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.

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