We have been here almost a month now and are learning so much and keeping so busy! We are really enjoying where we are living and our short walk to church and to the office. The weather is about the same every day--mid 80's and then at night it cools down into the 50's. We have not had any rain since we got here but I'm sure that will change when the rainy season gets here.
We have met lots more of the missionaries and are loving them all. There are 73 missionaries in India and 4 in Sri Lanka. About 1/2 of them are from the US, There are 9 Sister missionaries that are all from India. We are the only senior couple in India and there is a couple in Sri Lanka--they are going home the first of March but there is another couple coming from Utah, the Condies that have been assigned CES in Sri Lanka. Jeff and I actually tried to go to Sri Lanka with President and Sister Berrett last Friday night but because our FRRO (Foreign Resident Registration...) was not finalized they would not let us on the plane. Luckily they got our baggage off before they left. President said we could go next time they go to visit. Picture to the left is inside our church with some of the Bangalore missionaries and an ex-pat in the middle who comes often to Bangalore.
The mission president and his wife recently moved into the top floor of the mission office. The first event in the home was the release of these 5 missionaries--all from India. President Berrett and his wife are amazing and we love working with them. They spent about 3 years in Hong Kong previous to this calling working for the church so they have been out of the states for a long time. They were originally from Colorado where he was an attorney.
So more on the FRRO-- they are a big part (or should I say a big pain) of my job. Jeff and I had to register when we got here as do all Foreign visitors and we were at the office from 10:00-5:00 PM And then at 5:00 they told us there was a problem with our visa and they would have to check with the Embassy. Counting the commute time it was an 11 hour day. Actually it is a very common occurrence and so I think they have fun just trying to complicate things. Every US missionary that comes has to register in the city they are assigned to and then whenever they are transferred they have to go to the FRRO and deregister in that office and then register in the new city they go to. There is lots of paperwork involved and every city has different requirements. I prepare all their paperwork.
This past week we had 6 new US missionaries and it was also transfer week so I had lots to do. My trainer Elder Penugula (pictured at left) left last week too and I was very sad to see him go! He was so patient and so happy all the time. One sister here last week and 2 of the sisters this week had attended BYU-Idaho for a couple of years and plan on returning as does Elder Penugula. Hope we can see them when we're back in the states. The cities in the mission are all a plane ride away with Rajahmundry and Visak..... being the farthest--4 hour plane ride. The others are about 1 to 2 hours. So transfers, conferences, US Embassy, etc involve lots of scheduling with the airlines and booking cabs. The church has 3 drivers that they use and we kept them very busy last week. Jeff and I use them too when we want to go to a store or somewhere that is not within walking distance.
I also do a lot of other secretary duties including the paperwork for incoming missionaries and released missionaries, things the President wants etc. We usually get to the office between 9 and 10 and stay until 6:00 or later. We take our lunch and then come home and eat dinner. We have a stove top and a microwave/convection oven for our cooking. Sometimes we stop at one of the restaurants in front of our apartment complex. They have 2 places I like--one is Chinese and the other is a veggie restaurant that makes smoothies, soups, sandwiches and banana lassi (yummy yogurt drink). We have tried the Indian places but their food is soooo spicy! They keep telling me I'll get use to it but I don't think so!
Last Sunday the Elders invited us over for Indian dosas with chutney and it was the best Indian food that we have had. We also like chapitas which are like tortillas and we fill them with rice and beans and make them into Mexican food! We get real good fruits and vegetables--delicious papayas and I am looking forward to mango season! You don't find much meat in the markets (you can go pick out a live chicken at a stall and have it butchered if you want, then they hang them by hooks from the roof). We travel about 45 minutes in an auto rickshaw to purchase meat and they do have beef, chicken, sausages etc. For breakfast we have a bowl of cold cereal or oatmeal. We can buy All Bran Wheat Flakes, muesli, corn flakes, Special K etc. Some of our grandchildren will be excited to know that they also sell Nutella here. Last Saturday night we walked over to Phoenix Mall and had a Swenson's hot fudge sundae--so we are not deprived. I thought I was going to lose weight living here but I think I'm going to gain!
Jeff will share with you some of what is involved in his job at the office: My primary responsibilities include finances, apartment management, and purchasing. My predecessor was Elder Sahora (pictured at the left), who did an amazing job. So I got a lot of good training in the first 3 weeks I was here. He thought I looked like Tommy Lee Jones and he was close to Will Smith. So he thought we were the Men In Black team. I have various challenges in the job. One is using a very poor church accounting system. One of the senior missionaries we worked with in San Diego had an accounting background. He said he would have been fired if he had implemented a system like the church has for his business. But I am learning to have patience and deal with it. Another challenge is communicating. I don’t understand much of what people tell me over the phone. I do a little better with the native missionaries than other people. Fortunately, most of the landlords have email and can read English, so I have been able to negotiate the lease provisions via email. When I do need to talk to someone on the phone, I try for a while and then call a native missionary into my office to handle the call. Some of the people I deal with have come in to the office, and I can understand them better in a face to face meeting. Another problem we deal with is the poor systems here. An example is about ten missionary apartments had their power shut off last month. Bills are not mailed. You have to know where to go to pick them up. Then, some payments can only be made in cash. We don't use the mail system here. We send everything by courier, which for me has been very slow and not reliable. But I am learning patience and creative thinking to solve the problems here.
(Back to Sue) The members here are wonderful and so kind to us. Each Sunday we are welcomed by many of the members and they are so happy to see us. Pictured at the right in their family car as they are leaving church is Charles, Lolita and Jeffrey. We have seen Moms, Dads and 2 kids riding--sometimes the mom sitting sideways holding a baby in her arms. So this is the Indian version of a minivan.
We attended the wedding reception of a couple last week. It was very beautiful. They got married in our chapel and then had a big tent set up in the parking lot where they served a lot of Indian food. You can see how beautiful the bride and groom were dressed as were those that attended. They then left to go to the United States where they will be sealed in the temple. Most of them go to the Hong Kong temple (at least those with money) as that is the closest temple. It is so exciting to see the church in action in India. I haven't figured how to organize pictures on this blog yet, but here are some more wedding pictures