Sunday, January 24, 2016

24 Jan. 2016

Things have been pretty hectic around here, too. We spent a whole lot of the week trying to get the apartment repaired, which it finally is! We were having some big problems with the water, but it's all cleared up now, thank goodness. On the other hand, we've been having some nice, hot, humid weather here. It probably sounds nice when there's snow out, but it's not quite as nice when you haven't felt cold in a year...literally. In related news, I hit my year mark last week. That was fun, although I didn't really do anything for it. Oddly enough, there's no snow here.

That's too bad about the van, though. It worked for the last what, 15 years? That's not bad. Also, I can't believe that Payne is going to Vegas! Although, that's more because I'm surprised there's a mission there than anything. Speaking of missions, when is Sam putting in his papers? The time for that is coming up... David wants to move to Arizona? What for? I think I might live in Alaska the rest of my life, after being here. 

The biggest news for the week was zone conference. It was supposed to happen on Friday, but got pushed back because Pres. Berret's flight got delayed. So, on Saturday, we learned all about using time wisely, and how to have effective planning. It was pretty powerful, and made me look back on how we use time. He asked us to track how we used our time for a couple of days, and then had us add it all up. As it turns out, the zone as a whole spent twice as much time travelling every day than we did teaching. Our areas are huge, by the way. It can take up to an hour to get to some of the places. In the last area I served in, we lived at the absolute edge of it, so we never really made it up to the top. I think it would take about three hours or more, judging by how long it took to get to other areas. 

I still have some candy left from the last package you sent! Not much, but there's still a little. Speaking of that, we got some news at zone conference. American elders are now strongly discouraged from getting packages from home. Apparently, they've been causing the office missionaries no end of headaches from all the customs regulations and requirements. However, if you want to send me something, you can just go to the site, and it'll be sent in-country, avoiding customs. We got express mission authorization to do that, and even to have them sent straight to our apartments, if we want. Feel free to do that! I remember when you said the package arrived, some things had broken. Did any of the carved wooden elephants break? 

Well, our teaching pool is a little small right now. But, we do have some very interesting investigators. One of them, Samuel, is very old, and his family really does not like him coming to our church. He is very set on some gospel topics, such as God showing himself to people, and takes a while to change his mind on those things. However, he is starting to feel the truth of the gospel, and is on date to be baptized! We also have Preetha, whose husband is completely indifferent about her religion. She is a 7th-day adventist, and has some real trouble seeing why we have church on Sunday.. We've explained it to her a million times, but she still can't quite wrap her mind around it. Fortunately for our scheduling, if not for her, she broke her arm recently, and so stays at home a lot, and lives right across the street from a fun member family. So, we go there at least once or twice a week to visit one or another. Our BML recently gave us four referalls! The problem is just that none of the will meet with us. We also found one guy while looking for someone else, Sujit. His grandpa is a less active who lives in Ooty, 2 hours away. I'm still not sure why the elders from a while back baptized him here... Anyway, Sujit is pretty awesome. He has no particular religion, just believing that God is some sort of power out there, but likes to have us over, and is coming around. 

That was basically our week, have fun in Indiana! And possibly Arizona soon!

Monday, January 18, 2016

18 January 2016

Ooty sounds like a disease of some sort, doesn't it? Well, it's actually a place- and one of the most famous places in all of Coimbatore. I took a million photos, which will be included in the multitude of attachments. That's handy to know about cheap courses at Ivy Tech; I'll definitely keep that in mind. The week here was pretty eventful, due mostly to (yet another) Hindu holiday, Pongal. It's a farmer's festival, largely celebrated by decorating your walkway and outside your door in the early stages. Inline image 1
Guess what that lovely brown and green stuff is? You guessed it- cow poop. They actually paint outside their doors with cow poop. And it gets better:

Inline image 2
In case the cow poop wasn't enough, they then decorate that by putting dye powder on top in colorful patterns. Some streets, such as this one, were completely covered in poop. Mm-mm!

In other, unrelated news, I started cooking again! For the last few weeks (or maybe months), I haven't really cooked much. But, last P-Day, I picked up some ingredients, and made fish rice. I used to make it all the time in California, but not since. I'll admit, that's largely because we don't have rice cookers here that do all the work for you. I did learn some interesting things about the fish stalls here. For one, they leave all the fish out all day long. 

Inline image 3

Delightful, right? What's more, they'll even chop up the fish for you if you ask them- in slices across the fish, just to make the bones harder to pick out. People here really love playing Where's Waldo with their food; it's the real reason they eat with their hands. Regardless, the rice turned out surprisingly well. 

We also had another bit of unexpected news: one of the branch young men, Gibson, was riding his motorcycle and had a nasty accident. He hit a telephone post with his face. He's far out of danger, but his right eye swelled shut and the doctors say that it'll probably stay like that for the next 3 weeks, because he fractured his eyebrow ridge in 2 places. 

More about Pongal: it's a farmer's festival, and is celebrated over four days, the last day being the most exciting. It's when they have bull races, people races, and all sorts of fun. We just came out of it, and so they are still clearing up all the decorations. One of the celebratory foods is also called pongal; it's a mix of rice, brown sugar, and a bunch of other spices. A member gave it to us, but it wasn't all that great. 

Anyway, we went to Ooty today. That was a 3 hour drive out, that we started at 4 in the morning. We found some HUGE dosa (picture included later) for breakfast, and kept going. We made it all the way to the Boat House, an amusement park. That was way fun, and very surprising. We all got a combo thing that let you ride 6 rides for cheap, and went on. I was surprised by most of the rides- the boring-looking ones tended to be fun; the exciting-looking ones were boring. We rode the Dragon Coaster, which was a simple oval, with one tiny hill. That ended up being one of the most fun: it went super fast, and actually scared you on the turns because you had to wonder if it would fly off (the whole place looked cheap and sketchy). We also tried the 7d movie theater, which turned out to be the sketchiest place of all. The "seat" was a bench held up about 5 feet off the ground with cables (the door that led into it was at the same height as the bench). There was a big padded bar that dropped to chest level for you to cling on to for dear life. And, to top it all off, there were several intimidating items on the ground: a fire extinguisher, a box full of loose, rusty tools, an ax, and several fire buckets full of sand. The wires and cables for the bench were hanging loose in plain sight, and looked generally disreputable. We got on anyway, and settled in for the ride. It was just a psychedelic minecart ride underground, with loops and jumps and all sorts of craziness. There was even a hundred-foot plunge into a lake of lava, which you only narrowly avoided. The motion of the bench was the best part: it would actually drop you a few feet, lurch back and forth, and do all sorts of nausea-inducing maneuvers. We had fun with that one. All of the rest of the sites we visited were just photo sites, of which I will include the pictures. That was basically it for the week; I'm in a bit of a rush. See ya!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

10 January 2016

Well, I finally made it to Coimbatore on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were entirely spent running around with Elder Harris and trying to find his missing RC/RP form, then trying to get it replaced. I still don't know if he has it or not; the process for getting a new one was honestly ridiculous. We went to the FRO to see if he could deregister anyway, but as they were 9/10ths of the way through the process, he casually asked how he could get a new RC/RP. They were ready to deregister him anyway without one, but as soon as he suggested that he might not have one, the work immediately ground to a halt, and they suddenly needed his form after all. So, we went to the police station that the FRO people told us to go to, only to learn that they couldn't do anything. They redirected us to the Me Sheva office (I don't know what that means either). The people there told us to go back to the police station. But when we arrived there, we were told that the officer who did that sort of thing was out right then. That was Monday. On Tuesday, we tried again at the police station, got redirected to the Me Sheva office again, and there finally found some help. After a long wait and a lunch break, they finally did some mysterious work and registered his plea. We went to the police station again, and they told us to come back the next day. I ended up being on the plane before that, but I hope it went well.

Funny story- in the Hyderabad airport, I met a guy, Kalyan, while waiting for my plane. He was about 20, and traveling for the first time- all the way to Pennsylvania. While I was talking to him, I mentioned a few things that he couldn't believe, like the cost of smartphones (they are insanely expensive here- 72,000 rupees for the iPhone 6s+, or $1,200). He was also wearing a thick coat, but I advised him to pick up a hat and some gloves, too. He had never so much as seen snow before, and Visak (the area he was coming from) never gets below 70 degrees. He was going from that, to Pennsylvania, in January. I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. 

Another funny story- at the Hyderabad airport security station, I reached into my pocket to pull out my stuff, only to realize I'd forgotten to put my pocketknife in my checked bag. I groaned, and asked the security officer if I could just throw it away somewhere. He just smiled, and told me to put it in the tray. It came out the other side of the scanner unconfiscated, so I stuck it back in my pocket and moved on, a little more worried about people bringing other dangerous things on the plane. 

Anyway, I arrived in Coimbatore on Wednesday night, and stayed the night at the zone leader's apartment. We had zone training in the morning, where a surprising announcement was made: all missionaries can expect to stay in their areas for at least 6 months before being transferred. That means I'll probably stay in Coimbatore 1st branch until I leave India. My new companion is Elder Maddikonda, who is from Rajahmundry 1st branch, where I served when I first came to India. That connection is almost as weird as with my last companion. Elder Campbell was companions with Elder Maddikonda before I replaced Elder Maddikonda in Hyderabad. Apparently, I met one of Elder Campbell's companions from the mission he visa-waited in- Seattle (Elder Smith). However, that happened when I was 5 or 6, so I don't remember it at all. But it gets better- while my grandparents visited home from their mission in Brazil, they had dinner with Elder Campbell's parents! And that was only a month ago, while I was still companions with Elder Campbell! And better yet, I'm fairly sure that before that dinner, they had no idea that we were companions...or even in the same mission. 

In Coimbatore, we've done a lot of visiting the less actives of the branch, which has been fairly exciting. On Sunday, we had 4 priesthood ordinations! Granted, all of them were young men getting ordained to the next priesthood office, but it was still exciting. We visited most of them later that day to talk about the responsibilities of the priesthood, and had some good conversations about it. That pretty much sums up the week. 

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention why I put water in the title: the apartment has some issues with it. It's really nice, and has a lot of fun things, including a Hindu worship closet that the elders keep their proselyting supplies in. The closet permanently reeks of incense, so I think that it was in use for a while before the elders moved in. Anyway, we have to turn on the water pump and wait a few minutes before we get water in the apartment. Theoretically, it goes to the water storage tank above our apartment, but either it leaks out really fast or it doesn't, because we never have water in the morning before turning on the pump. This morning, however, there was no water in the main storage tank either, so we just had no water period. Fortunately, the office elders had planned for just this sort of contingency- our water filter holds 10 liters of prefiltered, ready-to-drink water. And that's great! We won't die, but we have to go to the church to use the bathroom and to the zone leaders' apartment to shower. Fun, right? Here are some pictures:Inline image 1
That sounds safe.

Inline image 2

This is my new companion, Elder Maddikonda, in our apartment. 

Inline image 3

This is the church's baptismal font and dressing room. More pictures will come in the next email.
Inline image 1

This is a tree full of chickens.

Inline image 2

This is the church's sign to indicate the baptismal font.

Monday, January 4, 2016

4 January 2016

Well, this week was not really exciting. For one thing, I'm still in Hyderabad. I did manage to deregister today, which was another really long story. But, I made it through, and will go out to Coimbatore...sometime. My ticket still isn't booked, as far as I know. Today was kind of crazy. For example, it's 8:30 at night already, so I need to be pretty quick. We woke up early in the morning so I could meet up with Elder Harris, who needs to go to Chennai. We went down to the FRO, and put in our papers. They put up a huge fuss about him not having one particular paper, and couldn't be dissuaded from rejecting his application. My papers did go through, though. We then went to try and get him a new one, which took the whole rest of the day. And, to top it all off, he still doesn't have it. There's another long story on that one.

With the stuff in the package, what broke? And yes, you can do whatever you like with the leaves. Although, that's painted, not embroidered. 

Anyway, with the news for the week. Not too much happened; just lots of running around. We had a new elder with us, Elder Martin. We showed him all we knew about the area, which took a while. That was basically it- lots of time on buses, lots of money spent on autos, and lots of little naps taken while in one of the two.