Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Bye Our Dear Friends

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Smith family has been in Noida almost 3 years and has been a mainstay of the church here. Shortly after their arrival, Scott and Amy were asked to hold a home group at their house which eventually led to meeting in a rented building, then the formation of the branch in November, 2008, and finally to the building we meet in now which is great. They had anticipated staying until December next year, but family circumstances have necessitated a change of plans. Scott has been President Smith in our branch since it was formed and what a great job he has done in helping the branch members grow. It was with a lot of love that an open house was held for the family Saturday, the 14th.

Dhirendra (Robin) Baisoya brought roses to give to each of the family members and here he is handing them out.

The family sat together up front and those that wanted to express their feelings to them went up to do so. It wasn't a testimony meeting, but close to it.

Monica, who is taking lessons with the missionaries, expressed her feelings for the Smiths by singing a beautiful song in Hindi. I couldn't understand the words, but you could tell it was a song of the heart and I loved it.

The Smith Family
Back L-R, Scott, Amy, Mary, Hannah, Grandpa Smith, Rebecca, Ben
Front L-R, Elizabeth, Naomi, Aaron

Not everyone, but almost all who came. The Relief Society took care of treats and we all had a great time eating and talking for some time after the expressions of thanks, love, and good wishes to the Smiths were over.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our District president came to church today along with President Jackson to release President Smith. With the family leaving, it also takes our entire Primary and our Young Women. We will definitely miss the family and the youthful spirit children always bring with them. Elder Tanner was sustained as the new branch president and his counselors are 2 good men, Jose Joseph and Dennis Thomas.

I can recall being sustained as part of a new bishopric one time and after the sustaining, we were all asked to come and sit on the stand. One of the sisters commented later that we looked like deer caught in headlights. I feel like a deer caught in the headlights again today. The hardest part is we will be gone 7 out of the next 15 days in November. Not an auspicious way to begin a new calling.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Halloween 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009 – Halloween

In the late afternoon, Gauri Verma brought the largest pumpkin she could find over and Sister Tanner helped her make a jack-o-lantern. Then at 7:00 PM the fun began as our neighbors upstairs, Vikram and Mansa and their daughters Manvi, and Gauri, Anil Verma and his daughter Gauri and niece Sonu, Dr Ryder and Menesha, Elders Willie, Tamang, Barrick, and Godi, Robin Baisoya, Dennis Thomas, and the Smiths, Amy, Ben, Hannah, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Naomi, and Aaron and the hosts, Sister and Elder Tanner, all joined in.

Here's our hostess in her Indian Halloween suit with Elizabeth Smith who came as Sister Tanner. They both have the same block print skirt.

Sonu showing how it's done.

Mansa taking her turn.

And Sonu beats Elder Tamang in a playoff.

We played games like dropping an eyeball in a glass, teams putting a skeleton together on a door, balloon popping team relay, taking a bite out of a hanging apple for those willing to embarrass themselves, passing the goblin head game, and teams making a mummy race.

Who is going to come up with a mummy first?

And the winner is, Gauri Pande's team.

Scary Thomas from the Tomb!!

Is anyone still in the tomb?
It seemed like we had barely started and it was 9 PM already and time for treats and then goodbyes. Sister Tanner did not disappoint on the treats – apple crisp, brownies, ice cream, cup cakes with orange frosting, a veggie plate and real Ranch dressing, and drinks. Wow, can the Sister ever do a party, she is leaving a hard act to follow. We had sooo much fun!!

Prelude to Rajasthan

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elder and Sister Fairbanks came up from Bangalore to Delhi. We drove over to Delhi to meet with President Jackson and the other 2 senior couples in our mission for a follow up planning session on the December Mission Olympics. This is going to be a fun event for the elders and not the straight athletic competition some elders may expect it to be. After that meeting, the Fairbanks joined us with President Jackson and we discuss humanitarian work in India. Elder Fairbanks is the Country Director and President Jackson has some specific ideas and resources to offer for the humanitarian work. Good meeting and discussion.

After the mission office meetings, we went to the hotel to get Sister Tanner situated then to lunch at Subway. She was staying in Delhi with Sister Fairbanks while Elder Fairbanks and I head south to get pictures of all of the completed dams. The ladies had a great time shopping and enjoying a couple of days off to just relax and shop. And did I mention shop? Outside of our family, if Sister Tanner has another shopping soul mate, she found her in Sister Fairbanks. What treasures these ladies found while we were gone and what a boost to the local economy.

Elder Fairbanks and I bid goodbye and headed to Gurgaon to pickup Atul Dev and then it was on to Rajasthan. There is another blog post taken from an Area report with pictures of all the dams. A couple of trip notes. We had another vehicle that was a 4-wheel drive that we switched to for the last leg to some of the dams until it had a flat tire and we left a couple of the group behind to change it and catch up later. We kept in touch and they went through 2 more flats before the trip was over. Because of a blocked road, we had to detour through the town of Baswa and that was the most interesting passage I’ve made in India so far. To get away from following a bus, our driver turned off down a street that was barely passable and we continually had to have people move parked motorcycles, and even bicycles, to allow us to get by. Heaven help us if another car had come from the opposite direction. We did come to a stop when we encountered a trailer with speakers parked on the curb, one of the portable boom boxes used at weddings and other celebrations that call for a lot of amplified music. The owner declined to move it saying we could pass, but there was no way we could get by. There was a cross street about 30 feet down and I was contemplating getting out and moving it around the corner ourselves. There was a lot of shouting and loud discussion going on over it and finally Dinesh, the local dam work coordinator, apparently persuaded cooler heads to roll it out of the way and allow us to go by. The owner wasn’t exactly pleased, but he gave in to group pressure and they moved it. I wish I’d had my camera for that experience, but it was packed away in the back.

I am positive that 4-wheel vehicular traffic is not the norm for the street and we made an interesting side show for all those in the open front shops and work places fronting the street. I got a lot of return smiles as we passed so close I could have reached out the window and touched someone sitting in a shop that was also willing to stretch an arm out. Ironically, going through a town off the main road and down a normally pedestrian or 2-wheeler street, it was clean and had a well kept appearance.

Two days of early starts, 6 AM, lots of riding and lots of walking make for tired seniors. We returned from the trip and finally got back to Noida and home after 10 PM Thursday night.

The next day was a mission zone conference in Delhi at the Vasant Vihar building. Elder Pratt from the Area presidency was beginning a mission tour and our mission was first up. Friday was my 4th straight day of getting up at 5 AM and I was feeling the effects of the early rising and the trip. The zone conference was worth it as first Sister and President Jackson and then Sister Pratt gave us great instruction before we moved upstairs into a smaller room where Elder Pratt continued and concluded a spiritual and instructive conference, one I was able to stay awake in. While we were upstairs, the downstairs was being set up for another type of feeding. The meal after was a Thanksgiving dinner that came early for the mission. Turkey and all the trimmings and it was wonderful. I am so glad there were no more meetings after as my eyelids felt like lead. Elder Pratt served a mission in Argentina 3 years before I did and has been an area and general authority serving in Mexico, Central, and Latin America for the past 30+ years before being called to Asia. After dinner, it was home to continue preparations for Sister Tanner’s annual Halloween Party on Saturday. No scary dinner this year because of the time constraint, but plenty more that will be in another post.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

October 27-29 Rajasthan Check Dam Trip

The following, including pictures, was taken from a report to the Area on the completion of the check dams. I've included it with a few changes. Hope you find the finished product of a humanitarian project interesting. The project was initiated by Elder and Sister Dunn and approved in the spring of 2008 and the build out has occurred during our mission.

The report: All of the planned 20 check dams in the Rajasthan Check Dam Project have been built. When the final draw was requested, the balance in the account was duly requested and given to the partner organization. In reviewing the partner's project expenditure report and comparing it to the original budget, it was discovered that due to a change in the basic dollar rate (BDR) between the time of approval and funding, the project funds available amount was actually larger than the estimated and planned for amount. Since the 20 dams had been built within the estimated cost, there was an excess of funds. Rather than go through the administrative hassle of trying to return funds that had been delivered to the partner organizations, it was mutually agreed to build a 21st dam with the excess funds. The photographs below show the 21st check dam location where construction will begin later this

The men show the line the dam will take followed by a view upstream from the dam location. Notice something that will appear in many of the dam location photographs, the ground has been plowed and will most likely be planted since it will not be flooded until the monsoon period next year, if rains come. The state of Rajasthan reported a 36% below normal rainfall this year and is in a drought condition following a less than normal rainfall last year. I had always thought of monsoon as something almost tropical in terms of quantity until arriving in northern India in what is really a semi-arid region. The term actually refers to a time period, June-September, when what rainfall there is for the year comes.

This visit was specifically to photograph all of the completed dams, but it still began with the first village giving us the traditional honors. L-R Atul Dev, Rotary International, Elder Tanner, Elder Fairbanks, India Country Director.

A field being irrigated from an existing well that now has adequate water near this dam location, Loharavaas, Sikar. This was not true in all locations as below average (2-3”) rainfall this year meant some areas were missed entirely. Note the single cylinder, diesel motor pumps.

1. Gaadiwaar Wala dam, Sikar District, is one several dams that has retained water behind it, about 15’ deep immediately behind the dam wall. It actually had a head start capturing water from the 2008 monsoon period. Water birds and wildlife have congregated in this area due to the water.

2. Kali Maidi Wala dam, Sikar District. The water extends for 2-3 km behind the dam.

3. Mauda Wala dam, Sikar District. This dam is unique with the amount of water impounded behind it.

4. Dhol Papda Wala dam, Alwar District. Dry now, the dam held up runoff water and allowed it to percolate into the soil, fulfilling the dam’s purpose.

5. Musandya Wala dam, Alwar District. L-R Mukti, PHD, panchayat chief - village leader, Elder Tanner, Dinesh Sharma, Elder Fairbanks. The panchayat leader was a very happy fellow with the success of the dams in his area.

6. Bhairu ka Rada Wala dam, Alwar District. The largest dam with a very large earth fill component and an expanded spillway. Water behind this dam floods an extensive area. It was up to 5’ deep behind the dam at one point during the monsoon season.

7. Paapda Wala dam, Alwar District. This year’s rain shortfall during the monsoon is a continuing pattern. The water level in the well on the lower right was so low it could not support the irrigation pumps. The well had gone dry and the surrounding fields had not been planted last year. This check dam made the most dramatic, immediate difference of all the dams built. In a drought year, it managed to stop enough runoff to bring the local ground water level up to where the well functions once again. The planted field shots are around the well which is close to the dam location.

8. Chokhandya Wala dam, Alwar District 9. Kali Bhat Wala dam, Alwar District

9. Kali Bhat Wala dam, Alwar District earth fill dam with spillway, but not the largest dam. The dams are sited to block water runoff and this one has a large drainage area behind it. It may be hard to believe by the pictures, but in September, water actually overflowed the spillway at one point.

10. Dher Wala dam, Alwar District. Water is 6’ deep immediately behind the dam.

11. Ram Swarup ki Ghati, Alwar District.

12. Bodya Wala dam, Alwar District.

13. Pahaad Wala dam, Alwar District. This group of ladies had been north of the dam cutting grass and were headed back to the village. Most were teens. Elder Fairbanks got under a bundle and lifted it, with difficulty which brought laughter, and said it was easy 50 lbs or more. We followed them back and had to hustle to keep up. Note they are wearing flip-flops. It was a long hike to this site up a rocky hill and across the plain you see here. Going down the rocky hill was also no problem for the ladies.

14. Baba Damodar Das Wala dam, Alwar Disrict Upstream view, note the area under cultivation. Many of the dams have the area behind them planted once the water is gone.

15. Golyala Ka Mod Wala dam, Alwar District. Some locals had a beer still going almost in front of the dam and offered us a large bottle of their brew for 100 rupees which we passed on.

16. Phutya Wala dam, Alwar District. The project was to extend the dam to the far hillside and close an open gap, but the area had almost zero rainfall this monsoon season. There was more water last November. Note the 2 water buffalo enjoying what water there is.

17. Gadha Khol Wala dam, Alwar District. The hike to this dam site was uphill and passed a Hindu temple on the way. All of the water for mixing the cement had to be carried in. Probably the most severe working conditions of all of the sites.

18. Alewa Maharaj Wala dam I, Alwar District 19. Alewa Maharaj Wala dam II, Alwar District
Both of these dams flood fields behind them when run-off occurs. Not seen are the drainage water courses behind the dams. Dam II is one of a series of similar dams across fields in the bottom of a long valley.

20. Kholi Wala, Alwar District. This dam benefits villagers of the Muslim faith. L-R views - front of the dam and upstream behind the dam.