Monthly Archives: December 2014

Gifts HE has given us!

As we approach the “gift giving” day of Christmas commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, I wanted to share a few gifts that the Savior has given us during our time here in India. One of the last things the Savior did while he lived on earth was wash the Apostles feet.  Through His example He taught the need to serve and love one another.  The gifts He has given us have come from the ability to serve in His church.  In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all service in the church is voluntary and it is a lay ministry.  One does not request a position to serve in, rather those that have been called to oversee an area of the church, ask different members to serve in various “callings” or positions.  We have been richly blessed by these opportunities which have become “priceless gifts”.  To highlight just a few:

Seminary — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has all high school age youth attend weekly classes to study the scriptures.  In California, our teenagers would attend early  morning seminary that was held Monday thru Friday at 6:30 a.m. before high school.  Here in New Delhi, the church holds seminary twice a week in the evenings for the youth.  There are about 16 active participants with a mix of expat teenagers that attend the American Embassy School as well as the local teenagers that attend various high schools here in New Delhi that range from age 14-17 years old.  One of the greatest “gifts” Karen has been given has been the opportunity to teach this class.  She loves these incredible youth and loves the hours spent every week to prepare for the classes.

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The seminary class at our recent Christmas party at our home.

Branch Council — The Church in New Delhi India has a “district” that consists of seven smaller “branches.”  These branches are a geographical area that come together to worship each Sunday.  Within the district, there is a branch council where leaders serve and help the different branches.  Tyler would count among his greatest gifts here in New Delhi the service he has been asked to give to one of these branches, the Pitumpura Branch.  It takes Tyler about 45 minutes every Sunday morning to travel to the location where this branch meets but he loves the people there and they love him.  Most of the meetings are held in Hindi in this branch but Tyler has a few individuals that help translate for him and when he has to speak or give a lesson, he has a translator.  Some of the most incredible people, with great faith, can be found in this branch.  As a family we accompany Tyler a couple of times a year to their meetings where we are welcomed so warmly.

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Tyler with the Pitumpura branch president and his wife.  This beautiful couple just went to Hong Kong this week to the temple for the first time.

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All these American missionaries wanted was a little beef.  So we had four of the six missionaries serving in the Pitumpura branch over for a hamburger dinner last night.  (Yes, Tyler brought back some frozen Costco burgers on his last trip to Seattle.)  We are hoping members in the Philippines are taking care of our missionary son, Jacob, as well.

Relief Society — Karen has also been given the opportunity to serve in the leadership of the women’s organization of the church in our branch where we live.  Serving as a counselor in the Relief Society gives her many opportunities to visit these wonderful women in their homes.  These women live very basic, simple lives here.  What an incredible “gift” to hear their stories, to witness their desire to be good mothers and wives and to see how their faith in Jesus Christ grows.

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The Relief Society in our New Delhi 2nd branch.

Home Teaching — Even our teenage sons have been given “gifts” here by serving in the church through home teaching.  Home teaching is the program in the church where men are assigned families to look after their needs and visit them monthly.  Thomas and Conner get the opportunity to go and do home teaching with Tyler.  They have had the opportunity to trek through sections of New Delhi that the normal expat teenager does not get.  They will come home laughing about how many cows they had to maneuver around just to get to some of the homes.  They have been inside homes that would humble any American and have gotten some real life experiences in seeing the lives of a normal person living in New Delhi.  It is truly an incredible “gift” to be able to have a teenage boy get these types of experiences.

When we serve our fellowmen, we truly are serving our God and as we serve God, He can make much more of our lives than we ever could on our own.  The opportunity to serve in His church here in New Delhi is like unwrapping those “gifts” that will never have a money value.  How wonderful at this time of year to pause and thank Christ for these incredible “gifts” He is giving to us as we live here.

 

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Cultural Diversity? This Christmas Program Had It!

An event where the participants and guests are dominantly Muslim along with Hindus set in the courtyard of a Hindu temple celebrating a Christian holiday is definitely a rich experience in cultural diversity.

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The Hindu temple in the background with the performance to the side of it.

That is the “wow!” factor I got as I attended a Christmas program for Save the Children India yesterday.  I was given the opportunity to help distribute blankets as gifts on behalf of the AWA Outreach program to about 500 individuals, all children that participate in the education programs that Save the Children offers.

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The preschoolers started the party off with Jingle Bells! 

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A nativity scene was reenacted as well — costumes and all. 

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The preschoolers standing in line with their parent to collect their “gift.” 

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The area where Save the Children India is located is just outside the temple courtyard down the street.  Whenever I come to visit here, it is like stepping into another world — one even more extreme from what I see daily.  An event like this draws a crowd so one had to have a ticket and be an actual student or parent to get through the gate.  This helped ensure onlookers did not flood the event.

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Although there are not the sights and sounds here in New Delhi India that I crave at this time of year, I have come to understand that many non-Christian people here do celebrate Christmas in some form.  I have asked myself why? as it is a holiday celebrating a Savior in which they do not believe, but have come to understand that for many of them it is just another “festival” and a great reason to celebrate.  They are not necessarily out decorating their homes or throwing holiday parties but they do a little thing like give a gift or buy a cake.  One of our drivers told me he celebrates Christmas by having a cake.  (I have learned that a cake is reserved for special occasions only here as most people do not have an oven and the splurge of buying a cake happens only for special events.)  Our other driver has a son in a Christian school so they don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas but acknowledge it.

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Despite the lack of them celebrating what to me is the true reason of Christmas, I appreciate the efforts made in this community to try to educate and expose the children to different cultures and understanding the world better.  It was definitely the most “culturally diverse” event I have ever attended and reminded me regardless of culture, God created each of us and loves us.

 

 

 

 

 

Starting the Holiday Season in Singapore

With the four day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we decided to check off another “places we want to visit” so we headed to Singapore.  Just a quick 5 hour flight from New Delhi, but the contrast between those two locations is pretty stark.  It was a great destination to kick start our holiday season with the beautiful decorations we saw throughout the city.

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One of the MANY Christmas trees lining Orchard Road — a road where our hotel was and the shopping never ends!

Singapore consists of one main island with 63 small islands as well, many uninhabitable.  Singapore was a major port between East Asia and Europe with the British establishing a trading station there in the 1800s.  Japanese aircraft bombed this beautiful city in December 1941 placing the country under Japanese rule until 1945 when British regained control at the end of the war.  Singapore’s first general election was held in 1955 and based on what we saw, it is a very well run government that has created an orderly, clean, safe and efficient place to live.

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Some of the Japanese cannons on the island of Sentosa — we played a laser tag game in one of the old military buildings.

One of the policies that has created such a clean city in one of the most densely populated countries in the world is the fines that are enforced and posted throughout the city.  Many Indians that have traveled to Singapore told us about the fines and how you are not even allowed to chew gum there.  We actually never saw a police man in the city but I have never felt safer in a large city in my life.

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This was the first “Fine” sign we saw as we moved from the airport to the subway system.

The public transportation system is amazing — super easy to use and very efficient.  We left the airport via the subway system and used it throughout our vacation.  They also have a great bus system in the city and taxis are also available.  On our double decker bus tour we learned that owning a car in Singapore is extremely expensive.  Car buyers must pay duties one and a half times the value of the car.  In addition, you have to apply for an “entitlement” that allows you to drive the car on the road for ten years.  That entitlement cost runs the same amount as a purchasing a Porsche Boxter in the United States.  As we walked the streets, though, Conner finally heard a horn and said, “Wow, their traffic is so quiet here.”  You can tell we are coming from a much different environment.

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Some of the highlights of our visit included:

  • Gardens by the Bay:  At this incredible location, they have a flower dome and a cloud forest pictured below in the two domes facing the water.  In the flower dome they have created diverse plant life sections from all over the world — tropical to desert.  There were olive trees a thousand years old, vertical gardens, and way too many flowers for photographer Hailey.  The boys on the other hand enjoyed the cloud forest much more.  There was a 35 metre man made mountain and waterfall.  It felt like you were in a rainforest.

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A view from a very tall hotel of the Gardens By the Bay

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In the Flower Dome

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Conner at the rain cloud waterfall

  • Sentosa Island was another fun attraction.  One takes a very small 5 minute tram ride out to the island where you are greeted by the Merlion (the symbol of Singapore).  There are a few resorts on this island and the beach is there but “there were no waves”.  Universal Studios is located here along with other rides.  We loved the Luge Ride which is similar to an Alpine Slide except you are not contained — a driver can pass another.  It was fun!  We also did a small Segway ride and then the laser tag game.  The humidity made the visit to 7-Eleven all the better as we walked around the island that day.

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The Merlion — a key figure in Singapore’s tourism industry

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Second time up for the luge ride.

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Ready to do our short Segway ride — putting on the gear and signing all the waivers took longer than the ride but it was fun.

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Sweet Slurpee!

  •  Food also had to be one of the highlights of the trip — and not just the Slurpee.  It was nice to be back in an environment where we didn’t have to worry about the hygiene of the food and to finally get some beef again.  There are food courts EVERYWHERE and the city is not just what is above ground — there is an entire city underneath the street level where shops and food courts go on and on.

Singapore is definitely an amazing country.  We experienced warm temperatures, too much humidity for Hailey, a little rain and thunderstorms along the way but after sightseeing, movies, restaurants, and shopping, it felt good to just feel normal for a few days like we were in an American city.  Definitely made some memories this Thanksgiving!