Sunday, August 26, 2012

Leave the Cooking to the Experts

We find in this new environment that we do things that we would never think of if we were home.  For example, when we go to the store, we can't find the things we are used to finding easily in the US.  A couple of days ago, we went to a place called the Big Bazaar - a Walmart like store with food, clothing, household items etc.  I am looking for roasted nuts, and all I can find are raw cashews and almonds.  Thinking they should be fine, I buy a pound and bring them home.  After trying them and finding they are soggy and without flavor, I say to Angela, we can roast them in the oven (my first mistake).  I put them in the pan, and baby them along at a low temperature and looking at them every 5 minutes.  After 40 minutes and numerous small changes to the temperature we finally have some fairly good roasted nuts. 

Well tonight, not wanted to waste time "babying" them along, I set the temperature high, lower the rack so they will roast slower, set the timer for 30 minutes and go on my way, to write the blog, answer email etc.  Our computer is in the back room and while I am working away, Angela says, somebody must be grilling, and it smells good.   Completely forgetting that I had the nuts in the oven, I smell the same grilling and think "where did someone get a grill in India - I wish I had one".  We keep smelling this delicious smell and for some reason, I come back into our living area and see the nuts smoking (I didn't mention to Angela that I was roasting the cashews).  In less 15 minutes, I totally destroyed the cashews (but then if you know me, you know they aren't going to get thrown away).  I can hardly wait to start on the almonds...

New Delhi Branch 3 party

Relief Society song (Angela in the
back, Mission President's wife
on the right
Visiting Teaching role play
As I mentioned in an earlier post, church congregations are called either Branches (small congregations of 10-150 members) or Wards (regular sized congregations - 200+).  All our congregations in New Delhi are Branches, and we have 7 in the New Delhi area.  We belong to Branch 3.  Last night we had a Branch activity.  It was a talent night and dinner.  Things are done opposite here than the US.  Dinner is after the activity, so that people will stay.  Dinner was at 9 pm, which for some here is early.  The program consisted of a wide variety of "talent" including, singing and dancing by some young children, a couple of songs sung by adults in Hindi, a couple of games of "guess the right answer", a role play on how to do Visiting Teaching correctly, and the "Hokey Pokey" (can you guess which one we did).  It was an unusual and long program, but one thing we can say, is that the members here are not afraid to do anything, even at the spur of the moment.   We decided to not eat dinner, so we could be sure we could teach our lessons today at church.


It's Better to Look Up - Our new home

In the last Church General Conference, one of the new General Authorities of the Church, Elder Carl B. Cook gave a talk that when we exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with life. We found new secular meaning to his talk when we moved to our new apartment this past week. These pictures are from the front window. We overlook what is affectionately called 'the hole', which is part of the property that the Church bought this year for a future meeting house. By "Looking Up" from the hole, we get a slightly better view. The road on the left goes to the local market where we walk to do most of our shopping.

The hole (old abandoned construction,
not what the Church is currently building)

Looking up from "the hole"
We are excited to be in our new place.  We have been right on the cusp of moving for several weeks, but our facilities manager, Kuldeep, wanted to be sure that everything was working right - no problems, as he is used to saying. So we move in and all the things Kuldeep said were done, weren't so we spent all day getting the AC fixed, only one burner on the gas stove worked (they came by a few days later and spent 4 hours getting it to work), the washing machine leaked water on the floor (floor drains in all the bathrooms, which is where the washer is, is definitely a plus, something I wish the US had), the TV dish didn't get moved and we're still borrowing half an Internet signal from the Mission Home, but otherwise we're in and ready to make it our home for the next 15 months (not that we're counting).


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our First Home Visit

Until now, we have been pretty much tied to the office trying to understand everything and establish more consistent processes and get things organized.  Now that some of the pressure is off, we hope to get out and visit more of the members.  The other night, we went with one of the sets of young missionary Elders to the home of the Relief Society President, Sister Vijaya Bharathi (Bharathi Vijaya, I haven't been able to tell which is her last name and which is her first since she goes by both.  The Elders also told me she has a third name, but I'm sticking with just two).  We met the Elders at the Church where we walked about 1/2 mile to meet them.  We tried to catch an auto rickshaw, but were unsuccessful, so we told the Elders we'd walk.  It was some distance from us (I'd guess 1 to 1 1/2 miles) and we had to cross a major road.  Drivers have no respect for pedestrians (even worse than Houston) and we just couldn't get across, so finally I just told the Elders we needed to exercise a little faith (and strong will), and I stepped in front of a car with my arm stretched out and lucky for me they stopped (or we would be serving a mission in a more heavenly setting.  I say "we" because I had Angela's hand and was pulling her along).  We needed to do the same over three lanes to get to the median, and fortunately the 3 lanes going the other way were not as busy and we ran across.  We entered a combination business and family section, that turned out to be literally a maze of narrow streets and passageways (didn't think to take a picture), that turned in every direction, much of it not lit (it was about 7:30 pm).  After what seemed to be a long time we finally reached her small apartment. 

Sister Vijaya's home was on the second floor with very steep and narrow steps to get to it.  It was clean and well kept.  One large room about 12 ft square with two small rooms adjoining which we didn't really see.  I'm assuming one is a small kitchen (probably 5 ft square) and the other a bathroom.  We came to visit because Angela had talked with her at church and she wasn't feeling well, so Angela took her some "medicine" - chocolate chip cookies!  Sister Vijaya does not speak much English and we don't speak Hindi, so we did our best to express our concern for her through simple words, sign language and hugs.  Before we left we gave her a Priesthood blessing, to bless her that she would get better soon.  It is humbling to be in members homes that have so little materially, but are willing to give all that they have, both temporally and spiritually to the Lord. 

We left by a different route, using the small flashlight built into our local cell phones (the phones are cheap and don't work well, but they have a great flashlight), to get out of the maze.  Sister Stevens and I caught an auto back to our apartment as we left the missionaries to find their way home.  We hope to be able to get out more often with the Elders to meet and hopefully uplift the members and investigators of the Church.  We are so blessed... 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Holy Cow - That's a Bull

On our walk
Bull leaving a present
Most of India is Hindu and the cow is sacred here.  You won't find beef anywhere including the products sold in the store (like spaghetti sauce with meat).  There is a source of some beef (not the same quality as the good old USA, but passable) from certain individuals that can provide anything - for a price.  Anyway, cows and what look like Brahma bulls roam the streets and markets at all times.  Most of them are docile and you can walk up to them without much reaction.  So we're walking home from our very first "exercise" walk in our street clothes and in the middle of the street is a bull lumbering along with no cares.  I decide to get a close up (they're docile, right?), and just as I got the camera phone up, it started to chase me.  I ran around a car.  I was so fluster that I couldn't get the camera up to take a picture.  I finally got a short video of it bellowing at me.  Next time, I'm taking a red hanky with me. 

If one switch is good, 12 must be better

This is a picture of the light switch panel in our bathroom.  Every bathroom in the apartment is like this.  The first and third switches turn on various lights, the second one turns on blue accent lights (that must be a specialty of the previous owner because every room has blue lighting), the one with the fancy hand painted black permanent marker "dot" is the hot water heater (so you know which one it is), The next one is the plug (220 volts), the next is the switch that turns off the plug (nothing worse than getting shocked with 220 volts, which has happened at least once with me so far) and the last, I'm not sure.  I think it's for the outside exhaust fan that's suppose to work, but doesn't.  The bottom 6 switches must be for something, but they don't work.  There is a plug for the phone, but most people here don't have landlines due to the prevalence (and better reception) of cellular.  It's always nice to have a few extra switches in your bathroom, just in case. 

Local Fruit and Vegetable Market

Give me Good Price
One of the better open markets
Across from the vegetable market
Just down the street from us is an open market called "E Block Market".  All the local markets are named after the area or street where they reside, and we live in an area where all the sections are called "blocks".  These pictures are of Sister Stevens negotiating a "good price" from the owner so we will frequent his place often.  The fruits and vegetables are pretty good (Angela has come to really love thier tomatoes).  Unfortunately they also seem to ripen quickly, so we are buying them about every third day.  Some items are almost the same as in the States (oranges, apples, bananas, lemons, watermelon, corn), some actually are more favorful (tomatos, califlower) and some less quality (cantilope, carrots, potatoes (no russetts).  We have quit buying lettuce because it's difficult to clean and goes rusty very quickly.  We really haven't ventured out into the "unknown" items that we really can't tell what they are.  Maybe sometime down the road... 

Rat Update:  We still haven't found him.  We wish him an early and quick death from the mouse cakes we have set out.  Our maintenance guy, Kuldeep, told me yesterday, that their rats don't like American food, so the rat probably left for a nice Indian home.      

Saturday, August 4, 2012

RATS.... really

After thinking about it, I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised that a large mouse / small rat is in our apartment (I say "is" because we still haven't found it).  I was going to the bathroom to brush my teeth and it surprised me (I'm sure I surprised it).  I jumped and gave my best Jackie Chan kung fu yell (Angela said it was a scream, but she doesn't know kung fu).  It ran under the bed and I quickly left the bedroom and shut the door.  Oh how I dreaded telling Angela we had a "rat" in the bedroom.  Well I did and she took it better than I thought.  We both went in the bedroom and yelled (more kung fu) and beat on the bed.  It scurried out of the room so fast neither one of us could tell where it went.  For the next hour, we took brooms and beat the furniture and the curtains to no avail.  We felt good telling ourselves that it ran to one of the other unused bedrooms, so we closed all the doors.  We finally went to bed at 11:30 pm "convinced" that we were not going to have company during the night.  Today our maintenance guy brought over some rat poison.  While passing it to me he said, "we are are different from you, we are animal friendly", implying that the they live in harmony with the rats...sure.

Angela's New Dress

 Angela, had the wife of one of the branch presidents make her this traditional Indian dress. It has pants with a long top accessorized with a matching scarf. And what do men get to wear - dark pants, white shirts and bland ties.  Oh well, it does look nice on her.

India Power Outage

India Power Outage Area
Many people have asked if we were affected by the country-wide power outage in India.  The picture on the right shows all the country that experienced the outage (the red section).  I've heard estimates between 300-600 million people affected by the outage (all the US is 350 million).  It was significant for the general Indian population as well as all our young missionaries.  Fortunately they treat the couples differently, and especially us because we are in the building that will eventually become the new church building in January.  We have a backup generator, so while we lost power around 3 am, we were only without power for about 30 minutes before the generator kicked in (probably would have been less if the guard hadn't been asleep).  It ran constantly for about a day and a half before we were back on the city provided power (are we spoiled or what...)