Saturday, July 28, 2012

Only in India

We have been looking to upgrade our phones recently.The phones the mission provides are lowest price and quality you can get, and after being on an iPhone, going back to the multi-click process to send a text message is just not working.It takes forever to type something out, and invertibly, I don’t click enough times to get the right letter and then need to back up and start over.So we go to the Vodafone store, to see what they have. Phones and especially pay-as-you-go cell plans are cheap compared to the 2-year plans the US has.The young lady who was helping us, prided herself on her English, so we are talking and Paul said, “so you can pay each month either on-line or in person?” She says, “No, I can’t pay, but you can pay.”So much for our US jargon…

Angela is talking to the Mission President's driver (no one is allowed to drive in the mission for obvisous reasons})  He says in his Indian English, "You are shifting?", Angela looks perplexed.  Well after multiple back and forths, she finally understands he is saying "Are you moving", because we are moving to the building behind the building we currently are in (someday...)

I wonder if I should pass this on to Comcast as a way to answer storm outages (see bottom line of screen). 

Our 37th Wedding Anniversary

Cab with A/C
(notice the deluxe seat covers)
LaPiazza Restaurant
Roman Candle candle
Scenic ride to the Hotel
Tomorrow is our 37th Wedding Anniversary, so we celebrated today by going to the Hyatt Regency for lunch.  No auto rickshaws for this occasion.  We got a cab (with air conditioning) for the ride over.  Whether on purpose or because he didn’t think we knew where he was going, it went out the “long way” and it cost us a whooping 110 rupees ($2).  We ate at the La Piazza Restaurant and had an excellent dinner of various salads and roasted veggies, a buffalo tenderloin (our first experience with buffalo – cows are sacred here), roasted potatoes and shallots (fancy name for baby onions), and a dessert bar.  Angela ate all her steak which was also a first (it was only about 5 ounces, but tasted just like “cow”).  We happened to mention to our server that we were celebrating wedding anniversary, and he surprised us with a cake with a roman candle on top.  Angela had to take care to keep from getting the sparklers on her skirt.  It was so bright, that you almost can’t see her. 

Hyatt Regency India
Unusual flower in Lobby
Afterwards, we went shopping at the high end shops in the hotel.It was the usual set of shop with everyone selling a variety of the same things (wool and silk scarfs, wraps, rugs, carved animals, etc).Looks a lot like all the other shopping we have seen on the streets, just more expensive.The shop owner of the first shop we came to wanted to show us his ‘one of a kind’ items, but after purchasing some items and continuing on, every store had his ‘one of a kind’ items.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

First Missionary Farewell for Us

We recently attended our first farewell for missionaries leaving our mission to go home.  I was presiding because President Sackley is touring the mission in Pakistan with his wife.  So I got the "last word" in at the meeting, since I was asked to say something to these fine Elders.  Elder Bunga to the left and Elder Podi to the right, are very energetic young men and a joy to be around.  My first encounter with Elder Bunga was at the bowling alley for a zone activity.  He was on my lane, and after seeing me gutter the first 2 frames told me he was going to beat me.  Well we know how that went - once you make a challenge everything reverses.  He started doing worse and I got better.  It was a fun exchange.  Elders from India are generally older when they come out, which is the case for both of these Elders.  Elder Bunga is now 27 and Elder Podi, 25.  The farewell included a slideshow of the Elders throughout their missions, and small talks/testimonies of the Elders leaving.  We had about 100 members that came to see them off.

Eating yogurt the hard way
The other night, Elder Stevens was eating India's version of yogurt.  It's about 4 ounces of liquid yogurt.  He took off the lid and was licking the yogurt off the foil lid (surely I'm not the only one that does this...) and without paying attention, poured the yogurt down the front of him.  He just took his spoon and ate it off his shirt (isn't it interesting what you'll do when you're in a strange place).  We found out today that that 4 ounces cost about $1.50 (another good reason to eat it off the shirt).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our New Favorite Restuarant

It's always amazing to me the "pearls" you can find in the most unlikely place.  Recently we discovered a fantastic Italian Restaurant called Sartoria.  It's located on the local "high end" market that is close to our apartment.  It has some of the best Italian food we have had anywhere - and not at an outrageous price.  We can generally get pasta and chicken dishes for about 400-500 rupees ($8-10) add to that the excellent Brushetta appetizer and you have more than enough to eat at about the same cost as the US.  The VAT and service tax is a killer at about 20%, but the offset is tips here are around 5-10% maximum.  We'll be eating here often.

Dry Fountain in front of Sartoria
Preha Market (Right of Sartoria)
One of the store you can get "American" food
I'd write around the pictures rather than here, but either it's not possible, or I'm still a novice (HELP Sandi). 

This is our temporary apartment from the outside. We live on the 2nd floor (which is called the 1st floor here because the ground floor is "the ground floor").  There are tenants still living on the ground floor.  Eventually (hopefully by January) this will be the main center for the Church in New Delhi with the chapel in the basement, classrooms on the ground and first floors, the Mission President's residence on the 3rd floor (the US 2nd floor - so confusing) and the Mission Office on the top floor.  When we move, it will be directly behind this building) 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Sister Stevens in new mission office
Still Smiling
Chaos - that's the best way to describe the past several days.  We moved mission office locations over the weekend, and we can't find anything.  To add to the newness, we have a new Mission President and his wife who have been here 1 day less than us, we have ourselves, who have just been reassigned as the new office couple (keep in mind there was no 'old' mission couple to train us), and we have a new office.  On the up side the mission office is in the same building as our temporary apartment, so we just walk up two flights of stairs - no more auto rickshaw rides to the office - Hurray!!! 

An example of a typical fire drill that we go through daily.  Two days ago, we get a call from one of the Elders.  He tells us that there are two women members, who have been called on missions that need to be in the Philippines' MTC on July 21, and they don't know what to do (so they called us, the "experienced" office couple").  One of the sisters does not have a passport yet, but she has been "assured" by the passport office that she will have it in a week (by the 17th).  After we get the passport, we need to send a copy of the picture page to the MTC, who issues us a invitation letter.  With thee invitation letter, and the passport, and extra passport pictures, we can apply for a visa from the Philippines (which takes 2-3 days).  Once we have all this we can purchase a ticket.  Any bets on if she's going to make it? 

At the same time we are suppose to be applying for permanent residence in the Philippines (both sisters are going to the Philippines on their missions) - which we will do as soon as we learn how...

Every day's a new story and new crisis, but we are sure we'll get on top of it soon, but for now this is seriously impacting my nap time.     

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Today we spoke in church.  We had our new Mission President and his wife visiting for the first time, so they were asked to share their testimonies of the Gospel, then we had a youth speaker, then Angela, a "rest" song (a song intended to get the blood flowing for those in the congregation) and then Paul talked.  During the rest song, Angela looks over at me and says, "you don't have much time to talk".  I just smile.  Without any discussion, all the topics were closely aligned around faith and having faith.  After the meeting we were able to witness the baptism of the Dileep family, whose real name is Massey - it seems everyone over here has several last names which makes generating a church record very challenging.  The father, mother and two daughters were baptized.  They will be confirmed members of the Church and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost in next week's sacrament service.   

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Zone Conference

Yesterday, we had Zone Conference for all the India based missionaries.  Zone Conference is a meeting organized by the elders that have been given leadership positions in the mission and generally includes talks and lessons to teach/train the missionaries on various gospel topics.  Yesterday's meeting went from 8 am to 3 pm, including lunch (the elders' favorite part) and focused on the converting power of the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ. 

All Zone Conference - India Missionaries
The attached picture shows all the missionaries in India, with the exception of one senior couple (the Crookston's), who went back to the US temporarily to be at daughter's wedding.  Our new mission President and his wife - the Sackley's, are on the far right and the Capener's and us are on the left (in case you forgot already what we look like).  There are a total of 61 missionaries in the mission - 32 India (26 young elders and 3 senior couples), 25 young elders in Pakistan, and 2 humanitarian couples in Nepal.  The mission is somewhat unique in that we will never see the Pakistani missionaries.  Due to current politics between the two countries, India elders stay in India and Pakistani elders stay in Pakistan.  President Sackley travels each month to Pakistan to visit/interview the elders and give them guidance.

We really enjoyed the Zone Conference.  The elders in this mission have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ and are very good at teaching the Gospel.  We felt a great spirit there. 

 If you read our last post, here is the winning zone - East Zone.  I hate to admit it, but it was user error.  I found the picture buried deep in my Picture subdirectory. 

Need we say more???

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy 4th of July

Can you believe it - they don't celebrate July 4th in India.  Apparently the US Embassy celebrated it on June 30th right after we got here, but otherwise yesterday went on usual.  It was P-Day for the mission and the Assistants to the President (APs) planned a great bowling activity.  Not far from our apartment (I'd judge it to be about 3 miles), there is a large indoor mall and a very nice bowling alley.  Everyone had a good time.  Elder Stevens (surprisingly) impressed them with his bowling skills - with the high score of 179.  Now no one wants to bring him bowling again.  Afterwards everyone went to lunch at their favorite location.  We followed the young elders to TGI Fridays, and other than taking about an hour to get our food, it was pretty good.  I was going to put some great pics of the bowling here, but they didn't transfer to my computer from the camera.  Probably user error, but I'm going to blame the camera.

We spent the afternoon learning more new things at the mission office and finding some "treasurers" in the cabinets.  One was an interesting book on the start-up of the mission 5 years ago, with pictures of the first missionaries and the set-up of the office we are now in (and will be vacating in a few months). 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monday we walked to the market for groceries.  It’s the equivalent of about ½ mile.  In this market there are two European grocery stores that sell things we are familiar with (at a price!).  For example, we purchased a one quart bottle of milk imported from England for the equivalent of about $9.  Paul doesn’t really like the taste of the boxed milk, but given it’s 9 times more than the local boxed milk, he’s going to start liking boxed milk (it’s not that bad if it’s cold).  We kept getting offers to carry our groceries through the store (at a price, a recurring theme).  We resisted until checkout, because we bought more than we could reasonably carry out.  Whether the young man (who didn't speak English), knew he was going to carry it all the way to our apartment, we don't know, but he willingly followed us.  When we got to our apartment, not knowing how much of a tip I should give him, I erred on the high side and gave him about 300 rupees (about 6 dollars), which was probably reasonable per US standards.  At lunch, I asked how much was normal - 30 rupees.  I guess that young man will either retire early, or be looking for us on our next grocery run. 
We had lunch with President Sackley (our brand new Mission President) and his wife (center) and another senior couple that has been here since February.  We are actually eating at Pizza Hut, which was really quite good.  Other fast food in the same market includes KFC, Dominos and McDonald (without the beef).  These places are on the high side price wise, but I think it may be our new home for Americanized food.  

We spent all afternoon at the Mission Office, trying to get access to the system, work with one of the former Branch Presidents on our residents permits, and going through files (we still don't understand). We struggle with trying to understand our India saints on the phone and thankfully have office assistants that speak Hindi when we get to the point of frustration. Hindi is used a lot more here than we anticipated and the English is almost as hard to understand. Combine a hard accent, a mobile phone and a little hard of hearing and we find ourselves saying a lot of "I don't understand you", "can you say that again", "is this what you are saying", or some other variation. 

Around 5 pm, we took our first ride in an auto rickhsaw (affectionately known as an Auto). Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a picture. Our driver wasn't particularly happy because one of the office assistants told him we were not paying more than the nationals - about 40 rupees for a 3 mile ride. As you'd expect there is a national rate and a foreigner rate. We'll see how we do going back to the office unassisted this morning


Monday, July 2, 2012

Well, it's Monday morning here in New Delhi.  We're going to call it our P-day (Preparation Day), mostly because we need to do our laundry and buy groceries if we are going to eat and have something to wear.  With a new mission president and with us being new, it's a little like the blind leading the blind, but we'll figure out what we are suppose to do over the next couple of weeks.  Hopefully, in the near future we will figure out a way to add pictures.  I was using our camera phones in the States, but they don't work here.  The misson issued us small Samsung phones with basic features.  Texting using a phone keypad is more difficult than I recall since we haven't done it since Nigeria 5 years ago. 

Yesterday, we went to the Branch we will be assigned to while we are here.  Fortunately it is within walking distance of our apartment, so we braved the streets of Delhi to get there.  Sidewalks are poorly constructed so we were constantly moving in and out of the street to get there. Roads here is similar to most 3rd world countries with pecking order as follows: large cars, small cars, auto rickshaws, bicyles, people.  On top of that, India is a former British colony, so everyone drives on the left side of the road.  Crossing the street can be an impossible task trying to dodge everything coming down the road and remembering to look the right direction. 

One of the great things about the Church, is that no matter where you go in the world, it is organized the same way so there's a sense of being "home" when you attend church.  Church services are currently held in a large home, with the Sacrament services held in the basement (a large area that holds about 120 people) and the classrooms are both on the basement and first floors.  We must admit we had some difficulty understanding those that taught.  Members here are from many nationalities in addition to Indian - Chinese, Japanese, Congo, Nigeria, Benin, US.  In Relief Society (the women's meeting of the church), most of the women spoke in Hindi rather than English, so Angela was quite "lost".  And as you would expect, before we could get out the door, the Branch President asked us to speak next Sunday.
After church, around 1 pm we walked home and fell into bed.  We're having a hard time adjusting to the time zone change.  Angela in particular is up all night still, from about 1-2 am until mid morning when the "sleepies" hit.  I'm sure we will adjust before we come back to the US...      

Sunday, July 1, 2012

We have arrived in India and finally got internet access yesterday (Saturday for us). We are currently 10 1/2 hours ahead of Texas. The trip was really quite uneventful - thank goodness. We flew from SLC to Chicago, had approximately a 2 hour layover and then on to London on British Air, then 4 hours later on to New Delhi. We must confess that we upgraded (at our expense) to business class for the overseas portion of the trip. The configuration of BA's business class is that every other seat faces the back of the plane. We got the two center seats, which both face backwards. When you are in the air, you really can't tell the difference, but on take-off, without the seat belts, we would have been on the floor.

We arrived in India around midnight, and got through both immigration and customs with no difficulties (no questions, no checking our luggage, maybe a few ugly stares, but that might be normal), and met President and Sister Jackson outside the luggage claim area. I think they were really surprised that we got out so quickly. They were even more surprised by the 8 pieces of luggage we had. We had luggage stuffed in every available spot in the car with two on top, but we got all the doors to close and then off to our new apartment.

We are staying temporarily in the second floor of a building that will eventually become the new meeting house/Mission Office/Mission Home for New Delhi. The Church acquired this building, the Columbian Embassy next door, and the lot next to it (affectionally called the 'hole in the ground') that will eventually be a multi-stake/ward building down the road. Similar to the concept used in Hong Kong, because of the significant cost of land and property, especially in New Delhi, all of the wards in the area will eventually (5-10 years) meet in this location. For now the near-term plans are to remodel the building we are in to be the Ward meeting house and Mission Home/Office Church, and for our apartment to be the classrooms. In the next month, we will move next door and live in one of the 3 2-bedroom apartments above the embassy (which has decided to move sometime soon)