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.