Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Fun Day with the NRT Team

I mentioned the baptisms we had on May 31st in the last post. Here is Elder Swanborough from Australia, Sarup and his brother Kanul, and Elder Erekson from Cache Valley, US. When anyone talks about finding the elect, this is an example. Neither brother had ever spoken in public before until after their baptism and they were asked to bear their testimony. What a choice experience that was to hear them express their testimonies so eloquently.

The NRT team arrived Friday evening, June 5th. Saturday was a free day, so we joined the team, Barry and Sandra Anderton, Shannon and Alysha Jenkins, and Steven Komandina for breakfast and then to do a little site seeing around Delhi. We have visited a few places in Delhi in the course of our stay, but had never gone and done any actual site seeing so this was first. In Delhi, the Red Fort is usually one of the first sites when places to visit are mentioned. I was not too impressed with Red Fort as it was very commercialized with shops and hawkers. The group did enjoy the opportunity to shop though as there was quite a selection.

On the way to Red Fort. Sister Tanner has yet to see an elephant, camel, monkey or any other critter she hasn't loved.

Outside Red Fort, Delhi.

Some serious shopping going on here ...

Some of the Mogul building inside the fort.

How many bare feet must have stepped on the marble threshold to wear it down in 400 years?

After we left the Fort, we debated going to Old Delhi which would have been for shopping, something we had just experienced. Steve Komadina, who had worked in Delhi 40 years ago, in fact delievered his first baby in Delhi, mentioned he believed Humayan's tomb was nearby and he remembered it as being a site worth seeing so after checking with Raj, our driver, that was where we headed. Good choice. The site has had extensive restoration work done on it and it was really impressive. Quiet, peaceful, and no commercial activity except for a small food and drink concession tucked out of the way in a shady area.

Looking back at the gate we passed through to enter the Humayan complex.

As you enter the complex, this tomb is in an area to the right. These are all Muslim buildings and tombs from the Mogul era in India when they ruled almost the entire country.

Humayan's Tomb. I was struck by the similarities of this tomb and the one in Agra, the Taj Mahal. Humayan's was built over 100 years before the Taj, but has the layout used for the Taj. The tomb itself is up on an elevated area with symetrical buildings to the left and right that you cannot see in the picture.

Front entrance of the tomb from the elevated courtyard.

How many repeating patterns can you identify in the picture? Left click on the picture to see it full screen. Click the Back button to return to the Blog.
I identified 2 patterns. What do you see?

Looking towards the front gate from the tomb's courtyard.
After Humayan's Tomb, we made a stop at Dilli Haat for more shopping which I survived in good form. It was fun to see those new to the country or looking for remembrances for loved ones find "treasures" of their own.
We headed back to the team's hotel for a late lunch which we completely enjoyed then caught a taxi home and called it a day around 7 PM, well, almost, we still had packing to complete to get ready for the NRT trip that began the next day.

Monday, June 1, 2009

May Doings

The blog has been neglected, no doubt about it. I was so surprised today to see a single post for May. And it covered the last half of April to boot. The month of May was busy with branch work, getting ready for the next NRT project, writing our first final report on a project, and getting to be a proselyting missionary companion again for an afternoon and evening. The following long post touches on some of the highlights for the month.

But first, I want everyone to know that I found out Larry the Cable Guy has been outsourced to India. I have visual proof.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This month, the elders started holding a Home Evening at the church on Wednesday nights. It is a good opportunity for us to contribute to the branch missionary work. Cindy is a priceless jewel when it comes to activities and especially fellowshipping the ladies. Today, Elder Adari and Elder Schade came over at noon and were coached in making peanut butter cookies. The power cooperated and they were able to bake more than 6 dozen cookies for home evening tonight.

Elders Adari and Schade showing their stuff!!

A new couple came tonight that we hadn’t seen before. Olga, yes that is her name, and her husband Ravi. They are both Indian Christians who met the elders and were invited to come. Ravi is an ordained Presbyterian minister and was sent to his area to establish a congregation. Not sure if he is looking for tips on creating a congregation or sincerely investigating the message of the restoration, but I sure hope it is the later. They have two young boys, 5 and 2, and oh would we love to have some members like Olga and Ravi, a complete young family. In talking with them, I indicated that we were all volunteer leaders, no paid clergy. He seemed to understand that and they both indicated they were reading what the elders gave them and seeking for truth. Olga also said she was praying to know the truth. I hope we see them Sunday for the regular church services.

After we got home, the power went out so we were playing Scrabble by candlelight in the front room when someone knocked on the door. It turned out to be the young man that had moved into the servant’s quarters at the back of the house. Ashish is single and an assistant bank branch manager, just starting out. He knows, or is related to the owner someway, and had moved over to Noida to be closer to work. He brought us a gift, sweets, and said it was very different being alone after living with other bachelors for so long. He is a really nice young man and surprisingly tall for Indians, 6’ 2”. Someone I can look up to. We will have him over for dinner one of these evenings.

Thursday, May 21, 2009
What an interesting and productive day. We had a meeting at noon with Sushil Gupta, owner of the Hyatt Hotel in Delhi. He holds a number of significant Rotary International positions and has a passionate interest in water projects and helping the villagers. His public relations and communications person, Atul Dev, was also with us. Our cab ride over set a record and we arrived very early, so being in such a beautiful place and anticipating only a meeting and then a ride back to Noida, we decided we had time for lunch. Cindy had a pasta dish and I had a tenderloin burger and was it good.

We managed to make it upstairs to the executive offices on time and had a great meeting. It was a very cordial, open, and at times, personal discussion. One of the Asia Area goals has been to get more recognition for the church from the humanitarian projects and to try and bring the projects closer to the “centers of strength” where the church is. In our case, this means Delhi. Now that the check dam project LDSC had partnered on with Rotary was nearing completion, we intended to explore the possibility with Rotary of doing something either in Delhi or closer to it.

Atul shared that all of the dams were now completed and midway in the ensuing conversation, Sushil turned to Atul and stated he wanted a press conference to announce the completion, articles in the local and national papers, invite President Ricks, etc. Sushil Gupta is not shy about recognizing the church, knows something about it, and to hear him make the statement and then outline what he intended to do with the press conference was an answer to prayer, albeit a silent one. What difference does it make where the humanitarian project is if it is going to be publicized in the Delhi papers and these two gentlemen have the connections to make it happen.

Sushil also stated that he was presenting in an International Rotary meeting in Birmingham, England, and would be discussing the church’s role in the just completed project. One thing we need to work on though is he usually means Latter Day Saint Charities when he uses the church in that context.

When we left, we were invited to join Atul Dev for lunch and we headed back to the same restaurant we had eaten at an hour before only now there was a full buffet available including a desert section that was outstanding. All the way down Cindy and I were exchanging looks and whispered comments, do we tell him we ate before meeting or just go along? We went along and enjoyed the lunch. Cindy cannot handle a lot of food, but she gamely went along and tried to pace herself. I took one for the team and kept up with Atul and eat a hearty lunch. We were both feeling stuffed by the time we were through, but in my case, it was the delicious apple strudel and ice cream for desert that did it. The ride back to Noida was a little uncomfortable with our more than full stomachs.

The irony with the 2 lunches was that we had an appointment to go for snacks and dinner with Anil Verma and his daughter and niece at 6:30 PM that evening. Trying to handle that on top of 2 lunches was going to be a challenge. Fortunately, it worked out, barely. They took us to the Noida Golf Club, essentially a private country club with a beautiful outdoor 2 pool swimming facility, an exercise facility, a very large club house, and from what I could see, a golf course I’d love to play. The Vermas all went swimming while we lounged around in lawn chairs on the deck with many others and just watched. It turned out the snacks were something we had to purchase and since the Vermas were swimming, it was no problem. It was so hot, chilled, bottled water was our only interest.

A gentleman stopped in front of us and inquired who we were. That started a conversation with a retired army colonel and he brought a chair over by me and sat down. “Happy” Suhani was an interesting gentleman and the conversation with him made the time really go by fast. The next thing I knew, the lifeguard was whistling the children out of both pools as it was adults only from 7:30 PM on. The Vermas also got out and dressed and soon joined us and we went on a tour of the exercise building, some of the grounds, the clubhouse veranda, and then into the restaurant area. We had a good meal, but Anil could not understand why we weren’t eating very much, well, why Cindy wasn’t eating very much. I had recovered enough to eat, but honestly enjoyed about half of it, the rest was a labor. Bet you never thought you’d hear that from me about eating.

On the way home, Anil mentioned our new tenant in back and said he had expressed interest in visiting our church. I had a chance to talk to Ashish later and made an invitation, but he has commitments that will keep him from attending either Sunday or Wednesday (FHE) for a couple of weeks, but it was true, he is curious is probably the word to describe it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009
We went over to the Vasant Vihar building for a District Relief Society meeting. While Cindy attended, I waited for her with Elder Zaugg. What a great guy. He and his wife are on their 2nd mission. The first was in mainland China teaching English as humanitarian service volunteers. While we waited, we managed to solve all the world's problems in only 2 hours.
Once the meeting was over, all the senior couples headed over to Valleta's house in the embassy compound for a farewell dinner for President and Sister Ricks who leave on July 3rd.
L-R Weeks, Tanner, Zaugg, Ricks, Brown
President Valleta serves in the mission presidency and Sister Valleta is the District RS president. What an enjoyable time and the Italian dinner Sister Valleta prepared was superb. It was my first time inside the US compound and once inside, you could almost forget you were in India. The picture was taken in Valleta's backyard. In the small world category, it turns out one of the Valleta's sons who lives in Provo met our son JB, a Provo police officer, who responded to a call made by the son. When JB asked him for an address, it led to his parents were living in India and the connection was quickly made.

Monday, May 25, 2009
Most of the following was written by Cindy and it is too good not to pass on. And I apologize for completely forgetting I had the capability to shoot movie clips and if ever a place deserved live action shots, this has to be in the top 10.

What adventures we had today!! Dr Ryder and Manisha came by at 11AM to take us to get some pictures framed for the branch, and they asked if we'd like to go with them to go to a couple of markets after. Well, always up for an adventure, we said sure!! Eight hours later we dragged ourselves, hot and dirty, into our house.

Manisha drove us into Delhi (and she's such an aggressive driver) and we went to the framer. The prices of frames here are unreal -- beautiful frames for Rs 40 (not even a dollar) per linear foot. The pictures should look beautiful, and will certainly be a welcome addition to our RS room and chapel area.

Our first adventure after the framer was to the INA market -- somewhere we'd never been before. Dr Ryder said it was a market that all the foreigners go to because you can get great "tinned" foods, American brands, fresh goods, etc. We didn't know just how "fresh" until we got there. We had to cross a divided, with center barriers, 4 lane street and used a "subway" to go under and get there. We ignored all the street people sleeping in it, trying to stay cool. There are a few times each day where Cindy has to go to her "happy place". Anyway, when we came back up and onto the street level there was a market place that had all kinds of products, but when you went down the little alleyways that's when you found the real "treasures". Every kind of packaged food, spice, fresh veggie, meat, etc. that you could ever need -- and then some!! Unfortunately, every fly in the world was also there!! I don't think we've ever seen so many flies -- even at our Sunehri market, and that's really saying something. We went down to the fresh meat and veggie area, and there in front of us was fresh meat (chicken, mutton/goat, all kinds of seafood, etc) and because of that you could hardly see the veggies for the flies!! The vendors were trying to shoo them off of their wares, but it was an unending, loosing battle. There were live (for the moment) chickens, ducks, and turkeys (actually just big roosters) in crates and people would choose the one they wanted -- and with a scream from the bird and a whack, extremely fresh poultry. Cindy didn't handle it very well and went down a little farther to find some different scenery, but found only carcasses of other animals hanging from the eves. Besides, the smell of the fish was almost overwhelming. All in all not our favorite area of the market place. We were really glad when Dr Ryder had what he came for and we were on our way again. INA had a lot of "stuff", but that may be our first and last visit there.
Next we went farther into Delhi around Connaught Place to a restaurant. Dr Ryder suggested we go to a place that is famous for "trotter curry", but when he told us what it was we just looked at each other with a silent "HELP!!". Dr Ryder said it was delicious -- a delicacy -- and it is made using the hooves of mutton/goat, pig, cow, etc in curry or gravy. As delicious as that sounded, we didn't know just how good a sport we were ready to be. Cindy asked him if it was crunchy, and he didn't really answer. Luckily, we ended up at other restaurant because he said the trotter curry might be too spicy for us. Hurray!! We ended up eating the rest of the goat, and had mutton (which is goat) curry and some flat bread that you soak the gravy (curry) up with. It was actually quite good, but we were sure to drink a Coke, which we’ve been told is supposed to kill crazy stuff in the food.

On to our third adventure -- old Delhi. All I can say is WOW!!! I've never been in such a crazy and harried place. You have to park a ways away and then take a rickshaw into the area and then it was tight going.
There were stores for everything you could possibly imagine. Statues, house wares, shoes, fabric, toys, jewelry, and so so so much more. It's the wholesale market of the world, I think. Manisha said that millions of rupees in business goes on throughout the day -- 365 days a year.
People everywhere and in numbers that you can't imagine unless you've experienced Old Delhi. The intersections were nothing but a massive game of "chicken" and pushing, shoving, and yelling are the way you get through. Men were pulling/pushing huge loads on long carts with metal wheels (strips of old tires wrapped around the wheels).
Others were carrying nearly crippling loads on their backs, and still others had huge piles on their heads. The lucky ones had cattle pulling their carts.
I could hold my arms out to the side and reach from shop to shop -- I can't even begin to imagine how many shops there must be there.
I found a shop that was selling lace trims, and Duane bought some for me. It's wholesale so I had to buy 15 meters of each trim. I ended up with 3 different 15 meter pieces and paid only Rs 500 ($10.00) total!!! What a place!!

Dr Ryder even treated us to a mango shake (when I wasn't looking). The problem was that there was a guy shaving ice (made from water from where??) by hand on a wooden plank with a blade on it. It was put by hand into blenders along with milk (pasteurized??), mango pulp, and "essence". Then it was poured into glasses (not disposable). Glasses are simply emptied, rinsed with questionable water, dried with towels that have never seen a washer, then used again. Delhi Belly here we come!!!! When we got home, we couldn't shower quickly enough. I don't even want to tell you what the washcloth looked like, but what a day it was!! Only in India!!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Home Evening at the Noida Branch.

We played Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, only our version was Nephi, Lehi, Alma, and Moroni.
There were 3 members and 12 investigators present for a fun time and 3 of the investigators came to church Sunday.

This picture is interesting because of the religious mix. From left to right - Hindu, not sure, Muslim, Christian, me, Sikh, Christian.

Elder Shepherd had a game where groups had to create a 60 second presentation of an assigned scipture story. You have to set any inhibitions aside to get into this one. Here is Daniel in the lion's den.

How about some broken family bows Nephi?

Here is our group acting out the Alma the younger story. Sister Tanner isn't doing the chicken, those are angel wings. The young man in the blue shirt, Sarup, and his brother, were baptized Sunday, May 31st.

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Elder Chilimula's father died 2 days after he was transferred to Noida so he was allowed to go home for 5 days for the funeral and to attend to some family business. His father had been sick for some time. His companion, Elder Shepherd, asked me to go with him Thursday evening to some appointments. We took a rickshaw to the first appointment, which turned into a short visit with just the son, Raza, who asked about the "exciting lady" Sister Tanner from Wednesday's home evening. Had to agree with his description. We then walked to check on a contact and visit an inactive member in the area. Trying to keep up with a tall, younger Elder was a little bit of a challenge since my pace has mellowed out of respect to my real companion. But it didn't take long and I was walking beside him, not following behind. But was it ever hot or what walking around with it over a 100 and humid! Our next stop was a teaching appointment and it went really well. Elder Shepherd took the lead and I added as I felt prompted. The spirit was there as we taught Shivi Puri and his daughter Bhati. Bhati, a teenager, really became engaged in the conversation. When Cindy and I accompany the elders on a visit, it is a little different from being one of the 2 and going through the multiple visit routine for the evening. What a good experience and Elder Shepherd was really glad to have me with him so he could get out and work.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Smith family are gone for 4 weeks on a well deserved vacation back to the states, but the branch held together quite well without their 9. I gave a lesson to the combined Priesthood/Relief Society and Sister Tanner said it was an excellent lesson. President Smith had asked me to do it on Strengthening the Family and as a member commented after, I must come back many times to give all of the information. A sister who has a very abusive, alcoholic husband and one of her daughters were there and if you don't think giving a lesson on a subject like the family is hard with the cultural issues and singles present, try it when you're facing someone in that situation. It went well though and I felt guided in the approach and what was emphasized. As soon as the closing prayer ended, I headed straight to the back row and sat down behind the sister and her daughter and put a hand on each of their shoulders and spoke to them. I had seen the daughter bury her face in her mother's shoulder during the early part of the lesson. The mother had a smile on her face, the first I can recall seeing on her, so the message of hope apparently got through. Sister Tanner came and sat next to her and they talked. As President Henderson likes to say, it was a very tender moment for all of us.

After church, we had a baptismal service for 2 brothers who are golden. Sarup and Kunal both bore their testimonies after and both stated they had never spoken in public before. You would have never known it. Cindy and I had the privilage of going to their house for a lesson once. Their mother will come along as she watches her sons grow in the church. She has been Hindu and Christian and can't give up a god for fear of offending one. Sarup acknowledges this and knows that he and his brother will be the key to their mother's conversion depending on how they do going forward.