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.