Friday, April 17, 2009
Wednesday Evening, April 15, 2009
Anil, Sonu, and Gauri took us to another wedding and this time we followed most of the traditional events associated with it, but did not attend the actual wedding ceremony itself. There was a lot of money involved. Both were very wealthy families with large land holdings. The bride's family gave 3 brand new cars to the groom's family and 50 kgs of gold. I did the math and the current gold value is $1.5 million. Some dowry.
Speaking of cars, it reminded me of a contrast to the first wedding we attended when we asked Atul if his son rode a white mare and he replied, "Yes, a white Mustang."
Here is a picture of Sister Tanner in her new saree. Isn't she beautiful? The ladies really dress up for weddings, and this lady is right there with the best.
The ladies in front of the groom's house.
The groom is prepared and the first step is the riding of a white horse to the temple for a short ceremony. After that, the groom's party goes in a procession to the actual wedding location. In this case, it included a large bus to transport people to the wedding location at a "farm" owned by the groom's family located on the outskirts of Delhi. The farms in this case are actually very large gardens set up to handle wedding events. Wednesday was an especially auspicious day for weddings as we passed numerous gardens that had weddings going on. Play the clip to get a feel for the band, the noise, the celebration that is going on. Later you will see the wear and tear on the groom and bride from all the stress and activity associated with an Indian wedding.
After the groom rode off to the temple, we got in Anil's car and drove to the wedding location. The garden or farm, covered 5-10 acres, it was a huge area. The pavilion in the background was just one of several food areas that were all over.
When the groom arrives, fireworks go off and it gets pretty crazy. The bride was actually there already, but kept out of sight in a room with female family and friends with her. What I've shot here is actually at another wedding next door, but you get the idea.
This band played off and on all during the evening until it got crazy with the arrival of the groom. These guys could give the Oquirrh Academy Band a run for their money.
I stayed inside while the rest went out front to witness the groom's arrival. There were a lot of futon like couches set up in rows in front of the stage where some of the traditional events would take place. I shot this sequence of some young men goofing off. Kids don't vary much wherever you go. I had some fun talking with them while we waited.
Some of the craziness that went on as the groom and his entourage came in from the front and made its way to the stage. Then commenced photos, etc., etc. until after 30-40 minutes, he was finally left alone. See below.
Once the bride comes in, there is a ceremony of exchanging huge flower wreaths. The bride is holding the one for the groom in her hands. I watched the bride come up on the stage and the poor girl was so close to collapse it wasn't funny. The people on either side of her were actually holding her up at times and her hands were shaking. At one point, her chest was heaving so noticeably, I thought she was hyperventilating. We left right after they hung the flower wreaths over each others heads. When the groom reached out to put his wreath over the bride's head, she recoiled and almost fell down, but it all got worked out. I don't know if either had seen each other prior to the stage, but there were no smiles or anything, just a very serious, shell shocked bride and groom. The actual wedding ceremony was performed off the stage somewhere, but we didn't stay around for that. Things most likely did not get wrapped up until the wee hours of the morning. As it was, we didn't get home until 1 AM, but we did get to experience more elements of a traditional Indian wedding in detail.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
We had Dr Ryder and Menesha, his art assistant, over for an Italian Dinner night of food and conversation. Cindy outdid herself with lasagna, chicken parmigiana, cauliflower and broccoli over linguine with Alfredo sauce, garlic bread, and pecan pie and ice cream for desert. Not members yet, but we are hopeful that will happen some where down the road. We talked for hours, another late night, but well worth it.
Friday, April 17, 2009
We had Zone conference today in Delhi. When we got home around 5 PM, we noticed that the house 3 doors down had a tent set up in front. Remodeling on the upper floors of the house had been going on since before we arrived. We thought maybe it might be some type of house warming or something. While we were doing the dishes from the night before, we heard a band playing outside in the street and wondered if it was a political gathering, house warming, or ? By the time we were almost through, things had gotten quiet, so my curiosity died. Then the snare drums started and I knew the beat and rhythm was associated with a wedding event. I went out to check it out and took the camera. After taking a couple of shots and the videos below, a uncle of the groom came up to me and we started talking. Very nice gentleman who invited me in to eat, but I politely declined and said I would just hang around outside for awhile, but he took me over to the gate anyway and introduced me to the groom's older brother and some others.
Then I saw the band lounging around and went over and got them to get up and play again. Don't know if it was coincidence or not, but shortly after, the groom appeared in the side yard and the noise, etc. really got going. I saw Cindy up the street who had come out wondering what was going on or what had happened to me. I waved her down. The next thing the uncle had a server bring us drinks. Next, the white mare was brought around and the groom got up on the horse and then it started to get a little crazy as the ladies began dancing in front of the horse, and some guys. I tried to get a video, but the batteries were shot, so there is just a little blurt.
The uncle came back and wanted Cindy and I to dance also. Cindy went out with the gals and I actually danced with an older gentleman, hands up, kind of a high five thing. But Cindy, wow, she really got into it. It is killing me that I didn't get a shot of her and the hip shimmy, wow. Oops, this is a missionary post. But it certainly was fun. Then they led the groom off down the road and around the corner to the temple located in the next block and we went back home.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The weekend of General Conference was our fast Sunday over here. The sessions are not broadcast to India, at least not live. We wait for a DVD of the sessions and then hold our General Conference the following weekend. Our new building allows us to meet and view them there. In the past, we had to meet in the Smith's home. We now have a large screen TV and a DVD player for the branch. I arranged with Elder Patha to have the carpenter who made our kitchen shelves build a large open box that we could set on the sacrament table. When we came back from the Rajasthan trip, the box was complete and worked beautifully, raising the screen high enough so all sitting in the seats could see it.SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2009
Conference is a challenge here. Our Saturday schedule began at 10 AM, first session, then an hour break for lunch, the second session at 1 PM, another hour break, then priesthood at 4 PM. We started the first session with no Indian branch members, but 10 investigators and a total attendance of 23 counting missionaries and the Smith family members. All but 2 stayed for lunch which was sooo good. A combo effort of Sister Smith and Sister Tanner.
Watching and listening to conference, I honestly did not even consider it was a week ago. It was so live being there and the spirit was the same. What a great experience even though 6 hours of watching a TV screen in an 8 hour period was enough to tire me out physically, at least parts of me. By the priesthood session, it was down to the 6 elders and myself and one investigator, a 15 year old, Arpit, who came in and out, but stayed to the end and escorted me home in a rickshaw. I didn't need an escort, but I'm learning to accept help from others. Even if I don't need it, I do it for them. It is about time I learned that life lesson. Arpit is here essentially on his own. The relatives he came to, put him up in a hostel where he lives completely independent. His parents are in Dubai where he spent his whole life, but they are divorced and sent him here because he was getting into things he should not have in a pretty wild and woolly society in Dubai. He is very intelligent and has spent many hours with Cindy and I discussing the gospel and loves Sister Tanner's cooking, like everyone else I might add. Unfortunately, if he did get permission from his mother to be baptized, his father, strong Hindu, would use it to break the divorce settlement and leave his mother with nothing. He has told his mother of the changes he has made and she is very grateful for her son's new direction and we certainly enjoy this great, intelligent young man. The future is unlimited for him if he stays on the path he is on now.
While we were at the priesthood session. Sweety, yes that's her given name, went home with Sister Tanner and helped her color Easter eggs. Sweety was baptized in November and lives in Delhi, but works in Noida. She came to conference here after work, actually I think to see Elder Adari who baptized her. She is planning on putting in her mission papers this coming August.
Back to Arpit. As hard as it was to do, because I understand the need and desire he has to belong, to have some roots, I advised him that maybe his best choice would be to continue to attend church, even take the sacrament because he understands what it means, and to wait for his time to come. Patience is hard to come by sometimes for 15 year olds. He brought his friend, Akil, to church who comes with him frequently now, even to conference Saturday morning. Arpit is quite the guy.
SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2009
Transfers last week and we now have l-r:
Elders Shepherd, Swanborough, Schade, Carmen, Adari, and Erekson.
Sunday, we had our regular Sacrament meeting, then watched the Sunday morning session of conference. This time, we had 9 members and 6 investigators, only 2 of which were there Saturday. Sunday evening, President and Sister Ricks invited all of the senior missionaries to their home for dinner.
Borland, Brown, Weeks, Zaugg, Ricks, Tanner
When we got there, a new couple had arrived early that morning and would be leaving Monday morning Katmandu, the Borlands from Provo, Utah. Great couple and we enjoyed meeting them and the evening with everyone else, the Weeks, Browns, and Zauggs and President and Sister Ricks. It was interesting to see someone new and recall our own arrival experience a lifetime ago, seems like ancient history now.I close with one interesting comment. But lacking confirmation, I consider it a good story. Someone shared the information that all of the 12 tribes of Israel have been named in Patriarchal blessings given to members in Mongolia. I checked online, and there are between 14 and 20 branches there, but no stake and I would imagine no patriarch. There have been a lot missionaries from Mongolia. I remember one outstanding sister from Mongolia who served in the Sunset Stake several years ago. Can anyone confirm the 12 tribes claim?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Indians are masters at getting the absolute max out of any vehicle contrivance.
The harvest is on.
The large pile on the left is the wheat after the threshers have finished. Next it will be bagged and hauled off. The chaff or whatever the leftover is called, is also retained for fodder for the cattle during summer.
That camel looks so pleased with himself. His owner was a happy guy and posed for us while we were stopped to get a drink on the way back.
I didn't notice the cross the guy on the left was wearing until I uploaed the pictures. Guess we missed an ITL opportunity. We're advised to drink the Coke to kill intestinal bugs. Don't know what else it is killing though.
The check, or catchment, dam project in Rajasthan held our attention the week of April 6th. A Rotary international vice president was to be in town for a visit on Rotary Club business and the local chapter we work with decided that inaugurating (dedicating) 2 completed check dams would be a nice event for the visiting dignitary to participate in. They added in a ground breaking ceremony for a new dam as a 3rd event. That dam is funded by another group in Delhi, not LDSC, Latter-Day Saint Charities. What made it interesting was the visiting dignitary was Monty Audenart, a dentist from Canada and is LDS. One of his married daughters, Lisa, accompanied him on his trip which took them to the Philippines before coming to Delhi, India.
We left Noida around 12:30 PM with a good car and driver, Rajish. Instead of meeting up with the rest of the group at the Hyatt Hotel, I made a call and we opted to head south to Sariska, Rajasthan, on our own and meet up with the rest there. Ironically, we caught up with the 2 car group on the highway after an hour and followed them to Sariska. If you want a challenge, see if you can find Sariska on a map. It is south and west from Alwar. We wound up in an area south of Sariska. Once we left the National Highway NH8 to Jaipur and headed towards Alwar, we drove through farmland where the wheat harvest was in full swing. No images of giant harvesters cruising across huge fields of grain here, just scenes of brightly colored sarees in the wheat worn by squatting women cutting with hand scythes. The cut sheaves are gathered into bundles that are created without any material other than the wheat. The bundles are then stacked in piles in the fields. A small threshing machine is pulled into the field by tractors and brought to the piles where the wheat is threshed, bagged by hand, and then later hauled to a miller. The guys riding the tractors and hauling the threshers work on a contract basis. I was told the threshers get paid 1 of every 10 bags which they take to the miller to get cash. The fields are small and the process is entirely manual except for the threshing and hauling. Cindy, who has become quite a student of the Old Testament, commented that the process we were observing probably hasn’t changed since Ruth was gleaning in Boaz’s field.
We were fascinated by the designer dung houses. After cow manure is mixed with straw and formed into the circular “patty cakes”, it is left to dry. But once dried, it is stacked and covered in ways to keep it dry until used for cooking fires. The dung houses are the stacks taken to an art form. We were talking with Rajish on the way back about wanting a picture and he jokingly referred to the designer dung and the name stuck.
We stayed at a hotel called the Tiger Den in Sariska on the edge of a wild game reserve of about 50 square miles. The reserve has a long history and was a British Raj game reserve that was hunted out, no more tigers, at one time. It has 3 tigers in it right now, 2 females and 1 male, all introduced in the past year. Apparently tigers reproduce quite proficiently because they were talking about having 40-50 in there in a year, but that includes additional imports from other areas. With a 3 month gestation period, I guess their goal could be possible. The plan for the group was to provide a tour of the game reserve for the dignitary and his daughter. Sometimes being with an honored guest does have its benefits. The hotel was ok, old, but clean. More on that later. We waited while someone took care of the check in, then we were taken to our rooms. The room wing of hotel and an outside wall enclosed a nice garden area where we sat on chairs on the lawn enjoying an absolutely beautiful evening until dinner was ready. Two rangers, including the supervisor, from the reserve were there and suggested that instead of driving into the reserve and then back to the hotel to get the cars, that the group go on through and head to the first dam site from there. Before we sat down with the group though, we watched monkeys playing in a very large tree and on the ground in front of our room. Talk about animals absolutely enjoying life, it was a riot watching the younger ones play what could almost be described as a game of tag - such energy. Cindy observed that they seemed to love to just fall out of the tree, but when you have springs for legs, no problem. Guess I related to the older ones who just sat with their hands on their knees and observed. We convened for dinner which turned out to be surprisingly good and was served buffet style. I’m guessing the word was passed on to the cooks to tone down the spices, because it was fairly mellow Indian food for the most part, or I’m getting used to it. It was probably a combination of both.
Can you find 9 or more monkeys in the picture?
Left click on the picture to get a full screen view, then use the Back button to return to the blog.
Afterwards we headed to our room. Ah, the room. The man who opened it up for us, did a quick sweep down before we went in. I learned why later. The room was clean including the bathroom and it had a western toilet, so life was good. When we came back after dinner, the critters were crawling, in particular, ants coming in under the door from a patio in back. The bed was actually two twin beds pushed together and both hard as a rock, but after traveling for 6 hours or so, a good dinner, and knowing we had a 5:30 AM wake up, sleep came quickly. I did get up around 4:30 and found some of the floor was moving. The little buggers followed the bathroom light and I had to laugh as they started to come in under the door. Our wake-up call was a guy banging on our door, but right on time. I got up and walked in the dark around to Cindy’s side of the bed and when I stepped on one of her slippers, I flinched thinking I’d just stepped on the mother of all bugs. Funny what your mind can do to you sometimes.
THE WILD GAME RESERVE
The day started out right with a great breakfast of fruit, fried eggs, toast, jam, etc. We packed up and headed out on schedule at 7 AM. I was surprised to find we were going in small SUV type vehicles with benches in the back, ok, small trucks with roll bars front and back of the bed – mini-safari style. The other cars would follow us and head straight through the reserve on a paved road to wait on the other side and we would be free to roam side roads a bit. I had no idea what to expect and was surprised after driving for 20 minutes or so when we began to see other wildlife in addition to the all pervasive peacocks and monkeys.
Showing for the ladies.
We saw elk like animals called blue bulls which are considered sacred. When the sun hits them right, their color becomes a light iridescent blue, at least that’s my best description. We saw a King Vulture, Turkey Vultures, herds of cheetal deer, wild boars, and other antelope type animals in small herds. It was a visual feast cruising around in the truck. I wound up standing and hanging on to the roll bar -- and no one told me to sit down because of liability or insurance concerns. After an hour, we wound up at another entrance, south and east. I believe it was near Tehla. While there, Cindy had birds eating out of her hand ala one of our Australian ventures. The weather was perfect for cruising outside. Some scattered clouds and there had been a few thunder and rain showers off and on during the night and during the morning from the puddles I saw. Just as we were about to load up in the cars and push off to the first dam site, two things happened. A squall formed up overhead and after a crack of lightening, it began to rain on us and at the same time a radio call came in that a tiger had been spotted back down the road about 2 kms. Talk about a Chinese fire drill, everyone ran for the trucks and took off pell-mell down the road as the rain really began to come down hard. It finally forced our driver to pull over and get a tarp cover out so he could see to drive, but by then we were all soaked anyway. Long story short, we took another interesting side trip that wound up back at the entrance where the cars were, but no tigers. But what a hoot, we loved it, tigers or not.
In the village where we change to jeeps, it took a while, but the kids finally decided the camera would not hurt them and agreed to a picture.
This is a dam site that we had not been to on the previous trips. It was started and completed after the last inspection trip. We drove for quite a while until we arrived at a village where jeeps were waiting for us. We changed vehicles and set out again. The International Rotary VP, Monty Audenart, was slated to inaugurate this dam and I was asked to do the second dam. The rain stopped before we left the reserve and nothing fell until we arrived at the dam site and then it began again. Nice omen for the villagers. They had an awning set up, but it only managed to parse the rain drops into a fine mist that came through pretty freely. We went through introductions to the panchayat (a group of villages) leaders and the honorary turban and ladies scarf routine for all those in the party.
The tiger chase had put us an hour behind schedule, so I am sure lack of time and the rain put a damper on some of what had been planned. The rain let up about the time the turban and scarf thing was completed so we headed over to the dam to do the honors. They still have not figured out my large head size and I almost laughed when they tried to jam the turban down on my head – it won’t go folks. But they got it on my head, more or less. Normally, a dam is never inaugurated until it actually has water behind it. Both of the dams inaugurated on this trip were done because of the visiting Rotary dignitary. Neither dam had water behind it because they were completed between monsoon seasons. But someone worked it out and the villagers seemed happy with the proceedings even if there was no water yet.
You can see the dam in the background, overlooked getting a picture of it.
PAPDA WALA DAM
It is a compliment to be asked to inaugurate something, especially if you represent the organization you work for, LDSC. My official duties consisted of pulling a draw string to expose a plaque cemented to the dam and then smacking a coconut against the dam and letting the coconut milk drizzle down over the plaque. Oh, and smiling with my turban almost on. Seriously though, it was done on my birthday, the 8th, and it was a great reverse present to be part of a gift to several thousand people that will benefit from the dam. One other gratifying moment came when I got an audible oooh from those there when I broke the coconut against the dam with one swing. Don’t mess with old dudes with coconuts. Monty had to whack his several times to get it to break on the first dam.
The real work in getting the check dam project put together was accomplished by the couple that preceded us, Elder and Sister Dunn, with a 4 month gap between their mission end and our arrival. I am sure they would have loved to be there. Our role has been to manage the project which is nearing completion. There are now 14 dams completed, waiting hopefully for rain runoff, and 6 more under construction that should all be finished in the next 6-8 weeks. Then the fun begins as we are expected to go back for inaugurations once there is water behind the dams. Cindy may opt out of some of those trips, but she has such a wonderful personality that it is great to be with her and watch as she literally charms all around her. I may get to pull cords and smack coconuts, but that pales compared to what she brings to the party.
Front of the finished dam. Now if the monsoons will bring the water ...
This isn't what you might think it is, but that is why I included it. Water had to be stored during construction for the concrete mixed on site. This was a holding tank and the steps to facilitate getting the water out as the level went down.
While waiting for the ground breaking ceremony to begin, my cell phone rang. I answered and heard, "Appy bir day to you, appy bir day to you ..." It was Robin from our branch serenading me with a Happy Birthday greeting. I just had to laugh and love him for the effort.
Rajish stopped as requested for photo ops as we took our time coming back. I asked him where the hotel was that we were going to stay at, his boss was supposed to have arranged it at my request, and when he answered, I knew we had a problem. We had a meeting the next day in Gurgaon with ADRA, one of our NGO partners, and I thought staying over in Gurgaon would be a great time out. Apparently my request to stay in Gurgaon proper had not been understood and we were booked in a Delhi hotel, albeit not too far away, but it would mean backtracking and that means time. We had pulled over on the expressway to talk and I could see the Crowne Plaza on the other side of the road. Long story short, we got our reservation changed to the Crowne Plaza. Rajish got to go home to his family and would come back and get us in the morning.
Cindy and I thought we may be close to heaven when we went inside the Crowne Plaza and then we knew it when we walked into our room. WOW!! After the rock bed the night before, this one had at least an 8 inch mattress. We both had the best night’s sleep since we left for the MTC. But the winner was, we could drink the water right from the tap. The hotel had its own water purification system.
We went to dinner in a Brazilian style restaurant where they bring the meat to the table on skewers and slice it off for you. We had some of the best tenderloin ever, but maybe that is several month’s of good beef deprivation speaking. The salad bar was like an appetizer table of cold foods. Everything we ate was excellent. The ambiance and the excellent food made for an absolutely wonderful birthday dinner. With a gorgeous companion on my arm, I was in heaven, as we strolled through the interior courtyard that had some very fancy water and light features and a table and chair area in the middle. We even browsed the gift shop and Cindy scored a Halloween goody for her collection, a small egg shaped object painted like a witch’s face with a stand to put it in. Go figure the odds on that one outside the USA.
Our meeting with ADRA, the Seventh Day Adventist equivalent of LDSC, was to receive a final report on an emergency relief project we partnered on. The first project we initiated after we got going here. The appointment was in the afternoon and Rajish was right on time, so we headed for a mall, what else would you expect? He took us to a good one close by and we spent the next couple of hours inside. After a first floor pass and some purchases in a card shop, I was ready to call it good, but Cindy had 4 more floors to explore, so I sat down in a lounge area to wait with a book I purchased in an adjacent book store.
ADRA’s office was located in a home in a residential area which was really nice. We met with Paulo Lopes and Nittin Kenny and reviewed the project reports. We also learned a lot about the Sri Lankan refugee situation in southern India, but this is already book length so I’ll pass on writing on that. After the meeting, we drove to the mission office, picked up our mail, then made an uneventful trip home to Noida. Whirlwind 2.5 days, but very productive and eventful.
We hosted a very successful Family Home Evening at our place with over 20 attending. We watched the restoration DVD, played a game, and had treats Cindy prepared. We got smart this time and found a source for cheap plastic cups and plates, so the clean-up was much easier. As much as I like washing dishes with Cindy, there can be too much of a good thing.
March 17, 2009
Today was a much awaited visit from Jim Jensen and his son Spencer who stopped by on their way back from seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra. They were on a challenging around the world type venture going from here to Jordan, then Mexico. Their driver knew where we lived and Noida was a minor detour on their way to Delhi. It is hard to describe the feelings that hit me when I saw Jim get out of the car. It was almost surreal seeing someone from home here. And did they bring goodies. Cindy now had her laptop, a resupply of chocolate chips, brown sugar, a can of Comet, pictures to frame for our church building, and a surprise bonus bag of mini-marsh mellows. Our St George Santas made it Christmas in March. After visiting a while, we took off for Delhi and some shopping.
The elders stopped by while Jim and Spencer were with us.
At the Pria Market. The restaurant we ate at is in the background on the left.
The afternoon ended with a Punjabi dinner and we said our goodbyes around 7 PM. What a great afternoon and evening. But 5 minutes after we left them, Cindy got very sick and the trip back to Noida became challenging. We made it to the Lajpat Nagar branch building, which was still open, and finally got home around 10 PM. It is so frustrating when someone you love is sick and there isn’t much you can do about it, but being the trooper she is, Cindy said she’d do it all over again for the enjoyable time we had with the Jensens.
March 20, 2009
We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary today. Cindy was not feeling 100% yet, so we opted for a home delivery Subway club for me and a small pizza for Cindy, and watched a DVD together. It was an enjoyable time, all things considered, and we are grateful for what we do have and are blessed with.
March 28, 2009
This evening we had a very successful open house/fireside for our new branch building and Cindy’s seven dozen chocolate chip cookies were gone in a heart beat. Thanks Jim Jensen!!
The rest of the month was filled with meetings with investigators, church service, work on the upcoming NRT projects, doing our US taxes, getting rid of some malware that had found its way onto my laptop that took hours, and being down for a day. The first for me on our mission, as a bad head cold took me out of it. I tried doing some work on the computer for an hour or so, but I finally had to give up and admit defeat, for one day anyway.
Cindy's new laptop. When the power goes out, our battery back-up will keep the router going for about an hour and the laptops have their own battery, so we're still in business with a candle to work by. Ironic, as I was typing this, we lost power. Happens quite frequently now that the hot weather is on us.