SSMOs Take an Armchair Vacation to India
Submitted by Sr. Barbara Rose Sohler, SSMO
With a population of 1.2 billion, India is a country rich with history, culture, and most of all, beautiful people, whose history and spirituality reach back thousands of years. What an experience it was for the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon to visit this amazing country without even leaving their home. The “Armchair Vacation” tradition began with the SSMOs four years ago as a fun, community building activity to teach the Sisters more about the heritage of some of their members who were from Mexico and Vietnam. The summer event has evolved into a great way for the Sisters who have traveled away from home to share about their experiences, and especially to give those who aren’t able to leave the Convent a feeling of “the next best thing.”
Presentations were given by the Sisters themselves on various topics such as religious beliefs, family life, educational system, government, Gandhi, Nehru, and the Taj Mahal. Religious practices of Indians filter through every action in their lives. In India, it is common to see people praying and walking great distances in pilgrimages. With Hindu, Jainism, and Islam being the predominate religions, we learned about temples, beliefs and important religious festivals.
The three days of July 10-12 were packed with many activities and learning opportunities, including passports, a travel guide, geography lesson, a first-person travel PowerPoint, trivia questions, photos, travel books, scarves, handicrafts, and rupees (money). Some Sisters made tissue flowers and clay lanterns to commemorate the Hindu feast of Dawali, their major festival of lights.
The high point of the “vacation” was an authentic Indian meal of vegetable pakora, naan, raita, chicken tikka masala, and delicious rasmalai for dessert. These were generously provided by Jayanthi Alphones, Vasanthi Vasudevan and two of their friends. Their lovely daughters, Neena, Nisha, and Varsha were present and two of them, Nisha and Varsha, provided entertainment by performing an exquisite dance, not only once but twice. Our guests were open to answer such questions as, “How do you put on a sari?” and “What is the meaning of the binky?” Their presence in our dining room helped us feel like we were truly in India.
They are a gracious and stunning people and we are so fortunate to have them as students and friends. Their culture reflects the diverse goodness of God that is present in all people.
Thank you to Sharlayne Buuck for taking photos.