Friday, January 2, 2009

First Christmas in India

December was a busy month. All of the logistical planning for a major NRT project in mid-January had to be completed. That project will take us to Gandhidham, Gujarat, and to Bangalore so there should be plenty to post on in January. Besides that, the newborn baby blankets finally got shipped to Bihar. That project could take a post of its own, but tales of dealing with shipping, etc. are not as interesting as what follows. I will say this, that project had help and prayers were answered. I cannot tell you how many times we have asked for help before heading out the door and have literally had things happen that fit President Henderson's statement that there are no coincidences, just minor miracles in which the Lord prefers to remain anonymous. In spite of all the delays and hassles with the blanket project, we had help.

And I just realized you're probably asking, what blanket project? Back in September when we arrived, money had been approved by the Area to acquire newborn blankets for the hardest hit areas in the flooding in Bihar. One of the first posts in this blog had pictures of Sister Tanner giving out a few sample blankets we had taken up with us, but the sample source did not work out. We finally managed to obtain and ship 8,500 blankets with the money provided. They will surely be welcome now that winter is here.
Let's begin with the last Sunday in November, the 30th. Elder Vanjarapu spoke in Sacrament meeting before completing his mission and returning home on December 3rd. He was our zone leader and is a great young man who faithfully served his Father in Heaven. He came to District meeting Monday and this turned out to our farewell with him.

Actually, it was a farewell to several elders as transfers took place this week. Elders Williams, Ivie, and Vanjarapu all left our area. They will be missed. All great young men!

We had some Christmas decorations stored in a back room and Sister Tanner got them out and went to work with some help from the elders on the tree.

This nativity was a find Sister Tanner made when she met with some expat (Americans in India) women in Delhi. One of them had an extra set and sold it to her. It is cast brass and is arranged in a Subway sandwich box stable.

December 20, 2008

The new Noida branch had its first ever Christmas party. There were just under 40 people there, members, investigators, and friends. Here we are with our new set of District Elders. Patha, Sarver, Walker, Siyyadri, Dyck in back, and Joseph.

President Smith hosted the party in his home to make it more cozy than the branch building. We reinacted the Nativity with yours truly and Anil Verma being the stable. The hit of the evening though was singing the 12 days of Christmas and groups acting out their day. Sister Tanner's group got the biggest laugh for 8 maids a milking.

December 23, 2008
We invited the 4 upstairs elders in for an hour in the afternoon to decorate cookies to take to their investigators. Another great Sister Tanner project.

All decorated and ready to go.

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2008
President Katuka and his family invited us over for Christmas eve with them. Joshua, Timna, President Katuka, and his wife Swarupa. We had a great time visiting and signing carols and what a superb dinner by Sister Katuka. She had toned down the spices just for us and it was wonderful. There must have been at least 8 dishes and all were outstanding!

Full stomachs and waiting for the man in red.

Christmas Day
We had the district elders over for an early breakfast before heading to Delhi for the mission Christmas party. After pancakes with home made maple flavored syrup, bacon, and scrambled eggs, the elders took advantage of our Skype to call home. They are allowed an hour on Mother's Day and on Christmas day to call and talk.

Santa Baby ...

The mission party was held at the First Branch building in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. We watched the First Presidency Christmas program on DVD, then had a short testimony meeting. The spirit was sooo strong listening to these young men testify of their Savior and the work.

After lunch, each district presented a skit that they had prepared to kick off the activities organized by Sister Tanner. Here is our Noida district giving their rendition of the First 12 Days of My Mission. It was hilarious.

Somewhere, Sister Tanner found Sponge Claus Square Pants and had him come and pass out stockings full of goodies to the elders. Sister Ricks, our mission president's wife, prepared the stockings.

The India New Delhi Mission sans President Ricks who took the picture.

New Year's Eve

December 31, 2008

Sister Tanner has cooked many "sweets" and dinners for the elders. New Year's eve afternoon, it was agreed that we would put up the chicken and the Indian elders would teach Sister Tanner how to cook chicken curry and a second dish called dal, kind of like soupy refried beans made with lentils and surprisingly, not that spicey. By 2:30 in the afternoon, the cooks are busy at it while Sister Tanner takes notes and observes.

Here are Elders Patha and Siyyadri doing their thing and impressing Sister Tanner.

Meanwhile, the other elders are busy with board games like Blokus. Looks serious to me.

This is what we've been waiting for. Look at that large bowl of curry chicken, YES!!
Front - Elders Joseph, Walker, and Dyck, and Robin. His baptism was recorded in a previous post. Great young man.

Back - Elders Patha, Sarver, and Siyyadri, and Sister Tanner.

Sister Tanner tried some of the curry chicken, but had to drink lots of water to sooth her burning lips, mouth, and throat. It actually wasn't that spicey to me or maybe I'm just getting more accustomed to it. Elder Joseph had to add chilli to his serving to spice it up to his taste so I know the elders had toned it down a lot for us.

After a great dinner, the elders tried a game of spoons ...

which eventually led to "ultimate" spoons where they had to run down the hall to get to them. It got pretty wild and they had a great time. An hour later they were all out doing missionary work.

One thing I really enjoy is washing dishes with Sister Tanner. We have two plastic tubs, one to wash in and one to rinse. Both get a shot of the equivalent of cholox. My companion washes and I get to dry and put away. A dishwasher would be nice, but I would honestly miss the time working beside her.

A Dog's Tale

Before getting into the Christmas season and recapping all the events of the past 3 weeks, here are a couple of things that got bypassed along the way.

When I've talked about air quality and not seeing blue sky on a sunny day, here is a fall/winter visual of what we live in most of the time. I guess it's Noida, LA style.

India has stray dogs, or street dogs, all over the place. On our street, we have 2 dogs that share the block in approximate halves, one upper and one lower. We had seen a small, skinny puppy wandering out front and decided to give it something to eat. The 4 elders who live upstairs quickly gave him a name, Tramp. He progressed from eating at the front gate to coming in the yard and eating from a dish near the side entrance. There is a foyer of sorts for the stairwell and the property manager had something in there with a blanket covering it. In no time, Tramp was laying on the edge of the blanket and soon had a place to stay at night when his street roaming was done for the day. We invested in a dish to put his food and water in and watched with satisfaction as he filled out and the ribs were no longer visible. He was a fun and cute puppy and a very diligent watch dog. One night, the water delivery guy for the elders came late, after 10 PM, and Tramp was in the foyer on his blanket when the guy arrived. I'm surprised he didn't wet himself. That dog was going to eat anyone who dared step into the foyer!
It was quite an experience watching him go from a scared, reticent, hungry, malnourished pup, to one that would play with you and would come running to us when he saw us coming up the street or follow us when we left. I invested in a new bag of puppy chow and the night I brought the bag home, I gave him dinner from it. The next morning, he was gone and we haven't seen him since. No idea where he is or what happened to him. A real bummer because we had gotten attached to the little guy.