Journey to Judah: Part 6 - The Apartment
May 9-15, 2018
We weren’t sure how long we’d be in India, but we knew it would be at least 3 weeks. Staying in a hotel just wasn’t financially feasible for that long. Thankfully, I got connected to another adoptive mama via Facebook who has an apartment in Hyderabad, our son’s birth city. Kady actually lives in Texas, but she and her husband have a nonprofit in India that is doing amazing things to help spread the love of Jesus and protect vulnerable children in India. (I promise I’ll tell you more about it in a later post.) Because of the nonprofit, they have an apartment and choose to rent it out (for super cheap) to families adopting and people doing mission work in this area. It was a blessing to us financially, but she was also a blessing to us in so many ways during our stay in Hyderabad. It just so happened that her stay in India overlapped with ours, and we were able to spend time with her for several days during our trip.
So, after a few days at the hotel, we moved to the apartment. This made it feel like we were actually in India. Sure, the fancy hotel had some elements that reminded us that we weren’t in the United States anymore: brushing our teeth with bottled water, frying my hair dryer (even though I had used an outlet converter), the strong smell of incense burning near every elevator, feeling like the minority for one of the few times in my life...but it was pretty easy to feel like we weren’t too far from home in this environment.
The apartment was still very nice, but it was situated in the middle of a neighborhood in India surrounded by people who actually lived there. It was across the street from a slum area where families lived under blue tarps and sheets of metal, surrounded by trash and debris. It was around the corner from a Hindu temple, brightly hued and very ornate. The streets outside were filled with people: women wearing saris, children playing cricket, people carrying things in baskets on their heads. Our laundry hung on a line on the balcony just like everyone else’s laundry. Animals wandered the streets: chickens, goats, cows. The sounds of incessant honking and roosters crowing (all the live long day) will forever remind me of India too. As I type this, I’m reminded just how much we enjoyed our time in Hyderabad. There’s no question about IF we will be back, but it’s a matter of WHEN we will be back.
I thought I’d share a bit about some of the topics most people have asked us about since we’ve been back:
The food was delicious.....but very, very spicy. Indian food has some heat to it anyway, but southern Indian food is at a whole new level. The thing is, most people said that the people at the restaurants most likely took one look at us and toned the spices down a bit. If what we ate was less spicy than usual, I cannot imagine the original! We ate several Indian meals, of course. Our favorites included a restaurant called Heart Cup and an Indian meal we shared in the home of a local Pastor who invited us over for dinner. (He also ordered pizza for us, just in case!) Biryani is also a traditional dish in this area, so we had it a few times in Hyderabad as well. It was good, but we just couldn’t get over all the chicken bones hiding everywhere in the rice! It wasn’t just the Indian food that was spicy, though. They like to add a kick to spaghetti, French fries, fried chicken, pizza...just about anything required a lot of extra water (and we could only drink bottled water or we’d get sick). Because we spent our time in large cities in India, we ate at some familiar places too: McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Chili’s, Subway, Starbucks, and Hard Rock Cafe all served us well...but they still packed in the heat! We ate a lot of fried foods because we knew they had been cooked well and provided less of a risk of getting sick. I really missed eating fruits and raw veggies, though. They looked delicious at every roadside stand, but it just wasn’t worth the risk of tummy troubles. Most of the time, we ordered our food and had it delivered by someone on a scooter through an app called Swiggy. Think Jimmy Johns delivery service, but you can get ANYTHING delivered by bike. Be warned though, that you should be very careful opening any bottles of soda that traveled through Indian traffic in a backpack on the back of a scooter! It took us a few tries before we could remember that tip.
A grocery store was within walking distance from the apartment. The Ratnadeep was easy to shop at and included several American items as well (which came with a hefty import tax...but it was totally worth it on things like baby food and wipes). Amazon India would also deliver to the apartment so we were pretty connected to anything we might need. The apartment had a microwave and a hot plate so we were able to make eggs, pancakes, and oatmeal for breakfast. We also brought Ramen and EasyMac with us from home. I know what you’re thinking, but some stomachs can only take so much spice. There were times when Ramen noodles tasted like the best Italian dish we’d ever eaten.
There were several things within walking distance from the apartment, but we mostly got around by Uber. If Eliza would have been there, I know she would have been excited to see how each driver decorated their mirrors and headrests. There were always bright, shiny things inside the cars, which is right up her ally. There was also always incense in the cars. The smell (which I liked) combined with the crazy traffic made Marcus so carsick every time we had to travel very far.
Another option to travel was via rickshaw, also known as a TukTuk. Most of them in Hyderabad were motorized, but we still saw a few that were manually pulled. TukTuks are super cheap for most people in India. We learned pretty quickly that we could get an Uber for the same price that rickshaw drivers wanted to overcharge these Americans. It’s probably because we are just NOT good at negotiating. (The open markets loved us too for the same reason!) We only took a few TukTuk rides while we were in India, but it was so fun to see (Judah) Mahesh’s face and wide eyes as the wind blew his hair and I hung on to him for dear life.
Honestly, we spent a lot of our time at the apartment, getting to know our son. There were toys and puzzles and blocks to enjoy. We listened to music quite a bit. At first, Judah Mahesh did not even acknowledge the sound of music, probably because he’d never really heard it before. It wasn’t too long before he learned to clap and move to the rhythm though. We also spent a lot of time watching Netflix while he was sleeping. India’s Netflix has WAY more movie options than in the United States. It was good though, because Hulu does not have a license in India, and we couldn’t catch up on any of our TV shows.
There was a mall very near the apartment too. We went there whenever we just needed to get out and walk around. It was just like any mall I’d go to anywhere in the U.S., and it even had some of the same stores and restaurants. We didn’t buy anything at the mall, but it was a nice, cool place to go and walk around and get something to eat.
Jump Zone was just around the corner from the apartment too. We took Judah Mahesh there one day, but it was pretty overwhelming for him- bright colors, kids screaming and jumping on inflatables, loud music, ball pits, a fenced in area filled with rabbits (yeah I don’t even know, guys!). We played with a few of the toys but he didn’t want to stay too long, which was great because it was so hot without A/C. Good thing it was free for his age too.
Hyderabad is an interesting place. The large city is pretty modern and has every convenience, but people still dress very traditionally. There is a large population of Hindu people just like anywhere in India, but Hyderabad is also home to a large Muslim population as well. Charminar is a large, popular mosque in the area. We hear that it’s beautiful and had planned to visit it, but our time got cut a little short and plans changed. Christianity, while not common in Hyderabad, does not seem to face the same persecution as in other areas of India. We went to a Christian Church twice in Hyderabad, which deserves its own post, so you’ll read all about it later. Ernest, the pastor of that church, thankfully, lived right next door to Kady. He was also a huge help to us in India.
Everyone we met was very nice. We could communicate with almost everyone we crossed paths with because English is a common third language for them. Most people in this area of India speak Telugu (the official language), Hindi, and some English. This made things pretty easy for us as well.
People in India seem to love babies. Everywhere we went, people would smile and talk to Judah Mahesh. He definitely knows how to take command of a room! At all of our appointments, he would have people smiling, laughing, and talking with us. People would also reach out and just pinch his cheeks. Almost everyone we passed: on the sidewalks, riding the escalator, at restaurants, wherever - felt the need to give his cheeks and m/or hands a firm squeeze. People just don’t need much personal space in India. They also liked to make clicking noises at him, which always made him smile. In fact, Judah doesn’t say too many words, but that sweet boy can imitate almost any kind of tongue click!
For some reason, we got several questions about safety. We always felt very safe in India. Everyone was willing to help us, and they seemed to have security everywhere. We had WiFi and cell service wherever we needed it. Before we could go into any large building (hotels, malls, shopping areas, etc), we had to send our bags through a scanner, walk through a metal detector, and be patted down. Women, to preserve modesty, had to go into a small tent to be scanned (by a woman) with a hand-held metal detector. Sometimes, though, if you were carrying a baby, they let you skip all that...so Marcus and I would “fight” over who got to carry Judah through those places! I felt safe enough there that I knew I’d be okay if Marcus had to leave to be with our girls while Judah and I remained in India to finish the adoption process.
We also spent Mother’s Day in India. It was my 6th Mother’s Day since starting the adoption process, and I finally got to spend it with the little boy I had dreamed about for years!! Every Mother’s Day for 6 years I would say (and write a blog post about it), “Maybe next year our little boy will be home.” Well, we weren’t exactly home, but he was finally in my arms on Mother’s Day. It was bittersweet, though, in that while I was so grateful to spend it with him, I was also so sad to be away from my girls on Mother’s Day. At that point, we had only been gone for 10 days, but we had no idea how many days we had left in India. We FaceTimed the girls, though, and they let me know that they had presents waiting for me back home. We ordered KFC for lunch and Indian food for dinner- all my choices, and I snuggled my baby boy who had just learned how to give kisses. It was actually a pretty sweet day.
The Saturday before Mother’s Day is sometimes recognized as Birth Mother’s Day. This year, that day meant a little more to me too. I’m so grateful and thankful for a woman I’ve never met, who might have had to make a brave and difficult choice just over one year before that date. I vowed to always celebrate her and always cherish him because of her.
5 days after moving to the apartment, we got word that our written court order was ready! The judge came through and signed our court order before courts were set to close a few days later. This was a huge relief because if we hadn’t gotten our court order before court closure, it was likely that we wouldn’t be able to get it until courts reopened at the beginning of June. That would have meant at least a 6-week stay in India. It would also have meant that Marcus would have had to leave Judah and me behind. Praise God, this was a HUGE answer to prayer! Now, we could begin working through the rest of the things on our list.
While we were elated to get our court documents, the feeling was overshadowed by our concern for Judah’s health. He had a low-grade fever that had been hanging around for a few days. He was a little fussy and had trouble sleeping but was showing no other symptoms. We weren’t sure if it was caused by the transition, his grieving, the 4 teeth that were making their way through his gums, or if something else was going on with him. After several days of a fever, we took him to see a pediatrician in Hyderabad. The pediatrician listened to his heart, looked at him for 5 minutes, and diagnosed him with a “well fever,” possibly brought on by stress. By the next morning, we would learn just how wrong the doctor was about his diagnosis.....