Arriving in India is a culture shock – whether you are an experienced traveler or a newbie at the international plane hop, India is just so different from anywhere else in the world. Here are a few of the differences that assault your senses right away: the food, the clothing, the language, the bling (Indians love their bling!), and the cows (they are everywhere, even in the middle of the city). Then there are the issues that are not unique to India, but are still different from everyday life: poverty, dirt, crowds, and heat (minus AC).
Perhaps the one difference that got the most comments from the team the first couple of days, though, was the Indian traffic. I thought I’d experienced crazy traffic in Peru, Mexico, Myanmar, etc. but nothing truly compared to Indian traffic. Picture that anything and everything has wheels, a motor, and apparently a reason to go somewhere. Vehicles come in every shape and size you can imagine and a few you probably can’t – cars, trucks, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, tractors, carts, and UVO’s (Unidentified Vehicular Objects). Now, crowd more people into each vehicle than you thought the laws of physics would allow. Five to a motorcycle and twelve to a rickshaw is not unusual. Then add in the animals – cows, buffalo, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs, and monkeys. Add motion and speed to everything… except the cows, which are going nowhere on their own sweet time. Are you starting to get the picture? Insert a group of sensory-overloaded Americans and there you have our team!
One of the challenges with taking on a new culture is to not become so overwhelmed with the differences of the big picture the you miss the significance of the individual. After all, we didn’t come to be tourists and gawk at the cows or marvel at the food and language. We came to connect with people. That is where you find the anchor point that is the same across every culture. People need Jesus! Everywhere, regardless of culture, language, dress, or economic status, people respond to the love of God poured out through His Son and through His people.
Photography was our connection with our Indian friends. Through photography lessons we were able to begin building relationships, laughing together, and communicating across language and culture divides.