting. One MOPer had brought markers, colored pencils, and stickers, so the kids were very excited to get those. I learned, though, that it might be a better idea to give gifts like this to the adult leader and have them distribute them because I saw kids with three markers and two pencils behind their back hold out their hand for another one. Kids are kids in every country! An hour later it was time to go, and I was ready. It was hot and stuffy in that room, and also emotionally tiring.
The sun was setting on our ride home and it was super pretty! More orientation type stuff after dinner because we haven't finished it all yet, and then it was time for church! We thought it started at 11 pm, so we got there at 10:40, but really someone started playing intro music on the piano at 11:30. It's a huge church, St. John's, with plaster walls and dark brown posts and ceiling. At the front was a gate-like divider and its latticework was woven with fresh yellow and white flowers and more Western Christmas decorations. By counting the pews and making some educated guesses, I estimate that there were at least 500 people there, all the women in saris of every color and pattern. Halfway through the sermon, the church bells tolled midnight.
The thing about India is that you hardly ever go more than a few minutes without a car honking or dog barking. But that night, as soon as it became 2015, the only things I heard were fireworks, church bells, cheering, and fireworks. Well, the sermon too, I guess. Just because 2014 was over doesn't mean the service was. Ohhhhh no.
We did communion, all 500 ish of us. I must admit, they had it down to a science, but it still took the better part of an hour. I had to watch other people so I would know what to do: walk up in line, kneel, accept the bread, stay kneeling, drink the wine, go back to your pew. Except it wasn't bread but a wafer, the kind that dries out your mouth and then dissolves. And the wine was real wine, except super sweet. There was one cup with wine, so after the pastor held it to your mouth he wiped it off for the next person. Sanitary, right?
There were just a few more readings and songs after that, but it still didn't end until 2:00 am, meaning none of us got in bed until 3. And keep in mind that we were all still recovering from jet lag and the lack of sleep on the plane ride, too. It's okay, though. Adrenaline and excitement are powerful substitutes for sleep. Anyways, that was Day 2! Hasta luego.