Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vizag, July 22

Well, more of the usual is going around me at the moment, shouting and shooting and other sounds coming from the best and brightest of India’s youth wasting their time playing Counterstrike, a first-person shooter game.
This week has been pretty good. It calmed down a bit from last week since there isn’t anyone we’re preparing for baptism. Transfer calls came, but I’m staying in Vizek in my current area for the next six weeks and probably more than that.
I started and taped up my fifth planner today. Since I’m only going to have sixteen, this means I’m a quarter done and that was a bit weird. The time is really starting to fly, and I can’t believe I’m sitting in front of the computer again.

Funny moments from the last week: from a family we met.

Me: Hey so what are your hobbies Lemuel (a 16yo boy).
Christobel (mother, extremely friendly and talkative): He keeps writing music
Lemuel to me and his mother: No, I’m *mixing* music. (as if the distinction was obvious to his mother). Hindi music is boring so I mix it with Western songs.

Right now I’m trying to learn how to be more obviously sad when people fail to do what they say they will. We’re supposed to be devastated when that happens, and I usually fall short of ‘devastated’ both internally and (especially) externally. (Or I get angry, annoyed, or frustrated, which isn’t the correct reaction; people should be doing this for themselves not for me) I know this will be really helpful later (especially as a parent), as well as essential for helping people improve now. Elder Bartlett is doing a pretty good job and he’s showing me.

We had a really interesting lesson on Saturday. Elder Glade (my first companion) taught me how to cut people off if they’re going on long, irrelevant rambles or side tangents – talk louder than them, don’t stop, and do it kindly. Still I’ve never been very good at it and I tend to lose my patience (especially if their long rambling is preceded by not listening), which isn’t good. But we went in pretty convinced that the father of the family was going to spend the whole time going on about his favorite topic, and we were able to keep it under control and on topic, which was nice.

You’d be amazed to see my new planner. On the Notes/To Do section at the beginning of the week, I have about five different lists of people we need to teach, things we need to commit them to do, church members we want to take with us, how we’re going to help get people to church, people we need to contact. Elder Bartlett and I had a really amazing planning session on Monday where we went through what we had to do in a very methodical manner and didn’t get distracted or on to irrelevant side tangents at all. Then none of the four appointments we had that day went through. Such is life sometimes.

Right now, as usual, my life is revolving around all of these people, especially a few who we’re focusing on, and my happiness is tracking their ups and downs. Those people are: this 23yo Nepali guy named Amit who wants to get baptized in about a month but will have to overcome a chewing tobacco addiction first, another 13yo boy named Banu Prakash whose family is church members but there might be some legal problems for him getting baptized – long story, and a 19yo biology student named Solomon who knows the Bible like the back of his hand but (as far as we can tell) never really took to churches before. Now Solomon is coming to piano class and English class and getting to know all the 19 and 20yo church members who hang out in the church in their spare time.

For example: Tonight we’re taking Jerry, the 18yo girl who got baptized last week and is way way excited about everything we teach, to go be friends with a 20yo girl named Sravanti – we’re teaching her whole family and she wants to come to church but she’s afraid she won’t know anyone. Then we’ll take an older married couple (means 26yo and 24yo – that’s old in church here) over on Saturday, and then plop Sravanti between them in church. We planned this all out a couple weeks ago and slowly abstract goals like ‘get Sravanti fellowship’ are becoming names dates and concrete plans, which makes me really happy. The same thing is happening for most of the people we’re teaching, (though as usual it takes a little more time than you planned it to), so overall I’m really happy at the moment.

Vizag, July 15

This week was hectic and crazy but absolutely awesome. Mostly because it was so busy – we had two baptisms on Sunday, which means tons and tons of logistics and last-minute preparation. It was totally worth it though, we were so happy to watch it. I didn’t baptize anyone, which is actually better because you have a kind of bond with people you baptize. And I won’t be here forever so I prefer that someone else have that bond.
I did receive your package of shirts. Thanks! It was actually just in time! They did construction on the road last week and broke our pipe, so we’ve been dealing with some hassles and haven’t had any clean municipal water for a week and a half. Luckily that was all resolved yesterday, but in the meantime we only have well water which makes our white shirts dirtier than they started. So I haven’t had to wash any shirts because I’ve just been wearing the ones you sent. Also I found this great whitener stuff called Vanish. So I should be fine on shirts for the rest of the two years.
I was looking at the calendar, and realized I’ve been out for six months! Kind of crazy. But really, I feel comfortable out here. Whatever I want to accomplish, I only have three-quarters of the time I started with. That’s the moral of the story of life, I suppose.
Met this really interesting/weird guy named Mohammed. He’s been seven different religions in his life, starting with being a Hindu (Brahmnin caste), including a couple different kinds of Christian, and now obviously he’s Muslim. His 20 year old son was sitting in the room, making a Mickey Mouse wallpaper on the computer and ignoring us. I wondered what he thought about his father. Especially because he’s had to change his name a few times in the process.
On Monday we sat down and made detailed plans for everyone we’re teaching, who’s going to bring them to church, when we’re going to teach them, who we’re going to bring, and what baptismal dates we’ll invite them to be baptized on. So I have like six lists on that tiny piece of paper in my planner, and *gasp* I’m using it! It’s so helpful and the week is going so well. We’re busy all day every day.
A miracle happened a couple weeks ago, we met this awesome guy on the bus (perfect English, got a bachelor's in theology and went to do ministrry in Nepal), taught him from Jesus Christ's Earthly Ministry to Book of Mormon in 5 minutes on the bus, got off and I had written down his phone number wrong. I was devastated, my companion said all we can do is pray. I didn't even do that. **The next day**, we met him at his bus stop; we were traveling with an investigator to his in-laws' house, on the same bus, so we got to have another 30 minute conversation. We're teaching him and his wife and he's still awesome, he read the Introduction to the Book of Mormon after finishing 3 Nephi 11.

People are just opening their doors to us left and right it's ridiculous. We don't have any time to go finding after getting 7, 15, 16, 7 new investigators sequentially by week and still we're getting more. We're still trying to pick up old people the previous elders taught two or three months back, because of that we'll probably get 10 or 12 new investigators.

We've been here only a month, and we started with days that were almost all finding and now we're booked all day every day. We only have one person with a baptismal date right now but we have plans to invite about 10 or 15 people soon, so we should be picking up more. The branch president jokingly complained to us on Sunday, "What? Why aren't you having any baptisms next week?" to which my response was "Because we'll be having two the week after that!" (One from the other companionship)
Hope you're well; I certainly am.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vizag, July 8

Things have been so busy over here. We've been having five appointments every day, and we're hardly going to have time to teach all the people we're teaching now. On Monday, when we were planning we made a list of six groups of people who we should focus on, and then wrote plans for the other fifteen groups we're also actively teaching. Plus quite a few others too. Some of them we meet multiple times a week. It's really amazing how much I can organize and keep in my mind when I plan it all out.

It's amazing how young some girls get married here - we visited a couple of families where the wife was married at 15; the 27yo guy I mentioned last week's mother is 40; and a couple other cases also. Elder Bartlett and I were talking about that and we realized that many times there isn't the same concept of adolescence here -- or at least, it exists mostly in the more educated, wealthy class of society. (Also, we don't really talk to anyone else -- we can't, because they don't speak English). So we figured there were both upsides (in my honest opinion having a class of teenagers that don't add any value to society is not good for society) and downsides to that.

Our companionship went on exchange with the companionship that is 'in charge' of all of us in Vizek, called the zone leaders. That meant I got to spend some time with Elder Prasad, who is from Bangalore. We played some chess when we got back to the apartment (I won) and went around together for the day. It was really cool, he's got a really funny style of doing things. (Like when your typical devil-may-care 20yo guy told him that he didn't really care what his purpose in life was or what happened after death, he just kept being like, 'You can live a hundred years?')

Otherwise things are going really well. We have two baptisms on Sunday, the 17yo girl, named Jerry, and a 12yo boy John who's been coming to church for a couple of years. (His parents and family go to a different church but started sending him here because they liked the children's program.) Both of them are really awesome - Jerry is really sharp and John has a way good understanding for his age.

I'm really liking being here in Vizag -- the church community is very close-knit and there are always people hanging out at the church for programs (English, choir, piano, games, young adult classes) or simply hanging out and playing caroms and socializing. As I learn who's who I really feel like I'm grafted into a community, rather than forging relationships with a jumbled together group of individuals.

There are a ton of way cool people that we met -- a way humble guy who got a degree in theology and was an evangelist in Nepal for a few years until he got typhoid fever, and now works as a public relations officer for a charity. John Prasad's friend who is doing his undergraduate in biotech, John's parents who love us so much but can't communicate with us, this cool 8-member family who told us at least three times in very definite terms that they'd come to church at 1:30 (it starts at 2pm; they didn't come), a 40yo accountant for a construction firm with a family, he's a quiet guy but really loves us.

We had testimony meeting last Sunday and that was mostly in Telugu. Still pretty good though even if I didn't know what was going on. It was also a pretty interesting exercise in group dynamics, a lot of people who spoke in Telugu could speak in English but (like most people in India who speak English) are a bit insecure about their English and so when the people before them speak in Telugu they talk in Telugu also.

Anyway that's about it, I am happy and busy and ready for the next week!


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Vizag, June 30

I am doing very well. People here are so curious. Basically every male under the age of 16 wants to know where we are from and what we are doing which is pretty funny. (This is less true in Chennai, there are tons of Koreans there and also a decent amount of white people.)
The last couple of days have been pretty neat – we had a conference, and elders came from other parts of Andhra. Two of them stayed in my apartment – Elder Talk, a really cool but quiet Navajo kid who goes to Harvard, and Elder Schellenberg, a brash loud funny hard-working kid from Utah. Then we got to be with them and take them around the area, so I got to meet and learn from someone new, which was really good for me. I always like that. Elder Bartlett and I are becoming a lot more unified and on the same page in everything we do, which is good. (Imagine myself and a clone.) We are visiting and teaching a 12 year old kid who has been coming to church for a couple years, and it’s really fun both teaching him (and learning how to) as well as being in his house and meeting all the neighbours. Other than that we are teaching mainly a very excited 17yo girl who’s been coming to church for a while, and a 28yo guy who was baptized a couple weeks ago, plus a ton of new people (we found 14 new people last week that we are meeting, some of them are really cool, I’ll tell you about them next week.)
Also I had to give a presentation in our weekly meeting about teaching simply, which was interesting. I did a practice where we had to teach using only six-or-less word sentences. I’m decent with doing that but I could stand to improve. Really my brain is slowly starting to produce more understandable output for my mouth, which is nice.
I’m also learning to be better at communicating with others in different locales – in the last two weeks I wrote three letters to families in Chennai. A past version of myself would have simply forgotten about them.
I’m not sure exactly what the temperatures are, with Google Weather you have a better objective idea of them than myself. Elder Bartlett and I are doing well though, we have turned down the AC under the theory that we’ll sweat less if we get used to the heat more and it seems to be working. (Though the current cut today for a couple hours, which happens two or three times a week while we’re at home.)
That’s about all new and exciting on the week. Teravaktha!