Friday, January 23, 2015

First days in Bangalore

We left for India on Tuesday, January 6, making it my most unusual birthday celebration.  Not much of a "King's Day."  We took a red eye to New York and had a 7 hour layover.  Then we took a 12 hour red eye on Etihad Airlines to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  We decided to not wear our missionary badges.  If you think the roads through Wyoming or Nevada look desolate, you ought to look out the window as you fly into Abu Dhabi.  The airport was very unorganized.  It took us 45 minutes to taxi in, because there wasn't space for us at the terminal.  Then they unloaded us on buses, took us to the terminal, loaded us back on buses, and took us to our airplane to Bangalore.  We were amazed we didn't miss our flight.  We made it to Bangalore on Thursday evening, but our luggage didn't.  Fortunately, 3 suitcases came on Friday, and the last one came on Saturday.  I sat next to people on two legs of the trip who had colds, so I had a cold for the first 2 weeks I was here. The total travel time was about 21 hours of flying and 12 hours of waiting. That is a long time, but we did go half way around the world.

This is the apartment building we live in.  The complex is called Brigade Metropolis, and has 10 buildings the same size as ours.  We live on the 10th floor on the left side of the building.  Our apartment is about 1100 square feet, with 2 bedrooms, an office, dining/living area, and kitchen. Other than 2 Elders, we have seen only one other Caucasian here.  The complex is very nice, better than the one where we lived in San Diego.  There are tennis courts, swimming pools, basketball courts (always empty), and a cricket field.  The road going around the complex is 3/4 of a mile, so 3 to 4 laps in the morning keeps us on track for our "marathon" per week.  One day we even climbed the 20 stories of stairs in our building twice.  We haven't done that again.  Our living standard is among the top 1% or 2% of the people in India.  We are taking reservations for those who want to come visit us.

This is the water filter we have in our kitchen.  It has about six stages, including reverse osmosis, carbon filtering, sediment removal, and ultra violet zapping.  The water is probably of higher quality than bottled water.  One of these is in each missionary apartment.  The church is very serious about clean water for the health of the missionaries. The church also gives us malaria pills and vitamins to take every day.  So with these items, along with the $2,000 worth of shots we got before we came, we hope to maintain good health while here.

This is the view out of our bedroom window. It is a very clean neighborhood guarded by a couple of security check points to get into the area.  There are also security guards posted at several points along the road that we walk on in the morning.  We went to visit some members in the neighborhood about a half a mile away--you can see it in the distance.  It is a totally different India than what we are living in.  We (2 Elders, us, and a member) sat on 2 mats in the "front room," which was about 5 feet by 6 feet.  Very humble.

The main street in the area is Whitefield Road.  This is the "sidewalk" we walk on to the church and mission office.  The road is filled with traffic at other times during the day,  It takes about five minutes to walk to the office.  One difference between this sidewalk and others is that there are not as many motorcycles and rickshaws that drive on these sidewalks.

This is the entrance to the church and office complex. The church (on the right) was recently built and is planned to be the stake center. It is a very nice building, comparable to the quality of church buildings in the USA.  There is a district in Bangalore now, and they hope to become a stake in the next year or two.  The branch is well organized with great leadership.  If the other branches are this good, they should reach their goal of having a stake soon.

The office building where we work is behind the church. Jeff is the Finance Secretary and Sue is the Mission Secretary.  The mission office covers the right half of the first floor.  The distribution center is in the left half.  Church administrative offices for the country take up the second floor, and the third floor is the Mission President residence.  You can see our apartment tower in the background, the one on the right. We are looking into connecting our apartment and office by a zip line.

We decided to walk to the Phoenix mall the first week we were here.  This is a sidewalk we went down.  You can see all the businesses in this "strip mall."  We didn't buy too much here.

Another view of the traffic on Whitefield Road. This one in front of the mall.  The road is filled with auto rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, cars, buses, trucks, and people.  There are no traffic lights or crosswalks on this stretch of the road.  I don't know why they bother to paint lines in the road.  It is every driver and pedestrian for themselves.

The inside of the Phoenix Mall looks like one you would find in the USA--four stories and lots of American stores.  The prices were typical American prices, too.  The restaurants included KFC, Subway, California Burrito, Chili's, California Pizza Kitchen, Krispy Kreme, and Baskins Robbins.

Yes, we even found a gelato store,  Life won't be too bad here afterall.

We made our return trip in an auto rickshaw, our first ride in one of these.  This is one of our first "selfies,"  We are really getting caught up with technology.

Our first  P-Day was spent at the Botanical Garden.  They had a special flower show, with the Taj Mahal made out of roses.  The garden doesn't quite compare with Luxomberg Gardens in Paris, but it was pretty nice.  Below are a few more pictures.  The Elders caught a ride with us to a shopping area, so there were five us in the auto rickshaw.  One sat in front with the driver. The other pictures are two more shots of the gardens.

We (the AP's and us) welcomed some new Indian missionaries by taking them out to lunch at a local restaurant. I am not sure what we had, but it was authentic Indian.  It cost between $1.50 to $2.00 per plate--a good price for a tight-wad.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wrap up San Diego, Get Ready for Bangalore

On December 31 we received a surprise email telling us our visas had been approved and we were able to go to India.  We had truly enjoyed our time in San Diego, but knew India was the place for us to serve.  So we packed up and headed back to Utah.  Some highlights of the last half of our San Diego stay were:

We enjoyed our work in the San Diego 4th ward.  The members and leaders there were great to get to know and work with.  It especially rewarding to see the progress made by some members and gain so many new friends.

Our son, Brent, and his family came to visit and say a last goodbye on the weekend of December 14.  We went to the beach, La Jolla Cove, the Mormon Battalion, Old Town, Scripps Aquarium, and the Harbor Parade of Lights—to name a few.  Most of all we enjoyed just being with these three grandchildren one last time.  (It was also nice to spend time with Brent and Bridgett.)

We went to a Bedke Christmas party.  My dad’s cousin, Cloyd Bedke, has spent most of his adult life in San Diego.  I called him to say hello and he invited us to his family Christmas party.  We enjoyed meeting his wife, Kathy, his kids and grandkids.  Cloyd shared some stories about my dad and some other old Bedke stories.  He had invited some friends to join the family party and we were surprised to find out one friend grew up in Bingham Canyon and knew several of Sue’s family members.  It is a small world.

Our service opportunities included working with the Marine Toys for Tots program.  We helped sort
and organize some the donations.  We were amazed with the volume of donations and the great work performed by this organization.  We were also able to work with a group of church members to prepare a dinner at the Ronald McDonald House on Christmas Day.  A young mother had recently spent received a lot of help from this organization during her son’s illness, so she organized the activity to say thanks and help the current residents.

We had some great experience with the missionaries.  One was a mission conference with Elder Brent Nielson of the Quorum of the Seventy.  He grew up in our ward in Burley and was my brother Dave’s best friend.  As the older brother, I figured that I had taught Dave and his friends most everything they knew.  But I found that I learned a lot from Elder Nielson about the atonement and missionary work.  During lunch he came over to our table to chat with us.  He asked us about  4 times if we were really OK about going to India.  I am not sure if he had a better offer or what.  He shared some of his fun memories about Dad and the family.  He also recalled the time I drove the car off the road with him in the back seat as we came down the mountain road after a day of skiing at Pomerelle.  It was truly a miracle that no one suffered any harm.

Another great missionary meeting we got to share was the Christmas devotional with all 250 missionaries.  We enjoyed a breakfast prepared by the local Relief Society, then had a Christmas program.  What a great sight and feeling to be involved with so many choice Elders, Sisters, and other Senior Couples.

Our last visitors in San Diego from home were Jill, Roger, Kyle and Angie.  It was great to see so many family and friends while in San Diego.  We have a two bedroom apartment in Bangalore, and are accepting reservations now.
The best thing about the timing of our visas was that we were able to attend our granddaughter Emmie's baptism on January 3.  It was so wonderful to be there!  We are so happy with the choices she has made and the great person that she is.  She is a wonderful example to us, the rest of her family, and her friends.
Tinley had one last chance to make cookies with Grandma.  She used her baking kit and apron that she received from Grandma Pett.