Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Missionary Memoirs

It has been three months and six days since the last anniversary of my coming home from my mission in Russia. In honor of this event, I have selected some random entries from my mission memoirs. Be enlightened, enlifted, and engulfed.

I had a hard time understanding anything people were saying. I felt like giving up. Then something happened. I came to a realization—somehow, I was wearing headphones. (I couldn’t remember putting them on, but sure enough they were there.) Once I took them off, I was able to understand every word that anyone ever said to me for my entire mission. (Russian was way easy.)

A whole bunch of Russians were gathered together saying things like “Man, what’s with this country? Let’s just push it into the Black Sea and start over. We can be something more modern, like Laser Astronautica.” That’s when I stepped in. I stood before the enormous crowd and said in my loudest voice “What’s going on? Are you guys talking about something?”* The group quickly slinked away. My inquiry was exactly what they needed to hear. I had saved Russia. And in doing so, I converted a kid (but that was months earlier in a different city).
* It turns out I had my headphones on again.

Another time I stopped to buy an ice cream cone, and I can’t remember exactly what happened, but somehow that ended up saving Russia, too. All in all, I must’ve saved that country around seven or eight times.

I remember frequently laughing and joking with another missionary on the bus until we couldn’t stop laughing. Our companions would always give us these looks like “Oh, here they go again” and “nothing good will ever come of this.” But you know what—we may never have taught anyone on any of those bus rides, but no one can say that we never missed our stop. That happened all the time.

Every week we’d play this game where we would fill out a sheet with numbers. You were supposed to write whatever numbers pop into your head and try to guess the week’s magic numbers, or something like that. I didn’t know all the rules. I usually just looked at everyone else’s numbers and then picked numbers just a little higher than the rest. No one ever told us who won, but a lot of people did tell me that my numbers were good.

One day on the way to a first appointment with a new street contact, I decided that I was going to stand up this contact. I pretended that I couldn’t read my own handwriting and went to a wrong address on the other side of town. I had my companion knock on the door as I tried to hold back my laughter. The door opened and there stood our contact. Apparently he had given us a wrong address. We all learned a very valuable lesson that day, but I can’t seem to remember what that was.

I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure—a mission is not just about learning dumb magic tricks and wearing funny ties. I was reminded of that all the time.

The Russian people were not easy to get to know. Often times, unless you had a leak or didn’t pay rent, you’d have to leave your apartment to even meet any Russian people. Of course, once you actually saw them, they were open and friendly. But again, that’s only after you left your apartment.

Life in Russia was unpredictable. My companion often remarked that he never knew what to expect from one day to the next. I guess I understand that. I mean, some days I wouldn’t even get on the bus; other days I’d follow my companion onto the bus and then jump out just as the doors were closing; and some days I’d really try to get on the bus but would miss the door, hit the side of the bus, and fall back into the ice-cream stand line (where I’d stay all day).

A lot of the missionaries would wear those big fur hats, but I always thought that looked silly. I just wore a plain black stocking cap. I kept my fur hat tucked in my coat and would pull it out to pretend that a beaver was attacking me.

In Russia, when it snowed, it really snowed. Not like around here. The snow in Russia would be white and would fall downward from way up in the sky. This may sound like snow here, but the snow in Russia was Russian white and fell from a Russian sky.

On a mission you always go by “Elder.” In fact, after a time, I honestly forgot what my first name actually was. And that happened around lunch time on my first day! And that was just the start. By the end of my mission, I had forgotten where I lived, what I thought tasted good, what words rhymed with jam, almost everything.

I will never forget the time I went to a discussion or some other meeting and taught some people a whole lot of things about some topic and how they did or did not accept it.

The waiting

I haven't posted in about three months. I took some time off to think, brush my teeth, and watch some T.V. I'm happy to say that I have decided to take a break from taking time off.

So now I give you the three month's worth of thinking (and brushing teeth and watching T.V.) that went into the following post:

I decided to go to the beach, but then I forgot about it and stayed in my room all summer. One time my brother came in and told me a joke, but I was actually asleep with my eyes open (I reached the point where my eyes had dried out from so much T.V. that my eyelids could no longer close. -side note-Try leading a social life without being able to wink--good luck.) The next day my brother asked me if I liked the joke, so I pretended to choke on a bite of orange to get out of answering. It would have been very convincing if I had really had an orange.

I hope that was worth the wait. (p.s. If my brother has told you a joke in the last few months, let me know if it was good. I'm sure it was the same one.)