Monday, December 28, 2015

28 December 2015

Well, this was easily the most interesting Christmas of my life, at least in part because it didn't feel very Christmasy. Here's how it broke down:

On Tuesday, the Hyderabad zone did a Nativity, with all the missionaries gathering, reading scriptures, and singing songs. That was a lot of fun, and we performed our skit again. Speaking of the skit, it's included below. That took up most of our day, which was largely eclipsed by the events of the morrow.

Wednesday morning, I got the weirdest call of my life. A member called us up early in the morning, and asked us to pray for her children. She was crying a lot, and eventually told us that she was thinking about committing suicide. That call was soon followed by many more: to the mission president, his wife, and the senior missionaries at the mission office. When we realized that ALL of them had their phones switched off at the same time, we called the bishop, the APs, and the first counselor to try and get help. Then, we booked it over to the member's house, and had a really long conversation. On the plus side, that let us skip district meeting. We ended up taking the day off of missionary work to try and cheer her up, which worked really well. That night, we met with the bishop, who gave us some interesting news that would have been good to have hours ago: the member in question had done this sort of thing before, and had had those same squabbles before. He used that as a rationalization for not showing up or asking anyone else to. When we asked him to help make sure that her home and visiting teachers came more regularly (she'd told us that they hadn't come in forever), he revealed that HE was her home teacher, but still didn't promise any change. To cut short the suspense on how the story ends there, the sister is happy and healthy, and the issue seems to be over as of right now.

On Thursday, we got another unexpected call early in the morning, this time with much better news: our zone leaders informed us that the Transportation Minister of Telangana had invited the missionaries over for his wife's birthday party. We showed up, had lots of pictures, and they gave us some fabric and copper water bottles as gifts. It seemed a lot random, but whatever. Afterward, we went back to our area, which took a while. It's about an hour's travel away. That night, we got to travel yet another hour away to the Cobb's house, who I later emailed at. They fed us your standard Christmas eve dinner- for Indians. It was chicken biryani. Then, we sang songs, watched Joy to the World, and worked on a 2000 piece puzzle they had.

Friday was very fun. We headed over to Sister Pulla's house in the morning, and stayed half the day there. We sang yet more songs, played violin and guitar, and made lots of food. I even tried out a no-bake cookie recipe that I found on your blog! That turned out really well. 

Saturday and Sunday weren't quite as much fun. Elder Campbell was  pretty sick, so we mostly stayed inside while he slept. That's the news of the week!
I remembered to send them this time!

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This is the bottom half our  our district.

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This is us with a member. I need to work on my selfie skills, though. 

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And this is the no-bake cookies I made. The picture didn't turn out too well, though.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

20 December 2015

This week definitely had some interesting experiences. For example, we got to meet with a new investigator! She too had an interesting story. Her sister is *very good friends* with one of the guys in the ward (which is bad news, because he's planning on serving a mission) , and he invited them both to church. And lo and behold, they came! The guy introduced us to them at church last week, and they asked us to come to their house. We did so on Wednesday, and had a good lesson, along with a few strange points. When we called beforehand to confirm the appointment, she asked us a question that I can honestly say that I've never heard before. Here's about how the conversation went:

Me: "Is that time okay for us to meet?"
Her: "Yes, but...
Me: "Yes?"
Her: "I read the Catholic bible. Am I still welcome to your church?"
Me: "Yes, everyone is welcome to our church."
Her: "What about if I'm a Catholic? Will you still talk to me?"
Me: "Yes, that's not a problem. Why?"
Her: "Do you hate Catholics?"

Eventually, it got sorted out that no, we do not hate Catholics; yes, they can come to our church, and no, her being Catholic in no way presents an obstacle to us talking to her. Apparently, someone told her all sorts of junk about us. Oh well, it turned out in the end. She's super eager to learn, and invited us back on Saturday, where she fed us dinner. For missionaries, she is basically the investigator equivalent of the Holy Grail. 

That was definitely the most exciting thing to happen this week, though. We spent a bit of it practicing for the skit/song that we performed for the ward Christmas activity, which was also very interesting. They did a full-length rendition of the Ten Virgins story, lifted directly from that one book that you have. I forget what it's called, but it's about a potter who makes the lamps for the 10 virgins, and describes all of them. To make a long story short, the Relief Society performed it well, but didn't even change the character's names. 

Calling at 8:00 AM in Indiana works well for me; that's 6:30 PM here. Also, I've been slowly building stuff to send. There are some candies I am including that I'm sure that you'll love. Make sure everyone puts one in  their mouth at the same time just in case, though. The one courier that I found that will send packages to America promises to get them there in 3 days, so if I send the package today, it should get there by Christmas. That's about all the news for the week; it was pretty short. See ya on Friday!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

13 December 2015

As of Friday, I served in 5 areas in just 16 days. I started out with my regular area, Rajamundry 2nd, went on an exchange to Rajamundry 1st, got transferred to West Maredpally 3rd, and went on two more exchanges, to the 1st ward and to A.S. Rao Nagar. Wow!

Last Monday, we were poking around this collection of stores, when we saw something very interesting: a 3d print shop. We went in and asked what they made, and they told us that they could make statues of people: they'd take photos of you from a few different angles, then digitally combine them and print it out in plastic. So, if anyone wants an 8 inch tall version of themself for just $200, let me know!

On Tuesday, I was on an exchange with the zone leaders in the 1st ward here. We went all over there area on buses, and had a very interesting lesson. One of their investigators had invited us to meet his father, who is a hardcore Methodist. We tried to teach the Restoration, but he wasn't really interested in listening, and repeated the same questions over and over again, even after we answered them. That made for a very long lesson. We told him about the book of Mormon, and asked if he would read it. He sort of gave us a vaguely affirmative answer in the end, so I guess we'll just wait and see what happens. 

We swapped companions back on Wednesday, and had a relatively normal day. We tried to meet with one of our investigators at night, but he bunked, so we tried to go caroling with the ward. That didn't turn out too well. We showed up right on time, but they didn't leave until 8:30. Also, we were talking to a new investigator who showed up for institute, and so didn't notice them leave. 

On Thursday, we had some very exciting weekly planning, followed by another really interesting day. We spent half of it with the 2nd ward elders, helping them to compose a skit for our ward activities. That'll be a lot of fun! I'll see if someone can tape it, and send you the footage when we perform it. Failing that, I'll just send the script. Anyway, we did manage to go caroling with the ward that night!

Friday was very long. In the morning, we tried to meet with an investigator, but he was going to be way too late and we had to leave. We had zone training all the way over in Medina Guda, which is an hour away by train. Funny story about that- at one of the stops I got a water bottle, and nearly missed the train, which only stopped for about 30 seconds. I ran and jumped for it, and did manage to make it, though. In A.S. Rao Nagar, we had 3 very interesting back to back appointments. The first one was with a 14 year old kid, who we took with us to the next appointment, with a 16 year old kid. They are both super excited about learning! The final one was far and away the strangest teaching appointment I've ever had. The father was deaf, couldn't talk, and didn't know sign language or how to read. So, we used lots of gestures, but did manage to get our meaning across. 

Saturday was relatively uneventful- we had a long bus ride back to West Maredpally, and then worked on the skit more, and finalized it. We tried to go caroling again, but they left without us! A member called us at night, and insisted that we come to his house. The only problem was that we didn't know who he was, and he couldn't tell us where he lived. We asked around, but no one knew him. We eventually had to give up on the idea. 

We found the conclusion to that unfinished story on Sunday. In the morning, we went to invite one of our less-active members to church. But, he was out, so we went to his dad's house, which was just opposite. As it turns out, HE was the guy who was calling us last night! We gave his son a blessing, which is what he'd been asking for, and then had ward council. After church, the 2nd ward elders grabbed us and needed our help to finish up the skit, and perform it for their ward council. We did so, but finishing the skit burned up the whole rest of the night. 

I can call basically whenever, also. We got permission to call on the 24-26th, whenever you are available. Which means that for your time, I can call on the 23rd night, or anytime up till the morning of the 26th. The only time I can't call is between 11 am and 10 pm in Indiana, because that is the middle of the night here. So, mornings work great. Just let me know when works best for you in that range.

Also, I barely remember Rosie, let alone the people we gave her to. But, that is pretty trippy. Wait- did they come over to our house to play a few times? Or am I thinking of Xavier or something? What are you talking about with playing the violin for Thanksgiving? I only got the violin last week. But, I may be playing it for the Christmas celebration, depending on how things work out. 

This is a very strange pigeon nest in the 1st ward apartment:
This was our ward's Santa, who came caroling with us:Inline image 2

And this is Elder Touthang (rhymes with cow tongue), my district leader, on the train:

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

6 December 2015

Well, this week was pretty fun. We had stake conference on Sunday about 20 minutes away, but right afterward a member wanted to take us on an exchange. Which was fine, but then we learned where it was: Jeedimetla. That would have meant something if we knew where it was. We took a bus to the station, another bus an hour out to a place close to it, and then an auto the last 15 minutes. It was a long way off! Then, we walked a bit to get to their house, only to learn that no one was there. So, the member called them, and asked what was going on. They told us they'd be there in 5 minutes. That was halfway true; the Telegu-speaking mother was there in 5 minutes, but her English-speaking children weren't. In fact, they didn't arrive for another 45 minutes. And when they did, we learned that they didn't actually speak English. So, we had a very quick lesson, and are going to bring back a missionary that speaks Telegu next time. But hey, they fed us some really good curry afterwards, which makes it all better. 

We also found, believe it or not, a shop that has all sorts of American things: 5 gum, M&Ms, skittles, even bubble tape. It even had some really nice pens that only cost $50. I wonder who buys those. It even had really, really expensive Legos, and 4 different versions of Monopoly. 

Apart from those very exciting events, not too super much happened this week. We did a whole load of finding members' houses, which is always thrilling. Actually, there was one thing. A guy knocked on our apartment door one morning while we were getting ready, and tried to sell us all sorts of souvenirs. He knows a whole lot of elders, and had a whole bunch of items: handcarved chess sets (which were tempting, I'll admit), leaf paintings (paintings done on a leaf, not of a leaf), and some batiks, or wall hangings. 

Oh, and I almost forgot the best news of the week: I got two packages! One from you, one from the ward. Thanks! I now have enough candy to last me through the next Ice Age. You mentioned in an earlier email that you sent a package of letters, which hasn't arrived yet, though. And a quick question: do you make jello with 2 cups of water, or 8? I made it both ways, but I'm undecided which is better.

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It still tasted pretty good, though. The only real casualty were the Doritos; they definitely took the worst of it. But hey, the dust at the bottom of the bag is the best part! The top picture is what the ward sent: a string of candy that I'm supposed to open one thing of per day. Looked like there was one or two notes in there that might have been from you guys, though.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

29 Nov. 2015

Well, this week was pretty exciting. Not much happened until Wednesday, when I got the best news I've had all month: My FRO paperwork went through! I left Thursday morning, and had a fairly uneventful time. Hyderabad is hotter than Rajahmundry in the day, but gets amazingly cool at night. Anyway, Thursday night turned out to be extra surprising, because there is a certain family in our ward, the Cobb family. The father is a rice breeder who works here, who just moved in from America. They had a huge Thanksgiving dinner and invited all of the missionaries! That was my first time having real American food since June, and it was good. We had all of the standard Thanksgiving fare: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and of course four different pies. It was amazing! And yes, we are still working through all of the leftovers. Later on in the week, we've been trying to learn the ward. Elder Campbell just came from the states two months ago, and has only been in the area for a transfer. Neither of us know where anything is, so we've been going on lots of member exchanges to try to learn the area. So far things have been going well, though. Apart from those things, not too much happened; just lots of finding. However, things will be good today: Hyderabad has lots of malls and places to shop, so I'll be poking around. That is, if I can get registered today. I really don't know what will happen there.

The FRO is more properly called the FRRO, but I still don't know what it stands for. It's something about foreigner registration, and is kind of annoying. All foreigners who'll stay in India have to register at their local FRO, which is always a process. To move, they also have to deregister, which sometimes takes longer than registering. Makes sense, right?
This week, my letter is short because not too much happened. We did have an adventure this week, that I forgot to mention. On Saturday, we went all the way over to Charminar, which is a very Muslim area, because a member invited us to her school. There, Elder Campbell, who was studying to be an aeronautical engineer, taught some of the kids about it. While he was doing that, the teacher asked if I would talk to the other children about school. This was the first I'd heard about me teaching anything, and so caused a bit of panic. I ended up talking to all of them about random things. Whenever I got close to making a point about something, the teacher's husband would chime in with a only marginally related conversation and totally pull everyone's minds off of what I was saying, and ruined the point I was trying to make. It was pretty funny, though: he scolded them hard about discipline, studies, and everything else under the sun. Here, the educational system is crazy anyway. While you are in college, you can't do anything else but study 12 hours a day, minimum. You're too busy to have a social life or do anything, you just study. Everyone puts themselves through it, and I can't imagine how. As for pictures, that's mostly because I keep forgetting to take them. I'll do better about that from now on, though. Also, another thing I keep forgetting to mention is Christmas. The only present you can really send is music, which I'd love to get. Can you send the Christmas albums from some LDS artists? Thanks!

Monday, November 23, 2015

23 November 2015

Well, this week was pretty interesting. We spent easily half of it at the FRO, half of it at the doctor, and half of it traveling in between them. Sounds fun, right? As it turns out, I'm still waiting in Rajahmundry, but my FRO paperwork is in, and I hopefully will finish the deregistration process this afternoon. Then all I need to do is get thumbprinted, have a police check, and leave. I can't wait for Hyderabad- largely because living in limbo is no fun. I packed up when it looked like I was going to leave soon- a week ago. Since then, because Elder Peterson has moved in where I used to be, I've been living largely out of my suitcase. Having five elders in the apartment is a lot of fun, though. The news with the doctor is just that I needed a tetanus shot. Apparently, rabies isn't much of an issue with rats, just with dogs and monkeys. Who knew? The medical system here is pretty crazy, too: talking with the doctor? 200 rupees. Buying my own tetanus shot, syringe, and having them shoot me up with it? 16 rupees. Total cost? Under $4.

Not too much has happened besides those things. I only saw the doctor on Friday; the rest of the time was spent going to his office and hearing he wasn't there. That happened five times before we caught him. Going to the FRO was equally exciting: long hours of waiting, and yet more traveling to get there. But, they finally saw me, took the papers, and signed off, and the police check is supposed to be today! Actually, it was supposed to be this morning, but the guy said he'd show up later. 

Well, that's all the big news of the week. For the first time in 10 months, I haven't received any news from home. Did you get the letter I sent? Hopefully, I'll get yours when the zone leaders go to MLC in Bangalore, and come back.

Well, the guy came an hour ahead of schedule, so I just had to interrupt my emailing to go do the work. But, it's finished! Nearly! I got the police check and thumbprinting; I just need to go down there again tomorrow and sign some papers.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but I completely forgot. But, we had 3 baptisms this week! Divya, Ratna Babu, and Madhuri all got baptized!

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I was right under a light, so even though I am not the only white person there, it looks just like it. The people are, from right to left, myself, Elder Jalagam, Divya, Ratna Babu, Elder Prasad, Madhuri, Elder Lindsay, and Elder Peterson. Unfortunately, I was the only one looking at the camera at the time, so it looks a little funky.

Monday, November 16, 2015

16 November 2015

Well, this week was pretty exciting. There were plenty of unexpected surprises to be found almost daily. I'll go through all the major bits first:

To start, after spending 4.5 months in Rajahmundry, I am going to Hyderabad, in the West Maredpally 3rd ward. That's right- ward. For the first time since coming to India, I'll have a bishop!

The second major shock was that the missionary fireside, that we'd been planning for months, was actually going through! It's been postponed over and over and over, but it finally happened! There were several more smaller surprises attached to it- I was "asked" to contribute money to it, on the understanding that a) it wasn't going to go well, if at all, without, and b) that I would get it back from the branch eventually. More on that later.

The third, and final surprise of the week took place at our BML's house. I got something new, that I've never had before: Rabies, coupled with the black plague. Once again, an explanation will follow shortly, just to build suspense. 

Okay, I remembered to bring my journal this time, so I actually know how the week went. On Tuesday, I had my last district meeting as a leader- so far. We studied how to teach the Restoration discussion better. Then, both of our cycles melted down in a rather dramatic fashion. But, since Diwali was coming up, all of the cycle repairmen were on strike. We walked the rest of the day, but that was most of the exciting news.

Wednesday probably should have been reported during the "surprise of the week" bit at the top, but I forgot and don't feel like going back. It was Diwali, the festival of fire. Basically the 4th of July, but with a lot more fireworks and a lot less reason behind it. Apparently, the original reason was that a long time back, a saint lived a great life, and got reincarnated with the promise that only his mom, a god, could kill him. He turned into an evil king, and so his mom killed him. That's the really condensed version, which really doesn't give the story enough credit, but it's also all I know about it. Once again, we tried asking people about why they celebrated it, but almost everyone was clueless. Either way, it was a whole lot of fun. The zone leaders sent out a mass text in the morning about how elders should not buy, use, handle, or interact with crackers (fireworks), and to be careful. That wasn't really a problem though. The funny thing about the cycle repairmen is that despite that they were all gone the day before, they showed up for the holiday! So we had cycles to ride, thank goodness. Well, we should have had cycles to ride. The cycle repair guy we went to lives right next to our apartment, and told us he'd just drop them off with the apartment security guard. That was fine; we kept moving. Later, we checked back, and sure enough they were there! But, they were locked. We asked the guard for the keys, but she said the repair guy had them. But, he'd gone home already. Eventually we learned that the repair guy had given her the keys, but she forgot. Oh well. That night was pretty spectacular- even the (relatively) dull points had a huge firework going off every few seconds. 

On Thursday, we had nearly an equally big surprise, that also probably deserved to be on the top. Divya, an investigator that elders have been working with for a year, agreed to be baptized! Ironically, it's even on the same date that Elder Patten tried to commit her to a month ago! Afterward, the only really big thing we did was plan for the fireside we were going to have.

The next truly memorable day was actually Saturday. On Friday, Elder Jalagam got sick and so we didn't do much, but Saturday was pretty good. It was my 10 month mark, for one thing. And all we did all day long was prepare for the fireside, and invite people to it. But it went really well! The branch president told us that we could spend up to 500 rupees getting things we needed for the fireside, and that he'd give us it back that night at the fireside. Everyone was low on cash, so I ended up providing it. The fireside went really well, though. We had a short lesson, then lots of games. It was really fun! Afterward, the branch president told me that he'd given the money to our BML. 

On Sunday, the branch had its Primary Program! Like most things, it was a little different than I was expecting. For one, the music and singing was recorded. That night, we had correlation, which turned out to be pretty exciting. Our BML told me that the branch president had only given him the money that he already had been owed for providing food for the fireside, so I'm not sure what's going on there. Soon after coming in, I saw a rat running through his kitchen. Not a big problem- street animals are everywhere here. The real problem turned out to be quite possibly that same rat. As we were leaving, I tried to put my foot in my shoe, but it wouldn't fit. I was puzzled, and reached in to feel what was going on. That led to a rapid introduction of a thoroughly angry rat with my thumb, along with an equally rapid farewell as I dropped the shoe. That's right- after four and a half months of getting within biting distance of various dogs, cats, and birds, I got bit inside of an hour with a rat. I ended up washing it out with soap and water there, and getting some sort of ointment put on it. Back at the apartment, I washed it out again, and used an alcohol wipe before putting some neosporin on it. As soon as Sister Berret calls back, I'll know whether or not I need rabies shots or further treatment. And I'll leave you with that high note. See ya!

Music in church is a bit different in India than America. Specifically, the one person in the branch who plays the piano does it for sacrament meeting, and last week especially caused more harm than good in keeping the congregation together during hymns. Most of the problem is that she doesn't hear what the hymns are going to be until just before sacrament meeting, and so can't practice. That's a good chunk of why I'm so surprised to hear that Nate, who is 11, may start playing the prelude music. What? Even after 6 years of violin lessons, I didn't want to play in front of a congregation.

Elder Jalagam and I are starting to get along really well. Even better, he's started talking! It's almost a shame that transfer calls are tonight. Everyone's convinced that I'm leaving Rajamundry, but I'm not sure. 

When is Ben's wedding? And yes, that's still a weird thought. I heard the average time for missionaries to be married after their mission was a year, but Ben's ahead of the trend there. 

Yes, I heard about the same-sex marriage policy change. We went on to get some temple pictures for a poster we are putting up for a fireside, and saw that on the front page. While that was surprising at the time, it makes a lot of sense, thinking about it. Let's face it: directly going against several of the most important commandments does put you and your whole family in a bit of a strained situation with the church. 

This week was fairly routine, except for a few exceptional bits. For one, we had an exchange! As a district leader, I need to be going on an exchange with every elder in my district once a transfer, and that's what I did on Wednesday. I spent the day in the other side of the branch, and got to revisit some old memories. We visited one family that has always frustrated us: two married returned missionaries, both of them completely inactive. Then, on Sunday, we had a few surprises concerning them: in a meeting, the branch president revealed that the husband was technically in a polygamist marriage with two women at once. Kind of an interesting situation, with a massive amount of backstory that we weren't told. 

We've been having some trouble finding new investigators, so we decided to do a whole lot of finding. And that has been astoundingly successful! There's only one problem: they all live in the other area. Oh well. On the other hand, some of our former investigators have started expressing interest, and a lot of our less-actives are coming back to church. That, and the branch is becoming closer and closer to becoming a ward. Things are getting exciting!
So much has happened this week that it's really crazy. On the upside, transfers are (hopefully) finalized, and this is what's happening: I'm staying in the 2nd branch, getting a new companion (Elder Jollagum), and having two new missionaries come in: Elder Lindsay, and someone he's training. Also, I am going to be the district leader over the apartment. Elder Patten, my current companion, is going to Ramurthy Nagar in Bangalore, and Elder Braganza is staying in Kakinada with my MTC companion, who is flying out to India tomorrow. That's the biggest news. " (Letters of Elder Battraw, October 5th, 2015)

Too bad that I'm not going to be District Leader for much longer- my reign ends tomorrow when Elder Jalagam ascends to the throne.

Monday, November 2, 2015

2 November 2015

Well, I was looking through some old photos, and I realized that I didn't have any of my last Californian companion, Elder Mackey. So, I emailed my last mission president, and this is what he sent.

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That's more or less Elder Mackey in a nutshell. 

Anyway, this week was pretty exciting. It all kind of pales in comparison to the events of Friday and Saturday, though. Thursday night, all of the missionaries in Rajamundry gathered together in the zone leaders' apartment, and then to the train station. From there, we went overnight to Hyderabad, but we all sort of slept on the way (we were booked AC class, which was freezing cold). In the morning, we got up and arrived in Hyderabad. We went to one of the missionary apartments over there, and got ready there. Then, we went to the chapel, and were addressed by Pres. Berret. This was the second time in the history of the mission that absolutely all of the missionaries were gathered together in one place, for reasons that will be revealed. He talked for a few hours, then we had lunch. There, I got to meet up with Elder Whaley, my MTC companion, who I hadn't seen for four months. Also, I got to meet Elder Campbell, who I was supposed to be companions with in the MTC before his departure date got set back. After lunch, we waited a few minutes, then saw President Nelson, president of the quorum of the 12, Elder Gong, Asia area president and member of the presidency of the quorum of the 70, Elder Funk, former mission president, 70, and soon to be president of the Asia area, and finally Robert William, senior church leader in India and 70. They and their wives walked in, shook hands with everyone, and all gave talks, including their wives. Well, excepting Pres. Nelson. He went last and asked for, then answered questions. I asked a question, and learned that apostles have temple recommends that are good until the death of the prophet. The whole experience was pretty exciting. Afterwards, we grabbed a quick dinner, then went right back on the train back to Rajamundry. Both train trips were overnight, and not very eventful. 

Halloween was also not very eventful. I say that largely because no one realized it was Halloween until late afternoon; not much happened. By the way, two quick questions: one, are those the same army pants I wore in first grade? And two, do you have a picture of Matt's costume? That does sound pretty...unique. Among the exciting news of the week is that I may be sending a package back. I've picked up some stuff that I really don't need, but don't want to throw away, that you might be able to use. Another piece of exciting news is that Bangalore is becoming the second stake in India! Everything has been submitted, approved, and announced: Nov. 13 and 14, with Elder Ronald A. Rasband coming! Also, look at the freezing cold weather we have coming up: Inline image 3

It's actually not too bad, considering how hot it's been lately otherwise. I'm still looking forward to seeing snow again in 13 1/2 months, though. It hit me quite a while back how hard that'll be to adjust to- from 80+ degrees with 100% humidity here, to whatever the weather is in Indiana when I head home. That'll be pretty nuts!

Monday, October 26, 2015

26 October 2015

Well, this week was pretty different. Partly because we spent 2 1/2 days in the other elders' area, and partly because of what happened during those two weeks. Monday, part of Tuesday, and all of Wednesday were spent in RJY 2B area, as opposed to ours, RJY 2A. That took up a lot of time in our area. But the worst of it was just that it was a really dry week- no new investigators. We've been doing a lot of finding, because half of our current investigators are out of town, but nothing. Things have been kind of frustrating in general when it comes to investigators- we invited a dozen potential investigators to church, and 6 of them said that for sure they would be there. Unfortunately, not a single one of them showed up. Again. Actually, that's not quite true. As we learned after church while calling around, one of them showed up a half hour before we got there, found out that we weren't there early, and left. So, we'll be working with those people some more. The biggest problem that elders in the US have is getting return appointments; the biggest problem here is having the people be there for the return appointments.

By the way, there was a hurricane in Mexico? When did that happen? And holy cow, is Zach going to start going to dances? And, most surprising of all, we got a new bishopric? Man, it feels like Bro. Jensen just started yesterday! What's more, that means that we've been in Indiana for more than 8 years (our expedition to Arizona excepted)! .

Also, I just got some very exciting news from my former mission president, Pres. Taggart. Both of the people I was teaching in California who were on date for baptism went through with it! In the picture of the people, the guy on the left is Doug, the member who introduced Mike to the gospel, and the guy on the right is Mike, the investigator. With the other baptism, Emily was baptized by my former companion, Elder Mackey.

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It's always really good to hear that people you were teaching got baptized. But, that about wraps up my news for the week. But first the adventure of the week: we have a less-active member named Mohan. He always seems surprised when we show up, regardless of whether we call beforehand or not. One time, he got mad at us for not calling before we came, even though we did call, and even talked to him over the phone. That was explained on Thursday, when we called him and he asked if we could meet at the church. So, we did that. And I got the surprise of my life when someone I'd never as much as seen before walked in the door. He was another less active member named Mohan, who was about the same age and size, but that's where the comparison ended. Oh, and their voices are identical over the phone. Mohan 2 is a busy painter with a family, who just had another kid! Mohan 1 is a student who still lives with his parents. Oh, and Mohan 2 admitted that he'd gotten mad at us in the past too for always calling him and asking if we could come over, then not showing up. After we figured out what had been going on, things became a lot more clear. The story has a really happy ending, too: Mohan 2, at the end of the message we shared, said that he hadn't felt this happiness in years, and asked us keep coming by.

Monday, October 19, 2015

19 October 2015

This week was pretty straightforward, and there's no too much to report. We started doing all of our finding in the morning, when it's not as hot, but that's only until Elder Jalagam learns the area a bit better. In completely random and unrelated news, a few days back, while eating at a chicken noodles shop, we found this:

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That is my former companion, Elder Patten, holding a fork with all the tines bent forward. Yes, he's making a face. He always does that during photos. 

Anyway, we spent a huge part of this week working on the branch list. It was a disorganized, misspelled mess, which made doing anything with it impossible. But, all the spellings, door numbers, and abbreviations have been standardized, so now we can start really using it. We need to split it to reflect how the area was split, but are having trouble figuring out how to do that. Things are starting to even out between Elder Jalagam and I, thankfully. We still have our disagreements on things, but are going to get really good at flipping coins by the time that one of us is transferred out. Funny news- not even an hour ago, I got something new: 

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I ran the idea past our zone leaders first, and they approved it. Having a harmonica is going to make the dull moments on P-day a lot more memorable, that's for sure. 

Having four elders in the apartment is definitely having some perks, also. We did a whole lot of cleaning this morning, so the apartment is both far cleaner and it only took an hour. We also just got new bikes, which makes life a lot easier. Things are looking up!

Monday, October 12, 2015

12 October 2015

This week has been pretty different. The number of missionaries in Rajamundry has more than doubled, and instead of having two missionaries in our apartment, we have 5. It's quite the change. Also, the visa-waiters in my batch, Elders Whaley and Goodrich, finally came in! Elder Whaley is off in Hyderabad, but Elder Goodrich came into 1st branch, not even 10 minutes from our apartment. It's pretty exciting!

Anyway, our week was spent largely in preparing for the new missionaries coming in. We got a map printed that turned out to be a little too big. Or actually way too big. We didn't think that 2x4 sounded too big, but it turned out to be massive, because it was in meters. So, we have a map of our area that is too big to fit on any of the walls. We ended up taking it around a corner in one room, but it keeps falling off the wall because it's too heavy. That's kind of a problem, because I used over half a roll of duct tape trying to keep it up. We're debating on whether to glue it to the wall or nail it, because nothing else seems to be working. Also, we pulled out the smaller beds in our room, and put in the bunk beds. That was quite the effort; involving 64 washers, and 16 bolts and nuts: all without a wrench. But, they are up and holding together. Getting the beds out was even more fun. We ended up having to take one of them on our shoulders to the other apartment, which was a pretty good adventure. It wouldn't fit in our lift, so we had to carry the 50-lb.+ behemoth down four flights of stairs to the ground, a kilometer to the other apartment, then up five flights of stairs to get there. That was lots of fun. The other one is still in our apartment, waiting for the zone leaders to figure out how they are going to get it to Kakinada, which is a 2 hour bus ride away. 

The new elders arrived on Wednesday, and on Friday. My new companion, Elder Jalagam, is...interesting. He's the first native companion I've had, so working with him, and just communicating with him, is tricky. But, things are going well so far. We've split the branch into two areas, and Elders Lindsay and Prasad are taking the south half. It's been working well. Elder Goodrich, coming straight from California, was a bit shell-shocked by the whole transition, which was pretty abrupt. He came in just in time for a wedding, general conference (which he watched twice- once in California, once here), and for our BML baptizing his son. All of those are very, very different that American versions of them. 

Conference was really good, though! I think three new apostles might be a record. The timing of it all was off from what we thought it would be. On Saturday, it started at 9, which wouldn't have been a problem if we hadn't been under the impression it started at 10. After an urgent text from our zone leaders at 9:20, we came in at 9:30, halfway through Elder Uchtdorf's talk. You have to love the analogy of the quilt! It's run on an odd schedule: Saturday, it starts at 9, ends at 11. The second session starts at 11:15, and ends 1:15. Priesthood starts at 4. Sunday, it starts at 10, second session at 12:15, and priesthood session is usually replayed at 4. We attended all the sessions of it, except for the second priesthood session, and had a few investigators show up, even. I think that's our news for the week!

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 October 2015

So much has happened this week that it's really crazy. On the upside, transfers are (hopefully) finalized, and this is what's happening: I'm staying in the 2nd branch, getting a new companion (Elder Jollagum), and having two new missionaries come in: Elder Lindsay, and someone he's training. Also, I am going to be the district leader over the apartment. Elder Patten, my current companion, is going to Ramurthy Nagar in Bangalore, and Elder Braganza is staying in Kakinada with my MTC companion, who is flying out to India tomorrow. That's the biggest news.

Even crazier things have happened, though. On Tuesday night, while we were teaching an investigator, two more people showed up out of the blue; just two guys who we talked to on the street. There were three missionaries, and now three people who needed to be taught. So, Elder Patten called anyone and everyone in our branch to see if anyone could come, while Elder Braganza and I talked to the 2 new guys. Eventually, because no one in our branch could come, the 1st branch missionaries came- right as the new investigators were leaving. So Elder Patten took them to a member's house who, due to some misunderstandings, was cooking us dinner even after we'd already eaten and said nothing about it, while Elder Braganza and I tried to teach the original investigator. But, she had to go then, so we filed paperwork and things the rest of the night. It was really confusing, but more or less worked out.

Wednesday was yet more unplanned and crazy. In the morning, Elder Dharavat called and asked if we had 50 Telegu Books of Mormon. That's right: 50. After studies, he came over with a bunch of other missionaries and started an assembly line where each of us highlighted a few pages and passed them down. We crunched through most of them before Elder Patten and I had to go to an appointment. Afterward, we came back and helped the other missionaries finish up writing our contact information on innumerable pamphlets and cards, then headed out to the appointment. It was way out at a pharmacology college, where we got fed lunch, before being sat down in a room where students started trickling in. Unfortunately, an hour later but still not before they all came, we had to go. So, we left Elder Patten with 3rd branch, and went back with 1st branch to our respective appointments. Unfortunately, right as we arrived back in our area, the appointment bunked. We instead called a ward member, asking if he could come on exchanges with us. He said yes- then showed up an hour and a half later. By then, it was dark and raining, so the other plans we had also fell through. We spent a whole lot of time right after that calling anyone we could think of to ask if we could come over, but to no avail. Eventually, Elder Patten came back, so we went to the one appointment of the day that hadn't bunked. 

Thursday was relatively tame. We had to go to the Foreign Registration Office in the morning to deregister Elder Patten so he could leave. But, when we showed up, they got really mad at us, because Elder Patten was missing a really vital piece of paper: his registration certificate, which we are supposed to always have a copy of in case police stop us. Elder Patten told them he never had it, and the guy there nearly flipped after hearing he'd been here for six months without it. Elder Patten called the mission office, other elders, and the area's FRO expert, but none of them had it. We basically just bit our fingernails and waited until the mission office called back: they had it after all. But, they have to mail it to us, which takes a week, minimum. We then went to an appointment at the church to wait for an investigator, who didn't show. That night, we split up: I went with Auto Raju, our BML, to an investigator's home while the other elders went to another.

On Friday, we had a new District Leader meeting, where the zone leaders told us what we are supposed to do, before zone training. Then, we packed up and went to Kakinada. Funny story: on the bus there, we talked to no less than 8 new people, one of whom was really condescending and really...interesting. He told us that we should wake up at 4 in the morning, that we should pray to everything, and that God is watching us all the time, and so we should be scared. He was a thoroughly interesting person.

Saturday, we went out to a sister who lives way far out, which took a while. She gave us some drinks and snacks, right after we had a big lunch. Then, we had a meeting with the branch president, whose wife had just made some treats for us. After that, we had a quick early dinner, and went finding. Normally, that doesn't involve eating loads of food. But this time was an exception. We saw some sort of really quiet celebration, so we came over to it. It turned out to be the opening of a new chicken shop, and they asked us to pray for it. After that, they gave us soda and snacks. We had another appointment right afterward, where we got yet more food. I don't think I ever had time to get hungry that day.

Sunday was the opposite: fasting. We had church and BCM, then a lesson with a less active member, who lives really far away, and whose house is only connected to a paved road by a half mile of really bumpy dirt paths. While we were talking there, her home teachers showed up. So, we taught a joint lesson with them. Later that day, we had an appointment with an investigator, and taught her, and then another. It was a busy day!

About conference: we watch it a week late here, because of the time difference. Also, would you move to Arizona if David got a job there?

Monday, September 28, 2015

28 September 2015

Last night, we got transfer calls- which was really surprising, because normally they come on Wednesday. As it turns out, I'm staying in Rajamundry 2nd branch, Elder Patten is going to Bangalore, Elder Braganza is going back to Kakinada with the soon-to-arrive visa waiter, Elder Whaley, who was my companion in the MTC. Also, my new companion will be Elder Jollagum (I'm guessing on the spelling), who is a southern India native. That'll be exciting.

Also, the Ganesh festival ended with a huge bang. All of yesterday and the day before, big tractors hauled Ganesh statues all over Rajamundry, with music blaring and people dancing everywhere. There weren't even any close calls with partiers, but there were plenty of fireworks going off. 

Funny story- we went to an Americanish restaurant a few days back called Eat n Play. Apparently, it used to have a bowling alley and other fun stuff to play with, but it was all closed down. So now it's really just Eat. The food it serves (mostly ripoffs of American foods), with a few exceptions, gives everyone food poisoning, so it has collected a few funny names- Eat n Spray, Eat n Slay, or Eat n Pray. Anyway, while we were there, we talked to a whole lot of people. That ended up working out really well, because 3 of them showed up at church today, along with 2 others we talked to on the street. 5 investigators at church is almost unheard of here! It was a really good week. 

Today was Deep Cleaning Day, by presidential decree, and so we spent 4 hours scrubbing our apartment. The sad truth is that it still is not very clean. A few months back, some elders trashed it to an unbelievable extent (garbage piles in every room and stacked waist-high on the balcony), and the apartment is still recovering. We've put loads of work in, and it's starting to pay off! The bathroom floor is almost white for the first time in at least a year, for example. We are trying to get it to look good, because very soon we all are going to be transferred out, the way things are going. Almost everyone who was there just 3 months ago in Rajamundry is either going or gone. Actually, I'm the only one staying! That's weird to think that I'll be the longest-stayed elder in Rajamundry in under a week. Half of the elders there when I came in will be out of the country at the end of the transfer, too. Wow! 

The work in our branch is going really well, too. We have one investigator on date to be baptized, a recent convert's sister is taking the lessons, and we now have 5 new investigators to teach. Even with having only three days in Rajamundry last week, we still taught a huge number of lessons and did a lot of work. Also, a load of less-actives showed up at church, which is a really good sign. They, plus recent converts, give almost all the referrals. Thatt reminds me- everyone who reads this, please think of a friend that you could refer to your local missionaries this week, then do it!  

That's been all of the major events that have happened this week. It's been fun, and will soon get even better! Send lots of pictures!

Monday, September 21, 2015

21 September 2015

This week has been pretty nuts. We've spent half of it in Kakinada, half of it in Rajamundry, and the other half on the bus between the two. It's been pretty long. On the other hand, neither area has entirely fallen apart or blown up, so we've been at least a little successful. We just got the news a few days back: we'll be continuing with this until the end of the transfer, on October 5th. Also, all of the visa waiters in the US just got two year visas, and are leaving for India on the 6th, which means they'll probably be in Rajamundry on the 9th: two day's travel, and one while waiting in Bangalore. I really hope I train!

In unrelated news, we now have senior missionaries in Rajamundry, too! The Newtons, from Utah, arrived this week, and are humanitarian service missionaries. Their biggest problem right now is that they have no service to do until things get figured out. But they are a lot of fun. (This picture was copied from the mission email; I didn't take it.)Inline image 2

Other than that, not too much happened this week, apart from a few moments of excitement. Yesterday, we were in an auto with a member, and we got pulled over by the police. After checking the driver's license, they fined him 100 rupees for letting Elder Patten sit up front instead of in the back. Also, it's the Ganesh Festival here right now, so there are big Ganesh statues everywhere, and every odd night, we have to be in our apartments by 6:00. The statues are a little funny- they are 7-10 feet tall, have their own little booth, and have speakers blaring Telegu music next to them. One investigator explained the story of Ganesh to us too, and it seems pretty random. That's been it for the week.

Monday, September 14, 2015

14 September 2015

Well, this week has been really short, and what's more, so is my email time. That's due to a long story, which will be told in the email to come.

We had a lot of exchanges this week. On Tuesday, we had Elder Cluff, an Assistant to the President, drop by for the day to go on exchanges and check up on us. We had a really fun day, and did a lot of work. On Wednesday, we had Elders Dias and Braganza drop in, for an entirely different reason. Elder Dias applied for a visa extension three months ago, which was finally and spectacularly turned down. He had under a week to leave the country. So, Elder Braganza is staying with us until he gets a new companion. That could take quite a while, including up to the end of the transfer. He's going to be staying with us at least until next week, which means that tomorrow, we're going over to his area, Kakinada, to do some work there so it's not completely left missionariless for a month. It's a two hour bus ride there, which is always exciting. We will be doing work in both areas for a while. On the plus side, they have the new type of cycles there, which are way better than the cycles we're using in Rajamundry. Speaking of cycles, those have also been very exciting. All three of the ones we are using have been in for multiple overhauls, and are still constantly in need of repair. Most of the time, the repairs are pretty minor, but there have been some thrilling ones...

This morning was the highlight of the week: waterfalls. We woke up early and headed out as a zone to the Rampos Waterfalls, which are only two hours away by auto. We went out, and eventually arrived. There, we started hiking, and hiking, and hiking some more. I was with a few other elders in a group that was way ahead of the main group, and so when we came  to one point, we did the exciting thing: climbed the waterfalls themselves. But, fifteen minutes of near-rock climbing later, we learned that there was a much easier way to the top: a trail. It was very well hidden, difficult to climb, and loads of fun. It took us over half an hour to reach the top, which was very exciting.Inline image 1

There was a pool there that some people were fishing in, including the guy who showed us the way to the top.Inline image 2

We had to do it in full proselyting clothes, including ties. That was kind of an odd experience, going hiking and scrambling over boulders in dress shoes and slacks. But, we made it, and had lots of fun.

Monday, September 7, 2015

7 September 2015

Well, this week was really eventful. A lot of things happened, including my birthday. That went pretty well. We went to Dolphin's, the nicest restaurant in Rajamundry for that, and I tried something new: special chicken fried rice and curry. It was good! That was about it for anything too crazy. Nothing too exciting happened during the rest of the week, either, though. Tuesday, we didn't have district meeting, because we had zone training on Friday. So, we mostly just visited around the less actives in the branch. On Wednesday, we spent most of our time looking around the branch list, trying to visit everyone on it. Thursday, we had weekly planning, then a lesson with Rakesh, our recent convert, and Divya, his sister, who we are hoping will be our next recent convert. It went really well! On Friday, we had an interesting day. We started out with zone training, which took the whole morning, then had lunch with a few other missionaries, then helped the district leader find some stuff around Rajamundry. After that, it was already pretty late, but we managed to still visit a couple more less actives. Something we learned in zone training: The Ganesh Festival is going to go on from the 17th to the 27th, and we'll have to be in our apartments before 6 every other day during it. On the plus side, we'll really get a lot of cleaning done. Our apartment still needs a lot of work. Finally, on Sunday we did a lot of visiting around to invite people to church, then church, where Rakesh was confirmed! Our branch president confirmed him, with his counselors and the missionaries standing in the circle. After church, we did some more visiting, and that was our week.

Monday, August 31, 2015

31 August 2015

First off, I didn't know that Aunt Krysta was expecting. When did that happen? Also, Ben has been off his mission for not even three months, and is already planning his engagement! He does know that it's occasionally okay just to wait for a bit, right? :)

We had a bit of a crazy week. We did a whole lot of going around, but the usual problems struck us: heat, and missing investigators. On Wednesday, we met with one of our investigators for the first time in a long while. Kumar was on date for baptism before we left for Hyderabad, and disappeared since. But we finally got to meet with him! And...he dropped us. This was just about the only too-crazy thing that happened then. 

On Thursday, we decided to clean our apartment some. That turned into a scrubbing festival, because the room we decided to clean was dirtier every time we looked at it. There was dust piled high on top of everything, and the walls were covered in...stuff. Apparently, some elder had hung a whole bunch of things up, then took them all down. That left innumerable tape marks all over the walls, that bugs got stuck in. We also had to clean the mosquito mesh on the windows, the window bars (all the windows have mesh and bars), the floor, the beds, the cupboards, and just about everything else in that room. That took just a little bit. As in, two hours. All we cleaned was the floor, the ceiling, and everything in between. But, that room is now the cleanest in the entire apartment! Halfway through, we made a terrible mistake: we ordered pot biryani. It's a great concept! You make one phone call, and soon afterward, a guy holding a terra cotta pot of chicken biryani shows up at your doorstep and asks for 130 rupees. In reality, it usually takes a dozen more calls and another two hours for him to show up. Needless to say, that was the last time we ordered from him. After lunch, we then went to our BML's house to ask for help with the baptism we were having on Sunday. He agreed, and started thinking about who he'd assign for what. Then, we went to Rakesh, the guy being baptized, and started teaching. We had a dinner break, then he came to the church to be interviewed for baptism. He passed! Finally, we went to a bakery to celebrate (corner bakeries are cheap, everywhere, and have really good food).

Friday was a long day. We had studies in the morning, then district meeting, then lunch. So instead, we went to the church to try to get a film to show for the baptism. But, the internet was down, so we called all of our PIs. For years, elders had been talking to people on the street, getting their numbers, and putting them in the phone, before forgetting about them forever. We changed that. We probably called over a hundred people, and made appointments with 7 of them. That took quite a while. Then, we visited a few more families before calling it a night. 

Saturday was the longest day on record. We called all 7 of the people we'd made appointments with to confirm in the morning, and all of them said that they would meet us. Then one after one, they all didn't show up. We did teach a few lessons to members, but that was it all day besides that. Then, at night, we visited one of them, who gave us a referral! Unfortunately, both live in another elder's area, so we'll be passing them over. 

Sunday was a very exciting day: Rakesh's baptism! Funny story- three weeks ago, we'd been asked to prepare 20 minute talks then, so we did. But during the meeting, right after the sacrament was passed, the district president leaned over and told us we only had to take 8 minutes. That was a huge load off my shoulders. After church, we had a baptismal service, then walked outside (into the rain), and Rakesh was baptized! After that, we had dinner, then visited one family. And, that was our week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

25 August 2015

Well, this whole week has been pretty crazy; not much went as planned. But, it was still pretty good. We had transfer calls, and, while every other companionship in the zone is getting moved around, Elder Patten and I are staying together in Rajamundry 2nd branch. On Tuesday, things were a little interesting. Elder Poleboina, our district leader, came down from Kakinada to stay with us because his companion left for the Phillipines, so in the morning we had to go and print off the district meeting outline that he'd left in Kakinada. After the meeting, we had a quick lunch, which brought back memories. We went to the first restaurant that I'd eaten at in India. Later, we went out visiting, without much luck. In the afternoon during the rainy season here, it is hot. Very hot. And so most people either stay inside and sleep, or go out to some place with air conditioning. That makes missionary work a little harder in the afternoons, because on top of that, schools and colleges aren't out yet, so we have trouble finding people who are home/awake. But, as Preach My Gospel says, our success is determined by our commitment to find and teach, not necessarily our actual finding and teaching. That's good, because we spent the whole week really trying to find and teach, without much finding and teaching. Anyway, Rakesh, one of our investigators, is still on date for baptism, which is coming up really fast- August 30th. We're working with him a lot, because he still has some ground to cover before then. Also, we met a really interesting guy- Mohan. He caught us as we were coming down the street and more or less asked to be taught. He taught himself English by taking a beginners English course then downloading an English bible on his phone and reading it. He is more optimistic than anyone else I've met ever, and figured out a visualization method from Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. He's pretty awesome!

Wednesday was just amazing. We finally got our BML, Auto Raju, to come with us for a while, which made for a really welcome change. In the morning, him and Elder Poleboina came with us (Elder Poleboina's new companion not having arrived yet), and we tried clearing out the phone with his help. Then, Auto had to take off, but he said he'd come back later. We tried visiting around for just about ever, but no one was home. We planned out about 20 people to visit, but they just weren't there. Then, as we were cycling down a road, we saw a car stuck in a sewer. After helping to pull it out, we still had a bunch of time until school let out, so we went to a member who's stuck at home. That night, we had a few more lessons with members, too.  

Thursday was fun. We had weekly planning, and it was Elder Poleboina's birthday. He went with the zone leaders right after planning, and we did a bunch of calling around to get appointments. Later, we got my bike fixed up and printed off the branch list, but then my bike started acting up in a new way. The tire just started leaking like crazy. It would go flat in under an hour, but because there are cycle shops everywhere and people started going back to their houses, we just kept filling it and moving on, trying to make up lost ground. We had a great lesson with Mohan that Auto Raju came to,, and then went to Rakesh. Both of them are excited about learning more! Then, we visited a different Mohan, and talked about him going on a mission. 

On Friday we ended up being a little late getting out of the apartment because we ate lunch inside, and were punished for that with an endless round of missed appointments. All day, we had a really hard time finding anyone who was home or had time. But, we did get my cycle fixed up. The most notable thing that happened was a lesson with the Vakapalli family, about trials. Last time we visited them, they asked about why we get them, so we prepared a pretty good lesson out of the scriptures. After that, we learned something crazy from one of the district presidency: Rajamundry is getting some senior missionaries!

Saturday was pretty weird. In the morning, we got called by a member who asked us to visit her in the hospital because her father was sick. It sounded grim, because her father is the oldest convert in Rajamundry. So, we went over quickly, but had a real adventure finding his room. Apparently, the hospital he was in couldn't help us, because we didn't know his name. We lucked out, and by asking for the "old guy with a big white beard", we were able to find him. He was in the ICU, but he wasn't really sick. He just had some minor thing going on, but was totally fine. After we got out of their, we tried to find a new place to eat, but instead ended up getting massively lost. Eventually we found our way back, but it took nearly half an hour. Then, we headed out visiting, and met up with Vasu, the YSA representative for the branch. We may be having some big "activate the YSA activity" soon, because almost none of them are active. 

On Sunday, we headed out early to visit a bunch of people. We dropped off a shirt for Rakesh, who needed one, asked Venkatesh to come to church, and visited all of our investigators to invite them to church. Unfortunately, most of them still didn't come, but we did have three unexpected people drop in! Two of them, Mohan and VJ, had never been to church before- we'd just talked to them on the street at one point, and they thought they should come! We invite everyone we talk to to church, but these people were the first to actually come, so we were pretty excited. We had a great lesson in Gospel Principles class, largely because Rakesh answered half of their questions and bore his testimony to them. It's always thrilling when you learn how much your investigators feel about the gospel. Finally, that night was kind of slow. Elder Larson, one of our zone leaders, was really sick, but had a few appointments they needed to get to, so I ended up staying with him so his companion could go out with Elder Patten. On the other hand, I definitely got a whole lot farther into the scriptures that night. 

Monday was transfers, so pday got shifted to today. We had all of the usual trouble finding people, but did have some exciting moments. For example, one of the members we are working with met with us, after a long train of unavailability! Also, we found a former investigator's house, after a few adventures. I saw a sign at one point that was really...interesting: Our Slum is Child-Labor Free! Later, we went back to the hospital to visit the same member, who is doing fine. In the evening, we had a really interesting appointment: soccer. There, we found two people who both asked a lot of questions, and wanted to learn more. Then, finally, we taught Rakesh again.

Monday, August 17, 2015

17 August 2015

Well, this week has been pretty exciting. On Tuesday, we didn't have district meeting, because the elders from Kakinada couldn't get here, because of the strike. Apparently, that day was set aside as a Bundt (strike) to try and get Hyderabad (a big city) to become part of Andhra Pradesh (its original state) instead of remaining in Telangana (the state that split off of Andhra Pradesh and now owns Hyderabad's tax rights). So, lots of things were closed. We dropped by the other district's district meeting near the end to try to pick up some meds from the zone leaders, but they didn't have them. Then, we went out to lunch together. The original thought was Dominos, the only American restaurant here, but it looked closed. One of the elders called, and what would you know? Despite having big metal things pulled over all the windows and covering the door, they were actually open, and let us in through the back.
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That furry looking thing in the bottom left is Elder Thompson's head, by the way. After we got done there, we went out visiting. Unfortunately, not many people were home. As in, basically no one. Partly because of the strike, everything was closed and everyone was gone. It wasn't violent, though. All that was different was that 3/4 of the businesses were closed. However, we found three new potential investigators, with a bit of a funny story behind that. We showed up to a less-active family's house, and taught them a quick lesson. Then, they gave us a referral! That was the first time I've gotten one since arriving in India. We go to the referral's house, and learn their story. One of them, Pradeep, is a bodybuilder who met an LDS Mexican woman online. She only spoke Spanish, so he learned it to talk to her, and now they are going to get married. However, she insists on him being baptized before marriage, so he agreed to meet with us. We are going to have to be very sure that he is getting baptized for the right reasons, but right now that isn't a problem because he is avoiding us. He also has two sisters who seem very interested, and sincere! As we were heading home that night, we saw a whole bunch of Hindu decorations set up, and people dancing around with music blasting. As we tried to bypass them, we were all but literally dragged into the mosh pit, with people asking us to dance. We got out safely, but it was an exciting moment. 

On Wednesday, we had district meeting in the morning, then left for a lunch appointment. Unfortunately, we got a call cancelling it. The same family who gave us the referral also invited us to one of their friends/relative's weddings, but right before the ceremony the couple started arguing, and it was called off. After that, we went out to go to all of our investigators. The high point of the day was teaching Rakesh, our most solid investigator. He just showed up in church one day, and agreed to let us teach him! He is on date for baptism, but is having some trouble with really believing he can be ready by then. After that, we went to another member's house for a dinner appointment, which are deceptively rare here. One of the sisters cooked us an amazing beef curry! One of the different things about India is simply that the people here don't experiment much with food. Even most of the Christians and Muslims here don't eat beef, mostly because they've never had it. Also, no one eats pork. I have no idea why. As we were going home for the night, Elder Patten took a crash in a very interesting way. He was just biking down one of the alleys when his wheel caught in a crack, and he fell over. He's fine, though. 

Thursday, we had some very exciting weekly planning. Then, we went out to a new restaurant, where I got to try uttapom for the first time. It's good! After lunch, we tried to track down a few families that the branch president had asked us to visit. Eventually, we found them all, but it took quite a while. We set up appointments with them and a bunch of other people, but didn't get to teach many lessons. A lot of people were busy then. 

On Friday, we had an eventful day. Bro. Raju, our BML, had said that he would come with us all day to help us find places, which we were really looking forward to, but he got sick. So instead, we went to the Bordu family, then to the hospital. Elder Patten has been having an earache for a while, so he called the mission nurse, who told him to go there. We waited after checking in for two hours, then Elder Patten got called in. He said that the doctor was a little different than what you might have expected. He mostly just prescribed a whole load of antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, and painkillers. In India, you can get anything in a medical shop without a prescription, as a side note. That includes crazy painkillers, antibiotics, and anything else you feel like. After the hospital, we were short on time. We started heading out, but then it started raining, which trashed our plans. Some of the people we meet with are single sisters, which means we have to talk outside, which they don't want to do in the rain. However, we still had a pretty successful night, and shared a bunch of messages.

Saturday was Independence Day for India. We had a crazy good day, and met with 8 families. That is almost unheard of here, largely because most people aren't home very often. However, on holidays we can meet with anyone because they are all home. We had a long list of people we could visit, and a member who came with us for part of it. That too is very rare here. We dropped by the Godavri river at one point, and noticed something: the river water is just about completely opaque. We couldn't see the steps that were less than an inch under the surface. Anyway, we tried visiting two families in a row that weren't home, but as we swung by later, they were! Then, we visited some more less active families, and called it a day. 

Sunday was one of the best days of the week. We headed out a little early to invite some investigators to church again, then had a lunch appointment with the Katiki's, who also have a son on a mission, and are amazing cooks. They made the best mutton biryani that I have ever had. At church, almost none of our investigators showed up, including Rakesh. But, we had two of the inactive families that we had visited show up! Because the one investigator who had came to church ducked out right after sacrament meeting, we had BMCM instead of Gospel Principles class. After church, we had a hard time finding anyone who was home, until we ran into Mohan. We had an amazing lesson with him, and he really seemed excited to come back to church!

Earlier today, we had an interesting experience. We went to a Hindu temple, after getting authorization, and got to climb the 600 steps to the top of the hill it was built on, in bare feet. There were monkeys everywhere, and some really good scenery. Inline image 3

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Are you still working at the hospital, as well as teaching? What is Ben doing? And if you want some ideas on what to cook, try chicken biryani. That is one of the most popular and common foods around here. Finally, my companion has a funny story. He asked his mom for a lantern, and she ordered one and sent it to him through Amazon India. Unfortunately, he just wanted a small one to keep in his bag, and this one is massive. Would it be okay if I pulled money off my card before my birthday to buy it from him? Transfer calls are today!

Monday, August 10, 2015

10 August 2015

Over here, everything works a little differently. That also goes for clothes shopping. I needed a new pair of pants, so last Monday, I went and tried to get them. It's a bit more of a process, but it's a lot of fun. First, you go down to the fabric place. It's only about 15 minutes from the apartment, and there are at least a hundred small fabric shops there, in a crazy grid pattern. You find one that looks like what you need, and go in and find the fabric. Some shops sell custom pant fabric: in other shops, when a roll is just about out, they take just enough to make pants out of it, and sell it to these shops. We went to one, and I found some amazing fabric: stretchy brown fabric. Then, you go down to a tailor, and get measured. He then makes pants out of it. Total cost? 380 rupees, or about $6.

On Tuesday, I had some very fun registration paperwork to do. But, I finally got registered! Then, we tried to clean off the apartment's whiteboard so we could update it. That was an adventure. Usually, you can just wipe them off. I tried using lens cleaner, water, and a whole bunch of stuff. The only thing that ended up working was dish soap. Then, we had to find a marker. That was another adventure. You can usually find a stationery shop on any street, but none of them had the. We ended up walking half a mile before we found one, but along the way we got a bunch of other stuff that we needed. Finally, we got back to the apartment, and had a clean whiteboard and a marker. We did the math, then tried to visit a whole bunch of people. The most memorable of them was one of the missionary's parents, who doesn't speak much english. 

Wednesday, I had a lot of fun, by completely losing my voice. I had a cold all week, but it really set in then. I couldn't talk to save my life. Which is really unfortunate for a missionary. We called Sister Berret, the mission nurse, who said that I couldn't talk or I might do permanent damage if I had laryngitis. So, I didn't talk much. However, I did get a package! Thanks! We had four back to back appointments set, scheduled, and visited. The first one started late and ended early, but the second one was amazing. We, or really just Elder Patten, taught a new investigator, and got him to commit to baptism! Our third appointment bunked on us, and the fourth one was a little different than normal: a birthday party. It was fun, but not exactly what we were expecting. 

On Thursday, my voice started coming back! We had a good weekly planning session in the morning, then headed out. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. All of our set appointments ditched, including one of the investigators we had on date. But, we talked to one of the hopefully soon-to-be-missionaries, and got him excited about serving! We also talked to one of the less active families that's been under the radar for a while, and go them to commit to come back to church. 

Friday was not a very exciting day. We did do one thing very exciting, though: we had been inviting all of the young men to an activity we had planned all week, then called around and visited around and did everything we could to try to bring in as many people as possible for it. How did it turn out? Well, the guy we planned it with showed up, but no one else. The activity was watching the Restoration movie, though, not something that needed a lot of participation, so we did it anyway. 

On Saturday, we started out by trying to print off a better area map. We have three large maps in our apartment, but all of them show disjointed small bits of it, not the whole thing. Before we got too far into that, a member asked us what we were doing, we told him, and he said that he would take care of it. Later, we visited the Balla family, and shared a message before asking them to show us where another family lived. They couldn't, so we moved on. Not much else happened; until school gets out, no one is ever home. That night, we taught some awesome lessons, though. 

Finally, we had a very fast Sunday. We tried visiting some people before church (2:00), but no one that we were trying to see was home. However, one random guy invited us in. We sat down, and he started talking. He had an interesting story: he had spent 14 years in the U.S. working for American Express, and also in the Indian Air Force. He mentioned a few things that were a little off-putting, though, such as how he could have a million people do what he said and how he could have them build a million "Jesus churches" if he wanted. That, and he said he was currently with the political group CPI. I figured that stood for the something Party of India, but couldn't guess what. That is, until we excused ourselves and left, when I saw a huge hammer and sickle painted on the wall with CPI in big letters next to it, and realized that the C stood for Communist. Then, we went to church, had branch council meeting, then had dinner. By then, it was 8:00. So, we visited a very fun family. The father is the first convert in Rajamundry! He is pretty old, but still both alive and lively, and funny!

Monday, August 3, 2015

3 August 2015

This was a thoroughly crazy week. Lots of stuff has happened. On Tuesday, we had a very fun and long bike repair. Apparently, I needed a new inner tube. In India, it's a little harder to get those replaced than in America, because they usually just patch them. However, the place we went to to get the bike fixed didn't have spare tubes there. So they drove off on a motorcycle to get one, and then we waited. And waited. And even waited some more. They were in no rush to fix my bike, because there was a line. So, we looked around and spotted a baby crow.

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It was just hanging out by the building, and sitting, while crows were flying around the air and making a racket. We got dive-bombed quite a few times, to the point that I started wearing my helmet. After about 45 minutes, they finally put the tube on my bike, and I was good to go. Or so I thought. Later in the week, everything else about my bike broke, but not that front tire!

On Wednesday, we got invited to a recently returned RM's birthday party. It was really low key compared to American parties, They brought out a cake, that had a plastic flower bud thing on top, which they lit. It fell open, and started playing "Happy Birthday." Then, the RM whose birthday it was got to have people feed her cake. Indian traditions are a little different when it comes to parties. 

Later in the week, we stopped by our very new branch mission leader. His name is Auto Raju, which is a little funny because he used to drive an auto. He pulled out his new machete to show us what he got for Pushkaral. He's a very fun guy, but a little weird. 

Not much else happened this week: we did a lot of visiting members, but no investigators, because they all disappeared during Pushkaral. One of them showed up in church, along with someone we had never met but were happy to teach. It was a good Sunday!

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This is a cow, hanging out by an ice cream stand. I wonder if cows like ice cream.

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This is the wagon that was set up for the pioneer festival last week. It looks pretty neat!

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This is a whole bunch of Indians performing Cotton Eye Joe. 
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This is what the toilets on the train looked like. That hole goes straight down to the tracks, by the way.

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This is a prison that we toured. Not really, it's just the train we went on. Could you tell at first glance? 

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This is how we entertained ourselves on the train. Yes, it was stopped at the time; no, I was in no danger of hurting myself. This was 8 hours into our trip, so I was really tired at the time, by the way.
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This is one of the signs on the train, that I thought was hilarious. If you look, you can notice how they charge 100 less rupees if you can read Telegu. 

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This is main road in Rajamundry. It is big, crowded, and full of people. But, you can find anything there if you know where to look. 

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This is a picture of a picture of Pushkaral, and all the crowds. It's just a little blurry, but you can still tell that there was a whole lot of people there.