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.


Henry said...

It's a good thing you saved Russia all those times. What do you do to keep it safe now that you are gone?

Jared and Melissa said...

Welcome back. I always love to hear stories about people's missions. I'm just confused about one thing though. Was there really a beaver in your coat or not??

Chad Hatfield said...

Not that I was aware of. But of course, it was a big coat--anything is possible I suppose.

But mostly I would pull the fur hat out of my coat and pretend that it (the fur hat) was a beaver that was attacking me. I did not pull out a real beaver to pretend that it was attacking me, because it probably really would attack me. I didn't want that.

I hope that clears up all questions about my mission.

ronandlindahatfield said...

Have you been back 9 or 10 years??
Man, I have to get your Missionary book done!
How would you say the word for that Russian white stuff? Snowski??

Chad and Amy said...

Did you ever "Ya gavaru pa-ruski" on your mission?

Danielle and Derek said...

Dude, we totally had the same mission experience. I learned all those lessons too! Except for the walking into the side of the bus - that is just plain stupid.

elesa said...

Congrats on winning the Humor Contest. Hope you don't mind too much that I am now directing everyone I know or have ever said hello to to read your blog. Thank you.

Chad Hatfield said...

Elesa: Thanks. It's good to hear that new people are checking out my blog. I need motivation to post more frequently. I have done a really bad job lately--which may have something to do with my being tied up in my neighbor's basement. Of course, I'm just kidding.

(Okay, they're gone. I'm not kidding. Send help. Uh oh, they're coming back ... thanks again)