My Journal in India Part 3

Orthodox river 

Tuesday, February 5

I got up at 7:00 a.m., and so I had an hour before Orthros. As usual, I made myself some coffee by putting into a half-empty water bottle a spoonful of the instant coffee I had brought and shaking it up. Needless to say, it tastes awful like that without any sweetener or cream, but it’s not like I had any other safe way to get my caffeine.

Sister Ioanna brought a bag of ground coffee, but she had no way of getting boiling water to use it. So I explained to her how to make cold brew coffee, and so she tried it today. The only problem was that we didn’t have any coffee filters. So instead, I just partly unscrewed the cap of the water bottle she used for making the cold brew, and slowly poured it out into another cup. But the coffee was fine-ground, so plenty of the grinds made it through my “filter.” When I tasted a little to make sure it came out okay, I noticed it had a strange taste to it, almost as if it had some alcohol in it! Maybe it had started to ferment due to the heat. I guess there is a reason why cold brew is supposed to be made in a refrigerator. Oh, well; at least our experiment was more or less successful.

After Orthros, I used Sr. Paraskevi’s Skype to call the sisters back in Alaska. It was so nice to hear their voices again. I am looking forward to being back home with them soon. To be honest, I am counting the days. I feel very much out of my element here in India. If St. Anthony the Great called a monk out of his monastery a fish out of water, who knows what he would have called a monk in some noisy and chaotic city!

After breakfast we split up into two groups. Fr. Athanasius and Fr. George went with Dr. Wesley, Sr. Ioanna, and Anastasia to go to a village to baptize some people. Meanwhile, Sr. Paraskevi and I went back to the hotel with Precious and Tami to bake prosphora. Yesterday while Dr. Wesley was in Vizag (a bigger city) he tried to find some kind of electric oven to buy so that we could bake prosphora. The best thing he could find was a microwave oven that can also function as a convection oven.

When he brought it to the hotel yesterday, we found out that it had the wrong kind of plug. So today we had to go hunting for a converter in a few small stores in Srikakulam. After driving around for a while, we finally found a store that had one. But since it wasn’t in stock, they sent a boy to some other store to bring it back for us. So after an hour, we finally got it and paid only 65 cents. Fr. Athanasius has observed that everything in India takes much, much longer than in America. The chaotic roads are just the tip of the iceberg of how complicated the simplest tasks can be.

Once we got back to the hotel, Sr. Paraskevi quickly and easily put together the flour and water, kneaded it, and stamped it with the seal. We let it rise for almost two hours, and then put it in the microwave/convection oven to bake. But after it had been baking for only half an hour, Sr. Paraskevi came running to my room, saying with concern: “Come quickly!” She opened the oven and showed me that the top of the prosphoro had turned brown, interestingly similar to the skin color of Indians! Evidently, the way this oven cooks is by grilling things from above. We weren’t sure if it was cooked on the inside, and we didn’t really have any way of testing it without ruining it for liturgical use. So she decided to try to make three more prosphora. Maybe this time we can bake it upside-down, so that only the bottom of it will turn brown, which wouldn’t be so bad. We’re also thinking of covering the top with aluminum foil, but that means we’ll have to go out on the streets again to find a place that sells foil.

While the next three prosphora were rising, we decided to break open our first one in order to know better how to bake the next ones. It turns out that our first prosphoro was just fine on the inside! So that’s a relief. Now we’ll just see if we can keep them from turning so brown. Part of the problem is also the flour. Even though it is 100% pure wheat flour, there’s something different about it that is giving us unexpected results.

Sister Joanna and Anastasia came back after a few hours. It turned out that there were only a dozen people to be baptized, and so they were not needed to do much. So they came back early, while Fr. Athanasius and Fr. George finished up the baptism service. Fr. George was also frustrated because he was eager to preach to people, but there weren’t any people to preach to except that little group of illiterate villagers getting baptized. It’s unfortunate that unforeseeable events ruined the detailed plans that Fr. Athanasius and Dr. Wesley had made. Almost everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. All our translators except for Dr. Wesley got sick. Joshi-Paul (our best translator) had to be with his wife in the hospital. And our drivers either got sick or decided not to show up. Again and again, we would make a plan in the evening for the following day, but by morning something would prevent us from following our plan.

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