Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Nepal Y'all

Getting into Nepal could be easy, depending on how you do it. Most people go with the flying option, which means arriving, filling out a form, avoiding the kids playing soccer in the terminal, paying your visa fee, and moving on. Sounds easy, right? That's not how I went about it though, cuz where's the fun in that?

So we ended the last post near Jaigaon, India. We spent a night with the local brothers, then hopped in a taxi and headed to Siliguri. Siliguri is fairly close to the border with Nepal, and has a mall with a KFC. This time we managed to avoid it though, and you should be proud of us. It was really hard, guys.

In Siliguri, we stayed at a sketchy little hotel that totally wasn't covered in mold and the bath mat definitely wasn't already soaked before we got there. I also didn't get horribly confused when they started asking if my roomie and I were family and did we have husbands. They did randomly give us samosas wrapped in newspaper though, so I'd count that as a win.

The next day, we caught another taxi to the actual border. The taxis can only go so far, at which point you have to hop in a rickshaw. So we sat in rickshaws on the India side, got out to do our formalities, and they started asking for our father's info. Dad, if random Indian men start sending you letters, I'm sorry. I'm not 100% clear on why they needed the info, and considering the hotels all wanted to know about Zach, I really thought his info would suffice, but according to the customs guy, husbands can change and parents rarely do.

Back into the rickshaw we go and now we get to cross a bridge that's a sort of no man's land. We aren't in India, cuz my passport stamp says so, but we aren't in Nepal yet cuz we haven't passed any signs.

After we get to a place that actually exists, there's thirteen thousand forms to fill out for Nepal. They even wanted the serial number of my camera. And a passport photo, which I didn't have. Dude, my passport photo is in my passport. Seriously, it's the first page, and it's a new passport so it even looks like me for once. Can we let it slide?

Ok, full disclaimer, I was well aware of this requirement but could never find a photo center that was open, including the one right at the border, which is probably a really good one to have open during daylight hours. So, that hold up was kinda on me, but also, come on, why are you closed in the middle of the day?

Then they didn't like the way my money looked. Fun fact, at the land crossing, they want cash. But it has to be pristine. That teeny tiny, not at all noticeable little pink spot on the edge? Means you have to find another bill to use. We persevered however, and finally got stamped in all legal-like. Now to hop into a taxi for a few hours. 

I desperately needed a local sim card so I can contact the sister we're supposed to be staying with, but guess what? To get a sim card in Nepal, you need a passport photo. Thankfully, we had made friends with the taxi driver at that point, so he registered for the card instead, and I'm pretty sure he only tried to call me twice in the next few weeks.

So we're off to Dharan, where we catch a bus to Dhankuta, where the sister is staying with some friends. About three hours into the ride, we begin to have have a few concerns. First, our bags are on the top of this bus that's flying around these corners and over these bumps, and I'm pretty sure I just heard a thump of something hitting the road behind us, and second, we don't actually know where this town is or when to get off the bus since Dhankuta isn't the final destination.  Oops.
Passing my phone to random strangers on the bus to talk to the sister sorta helps, but these Nepali people apparently don't speak Nepali either, because they don't seem to know if we've passed the town or not. To our relief, about five minutes later, I manage to read a sign that has the name of the town on it, so we decide to get off the bus since most everyone else is too. Sometimes in life we make good decisions. 

And now to meet a couple of complete strangers.

So my favorite thing about travel is that my appreciation for the brotherhood always grows. No matter where we are, and where we come from, we can always find someone and have an instant connection. In El Salvador, we met the family we were staying with for the first time at the airport and were able to be friends right away. In Nepal, a friend we met in Honduras somehow hears about a random need greater who lives in a random town and says  "You should totally go meet this person I've never met before" and we can do that with no worries. It was a bit confusing since none of us ever figured out how the Honduras connection became aware of the sister in Nepal, but it really didn't matter. We just showed up, hung out for a few days, went in service together and it was great. It's so nice to be able to do that.
A few days later, Donna and I decide we really would like to stop moving around so much and maybe even sleep in the same bed for more than a night or two, so we take an overnight bus from Dharan to Pokhara, a super cute little lakeside town. That was a dark time that we've vowed to never talk about again, other than to say that what should have been a twelve hour ride was closer to twenty and I will never get some of those stains out of my backpack.

And on that vaguely ominous note, pictures!

View from the rickshaw

My first glimpse of Nepal

The Kingdom Hall

Met this cutie on a study. Or would have, if she wasn't terrified of me. 

India, Part दो (That means two)

Obligatory comment about how I'm the worst at updating. I actually wrote a bunch of stuff, thought I posted it and it somehow disappeared, so I gave up for a bit. There were pictures and everything, it's very sad. But I'm feeling motivated again so let's see what happens.
It's been an interesting few months. Nepal is amazing, stuff happened. There's pics.

Oh, you wanted details? My bad. Okay, here we go.

So after the Taj Mahal, we thought "Hey,  you know what's fun? A safari." So off we flew to Guwahati, which is in the North East of India, above Bangladesh.

We arrived in the evening, and loaded into another super tiny taxi to get to our hotel. Only there was a little problem. The hotel didn't exist. We drove around for what felt like hours and hours but was probably only two, asked a million people, nothing. We even found the building the place was supposed to be in, and still, no hotel. The location is a mystery even now.

On the bright side, there were other hotels open at 11pm and we did not have to stay squished in the taxi forever. Not that I'd mind a Donna pillow, but she might.

From Guwahati we took a train. I was really looking forward to this, because I've seen tons of photos of completely full trains and people riding on the roof and hanging out the door, and I wanted to know if it's an actual common thing. Turns out the answer is yes.

When our train arrived at the station, it hadn't even stopped before people were prying open the doors and climbing through the windows to get a seat. It was a madhouse. You'll be happy to know that we managed to get seats without going anywhere near the roof. You'll also be thrilled to know that the 4 hour trip cost 25 cents, which makes it the cheapest transportation I've ever taken.

And off to Manas National Park for our safari, where we'll ride elephants and see tigers and bears and... a pig. Oh, just the pig. No wait, there's a deer too. So maybe we got there a bit late in the day. The elephants were napping so we took a jeep instead. It was nice though, lots of trees and bushes, man with gun in the jeep to protect us from nonexistent tigers, and what may have been an elephant or a rhino or a large moving rock reallllllllllly far in the distance.

After that, we had this great plan to go to Darjeeling and ride the train up to the tea plantations and it was gonna be amazing. Instead, there was a little skirmish near the border and the locals decided to go on strike for some reason I'm not sure of, so we decided to skip the area since we couldn't get in anyway. Our cup overfloweth with practicality and common sense. So we headed to Nepal a bit early. And you'll have to read all about that later.


Bet you thought I was kidding about the man with the gun.

Find the Elephant!

And the Tiger....

This looks safe

Who doesn't love a monkey?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Taj Majal Is Very White

You know what's fun? A lot of things, obviously. But specifically, I'm a fan of fitting four girls, a driver, and eight bags into a very small taxi. Of course there's a photo. Do try to see if you can spot the fourth girl.

And we're off to Agra, home of the Taj Majal, Agra Fort, and....not much else really. We took a taxi there, because why not? Trains are slow and the Taj is closed on Friday, so when you leave mid day on Thursday, you might be in a rush. 

The one sister had already been to the Taj and didn't feel the need to go again, so we pushed her out of the taxi at our hotel, left our bags with her and headed right over. Made it before closing time, what a relief.

The place was packed. The Taj Majal gets 8 million visitors a year, and half of them decided to come on the same day as us. And oh my, were we a spectacle. Every few minutes, someone would approach to take a photo with us. And those that didn't want to take a photo with us, just took photos of us. Gotta say, that part of the tour wasn't in the guidebook.

The Taj Majal is set in a very nice park like area, with a few other similarly styled buildings around it. It butts up to a river, so there's great views from every angle. Unfortunately, this year they are doing some restoration work, so there was scaffolding around the front, but it was still nice. I'd recommend waiting to visit until the work is done, I hear the white marble looks amazing when it's freshly restored.

The place is actually a tomb that a ruler built for his wife, so inside the Taj itself is a room with marble caskets? Sarcophagi? I don't know the proper term. It's dark inside, and everyone goes around the coffin thing in a circle. It's the only way to see the inside. The problem is, everyone is cramped and pushing along together, and officials are blowing whistles every few seconds at people who had the nerve to stop so they could actually look around. So that part wasn't great. But the outside is cool.

In Agra, we stayed at the best hostel ever. For $1.50, we got a place to sleep and decent breakfast. Can't beat that. One of us even got the added bonus of part of her pillow having been chewed off by who knows what at some point prior to our stay. I mean, that actually happened, but otherwise it really was fun. And maybe we had KFC for dinner that night, maybe we didn't. You'll never know. Hint: we totally did.

Picture time!

I swear Donna's in here somewhere

Everywhere we went, we saw these pillars. Anyone know what they are?

And because it's India, here's a cow. They really are everywhere, and really do just hang out in the middle of the road.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

On the road again

It's very hot. Maybe monsoon season isnt the best time to travel to a country for the first time.  Then again, I was freezing in Colorado, so it's a nice change.

So here I am, in India. Those of you who follow instagram will be aware of this, if you're just tuning in, surprise! Believe me, I'm as shocked as you.

This plan hatched months ago when a sister we met in Honduras called up to see if we wanted to hike to Everest Base Camp. Yes, THE Everest. You can't say no to that. Well, you might be able to, we couldn't. I don't know if anyone remembers this, but we ended up in Honduras with dreams of Nepal one day. And here we are, about to finally realize that dream. Wow, that sounded super cheesy.

Anyway, stay tuned. We are traveling nonstop until February, hoping to find our new home. Let's see what happens. First up, India!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

We're Back!

So, we have been home for about a month now. We've been really busy since, which is awesome, and means I have lots of photos for you.

Let's begin.

There have been some visitors to our congregation. They have been here since before we got back, so it kinda feels like we are newbies. There is a sister from South Africa, and a couple and a brother from Italy. Unfortunately, the other awesome people went home while we were gone, but it's nice to have new faces.

A family from Colorado came to visit for a week to check Ceiba out, and they are moving here mid next year, which is exciting. They went out in service with us a few days, and their youngest son (7) started TWO studies! Ok, he may have had some help...

We recently had the Circuit Overseer visit. We have a new CO, their last circuit was in Mexico and they started out as need-greaters themselves. It was really encouraging to spend time with them and hear their experiences.

The last couple of weeks we've been heading further out of town to see where there might be English speakers. We've gone towards two communities called Sambo Creek and Corozal. The people in these areas are mostly Garifuna, but we also found a number of English speakers.
One day we went to a call of Zach's and another brother was out at his car, when we came back he was surrounded by all the neighborhood children asking him for books. They actually started going through his literature box themselves to find ones. This brought over some adults, who then wanted books for themselves. Unfortunately, we didn't really have a lot of literature in the right language, so not all the kids got something and when we left a little boy was throwing a legit tantrum because he didn't get one. It was really sad and really cute at the same time. The best part though, was that Zach had to go back out there about an hour later, and a lot of the people were still sitting around the same area reading the literature. Sometimes you don't know if someone really wants what you are offering, or if they just want something because everyone else got one. So that was really nice to see.

Zach and I now have the privilege of working in maintenance at the Translation Office. We've really missed RBC (LDC) so this is fun. I've been going about once a week and his first day is Monday. It's nice to get to associate with Bethelites and lots of brothers and sisters from different areas on a regular basis. It's amazing to see how much work goes into everything so that our brothers can have publications in their own language. It really makes me appreciate everything so much more.

Ok, photos! If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen some of these already, sorry.

It *may* have been raining a little this day. Or Manuel was still traumatized from being chased by geese, I don't know.

Our congregation as of last week. It's shrunk a little since. :(

Can you find Zach?

The view this afternoon.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

We really didn't die this time...

It's been way too long, and I'm very sorry.

But....We are going back to Honduras!!!!
I know, I know...finally.

We have been back in the States for almost five months. It's been a loooooong time since we've really spent much time here, and it's weird. Culture shock is weird. There's an interesting phenomenon that seems to happen to most of us- you live somewhere forever, then leave for a little while and when you come back, it's scary. It took me a few months of going out in service here before  I stopped having a mini-panic attack every time we drove up to a door in service. I still get a little freaked out on the freeway- that's just embarrassing.

We've been keeping pretty busy here. Zach has been working for a brother in the congregation, and I've been trying to clear out all the stuff we still have. I thought we'd gotten rid of pretty much everything...nope. This is also why there haven't been any posts- you are not interested in that.

But we go back in just over a month, and then there will be all sorts of exciting things to talk about.

In the meantime, have a photo from the assembly right before we left for the States. We had a nice surprise- a brother and sister from Pioneer School who live in El Salvador came just to give a talk.

And now you're blog-famous, Taiye.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

We're alive!!!!

It has been three months since my last post and I know some of you probably have been thinking we died, so you'll be relieved to hear that is not the case.
We have been so so busy lately I just haven't had time,  and now it's been so long I can't remember most of what's happened.  Oops. So, an abbreviated version of events.

We left off with all the visitors coming. Well, they came and it was awesome. Some are planning to come back, we're excited about that. Most have gone home now,  but we will get some more in the next month or so. Right now our congregation is looking a little small again.

A small experience to share.  A family that was visiting was able to come because the husband got a work hiatus, which in itself was totally unexpected.  But he had to be back by a specific date (to keep the job, I think), so they could only stay two months.  Well, two months are coming to an end and they are really enjoying it here and no one wants them to go, so we are all praying if there is a way they can stay. He gets an email from his boss, we don't need you back yet, stay a bit longer. Okay, if you insist. I think Jehovah answers prayers, don't you?

They also said something that I found really interesting and encouraging. They have always wanted to do something like need-greating, but felt they had to wait until the right time. Due to the work situation, they had the opportunity but didn't feel like they were ready and weren't sure if they should. Obviously they did come, and they were definitely blessed for that decision. I think a lot of us can feel that way, we might have a perception of what a (fill in the blank) should be like or what our circumstances should be, and therefore we might not reach out for the experiences and privileges that we could. Even if we don't think we are in the ideal situation or ready, that's okay, try anyway. In this system, you probably won't ever have perfect circumstances, and if you wait, you'll miss out.

You guys know who you are, and come back quickly!

Ok, so in March, we finally made it to Belize. We did our visa run there for a week. A week that was supposed to be super relaxing. It was not. The town was really small and cute and quiet, and we got to see Zach's cousins who live there, so that was nice. But basically everything that could go wrong did, including getting puked on a bit by a total stranger and losing Zach's wallet with all his cards and license in it. You'd be surprised how many shops and policemen are willing to take photocopies of identification here.

The congregation in Placencia is really big for such a small area, they had around 50 at the midweek meeting. There was a number of visitors from Honduras that week, so we got to meet sisters in our country that we might not have met otherwise. Plus, we got to hear our first bit of Kriol, which is just fun.

After that, we had our CO visit and the Memorial. We had about 50 in attendance, which was really impressive considering the timing. In April,  there is a celebration called Semana Santa. It's supposed to be religious, but is basically like Carnival or Marti Gras. On Friday (the day of the Memorial) is a specific holiday, and nobody works, including the busses, which are the main mode of transportation for many. It's generally a crazy day where no one goes out unless they are partaking in the festivities,  so to have that many come out after dark for the Memorial really impressed me.

We then took a road trip where nothing bad happened. That was the first one ever. We loaded up and drove out to Copan for a week and really got to explore this time. If they ever get an English group started, we may have to move.

Recently, the brother who normally goes to the prisons each week went on vacation,  so Zach went to fill in for him. Normally he takes other brothers so Zach hasn't been to the prison for a very long time. Well,  when he gets there,  he sees an old study of his from the first time we came down in 2012. We thought he had been released since before we went back to the States he was expecting to get out soon and go home to the islands, but unfortunately that's not the case. He was very happy to see Zach,  and has started studying again.

Since then, it's been service and work and repeat.

One of my favorite things about being here is all the people you get to meet. People come from all over the world, so you get to see how international the brotherhood is, and you get to meet many missionaries, special pioneers,  bethelites, etc. This week we got a phone call, hey a couple are visiting from the Central America Branch, can you show them around? Okay! We'd never met this couple before, had some language difficulties, and yet now we have new friends in another country, and a new place to visit. Where else can you have that kind of bond after only a few hours?

We have our assembly coming up at the end of the month, and then right after, we are heading back to the States for the summer. I'm a little excited because it's really, really hot here -not as hot as Nicaragua tho, aren't you guys jealous- and this week it snowed in Colorado. Also, Trader Joe's.

I'm sorry for the lack of photos in this post, I know that's what you really wanted, but I'm writing this in an app which doesn't seem to want me to upload pics. So we will have to do a strictly pic post or three later to make up for the last few months of nothing. 

Also, I did update the job resources page, so if you are looking for a way to support yourself from a country far, far away, see what's new.

Okay. Hasta luego, buenas noches, see you later, or soon for some of you.