Saturday, November 08, 2008

Being Home and starting the wedding preperations!

I've been home for a month. I don't have a job yet, but I am so busy trying to arrange the wedding for this April, that I think I am lucky to not be working yet. So far I've voted for a president, found my dress, bought a pattern for my bridesmaids dresses, bought dozens of flower bulbs (which I will force start indoors before the wedding), talked with the priest, set the date for the church, sent out the "Save the date" things via email, demanded the "list of guests from his side", started studying NFP, checked out and blocked off some rooms for my guests at local hotels, and this morning I am going to look at rooms for the reception. Tomorrow I will work on the invitations. They will be homemade. So much cheaper.

Hopefully, my mom and I can find something and book it soon, because there aren't many places around here that serve such small weddings and we are kinda late in the game for booking a place now. Usually people book a year or six months before, so we're at the wire. We'll probably only have about 100 people at most who show up for the wedding and most places have a 200 people minimum. I don't want to pay for 100 more plates of food that won't be eaten, or all the linen table clothes, and place setting rentals either...

Also Jean-Baptiste and I are having huge problems finding a wedding registry that speaks English but is either in France or ships to Paris. Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

It's the End of the World As I know it!

Yeah, It's the end of the World as I now know it and I feel fine!

It is time.

The Poorva Express leaves tomorrow morning at 8:05 am from Howra Station and will arrive at about the same time in New Delhi on the 7th.

Poorva Express = 24 hours of grabbing and "Where you from?" molestation before I reach Delhi, but it will be my last train ride in India so I am just gonna suck it up!

In Delhi I will probably take a small walk down Main Bazaar to get myself some food for the day and a fresh bottle of water, it will be no fun carrying all my stuff with me but there is nowhere that I would trust leaving it for even 20 minutes.

Then I will negotiate a fair price for the Taxi to the Airport. About 10 minutes of acceptable grief.

After I arrive at the airport I hope to be pleasantly waiting around with my journal and thoughts and a good book until Midnight at which time I will board my flight heading non-stop to Chicago.

When I arrive in Chicago at 7:30 am on the 8th I will wait for my luggage and then lug it to the Metro. Which will take me to Union Station where I will wait around for the Empire Builder to leave at 2:15 pm.

Five Hours later I will be only 40 minutes from home! As I dismount the Empire Builder in LaCrosse Wisconsin and feel the cool October air and see and smell the season change, I will probably start crying and asking for a cheese burger.

My mom and hopefully most of my family will be there to put me back together again, and make me wait till I get home to the farm for that burger. So, 40 minute more until I see my farm again and smell my own cows and get howled at by Addie the Beagle.

God, I can hardly wait!

Aproximate transit time between me and my next Cheese burger: 24hr train + 30mn taxi + 15hr flight + 30 mn Metro + 5hr train + 40mn drive = 35 hrs and 40 minutes

Total time till next Cheese burger from start of travel: About 72

Next Cheese burger: PRICELESS

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I am grateful

I am grateful for:
My Faith
My Parents
My Siblings
My many friends and few relatives throughout the world who pray for me
The fact that in my country I am respected as a person
The fact that I was given an education
That I will always have someone I can call on to help me

That I have knowledge of how to keep myself healthy
That I will never have maggots crawling in any of my wounds
That I will never have rotten fingers that show their bones.
That my babies will not die from malnourishment,
nor AIDS, nor polio...
That I will never be addicted to drugs.

That I will never die alone
nor on the street
nor from a sickness without possibility of treatment
That when I die people will mourn me and respectfully dispose of my body.


I am so grateful.

I am so blessed.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

So many photos from Thailnad and India


That's JB's blog

By the way we are no longer dis-engaged. ; )

He asked me while we were riding an elephant.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


She has it. Out of shame she did not tell me.

Her baby girl, Rupa, died on Thursday 26th, June; 11am.

The nurses made her stay in the hall while her baby was taking its last breath.

The Hospitals in India do not give treatment to HIV patients.

They have to go to a 'special' clinic, to be sterilized, and then 'treated'.

She is in anguish.

I was to late.

The garbage to the right of where I live.

Street children bathing in the rain.

Regular early morning Calcutta.

Everything they own is in front of them.

They were very grateful for the bread.

Please help me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To Market

I've seen her and her two daughters on the sidewalk for the last 3 months. Everyday I would try to have a small conversation with her in my limited Bengali. She is 18 years old though she looks about 25, because of the cruelty of her life. She has no husband, but the first time I took her to meet the sisters, she put the crimson dash in her hair line to try and appear more 'respectable'. She loves her daughters more than anything.
She cried in front of a crowd of her peers while she tried to get me to take her baby.

She is a brave woman.

YOU are all going to help me help change her life.

Baby Rupa is 2 1/2 months old and has pneumonia in both of her lungs. She is the size of a small rag doll and even though she is in the Hospital with her Mother at her side, she is going to need special care for at least another year.

She is a beautiful baby with eyes that grab you.

YOU are all going to help me change her life.

I am going to write more about them, you will read it.

I am going to show you pictures of myself with this woman and her baby, and you are going to want to help her.

I am going to find work and a home for them, but in the mean time she will need money to help her support herself , her very sick baby, and her 3 year old.

She is not a prostitute. She might have been, I don't care.
She does not do drugs. She might have, I still don't care.

She lives on the street and everything she owns she can carry in one hand.

For money she picks through the refuse of the market and finding the odd garlic, or bit of ginger she cleans it and sells it .

This will all change.

You will all help her.

Won't you?

Friday, June 06, 2008

True Loving

Forgive me for not writing sooner I've been busy with so much!

Anways I have had so much happen this past month, new friends, old friends, misunderstanding, puppy dogs, mango eating, monsoon starting, my birthday, but what I would like to tell you about today is: a miracle!

Remember the woman I posted about who I rushed to Khalighat?
Well she is doing so well now! When she first arrived everyone was sure that she would die within a few hours. She was completely unresponsive, blood coming from her ears, several puncture/gash wounds on her head, a large open wound and infection in her right hand, broken ribs on her right side and a broken foot too.

We think she was shoved from a train.

Anyways, she went from completely unresponsive to; grinding her teeth and moaning for a week; to following us with her eyes but still grinding her teeth, to eating bread in milk and biting the spoon in half to; eating normal food; to sitting up with help; to talking; to sitting up and talking and eating by herself.

And what is more is that she recognized me!
She knew I was the one who had helped her when she was unconscious, she knew it was me who was singing in her ear to make her stop grinding her teeth, and she knew it was me, even when I had been too busy to visit her for 2 weeks, and suddenly appeared again to find her almost completely recovered.

When she recognized me I found the greatest treasure of my life.
I felt so completely rewarded by God, but most importantly I felt TRUE.
You probably have no idea what it is like.
I had been false, I had been doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.
You see, I knew that what I was doing was looked up to by a lot of people, and it gave my devilish pride a real rush. I wanted people to be impressed by my 'goodness', by how long I was staying, but now... It doesn't matter I don't need anymore recognition than that womans smile.
My life is true now.

God is True, God is Love, and He can work through anyone that lets Him. That knowledge humbles even me.


Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Friday, May 23, 2008

My Rosetta Stone

It seems like every day I tell a new proverb or story of my fathers' to a friend.

The baby born in Howra, the pig drowned and fed,
the refusal of the pot hanger,
the boy from the corner,
the 7 bugs per bite, or the slapping of the novice,
and these stories are always well received.

I tell them how he says that there are two ways of learning,
through acquired knowledge or through other's wisdom.
Acquired knowledge can sometimes hurt, because you learn as you go,
getting somethings right, and some wrong.
Where as learning through Wisdom is less painful.
For those that have already experienced the pain of acquiring the knowledge
simply pass it on to you, and you just need to listen.

I tell them about how he said that if I ever found myself in a bad situation
or with friends who were making bad choices
that I didn't have to stand up or make a scene that might upset,
all I had to do was turn my feet in the other direction and start walking.
Then if someone were to ask where I was going, I could say something like;
'I'm going to take my dad's advice' and just keep walking.

(He promised that if I ever did just that,
and then found myself in the middle of a pickle,
that he would always get me out of it,
and I've taken him up on that promise a few times now.)

My father is not perfect,
he is not always the most mild,
or humble,
but recently I have come to know that by learning through his wisdom,
and trusting in his promises
I can be a better person.

He has become a type of Rosetta stone for my life,
especially for my experiences here in Calcutta,
and I believe that if I share his wisdom with others he will be for them too.

lately when the sisters, or other people,
have been catching me doing something that my father taught me,
I have been sincerely happy because then I can turn around and tell them about him.

Mathew 5:16
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father...


To make a mountain of your life
Is just a choice
But I never learned enough
To listen to the voice that told me
Always love!
(or) Hate will get you every time

Always love!
Don't wait til the finish line

Slow demands come 'round
Squeeze the air and keep the rest out
It helps to write it down
Even when you then cross it out

But Always Love!
(or) Hate will get you every time

Always Love!
Even when you wanna fight

Self-directed lives
I want to know what it'd be like to
Aim so high above
Any card that you've been dealt, you...

Always Love!
(or) Hate will get you every time

Always Love!
(or) Hate will get you

I've been held back by something
You said to me quietly on the stairs,

I've been held back by something
You said to me quietly on the stairs.

You said:

Hey, you good ones,

Hey, you good ones,
To make a mountain of your life
Is just a choice
But I never learned enough
To listen to the voice that told me...

Always love!
(or) Hate will get you every time

Always love!
(or) hate will get you

I've been held back by something
You said to me quietly on the stairs,

I've been held back by something
You said to me quietly on the stairs

You said..
Hey, you good ones
Hey, you good ones
Hey, you good ones

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Just to let you all know I am doing well

I'm doing well.

God has sent me a new friend to work with and I am so much happier now.

Work is hard and easy and so rewarding.

Please keep praying for me.

A Selfish note:

My birthday is less than a month away, if you wanna send anything, now is a good time.

June 4th is B-day.

I love you all !

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I won today!

My green troops trampled everyone elses. It felt so nice to be able to control something.
Natali died 4 days ago so I have removed the photos I had posted earlier of her teeth.
It will do her no good now.
Found another dieing woman on a platform today and rushed her to Kalighat. Said a rosary for her while in bad traffic on the way. Sister admitted her and she was still alive when I left.
A thought struck me that I was perhaps the only person in the world that had directly prayed for this one womans soul.
I felt useful.
Thank you God!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It has been over 40 degrees Celsius in Calcutta for the past 3 days, that would be 104 Fahrenheit.
That isn't just a high that is the norm. It reaches 100 F by 10 am and cools back down to 93 by 8pm.

It is 7:48 right now as I write and the temperature in the room is 96 F.

Two days ago everyone was talking about how we broke the heat record that was held for the last 10 years, though I never got the numbers. Bother that.
Anyways I think you get that it is HOT here.

That being said I will tell you about something nice.
The game of RISK.

An Australian, named Mark, and I went in 50/50 and bought it
yesterday when walking home from work.

A Hollander named Axel killed my green troops,
Mark's blue troops,
and, a Swedish, Dilan's yellow troops,
by rolling consistent 6's and trampling us under his red troops.

I was so disappointed.

I must conquer the world!

Pray for me.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Ok, soooo, here is what I know. I know that Dentists don't normally do any extractions when there are such bad infections. First they give the antibiotics to clear up the infection, during which time they have the patient clean their own mouth as best as possible etc. But I don't know if any of that really applies here. Perhaps the infection is simply too much for a simple antibiotic, perhaps she is too weak to heal from the trauma of extractions even if the infection does clear up.

This woman weighs about 70lbs, cannot eat, is not on an IV to keep her fluids up, and can barely drink because of the pain. She goes into a comma like state at least once a week and must be spoon fed water through out the day. Our resident nurse says that the only other thing that is really wrong with her is her dry skin so if she heals in her mouth then maybe... she'll live a bit longer and be able to enjoy something before she dies. Her name is Natali. She is so kind.

Yucky Photos below!!!!

I couldn't get enough light to take photos of the rear molars, though she really only has 4 teeth back there anyways, and all of them are extremely loose.

Please send these to Uncle John and get his advise, also Dr. Dahl I more than welcome your advise! Thank you so much for your help.


Nice photo: Do you see Puja? She is the one with a brilliant smile who is off to the right. I might tell her story another day.

Please send all donations of dental products to:

Havilah Volunteer
Missionaries of Charity
54/A A.J.C. Bose Road
Kolkata, India
700 016

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It's Like Pulling Teeth

Yesterday, I sat with a woman who was dieing in Prem Dan. She had a mouth full of extreme infections, and rotten teeth. (The day before she was able to sit up with my help, but when I tried to feed her, even the softest rice, she was unable to eat it because of the extreme pain in her mouth.) I find it so disheartening that there are, as far as I am able to ascertain from 'Sister In Charge', NEVER dentists that volunteer in Kolkata with the Missionaries of Charity.
The people NEED them so much here, they Need tooth brushes to be donated, and they Need education. But there is NO ONE here.

So, I have volunteered to pull teeth. I have never done this before, only seen it done when I worked with Dr. Smith, for 6 months, as an assistant in his clinic. Yet if the 'Sister In Charge approves of my offer then I will do it.

I know what you are thinking. You need not say that I am unqualified or that I might do more harm than good, because I know these things already.

What I need you to tell me is the names of the antibiotics which are most effective on oral infections. I need you to help me to get the proper instruments, and a good book on what to do if an extraction goes wron. I need information about the different types of oral infections, and how best to treat them. I know there must be thousands, but I need to know more about what I see.
I will not be slicing or attempting anything fancy, but when I see that a patients gums have receded so far that I am already able to see the tops of the roots, then I will give them the opportunity to have that tooth pulled.

So they can eat, so they can live.

Unlike my friend who died today.

Dear Family,
Please ask Uncle John if he can send me the proper instruments and anything else that will help me.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Money, money, money, Money...MOh...NEY!

Who likes getting Traveller's Diarrhea?
I do!
Wanna know why?
Of course you do!

Well, you see Optimer Pharmecuticals, Inc., is sponsoring a study on the effectivness of a new antibiotic, on foreigners here in Kolkata, who get diarrhea. In affect they are paying me for my... while asking me to keep a journal about my 'movements', and not telling me if what I am taking is either the drug or the placebo.

(Isn't that a cool word, Placebo!)

He he he , I will be paid up to the equivelant of 50 Euro, (aka: 78.72 USD, or 3,139.67 Rupees) for each scheduled visit I complete with the doctor.

Now who do you think is enjoying their Diarrhea?

I am!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Poorva Express

I arrived safely into New Delhi yesterday morning and changed my last 19 dollars in cash into 700 rupees while still at teh airport. The dollar is dropping...
Took a pre-paid taxi for 250 from airport to Main Bazaar and found a room for the night for 200. As it was only 9 am by that time I walked to the train station and ended up buying a ticket for the next train headed to Howra station, in Kolkata. Had the option of paying 1000 rupees more and going in 3AC on an express which arrived after only 14 hrs or slumin' it in regular sleeper for only 434, and arriving in Kolkata after 26 hrs on the train. Took the cheaper ticket.
After which I went back to the hotel set my alarm clock and slept for a few hours. I hadn't slept at all during either of my flights or the lay over in Bahrain. Woke up with an hour till departure, stuffed my thgings in my bag and went out to find provisions for the long train ride. Got some 5 rupee packaged cookies and a big bottle of water and headed to the station with my bags. Noticed that I had missed my train before I even got into the station because the clock on the station was NOt set the same as my alarm. I had forgotten about the extra 1/2 hour change between France and India. I had remembered the 4 hour part. I swear to God I am telling the truth!
Missed the Poorva Express, so I jumped on the next train... Was informed that my ticket for the other train was completely NON transferable to this train and that people who had no ticket were subject to a 3000 rupee fine and still responsible for paying for a ticket for that train. The food man told me this and asked me to wait in a seat until the Ticket man was able to get to me. Sat in the seat for 2 hours or so, met the nice Muslim gentlemen, from Bangledesh, who sat accross from and next to me. Was fed twice for free and thoroughly enjopyed being in an airconditioned car. When the Ticket man came I explained that I had missed my train and that I thought that I could buy a ticke on this one when I was ion it. He said No. I was told that unless I payed the fine...blah blah blah blah... I was going to be kicked off at the next station.
Got kicked off at the next station. :0 at almost midnight in a small staion where there were NO foreigners, let alone single white female foreigners, aside from myself I sat and waited for the train I had missed to catch up to the train I hadn't payed for. Caught my train about an hour later, but was informed that since I had not shown in New Delhi my bunk had been resold to a different passenger.
Slept on the floor of the train in between two bunks and was molested by at least 2 different men, who at different times in the night, carresed my face while I was sleeping. Screamed at both of them and went back to sleep with my head under the little fold out table...
Arrived safely into Kolkata, was warmly greeted by my old friends at the Salvation Army and checked into the girls dorm. Had a Naan and some sliced tomatoes and headed to the internet.
Updated blog.

Love is Good!

Monday, March 10, 2008

What would you think if I sang out of tune?

Would you stand up and walk out on me ?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key.

It's raining today in Paris, and I can't risk my sheet music by going out to sing for change.

I will be going out everyday that I can and singing for change from now until the end of April, when my visa expires. Hopefully by that time God will bless me with enough money for my ticket back to Kolkata.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am going back as soon as I have enough of my own money to pay for it.

The sisters here in Paris are wonderful, just as wonderful as in Kolkata, but the work is different and the volunteers here are a different sort as well.

They have designer clothes, fancy hair cuts , and in fashion jewelry on their fingers when they serve the homeless. No, not the sisters: the volunteers.

They are only a small handfull of them and they are from all over the world, and they are so sweet it almost hurts you inside when you see the way they care about you. No, not the volunteers: the sisters.

Here in Paris the volunteers start work every morning, except Thursday, at 8:30 and finish at 12 noon. They prepair, cook, and serve food that has been donated to the sisters for the poor. They do a pretty good job of it too as I would estimate that about 300 poor are fed ever morning.

That is all there is to the work. We cook and feed and Jesus is happy with us.

However, I'm not sure how happy he is with my being here, as I have felt at ill ease while working with the poor here. I do realize that I am picky, but honestly I don't feel any Love for my work here. Which is odd, because normaly my favorite thing in the world is to feed people.
(Just ask anyone who went to Ave Maria and ate at my Sunday brunches.)

So, I am going back to India as soon as possible, and I am going to keep learning about Love the best way I know how, the hard way.

Pray for me!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bird Flu Exit Plan

It's here, it's making everyone into vegetarians (who don't even eat eggs), and it is starting to scare me too.

Here is what the BBC reports.

Here is what India eNews is saying.

They are not saying the same thing, and that freaks me more than anything. Also the fact that Prem Dan, the center I work in, is surrounded by semi-wild poultry and ducks frightens me. Everyday I walk through feces of innumerable animals/humans. Fun fun.

I'm pretty 'India-ed' out at the moment and as I have already seen most of my other volunteer friends leave I have decided evacuation now is a good idea. I don't want to be here alone, sad, and then get bird sick too!

I throw in the towel.

India 1 / Havilah 0.

Jeebs has invited me to come back to Paris with him and I have accepted. The flight cost me $535 which is just about half of all of my personal money. I have already talked with Sister Karina and she has told me that the Missionaries of Charity in Paris are working just as hard. In Paris they work with the homeless from Eastern Europe, and the Africans who come ilegally and have nothing.

So, while in Paris I will continue working with the MC sisters and will update my blog more regularly with accounts of what I am doing.

Please don't be mad at me for giving up after only 3 months. I will come back!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Photos From our trip to Rajastan

Pictures from Varanasi

Jaisalmer ( 50 km from Pakistan border) and the camel safari

A quick note:
We've been travelling, mostly in Rajastan but we stopped in Agra on the way, and Varanasi on teh way back, for 2 weeks and just arrived home today. I thought Rajastan was wonderful, kindest people and most beautiful things to see. (JB paid for everything, I only paid for the food, so it cost about the same for me as if I had stayed in Kolkata the whole time.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Photo of Monica

My very good friend from Australia took this photo of Monica on her last day.
I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Ring and some Pictures from Agra

It was cold waiting for the sun to rise on the Taj Mahal!
My Fella

Monday, January 14, 2008


When I was still a newbie, on my second day of working with the sisters at Prem Dan, I carried a plate of food into the ward and fed a woman I would learn was named, Monica. She died this morning and I want to say a few things about her.
Monica had blue eyes and silver grey hair cut short to keep lice away.
Though she still had lice, she did not have many of her teeth.
Monica was, in estimation, 65 years old and weighed about the same in pounds.
Though she ate everything I gave her she weighed less every time I saw her.
Monica was Catholic.
Though I never saw her praying one, she wore a yellow, plastic beaded, Rosary around her neck.
Monica spoke in Bengali.
Though she still new how to say "Thank you" in English.
Monica intelligent and bossy.
Though she loved to give kisses and hugs.
Monica smiled the biggest when she saw me.
Though sometimes she would be frustrated with me if I didn't understand.
Monica prefered that I feed her,
though other volunteers tried when I was there.
Monica kissed my hand the last time I saw her alive,
though I was in a hurry to leave for the day.
Monica was always grateful.
Thank you God for Monica.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A few photos from Puri

JB and I and a small group of other volunteers have been in Puri for the last week.
It is a village town not a city like Kolkata. I suppose it is most known for its beaches and the Sun Temple which is pretty close by in Konark. I liked our stay the most because there was fresh air and lots of little farms and rice paddies around it.