This blog is produced by the Shep Family... we post letters and photos that Kyle sends us from time to time...

A resident of Chennai is called a Chennaiite. As of 2001, Chennai city had a population of 4.34 million, while the total metropolitan population was 7.04 million. The estimated metropolitan population in 2006 is 4.5 million.In 2001, the population density in the city was 63,926 per mi, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The average literacy rate is 80.14%, much higher than the national average of 64.5%. The city has the fourth highest population of slum dwellers among major cities in India, with about 820,000 people (18.6% of its population) living in slum conditions. In 2005, the crime rate in the city was 313.3 per 100,000 people, accounting for 6.2% of all crimes reported in major cities in India. The number of crimes in the city showed a significant increase of 61.8% from 2004.

The majority of the population in Chennai are Tamilians. Tamil is the primary language spoken in Chennai. English is widely spoken especially in business, education and white collar professions.

According to the 2001 census, Hindus constitute about 81.27% of the city's population, and Muslims (9.37%), Christians (7.63%) and Jains (1.05%) are other major religious groups

Chennai is a major centre for music, art and culture in India.[77] The city is known for its classical dance shows and Hindu temples. Every December, Chennai holds a five-week long Music Season celebrating the 1927 opening of the Madras Music Academy

Among Chennai's festivals, Pongal is celebrated over five days in January, is the most important. Almost all major religious festivals such as Deepavali, Eid and Christmas are celebrated in Chennai. Tamil cuisine in Chennai includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Many of the city's restaurants offer light meals or tiffin, which usually include rice-based dishes like pongal, dosa, idli and vadai,


Chennai has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate. The city lies on the thermal equator and is also on the coast, which prevents extreme variation in seasonal temperature. The weather is hot and humid, for most of the year. The hottest part of the year is late May to early June, known locally as Agni Nakshatram ("fire star") or as Kathiri Veyyil,[32] with maximum temperatures around 38–42 °C (100–108 °F). The coolest part of the year is January, with minimum temperatures around 18–20 °C (64–68 °F). The lowest temperature recorded is 15.8 °C (60.4 °F) and highest 45 °C (113 °F). The average annual rainfall is about 51 in. The city gets most of its seasonal rainfall from the north-east monsoon winds, from mid-October to mid-December. Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal sometimes hit the city. The highest annual rainfall recorded is 2,570 mm (101 in) in 2005.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

(6 elders, including me, and their luggage in 1 auto going home from Visak)

It's Christmas Eve. Awesome. It hardly feels like Christmas (it's like 85 degrees outside,) there aren't any Christmas lights up, and I haven't heard a single Christmas song on the radio (then again, I don't listen to the radio,) but it just so happens that it will happen tomorrow whether it feels like it or not. Nevertheless, (that's scripture speak) I'm excited. We get to eat dinner at Naresh's house tomorrow and I'm really excited for that too. His mom made chipatte(sp?) and chicken curry for us last time and it was soooooo good. I'm really liking the food here now. I though at first I was going to get really sick or crave food from back home... but I'm doing just fine. Right now my favorite food is butter nan with... maybe butter chicken. It's not as buttery as it sounds. It is, however, delicious.

I recently got a haircut, it looks fine. I'm wearing my contacts more, which is really nice because wearing a bike helmet with glasses has proven to be really obnoxious. I've acquired some new ties, and I'm anxiously awaiting the completion of this burlap tie that a member is making for me. It should be amazing.

Transfers came! My current companion and I will be split up, but at the same time, we won't be. Here's the deal: there are currently 6 elders in Rajahmundry. In Rjy 1st branch there are 2 elders and in 2nd branch there are 4. Rjy 1st is getting an additional 2. I will get an elder from NEPAL named elder Shahe as my follow-up trainer and Elder Addagabottu will be getting another greenie to train. Cool. One of my batchmates is transfering from Chennai to Rjy and will be in the 2nd branch. His name is Elder Chagoya and I'm excited to see him again, we really hit it off in the MTC.

Now that the temporal things are out of the way, here's the update on the MISSIONARY WORK. We have about 8 groups of progressing investigators and quite a few with some pending baptismal dates. I'm not sure if I told you but the rule in this mission is that an investigator must attend church for 3 hours for 3 sundays in a row in order to be baptized. It's worked wonders for retention, it's worked frustration for many an elder. Nevertheless (scripture speak again,) we are working with some investigators and their baptisms. The fact is: we haven't had a baptism for 2 weeks :( No problem though, we've been working hard. Abhishaik is getting baptized this sunday, and I'm uber pumped for him. He went from denying commitments to excelling in participation and effort. He's been hanging out at church every day and befriending church members. He's doing so well. Chaitu and Mani, we're still working with them. Mani should be ready soon, and Chaitu is *still* working with her father for permission. We're praying a lot for help. Silaja, Amar, and baby lucky are doing AMAZING, their family is sooo much happier the more they learn. Anyways. We're working hard over here. It's good stuff.

Testimony wise: I've definitely increased in my love of the prophets. I've been reading conference talks and loving them. "You Know Enough" by Anderson in the presidency of the seventy is really good. Also, I really like Uchdorf's talk on Hope, I forgot the title. And of course, Monson gave really good talks. I'm prompted to make everyone look up Elder Octaviano's talk given in the second session of November 2007. I still remember that I really like that one. The Church is true!

Elder Shep

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Week of the 15th!

this is a little random because i pieced together little sections from the different emails he sent to our family.

Some elders gain wait, some lose, few stay the same. Some binge on the unlimited food we get at restaurants (we go every day) and get bellies, not large, just bellies. Some elders ride bikes (that's me) and sometimes forget to eat food (yeah...) and don't have enough time to cook (me again.) I'm still getting better and better looking every day though. My abs are coming in nicely and my face has thinned out a bit, can you believe I've been here a month?

Missionary work is great, Scripture study is amazing, and there are some truly prepared people ready to recieve the gospel. It's very helpful that religion gets so much attention here. Christians are MUCH more prominent than the government is willing to recognize (easily 20%) but Hindu's are still the bulk of our investigators, which has no impact on their willingness to accept the gospel. I can't single out one lesson, but there are some lessons that make complete sense to people, whether it be about Joseph Smith and his question, the beauty of repentance, or the fact that we will live in happiness with God again, and the spirit is so strong that you feel like you can swim in the room, those are the best.

Christmas traditions are different here. No cold, no snow, so none of those ideas are here. Santa isn't a part of culture. All the christians put up a glowy star outside, which makes it really easy to proselyte around Christmas. I've seen 1 christmas tree here. People aren't nearly as excited as in America, and stores don't play up the season (not that there are any real stores here in Raj.)

Everyone loves to sing, but their tone is off, it's funny. They slide around all the notes and throw random notes in, most can't read music at all and have never had to hit a pitch. I try to lead by example, but they sing really loud, so it doesn't help them much.

Let everyone know how much I love them, and how important missionary work is. It really changes people's lives. It's AMAZING to help people gain some eternal perspective.

Have a great christmas

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The missionary work is going very very well. Our discussions (based on their religion) tend to focus on God's love for us in conjunction with families, the importance of authority, and the need for additional scriptures. People rarely have trouble accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet, although Numbers 12:6 and 8 is AMAZING for making his claims more credible. Discussions are difficult due to communications gaps and the difficulty of getting investigators to actually DO committments, rather than just accepting them. My personal study is yielding very intense results. Jesus the Christ is absolutely amazing, and I've really been studying the preordination of Jesus Christ and the organization of intelligences before the world. For zone conference (in Visakaputnam (which are some of the pictures)) I had an awesome discussion with sister nichols about the order and way that the premortal life worked, using Abraham a lot.

Do I get enough to eat? Yes, but no. Whenever people cook for me I almost die from the sheer amount of food they FORCE me to eat (It's really good though.) When we go out for food we can get unlimited food for under $1, so I'm eating lots of rice there. At home, I don't eat much at all. I eat a few biscuits for breakfast, maybe cereal, and toast for dinner. Therefore, the food is there, but I'm watching my weight (and seeing the results.) My abs are starting to come in, and I'll surprise you with my incredible physique when I return home (hopefully.)

Church meetings are interesting. There are varying degrees of English capabilities, and some talks or testimonies devolve back into Telegu, which is uncomfortable because I don't understand and sacrament meeting is strictly ENGLISH. However, the members (specifically in Rajahmundry 1st Branch) are SO sincere. They are irreverent though, and I'll be working with the branch president to change that soon. There are lots of investigators there weekly though (4-7) and so Gospel Principles is very packed.

Thanks for your prayers, and be sure to get me those family pictures!!!
Help out the missionaries in our branch, they need it much more than I do.

I LOVE YOU (whole family included)
Elder Kyle Shep

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A few weeks in

Thanks for your email, I was kind of hoping that I would receive more this week. It's weird to think that Michael is leaving now, and that's cool that nonmembers came. I'm excited for him.

It IS nice to teach the restored gospel. The best part is when investigators start the lesson with "Okay, I'll listen to the message but I'm concerned that there are so many churches, how do I know which is the true church?" Easy. Actually, english here isn't that great. For the most part we have to work really hard to find people who know more than Hi, Bye, and How are you? And once we find people with a humble english vocabulary we have to make sure they actually comprehend what we say. It's working out fine though.

So, we had another baptism this sunday. Her name is Shirley and she is the daughter of a convert who has been a member for a few months now. Their family is awesome, and Prashanti (Shirley's mother) has a mother who makes us really good food. So good. Shirley is the first baptism I've gotten that is based wholly on the work of Elder Addagabottu and I, so it's really rewarding. She really is an awesome person, very knowledgeable.

Regarding food, I've been eating LOTS of rice, and lots of spice. I've handled the food really well, and I like a lot of the things, while I hardly dislike anything, although there are some things that I regret eating for the next 15 minutes or so. For breakfast and dinner I mostly eat cereal and raman noodles. Also, I survive mostly on Maaza and biscuits. So, Maaza is this awesome mango drink that I get whenever possible. Remember that Great Britain colonized India, and they left an influence that still affects what sweets are liked now. Biscuits are like a combo of crackers and cookies. I'm addicted. You can get a package of 15 for 10 rupees, so like 70 cookies for $1, I bet Marie is excited right now. Haha.

For Thanksgiving I ate: cereal, some biscuits, toast and jame, and drank Maaza. Very special. I don't know if I told you, but although it's not impossible to get beef, it's uncommon. However, there are some good places to get beef biryani, which is just roast beef and rice. It's good, and comforting to eat sometimes. Which reminds me, I really miss music. I don't know if this is innapropriate, but I'm singing songs that pop into my head (which is every 10 minutes.)

As far as normal day to day, we are keeping very busy with appointments and the members and recent converts are AWESOME at helping us out. Naresh (baptized 1.5 weeks ago, has followed us around and helped us every day. Almost every lesson is with a member present, and their permission to translate English to Telegu is so valuable when a point needs to be made.

This week please:
1. Tell me how much my camera would cost in America.
2. Get Beth to write me an email.
3. Tell the Thompson family (not Matt's) thanks for the letter.
4. Let everyone in the ward know that I'm safe from terrorists, but hardly safe from the traffic here. Anyways, I'll probably make it home alive.

Other things...
Umm, the cost of pants here: 200-300 rupees... so like 5 bucks for a pair of quality dress pants, which are even washable. Tailoring is extremely cheap also. So wow. Shirts are like 100-150, 2 to 3 dollars. Ridiculous much? I may come home with lots of clothes.

I'm still losing weight, I'm two loops down from when I was working at Verizon and it's loose. I'm working out every day and we ride bikes everywhere, so it's been really beneficial for my health. I've done ab workouts every day, and you can start to see lines now. Watch out, I may come home even better looking than when I left (if that's possible.)

That's all I can think of to say. More pictures on the way.

I love you so much, Elder Kyle Shep