Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vizag, June 23

Another week in Vizag, and things are starting to settle down.
This wonderful brother named John Prasad that we inherited from the previous missionaries got baptized this Sunday. That was pretty exciting, it was the climax of our week. Right now we’re helping a lot of people dealing with adversity; we seem to be teaching the same lesson over and over again. I’m not that good at being a friend to someone in need. That’s because, I realized, my style of advice is to calmly reason from first principles, instead of giving the direct advice first and the reasoning later, which is what they need. I really feel like I’m growing in empathy though, as well as in ability to give aid. Also – and most importantly – the people we’re teaching are starting to get a handle on their problems.
I don’t have a lot more to say so I’ll include some Telugu phrases I’ve picked up:
Samaselu = problem
Laydu = not there
Chappendee = tell me (command, respectful)
Puchondee = sit down (command, respectful)
Ninchondee = stand up (command, respectfully)
Teravaktha = after/next time
Munchi = good
Challa = Many/very/much
Santosh = Happiness
Pramadamu = Dangerous
For example, the 1.5yo niece of one brother Kiran is challa pramadamu and leaving a home I will point to myself and say challa santoshm, teravaktha. All the aunties love you so much and laugh so much when you talk in Telugu.
Until next week!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vizag, June 17

I'm in my new locale at the moment, with my new companion, Elder Bartlett, who basically is a carbon copy of myself except that he's more organized. He was assigned to the office to manage records (this is a big job -- for example, every week the office receives 11 baptismal records) and in his down time wrote a 15-page manual for future office elders. He's a few months younger than me but is almost done with college, due to being homeschooled and then starting at Utah State at 15. And if you thought I was skinny – he’s 5’8” and 110 lbs. We're getting along great.

Vizag is a pretty neat city. I was in the heart of Chennai, and this is a lot more spread out. Often, you can only see 4 or 5 people when walking on a residential street, instead of 40 or 50. We live about 15 minutes by bus to the edge of our area and 30 minutes to the church, which is in the center of the places we go around. Tons of people here speak English, which is good. We only have a vague idea of directions at the moment, because we’re both new to the area, but that hasn’t been a problem so far.

The other interesting thing is that my old native companion, Elder Siyyadri, finished his two years and went home to the branch I’m serving in now. So now I see him once or twice a week, which is unheard of for old companions.

With love,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chennai, June 10

This week has been a bit crazy. I learned on Saturday night that I would be leaving Chennai and moving to Vishakaputnam (sp?) on Friday. I haven’t packed yet, but we’ve been running around seeing people for the last time.
I’m really going to miss my companion Elder Tuscano. We hit it off when we met at the airport and we’ve really become good friends. And no, you don’t automatically become friends when you spend twenty-four hours a day together; this hasn’t happened to me, but rumor has it that this can be pretty frustrating sometimes :--) Lately I’ve been learning a lot from him about how to interact with people. One big lesson is about how to be, in his terms, ‘chill’ and ‘real’. Elder Tuscano really (and obviously cares about people – he always tries to figure them out. What makes this person tick? The way he puts it is ‘I’m afraid of silence’, but he’s always asking them about themselves and trying to understand them better. He knows how to start conversations. With me, I’ll just let things slip into silence because I don’t know what to say. He’s really taught me a lot about being more interactive, and really it just makes life a lot more fun. It makes every day into an adventure, like, who are we going to meet today? What weird stories are we going to hear? What cool people are we going to meet?
(The coolest story this last week comes from Jeremiah, who Elder Tuscano baptized on Sunday. Apparently, in his home village in Assam, they would hunt zebras with homemade guns, and then it took 8 men to carry the zebra back to the village. Also he’s eaten lion.)
Anyway, because of that aspect of his personality, I’ve had a ton of fun with Elder Tuscano. Hopefully I’ll be able to carry the things I learned with me. I really hope so. My next companion is named Elder Bartlett. I think his father is doing a Ph.D. in business at Stanford, but I might be mistaking him for someone else. He has been in the mission office in Bangalore for about as long as I’ve been in Chennai. Apparently he was born with a computer in his hand. We’ll be doing what’s called a whitewash – when both missionaries serving in an area leave and two new missionaries come into the area. So we’ll definitely get lost a lot and stuff, it should be interesting. I just hope we don’t lose anyone.
We have a lunch appointment to run to, but next week I’ll be sure to tell you what VIzek is like.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Chennai, June 3

This week has been pretty crazy.

Elder Tuscano and I learned an interesting lesson that Baba has probably learned with his students. That, unless the people we teach take time to do the activities we ask them to, they will never learn, understand or internalize anything we say. Eg, we're wasting our time.

Sunday was the most crazy day - we were so busy visiting people that we didn't eat anything between breakfast and 8pm, at our last appointment of the day (who fed us). And we were traveling around with or in our suits the whole day after church. It was definitely worth it though.

This week we've been visiting a lot of people with big problems. There's one guy with substance and alcohol addictions who we were visiting, who we thought had interest to change, but doesn't really, so that was pretty sad. (We were inside talking to his wife and he was outside playing caroms.) Other people with substance problems. One church member who was basically doing for his father what the nurses did for Ajee - his father just died though, so we'll probably go over there later today. A couple of fathers who have returned from abroad to their wives and children who can't find a job and don't know what to do. Trying to help them help themselves, when the problems are way over our heads, is a real learning experience.

Probably the best line I heard was from one of the other elders about someone they are visiting. This guy is very large but quiet, really smart and fairly nerdy, we played Hangman on the train to Bangalore: "We need to give him a very firm commitment to take his medication all of the time we come instead of just some of the time. 'I promise you that as you seek psychiatric care...' "

Also a really interesting experience has been, every week, setting goals. Now I'm not much of a goal-setter, but I've really started to come around. Recently Elder Tuscano and I have started setting performance goals for the week that make us stretch - and then basically achieving them! It's something that hasn't really happened up to now (or when it has, I haven't really felt a part of it that much). But it's really cool and exciting.