Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hyderabad, March 15

Life is still going pretty well. It is definitely calmer. I'm still trying to calm down and breathe when I need to, and it's still working well. We took some time this morning and gave our apartment a thorough cleaning, including mopping the floors, which was good.

Elder Gervais and I are having some really good appointments which makes us happy. We're not always spending a lot of time teaching something. It seems, especially Elder Gervais and I, spend a lot of time building relationships. Sharing who we are, what our brains and stomachs and interests and families and likes are. In the process asking what theirs are, about their families, about their needs and desires and cares.

My previous companions have all commented that I spend more time in lessons telling about how I personally learned some principle we are teaching, than any of their other companion of theirs. And Elder Gervais does that - relating personal stories, so on and so forth -- even more than I do.

This has been the occasion of some reflection on my part. I came to the conclusion that I am a teacher, not a salesman. If I do have a product, it is myself. It is the way I treat the people we are teaching. The love I show them. The degree to which I open up to them. The intensity with which I listen to them. The way I react when they pour their heart and soul out to me.

I'm thinking of some of the people we were talking to in the last week.

A 25yo sister describing her frustration at having developed, a few years back, habits of Bible reading and prayer, and feeling peace and happiness because of this, only to gradually lose those habits. Describing her worry at her upcoming arranged marriage and decision about whether she should cancel the match or not. Her future mother-in-law, whom she's never met, was scolding her over the phone.

A 16yo kid talking about how he failed his 10th standard exams twice in a row, in oddly precise terms for a teenager, how only his sister supports him and his father drinks and smokes and his mother doesn't understand him. Another 16yo kid, as I was comparing prayer to talking to his father - interject that he only talked to his father twice a day, when he had to, with his brothers nodding. This isn't just teenage angst; they're looking to me to solve their problems.

It's also the way I treat my companion. The love I show towards him. The way we make decisions together. The way I hand the mike back and forth when we're talking. The stories we tell about our life together.

An extremely intelligent 35yo sister who works for Google was failing to find a time in her life when she committed sin (defined as not doing something you know is right, or doing something you know is wrong). I give her in painful detail a painful example of two days back when I lost my temper and snapped at Elder Gervais. How I could have reacted differently. How we sat down that night and talked about our day and I reflected on my actions and felt guilty and apologized to him and he forgave me. The way I told her how that kind of calmness was an attribute of Elder Gervais I was desperately trying to develop, giving her a genuine compliment of my companion, from the bottom of my heart. The look on my face "I'm trying to tell you something that really, really matters to me" when she interrupted me and went off on some random tangent, that convinced her to give me back the podium. (And the realization that I have the same weakness)

People will just up and tell you their life stories, and we have to figure out how to appreciate and understand them, and show them that. We have to accept them just the way they are.

An annoying part I've caught in myself is that in casual conversation I often try to figure other people instead of actually interacting with them as they are. For example, I will make a guess at what's going on and state the guess instead of actually trying to figure out what's going on in their life. Asking about details instead of what they care about. I'm turning the thing into an intellectual exercise instead of showing I actually care about them and want to know who they are. An understandable mistake for me, but one I still need to correct.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hyderabad, March 10

Life is pretty good in Hyderabad.

The main problem – if you can call it that – is that the more successful you are, the more work you have to do. For example, ten people that we’re teaching came to church on Sunday (on time; two more were late). That is really incredible – far more than any previous point in my mission, and probably due to how well Elder Gervais and I are getting along. But also it is a lot of work, because we still only have two bodies.
Right now I am over at a church member’s house. Elder Gervais is on the daughter’s laptop and I am on the computer. Actually the son Praveen will be leaving for Delhi soon – he is engaged to Elder Stephen’s sister, who lives in Delhi, and works as a cook at a fancy restaurant – and the daughter Sathyia will be going to Sunnyvale, about 20 miles from Palo Alto, where she will be pursuing her Ph.D. We came over for lunch so Praveen could show us how to make chicken biryani before he left. It was really cool so maybe I will try it on my own sometime. The ingredients seem pretty reasonable.

Yesterday we had a zone conference which was really good. A church authority came from Hong Kong to preside over the conference (they will send someone to our conferences like that about once a year or so). We thought we had to be in the city at 8:00 sharp so we set the alarm clock at 5 am and took the train into town (we had to get there 40 minutes early or be late due to train timings). I was able to take a nice nap on the couch at church though to make up for the time I didn’t get to sleep in my bed. The upside of this is that I got some time talking to the person who came – his name is Anthony Perkins – which was really neat. Actually he opened the Beijing office of McKinsey (Amrutha’s company) and definitely in the field I want to go into. He was talking how his professional career was guided by his refusal to work on Saturday and Sunday, so that he could go to church and spend time with his family, and how he got tons of heat for that. It was really interesting, and then we had a great conference, so that was good.

Well all is well and I should go so all the best, with love,