Thursday, May 7, 2009

NRT Trip Interrupted

This is a large post of quite a few days' thoughts and doings. Sister Tanner found this thought provoking gem from Gandhi that I want to begin with:

"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart."
M K Gandhi

Sunday, April 19, 2009, was an especially full day. Robin and the auto driver, Amil Prasad, showed up a little after 8:30 AM and we headed off to church. President McIllece attended and presented Robin as the elder’s quorum president and Bohla Prasad as the branch clerk. Both were sustained, but Robin will have to wait for President Katuka to be set apart.

After church, Mary Smith was finally baptized. She had been anxiously waiting since January for our branch font on the “terrace”, actually the roof of the building, to be completed. The font is really quite nice, but lacking a cover, it does collect dirt rather quickly. Mary’s big brother Ben performed the baptism and it took 2 tries to get her completely under. Robin and I were the witnesses. After the baptismal service was over, we headed home to see what magic Sister Tanner could perform. A lot as it turned out.

Our young friend from Dubai, Arpit, came with us and he and Robin joined us for a lunch of leftovers - lasagna, linguine, and other goodies from our prior Thursday’s Italian night. Just as soon as we finished eating and started to clean up, President Smith arrived for our meeting to discuss branch needs and what we could do to help. 2 hours later, after we had solved all the problems (ha!), Gauri and Sonu arrived for their 6 PM English coaching session with Sister Tanner. While that went on, I busied myself with some last minute items for the upcoming NRT trip. We were finally alone again in a quiet house a little after 8 PM.

Monday, April 20, 2009, we had District meeting at the church building and invited the Elders to lunch at the Noodle Bar. We had an enjoyable time and then left to complete some errands and shopping for the trip. We were home around 4 in time for Sister Tanner to get ready to teach her keyboarding lessons to 3 of the Smith girls. By 6:30, lessons were complete and I was beginning to feel less than chipper. Along the way, I had completed the inventory and organization of the 5 advanced training kits that needed to be taken to Varanasi for use with the intubation heads. It came out a lot better than I had expected, only missing a grand total of 5 items. I got an email off to Doctor Anderton in time and he will be bringing the missing items with him when he leaves for India tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009, very early this morning, I felt like @#&*^#. Sister Tanner had English class at 10 AM and I stayed in the bedroom. Power was off and no a/c, but I did not care it was that bad. The following is what Cindy wrote about a couple of the day's experiences.

"The Dad has been in bed for most of the day -- (one of those "Delhi Belly" days). Gauri and Sonu were to come over this morning around 10:00 for help with Gauri's English class, and in walked all three of them -- Gauri, Sonu and Anil. They were all very serious, and then told me that their "puppy" had died yesterday and that they were still having a bit of a difficult time. Their "puppy" was 16 years old and had been blind and deaf for about the last 6 years. He was 2 years older than Gauri, and certainly they considered him as a member of the family. Anil told me that the dog had eaten well in the morning, had a good nap, and then started crying uncontrolably. He immediately took him to a vet and they put a drip in a vein. When that was finished, the dog tried to stand to go home but just collapsed. The vet said that he had gone into a coma and that his heart had stopped beating. Anil said that he reached over and put his hand on the little dog (a Spitz) and could feel his heart beating, and when the vet listened it could also be heard. When he took his hand away the heart stopped again. Anil again put his hand on the little dog, and the heart started beating. The vet said that the faithful little animal would keep trying to live as long as Anil had his hand on him and he felt that he needed to take care of his "master". So the vet told Anil that he needed to let him go. He said it was a very difficult thing to do, but after a few seconds he removed his hand and his faithful little friend passed on.
Anil and his wife were not blessed with a child until 16 years after their marriage, so they had dogs as their "children". They also had a Doberman who was his wife's shadow and faithful companion along with the "puppy". When Anil's wife died suddenly, the Doberman grieved terribly and finally died only 6 weeks after her mistress. The little "puppy" remained as Anil's companion, and he was very close to his heart.
Then Anil asked me (because the Dad was "sick-a-bed-on-two-chairs" in the other room) to have a prayer for their "puppy". Well, I've never been asked to do that before, but I was very humbled that he would ask me to do that for them. I, of course, shed many tears knowing how their hearts hurt, and also for the thoughts of my little friend, Buster. It was a very sweet experience, and a special time spent as friends.
This afternoon I walked over to the Sector 40 market to get some Sprite for the Dad. He was a little nervous about me going over there alone, but I'm tough!! I just stand up straight, hold my head high and I'm taller than most of them. They won't even look in my direction, certainly not eye to eye -- it's very interesting!! Anyway, when I got to our "strip mall" the entrance was mostly blocked by a big cow and I'd have had to walk all the way to the other end to come in the other entrance. She was faced toward the shops (so the view I had was not flattering), but she had her head turned and looking behind her -- where I was coming from. This made her almost double her width, and her girth took up most of the entrance area. Before coming to India I'd have walked to the other entrance, but naw!!! I decided I had as much right to go to the market as that cow had!! I went up and walked right past her, was only inches away from her big, wet, slurpy nose, and forever grateful I didn't get cow boogered!!"
I love my companion's sense of humor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009, the problem is still with me, but some sign of progress. At least I’m taking liquids and some soft food and things seem to be slowing down a bit. I’m going on the trip as planned, just no food or drink until we arrive at the hotel in Varanasi. Still feel like @#&*^#, but the show must go on.

Thursday, April 23, 2009, we made the trip to the airport without incident and met the team in the Jet Airways area. Nice people – Doctor Barry and Sandi Anderton, JoAnn Abegglen, Tammi Ferney, and Doctor David Denton. I went looking for a restroom, but it was out of order and decided I could hopefully make it onto the plane. Barry told me I looked terrible and just when I was beginning to think I might be ok.

The flight was uneventful. We arrived at Varanasi and found our cars and drivers. The heat reminded me of St George, way over a hundred (115) and somewhat dry. The humidity will return with the monsoons. After getting checked in at the hotel, the ladies took off to explore some silk shops nearby. I was more than happy to stay behind in the room, a nice one by the way. Doctor Denton gave me some pills and the affect was rather dramatic, but little did I know what was coming.

Naveen had arranged for a boat ride on the Ganga (Ganges) to observe the ghatts along the ancient waterfront where the bathing and rituals occur, including cremation. I didn’t go, but Cindy has something to share from that boat ride and what she observed. Read on:

"... we went on a boat down the River Ganga at night. There are special evening prayers which are performed each night at dark. It's quite a tourist attraction, but the faithful of the Hindu faith are also there in great number. It was very interesting to see and hear and I'm grateful to have had the experience, but it was also a little

freaky!! Apparently the best thing that could ever happen to a person is to be born, die, and be cremated in Varanasi. Varanasi is the oldest city in the world that has been continually populated. During that long history they believe that many of their 'gods' have made appearances there in addition to it being situated on the most 'holy' of rivers -- the Ganges or Mother Ganga. Many sick and dying people come to the city to be able to be there when they die so they can be put into the Ganga. The Hindu religion believes in reincarnation and your status in this life is dependant on how you lived your last life. So you could be reincarnated as a bug, an animal, a person of high or low caste depending on your last showing. This cycle is eternal unless you do something to stop it -- such as your body being cremated and thrown into the Ganga. There is a picture of the smaller of the areas of cremation. There were only 3 fires buring as we passed, but I could actually see the bodies in the flames -- a very disturbing sight. The larger crematorium is down the river a ways, and there were over 17 fires that I could see there from a distance. They said that the larger one has fires burning 24/7 -- they never end. There are certain castes of people, and others such as pregnant women, lepers, etc. who cannot be cremated so their bodies are wrapped in muslin and just put out into the river. I actually saw one floating down the river just on the other side of our boat. Such a disturbing sight, and the Dad wasn't there!! There I was thinking I was just like Cleopatra floating down the river on my barge, but there were dead bodies all around me!! The illusion just wasn't quite the same after that!!
At night people put little dishes made of leaves and filled with marigolds and a lighted candle into the river. The lights represent prayers, and they send them floating down the river. It was really a beautiful sight to see all the little bright lights on the dark water.
Speaking of the water. . .!!!!! It was nearly a solid and not even a liquid!! It was jet black, even before the sun went down, and had an awful scum on the top. The water is just filthy with raw sewage, garbage, and all the ashes and bodies that are dumped into it. When it starts in the Himalayas it's crystal clear, but is almost sludge by the time it reaches its end. The scariest thing was all the people bathing and swimming in it!!! It's considered so holy, so people go there just to immerse themselves, and others literally bathe and wash themselves and their clothing in it. But the most awful sight was people brushing their teeth in it!! I thought, go ahead and dunk yourselves if you think it's the thing to do, but don't!!! put it in your mouth!!!!!!!!!!! Yuck!!! If you Google 'Varanasi India' there are some Youtube movies that might be kind of interesting for you -- if you dare!!"

When everyone got back, I joined them for dinner at the hotel. The restaurant had a buffet that was excellent and it hurt to pass on so many good things. I was being very selective and restrained, fiber and soft being my medically advised watchwords. The docs are continuing to inquire about my state and so far, so good, even though I’m told I don’t look that good.

That night after dinner, I experienced a pain level I cannot recall having had before, but then I’m fortunate in having a short memory for that stuff. I know things will be better in the morning.

Friday, April 24, 2009, we meet for breakfast and I am not feeling too well, but I insist that I am going to the training location to see after the set up, etc. We meet for a short devotional in Anderton’s room. I tell the doctors what has happened and the consensus is it will take time to heal. Sister Anderton asks if we have had a blessing and I sheepishly have to respond no. I get the oil and I seal Cindy’s anointing and give her a blessing. Barry seals my anointing and gives me a blessing and I realize how much I need it. I’m also given a bunch of Advil to help with the pain and swelling.

After we get to the training location, I’m told I look green or yellow, depending on the observer. I get the practice stations set up although Barry won’t let me carry the bag upstairs. I make it to lunch and even eat a few things, but then it gets to be too much and I take Dr Naveen up on his offer to have the driver take me back to the hotel. Cindy comes with me and I call it a day. We are supposed to take the train Saturday evening for an overnight trip to Gwalior. We are both now questioning how advisable the 16 hour train ride is going to be. We found out from Naveen that they do have western style toilets in the 2nd class, a/c, cars, that is good news, but there is only one per car, not so good news.

The group goes with the IAP people for dinner and Cindy and I go to the hotel restaurant again. No buffet this night, but we enjoy the meal and I eat well.

Saturday, April 25, 2009, Barry comes by the room and we discuss whether we go on or return to Delhi. He reassures me that I have left things well organized and they can take it from there. We decide to go back home. I’m still not feeling good besides the event pain that is still significant. I find out about flights, but cannot purchase online so we head to the airport. Security won’t let us in without a ticket, but the guard finally relents and allows me to go inside to purchase our tickets while Cindy waits outside with the luggage. Long story short, we make it home after an hour delay in leaving and another delay on arriving. That one is worth mentioning. The plane was coming in, wheels down, settling, and close to the end of the runway at IGI in Delhi when suddenly both engines go to full power, the nose goes up, and then a hard banked turn away from the airport as soon as we regained a little altitude. A few minutes later after we have climbed out and are at altitude again, the captain comes on to announce there was a plane on the runway and we will be going around for another attempt. Cindy notices how breathless he sounds. I’ll bet there was some adrenalin flowing on the flight deck. I don’t know who messed up, but when we come in the 2nd time, we note that we were 2-3 seconds from the end of the runway when we bailed out on the 1st approach. It was close. Once home and inside, less than 10 minutes later and I am grateful for the facilities. That was close also.

Sunday, April 26, 2009, trying to stay down as much as possible. Things are getting better. The pain is diminishing. Cindy makes Easy Soup, something we both had been thinking of. Boy does it taste good and should be good for me. Felt a little guilty kind of hiding out in the apartment, but there is no way I was going to suggest getting up for church. That was an activity I could not deal with right now for multiple reasons. I need to keep the body horizontal as much as possible.

Monday, April 27, 2009, Beesa called to see how we were doing and I told him much better. Cindy had wanted to go to Agra, last stop on the trip, and had been looking forward to it. I told Beesa to have Raj pick us up in the morning, Tuesday, on his way south to Gwalior to pick up the team. The Gwalior to Agra and Agra to Delhi legs were planned to be by car. Raj will drop us at the hotel in Agra and we’ll see the team when he returns with them from Gwalior. Now I just hope things continue to improve day to day as they have been going since Saturday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009, Cindy made cookies so we are well supplied for the trip and Raj is a happy man. I’m still going light on that stuff especially since the next 4+ hours will be in a car. The trip to Agra is uneventful except for an elephant on the road that got Cindy excited. Raj slowed down and she got a good picture. We’re informed it had probably been into Delhi for a wedding celebration and the owner was taking it home. The Jaypee Palace where we are staying is huge, a resort with beautiful grounds. We get some lunch at the hotel restaurant which is very good.

We meet Nitin who will be our tour guide for the cultural event day on Thursday and he makes himself available for whatever else we may need him for. Cindy decides to go shopping and I remain behind and lay down in the hotel room. I’ve decided I’m not going to push it. When Cindy returns, she has her treasures. From the time she first saw a wall hanging in President Rick’s living room, she has wanted something similar. She found a smaller version today that she really liked and purchased. It is hard to describe. A jeweled carpet on velvet is my best effort. You’ll have to see her beautiful treasure to appreciate it.

A mix-up in connecting at Gwalior resulted in the team arriving 2 hours later than planned. It was good to be together again and I got approval that I no longer looked sick. During dinner, we were filled in on the train ride and the decision for us to go back to Delhi was affirmed to have definitely been the right one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009, we all met for breakfast, have a team prayer in a private corner of the huge lounge area, then set out for Pushpanjali Hosptial where the training will be held. The conference room at the hospital is large and they have baby warmers for each practice station. There is minimal cooling from a few window units, but there are ample ceiling fans that help some. It is 116 outside. The training goes well with 6 Indian doctors working with our team and training 46 nurses in the basic NR course.

The Andertons brought a small portable printer so Sister Anderton and Cindy go to work once registration is completed and print out certificates with each person’s name that look very professional. Today was a survival day. Not a whole lot to do as this was an IAP show with LDSC assistance, primarily from the medical team. It was another opportunity for me to learn patience. My major accomplishment for the day was going out and locating cold soft drinks and bringing them back. The team couldn’t believe I had found cold drinks. It was a very successful training day though that concluded with a tour of the hospital pediatrics and neonatal wards.

When we got back to the hotel, the ladies and Dr Denton wanted to go shopping. We agreed to meet for dinner, but it turned out the Andertons collapsed in their room and ordered in. They were completely exhausted from the past week. I also stayed behind and rested until the others returned.

Thursday, April 30, 2009, we left the hotel at 5:30 AM to get to the Taj Mahal ahead of sunrise and the tourist rush. I was a little disappointed that I did not see color changes on the Taj with sunrise, but I also knew that was dependent on other factors like temperature and air quality. It was exciting though to be there and see it without tourists swarming the premises like ants.

We got some good pictures and a few trick shots we had passed on during our first visit. We ran into Brother Jensen, the church’s Area legal counsel, and his wife and son. They live in Hong Kong and were on a vacation tour in India. Nitin had a lot of information that was new to us and it was a good visit. We all rode rickshaws back to where the cars were and then headed to the hotel to eat breakfast and clean up. The group then went to Agra Fort and Cindy and I passed on that trip. Raj came and got us and we joined the rest at Cottage Industries, a marble artifact manufacturing and showroom location. Talk about some beautiful tables, wow! But not anything we could afford let alone have room to place it in our house. There was one marble bowl about 16” in diameter that everyone was ooohing over, but the price put it out of reach in everyone’s mind. I watched Cindy as she held it and decided when the time was right, I was going to see if I could bargain for it. Long story short, I did bargain and got it for half of what it was originally quoted for. The others who had also wanted it, couldn’t believe it and were feeling just a little bummed they hadn’t tried to get the owner down. My description won’t come close to doing it justice, but it is a large green marble bowl with intricate inlaid patterns of semi-precious stones and it is beautiful. It is a real Indian heirloom for us to bring home.

Our participation turned out to be different from what was planned, but everyone agreed that it had been a successful trip and a productive series of NR training events. We got home sometime before 7 PM, very tired, and very grateful to be safely back.

Friday, May 1, 2009, I spent yesterday dealing with administrative stuff – catching up with project emails, completing a monthly Area status report, did some project accounting and some initial logistics planning for the next NRT project in June. At least that one is going to be flying between the major points. No long car trips or train rides.

We have a family moving in upstairs where the elders used to be. We met them this afternoon. He is an army officer, a colonel. Two teenage daughters, his wife, and mother and all but the “mama” grandmother speak English. Really nice people and in spite of the moving in noise which will pass, it is good to have neighbors again. They also have an armed guard that will be staying in some rooms on the terrace (roof). That is a nice addition from a safety standpoint for us too.

I don’t know if it was getting sick or exactly what, but the mission is a bit of a struggle right now. I write about our exciting adventures and things of interest, but there are also challenges with living in India. I feel bad for President Smith and his constant struggle in trying to lead our branch and help the members grow. It is so difficult dealing with the Indian culture and trying to instill and develop the culture of the Church of Jesus Christ into the member’s lives. Dealing with disappointment seems to be a constant in the Noida Branch with a few positive exceptions that we need to focus on to keep us going. I am really looking forward to church tomorrow.

Sunday, May 3, 2009, we held sacrament meeting and then watched the Sunday afternoon session of conference in place of priesthood and Relief Society. We had 4 of our Indian members there, and Bohla Prasad, our branch clerk, had a grin a mile wide when he came in and saw me. Bohla is a little guy and when we hug, he almost disappears in my arms. He came up to me and stopped waiting for the hug and I didn’t hesitate to give it. I love him and his faithfulness. My first mission was to a country, Argentina, where the guys hugged each other (abrazos) and I find India is much the same. Once you get to know someone, hugs are very common. And Cindy and I love to give them.

Monday, May 04, 2009, had district meeting this morning at the church. Sister Tanner got up early before the usual first of the day power outage hit and made brownies to take to the meeting. With no baptisms for the past 4 months, it is hard for our elders and especially for our District leader as he is taking it as a personal failure on his part. Sister Tanner talked to him as only a mother could and got his head up and shoulders back again. He is such a good elder and we love him dearly. I take it as evidence of how responsible he is to try to take a burden like that on him self. But I think there is a lesson for all of us here when frustration sets in and we tend to internalize responsibility for the lack of desired results as being something we should be able to control and forget that life is not like that. Some things are simply not within our control, and never will be no matter how much we may want or desire them to be.

Around 7:30 tonight we both decided to start dinner which was going to be fried potatoes and onions, one of my favorites. Cindy had put some hamburger out to thaw and was going to use it to doctor the potatoes and onions up a bit. The advantage of this meal is it is prepared on the stove and is not electrical power dependent. It was one of Cindy’s first creations our first month in India and I love it. Just as we both got up to head to the kitchen, the power went out. It was fun peeling potatoes and cutting onions, carefully, by candlelight. When was the last time you did that? Want a fun home evening idea, prepare and eat your meal by candlelight and get everyone involved. Keep it simple and have some fun with it. We sure did.

A storm was blowing through, a lot wind and a little rain, but enough that opening some windows and the front door got a good breeze blowing through the house. It was almost a swamp cooler affect. Nice ending to a good Monday.

Friday, May 08, 2009, yesterday was a national election day in our area. When India holds national elections, they are done in 7 phases with a phase including specific areas of the country. Their system is patterned after the English where representatives are elected to parliament and then the deal making begins within parliament to vote in a prime minister, unless one party manages to get a majority, and good luck with that thought as India is becoming regionalized with self interest issues. Yesterday was phase 4 of the national elections and it included Delhi, parts of Uttar Pradesh where we live, and many districts (counties) in some adjoining states. The reason I mention this is that the power did not go off once to our knowledge all day. For security and other election related reasons, they make sure power is available to the areas voting. They’re making up for it today though. The power normally goes out for an hour at 9 AM each day. It went out well before 9 today and it is now almost 11 AM and still not back on. Our back up battery is exhausted so no internet access. I can’t imagine working some of these humanitarian projects with international connections without the internet. Yesterday on one issue emails were exchanged with Laerdal in Norway, their regional manager in Chennai, India, their distributor in Delhi, and people copied in the US. You have to love the electronic communication and the time it saves.


Laura said...

Dear Elder and Sister Tanner,

I'm Laura Nielson-my husband Bryan and I were part of the November NRT trip. Bryan stumbled across your card so we thought we would see how things were going in your part of the world! It was wonderful to read your blog, and see that you and your wife are doing well, despite the "Delhi Belly." We pray for the best for you and the people there. What an incredible work you are doing there!
~Laura and Bryan

Tammy Ferney said...

Dear Elder and Sister Tanner,
I now have true empathy for your sickness. I developed "Dehli Belly" on my way home from India. I thought I was going to die for about 3 days, then it took me 2 weeks to recover. I am so glad I wasn't sick while we were teaching. The Lord does work in mysterious ways! Thank you so much for all the experiences during our NRT adventure. India is so blessed to have the 2 of you serving them. I will never forget you!
Take care,
Tammy Ferney