Elder Hayden L. Williams

September 2018

Week #9 - Vizag - "Bagunanu!"

(Bagoonanoo) It means "I am good". It is the proper response to "bagunara?" which is asking, "are you good?". I include it because every time I hear it I think of "nanu nanu" from Mork and Mindy. Man that is an old reference now...

So just knowing this greeting gets all of the people excited and they laugh and love that I can say at least something. 
So first note I had some apple juice this week and lets just say it is the good stuff just like China. A little expensive though so probably won't buy it too much.

So Tuesday Elder Ramishetty slept most of the day because he wasn't feeling well so I had my first full day in the apartment. I read. A lot. I ran out of Liahona magazines and made it really far in my personal study. But that night we went out to get some air and we went down to the beach. The beach at night here is absolutely beautiful. 

Every other day we just went to member appointment because the rest of our appointments bunked on us, so not too much teaching happened this week. We weren't even able to meet with Manohar because he had exams almost every day so we are going to try and meet with him a lot this week.

Gave my first talk on Sunday, got notified Saturday night when we had fruit shakes with the branch president. All things considered that was more warning than I was ever expecting. He asked me to speak about how I knew to serve a mission to help the youth know how they can know for themselves. My talk was very similar to my farewell but more polished and guided for sure. I didn't look down at my notes that I had written at all. After I finished Brother Manuel from my branch got up and translated it for the members. All from notes that he had taken while listening to my talk. He is an incredible member and his violin skills are just as good as his translation which is amazing. Oh yeah did I mention that we have a sacrament pianist and a sacrament violinist? It is pretty fun to hear both of them as they play hymns. 

So the percentage in the mission of foreign missionaries I'd say is 70% ish. Some areas are only natives and they put a lot of them there. I only sunburn on P-days and they don't really bother me like they did when I was at home. 

Yesterday we brought a member with us to an appointment. His name is Ramuna and he has one of the strongest testimonies that I have heard. He is completely blind and has been from birth, he met with the missionaries about two years ago and quickly accepted the gospel. The most amazing thing is that before his baptism he used a walking stick like most blind people but after his baptism he stopped using it because he found he could get around without it. He can also translate really well so I will likely be around him a lot but he is amazing.   
Elder Williams

Week #8 - Vizag - "Chuma"

Chuma. Possibly the most annoying word on this planet. It means "simply". They say it for everything. It comes from anyone and everyone for anything. Ask them why they aren't keeping commitments and that is their response. 

This morning we went down to the fishing harbor which is in my area and it is quite the strong smell there to say the least. The most terrifying part is that the smell of drying and dying fish smells better than a lot of the streets I walk down. We then went to the beach and a few Elders attempted to fish. I felt like my father because I was hiding under my umbrella the whole time we were there which they made fun of me for but I would have been so sunburned if I had sat out in the sun that long. The ocean looks very pretty but there are so many rocks that it is too dangerous for anyone to swim, not to mention no one here knows how to swim. 

Biggest thing this week is we got someone on date for baptism! His name is Manohar and he was taught by Elders about a year ago and was going to be baptized but he was 17 and his father would not let him be baptized. His mother and sister were so now he has turned 18 and we are going to get him baptized and reactivate his family in the process. That is a big issue here just like it was in the Philippines.. People stop coming to church, chuma. Simply because they have to work 7 days a week, all day every day just to provide for the tiny house and minimal food. Manohar has at least decided only to work half days on Sunday so he can come to church. It all comes step by step, we are working on it.

The language is really too difficult to learn when you have no resources so we really do have to work through translators. I am going to learn enough to contact but other than that, the grammar is way different and it is way difficult to try and read and my companion isn't so keen on trying to teach me. I am doing my best to pay attention while my companion speaks what sounds like gibberish but it can get difficult when we visit members and he doesn't translate. He usually does not translate in member appointments so I have to keep from falling asleep sometimes. I am already doing better than his previous companion who did fall asleep in member appointments so I am doing well in that regard.

So this last Friday was Zone conference which we got some really good instruction from President for most of the day. Saturday and Sunday were District conference where we had so many meetings that we only had one appointment on Sunday. President and Sister Mortensen were there along with Elder William the first native area 70 and Elder David Homer of the General Authority 70 and second counselor of the Asia area 70 were both there as well. They are both incredible and gave such amazing insights and lessons about how to feel the spirit and use him in your life. 

Elder Williams

Week #7 - Vizag - "Where to start..."

So let me start by saying that Hinduism and Hindu temples are utterly bizarre. I was walking by a Hindu temple one day and I literally thought they were playing bumper cars inside because it was so loud and sounded like colliding metal. Still don't know what was happening. Thursday was a Ganesh festival which is where they erect idols of Ganesh, the elephant headed 4-armed god of knowledge, all over the city and praise him by listening to loud music and who knows what else, we had to be back in the flat by 5 o'clock because Hindu's drink a lot when they have these festivals. So that was my first afternoon staying in the apartment which we spent cleaning the entire flat and now it is livable. It was really bad before... I was terrified of staying here because of that but it looks good now and I can live there in peace now. 

Also my right hand always smells of some spice or another. No one uses utensils here. Rarely. If you are having ice cream or something they have spoons but other than that they only use their hands which honestly I prefer. Using your hand (right hand only, the left is rude to use because... reasons... uncleanness..) is way better because you can pick out the super hot chilis and set them to the side. 

So I traveled to my area alone on an airplane. They have super strict weight limits so my checked bag could only be 15 kgs and my personal item (I was only allowed one but I totally got away with my backpack) is only allowed to be 7 kgs. I had to drop a lot of things at the mission home because of these extreme weight limits. It is super expensive to go over them. My companion picked me up at the Vizag airport with his old companion, he only learned I was coming about 3 hours before I landed. Lets just say that transfers here are a mess and you never know when you might just be transferred to another area in the mission. 

Yeah I don't really understand the language because I don't get too much time to do so. The other US elders only speak enough of it to greet people, say funny things and invite people to church. Don't even get me started on trying to read it because it is impossible... I am learning enough of the writing to help people navigate the Book of Mormon and that will be the extent of that.

Church is really good, the members do their best to teach in English because that is what we have been told to do by the Area Presidency but some members can only give their talks in Telugu so I don't understand those as much. But this week we had two farewells in my branch. Of course they aren't going very far, after the MTC in the Philippines they will come right back to this mission and serve.

Our apartment does have A/C in the bedrooms so it feels really weird to wake up in the morning and feel cold. In India. But hey, I am not complaining. Better than what Cody had. We also have a lot less power outages here in the city and if they do happen it is only for a couple minutes. 

Robert went to Dominos? Yay! As an AM or what? I won't lie the strangest food I have had here was Dominos. My companion wanted to get it one night so I said that was good and we both ordered chicken sausage pizzas and then my companion asked if I wanted some Golden corn. I assumed this was corn on the cob which I thought would be a weird thing from Dominos but I said sure. Little did I realize when the pizza guy shows up with only pizza boxes that the golden corn was a pizza with only corn on it! I'm still on the fence whether I liked it or not... But the food here is really good, chicken dum Biryani is my favorite dish here. 

Speaking of home there is another Elder here who is from Lone Peak. He graduated the year before me so I only vaguely recognize his name because he played a lot of sports. His name is Tyler Kapp and he is a Zone Leader in Vijaywada. 

So last week I mentioned that we climbed a mountain and I got a really bad sunburn. But lets just say that the Lord wants me to continue working because I prayed real hard that it wouldn't bother me or hinder me and another Elder gave me some Aloe Vera and lets just say that my arms were red the next day but I didn't feel a thing. 

We went to a members home on Friday because we were impressed to do so and she had a good referral for us that we are beginning to teach but the real spiritual part was on our way back to the main road where we came across a man that was crying in the middle of the lane, I noticed that he was wearing a cross around his neck and so I thought we could talk to him. I was right, the instant he looked up and made eye contact with me he stood up and started talking to us. Elder Ramishetty told him that we could come back the next day and I gave him one of our pass along cards of Christ. His eyes lit up when he saw it and when we went to his house yesterday he was so grateful and listened as we shared about Jesus Christ. He puja'd our feet as we left which is always humbling to me because they truly see us as messengers of God even if they don't believe our message of the Restoration (puja is the Indian putting of the forehead to the feet but now they usually just put their hand to your feet and then to their forehead). We are going back this week to start with the Restoration so I am hoping that that goes well. 

We had 4 investigators show up to church yesterday. Kanta and her son Money, about 20 or so, and her nephew Isaac, who has apparently been reading the Book of Mormon instead of the Bible each night! We also had another investigator named Manohar who has just been waiting to turn 18 to be baptized because he gained a testimony 2 years ago when he was taught. So he is now 18 but true to form he has lost a little bit of interest in coming to our church so we are trying to encourage him.  
Elder Williams

Week #6 - Vizag - "So Much to Say..."

So little time!
So Thursday I got here to my area which is Visakhapatnam (Vishakaputnum) or Vizag for short, and met my trainer. His name is Elder Ramishetty and he is a native from Hyderabad (Hydrabad). His English is really good and he also speaks Hindi and Telugu. So my area is on the east coast of India and is the mountainous part of my mission, and the people speak entirely in Telugu. There are about three big languages spoken in my mission and different areas speak each of them so learning languages can be really hard if you are transferred to another area. So the only people that speak English are the occasional member and some of the children do as well. So my companion has to translate all our lessons for me as I try and teach, it can be hard when you don't know what your companion just taught so trying to build off his thoughts is impossible. I am just trusting and relying on the spirit to help me know what is best. So one lesson we were teaching a Christian family and while we were teaching they were looking through the pictures at the beginning of the Book of Mormon and the old grandma was looking at the picture of Jesus among the Nephites and she looks up at me and says something which makes my companion start laughing and when I asked he said that she said that to her I looked like Jesus in that picture. I stopped and laughed a little and said that that was the highest compliment that I could ever get. 

So all of the English here is British as you might expect of a country that was a colony of England for a long time. So I live in a Flat with 3 companionships. First there are the Zone Leaders, Elder Barry from England and Elder Kunz from Idaho. They serve in the Vizag 2nd branch with the Sister missionaries, Sister James and Sister Dahnpal who are both natives but the second sister is from Delhi. Me and Elder Ramishetty serve in the Vizag 1st branch with Elders Stutz, from Rexburg Idaho, and Rather, from Kansas. The second day in the Area I had a District meeting and met the rest of my district but I did not get any pictures with them so I will introduce the rest of them later. 

We have a good amount of Investigators that we are teaching so we get about 3 appointments in the evening because everyone is out of the house until about 5 so it is actually really hard to go tracting to find people in the mornings.

Yesterday, Sunday, we had our first member dinner appointment which are terrifying because they give huge amounts of food and it can be pretty spicy (so I am told by the other members) Sister Borra fed us chicken Birriani (disclaimer I don't know how to spell anything, I just write it like I hear it)The birriani was really good and there were four of us Elders there so I just ate slowly and she focused on refilling the other Elders plates. Speaking of food I have been adjusting well because my companion is being merciful to me and helping me to become acquainted slowly. So the first morning here he introduced me to Tiffins which is just breakfast foods that they eat with a chutney or a non spicy curry. Everything is eaten with curry as you can imagine. We also tried Meals which is a big plate of rice with a bunch of different curries that you can pick and choose to eat. So everything is spicy in its own right and when they feel overwhelmed by spice instead of making food that is less spicy they choose instead to just mix a little bit of curd with rice that helps cool it down. I won't lie, curd does not taste very good so I will have to get used to that one.  

It is just as hot as the Philippines but all public buildings have A/C and all homes have insanely fast fans that move the air well. Our transportation devices look similar to Tricees but we call them Autos here. My mission is not really like Cody's because I am in the middle of the city always. It is more similar to the Manila mission most likely. The streets we walk down are tiny and the homes are so crowded together. The hardest part to get used to is the smells. Outside everything smells really really bad and you can't get used to it because every 5 feet is another bad smell that assaults the nose. Eventually I think you just stop smelling anything. All the investigators homes are super small and humble and yet they will still place us missionaries on their beds and will sit on the floor to listen to us. It really is a humbling experience. Side note: Head bobbing, confusing at first but super useful in communication. When they do the side bobbing it means that they are understanding and it can also mean yes, but it can also mean no so as you can imagine it can be confusing sometimes. Also sadly I don't think that I will gain an accent because none of the Elders here have one at all, but they can do a pretend accent pretty well. 

Our weekly allotment is about 50 American dollars which is actually a pretty large amount here. It really gets you places. Buying groceries the other day was just over 500 rupees which is less than 10 dollars. 

Side note, the first thing I noticed in the Mission home was Presidents family and the first face I saw was the face of his son. His face was immediately recognizable because it is the temple video I have seen the most. His son is the Adam with the Weasel Satan. 

Today we climbed a mountain called Kailasagiri which is placed near the edge of the city and from the top you can see the whole city and the coastline. We spent almost 4 hours at the mountain because there are shops and food on one side of it and as you can expect, 4 hours in the sun amounted in me getting a sunburn. A pretty bad one at that because of the malaria medication we have to take. I am doing all right now because I can already tell the Lord is helping me with this one. 

Man... I might be forgetting some things and I am sorry the email is all over the place but the last week has been insane. They gave me a little extra time this week to email. 

You can just add this to the email if you want. It occurs to me I did not answer your questions. So Vizag is probably the safest area in the mission and we can wear our tags wherever we go. It is in Coimbatore and Bangalore that we don't wear tags because of the RSS or the Hindu group that is against christian missionaries because they think we are converting people. Converting to them is paying people to convert to christianity. So for the sake of safety we aren't converting people in India ;)

The Gibsons are from the same place President is from, Tempe Arizona. President actually grew up with them in his stake. Bangalore is probably the coolest, temperature wise (not cool wise ;)), place in the whole mission so long sleeve at night wasn't too bad for him. 

Essentially the reason customs was easy for me is because I let the officer do most of the talking. I didn't try to explain anything that was beyond him which I think the couple missionaries got too deep into it. Our visas are just a rare sight because they are marked with an M and some officers aren't used to seeing it. So my visa was processed with the batch that came before me so my visa actually expires on 7/11/2020, a month before my mission ends, so there is a high probability that I will only be serving a 23 month mission, but don't get your hopes too high. 
Elder Williams

Weed #5 - India - Arrival!

This is just a quick email to let you know I got here alright. I cruised through security and customs a lot easier than the senior couple with me did. It was a pretty long flight overall but it was also pretty empty so I got a whole middle row of 4 seats to lay down on. So we do not wear our tags here in Bangalore for safety. The driving here is very reminiscent of the Philippines so I think President was a little surprised that things here did not really surprise me. So today I am getting orientated and Tomorrow I will head to my area and I will email you next P-day!