Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hump Day

Today is our official HUMP Day.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it marks the middle of our mission based on the day we left.  So starting tomorrow, we "officially" have less time to go than we have served.  This is really only important for those that are anxious to go home and we're not.  We are still enjoying all aspects of our mission service (although I am having a hard time getting excited about compiling the 2012 mission history that needs to be submitted next month).  We didn't do anything special - just another day in the office - literally... 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Construction 101

 It has been very interesting to watch as they remodel the 4 story building that will be used as the church, mission office and mission home. When constructing walls, there are no studs and sheet rock. All interior walls are brick and then covered with a concrete "mud". With no hollow walls like in the US, any wiring and plumbing that is not part of the original construction is either run on top of the wall or the wall is chipped away to put it in. In this building, the exterior basement walls were also just bricks with no exterior coating, so workers hand dug down 10 feet all around the entire building so they could coat the wall with a rubber/concrete mix, so the basement would not leak. When they were digging out around the basement, all the dirt was carried out in buckets. Fascinating to watch, but extremely labor intensive and very hard work. I'm not sure what the workers make but it's probably $2-3 US equivalent for 10-12 hours a day - and they're happy to have the work.

Adding Plumbing between floors
Trench around the building

New Classrooms (bad Iphone shot)

Dirt replaced after coating walls

Kanwal Bharti Public School Annual Program

About 2 weeks ago, a man came in to see President Sackley to invite him to the Annual Kanwal Public School program.  I remember thinking at the time (while President Sackley was being so gracious and said that he would be there), that I was glad it was him and not me.  I should have known that that kind of thinking almost guaranteed that I would be going.  Sure enough, President Sackley had to make an unexpected trip to Pakistan the weekend of the event and he asked me to "fill in" for him.  It was on a Sunday, so Angela quickly bowed out because she didn't want to run the risk of not getting back to teach her Sunday School lesson (that was convenient), so I went by myself.  When I arrived I was given the royal treatment.  They marked my forehead with paint, gave me a bouquet of flowers and invited me to sit on the first few rows for the dignitaries (right in front of these huge speakers). 
Very colorful outfits.  Most presentations were students
from kindergarten to 8th grade
They were disappointed when I said I couldn't stay all day and quickly rearranged the program so that I could get on the stage and give a speech (where was this in my mission call??).  After saying a few words, the MC translated in Hindi what I had said.  Anil (the mission driver that took me) later told me that the MC said what I said and a lot more - well it's good to have someone make up for your deficiencies.  I sat back down thinking I was safe, but 10 minutes later they called me back up on the stage to make award presentations to about 20 kids as a photographer took pictures of each one with me.  They didn't know me, but they will always treasure the picture with the "white man".   Actually the skits, dancing and singing of the students was entertaining and I wish I (and Angela) could have stayed longer.  You never know what unexpected opportunities await you on a mission.
Yes, this is a man. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Beating Retreat" Rehearsal

Admission ticket - Rs50 (about $1)
Monday night, Jan 28, we went with the other missionary couple, Elder and Sister Black, to the rehearsal for the "Beating Retreat", which is held on January 29 (only VIPs and their guests are invited to the actual ceremony).  Unfortunately there were even more restrictions than for the parade (but no bomb threats), so the only pictures you're going are my ticket stub and the ones I could find on the internet that weren't copyrighted.   

My "extensive" knowledge of this event comes from Wikipedia, which seems to be fairly accurate.  "The Beating Retreat in India officially denotes the end of Republic Day festivities. It is conducted on the evening of January 29, the third day after the Republic Day. It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force." The event is held close to the President's Palace.  It reminded me of going to high school band competitions when Bryan was in the band, although the formations were not nearly as complicated as what HS bands do today in the US.  Each band took it's turn playing familar Indian songs (not familiar to us, but still good).  The most surprising song was the Christian hymn, "Abide with Me" played by all the bands combined at the end of the event.  Especially when you consider India is predominately Hindu.   From Wikipedia - "A regular feature of this pageant is the last tune played before the Retreat, when the National Flag is lowered. It is the famous Christian Hymn written by Henry Francis Lyte, Abide With Me set to music by W. M. Monk and one of Mahatma Gandhi's personal hymns, has remain part of the ceremony over the years when many other foreign tunes were phased out to make way for Indian tunes, especially during the 2011 ceremony." 
Camels at the Beating Retreat
The other interesting thing was camels with riders standing on the walls surrounding some of the government buildings.  They were a long distance from where we were seating in the bleachers (there must have been 20 camels), and they didn't move throughout the entire 90 minute ceremony.  We debated back and forth on whether they were real or not,
until at the end of the ceremony  when they walked off.  I found this close-up picture of them. 

To sum up this "exciting" blog post, I quote from the local newpaper - ''Beating Retreat'' marks a centuries old military tradition, when the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield and returned to the camps at sunset at the sounding of the Retreat. Colours and Standards are cased and flags lowered. The ceremony creates a nostalgia for the times gone by.  It sounds like this writer misses the days of good old-fashion war...

Off to the MTC

About a week ago,  Arjun Radhakrishnan finally left for the Mission Training Center (MTC).  We thought this day would never come.  We have been working with Arjun since October to get him on his mission.  He is among the last to go that submitted their mission papers in May before they had a passport. As a result he got his mission call to enter the MTC on December 15 before he had applied for his passport. (we now require all prospective missionaries to have their passports BEFORE they submit their mission papers).  Every week we would encourage him to apply for his passport, and it seemed every week it was the same story - essentially no progress.  First he needed to get a birth certificate and that took several weeks.  Every time he saw me, he told me his birth certificate was coming and asked when he would enter the MTC, and each time I told him he needed a passport.  Finally he got the certificate and applied for his passport, and each time he saw me, he asked when he would enter the MTC. To make a long story short, he finally got his passport and we got a new MTC date for him of January 26.  Of all the missionaries that have left from New Delhi recently, I think he was the most excited.  I know he will be a great missionary in the India Bangalore Mission (the other India mission in the south).