Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I'm trying to get to know people up here. I feel like I'm fitting in at work. People there are starting to get my dry sense of humor and I'm starting to understand their inside jokes.
My ward is small but full of solid people. I've made a few acquaintances of the type that I can sit by at the next church thing and not feel weird about it. I think it will be good.
My roommate who owns the house is an all around good guy. Tonight we talked about dog training, running shoes, and cars. We're going to go car shopping together someday.
My other roommate is different. I had a bad first impression of him and a really bad second impression but I think he'll be cool after all. I had a really crazy experience with him Sunday night (the second impression) that I'll have to tell you about later.
I've ended up spending a lot of my freetime down in Provo. I've been crashing at Gilmore Guy's and spending a lot of time with a girl... like really a lot of time... like the type of time that a boy spends with his girlfriend--but we're not that. It's all fun and feels good until I start to think about it too much. She's remarkable. We've known each other for four years now and we're about as close as people get. I don't want to hurt her but I also don't want to let go of such a good thing. This weekend she and I saw X3 together on Friday and went to the Sand Dunes south of Provo on Saturday then played games at Gilmore Guy's with he and his girlfriend. Yeah, Gilmore Guy has a girlfriend. So I'm thinking I might just be treating this girl like a girlfriend cause it's convenient. It sure is convenient though, and a lot of fun.
On Monday, I got to Provo about noon. I met this girl at her house and went to D.I. in Provo to look for great values on clothes. I found a sweet shirt for work. I found some snazzy plaid golf pants too but they were about 12 inches too big on the waist. We went next to Orem to check out the Honda dealership where I was hoping to test drive the new Fit. All of the Fit's had sold so we just got a brochure. The Fit is a little Japanese looking car but I kind of like it. Next, we went to Lowe's to look for a lamp for my room. We had fun picking out rugs, bathrooms, kitchens, and paints for our future houses. Next, we went to Jamba Juice and we both tried new flavors recommended by the girl at the counter. We took the Jamba Juices to an Argentine restaurant and got a thick sandwich and a Chilean empanada to share. We bought Guarana at the South American market next door. This girl and I have been to who knows how many restaurants together. She told me on Monday that she's been to more restaurants with me than with all other people combined.
After eating we drove around a bit then went to a beautiful cemetery up on the hill in Provo. This girl thought that would be an appropriate activity being memorial day and all. We had fun setting up flower pots that had tipped over in the wind and reading gravestones. I learned that people die young. There were so many people who died at 40 and 50... life is short. Lots of husbands and wives were buried near each other. We noticed that they usually died within several months of each other. I bet you kind of lose the desire to live when you lose your life companion. The saddest gravemarker was for a mother of three boys. She was in her thirties. Her youngest boy was buried in the same plot. He had just one date on the marker--obviously the day he had both been born and died and also the same day his mother had died. The mother's picture was on the stone with her husband. They were a beautiful, vibrant looking couple. Most of the grave markers had pictures of the temple on them. I guess when it all comes down to it, the temple, and the covenants and promises that go with it, is the thing that really matters. In the end, that's what gives us hope. In the evening, my friend and I met up with Gilmore Guy and his girlfriend and went hiking to Stewart Falls up by Sundance. My friend and I had a really good discussion along the way. We finished off the night making dinner at Gilmore Guy's GF's condo and watching a terribly lame 80's movie. I took my friend home and didn't even give her a hug this time. I tried but she kind of dodged then smiled then shrugged and walked to the door. She sent a text a couple minutes later "What the..? Sorry about that-just hate saying goodbye to you."
Gilmore guy says that she and I have as much chemistry as any couple he's ever seen. I love spending time with her and have none of the complaints about her that I normally have about girls. She's just all around cool. Too bad I'm gay. I try not to worry about where this is going. After four years things are still remarkably cool so I hope they just stay that way.
Tonight I went running up on the hill. I ran around a golf course and through neighborhoods of ginormous got-to-have-the-nicest-home-in-the-ward houses and up into the foothills where the road turns to gravel. I ran by a house with a big banner that said "Bienvenue Elder ....", and I ran past a chapel just as the deacon-aged boys were getting out and they were all heading home wearing their Boy Scout shirts and riding motorized scooters. I ran by people gardening and kids on trampolines and a couple with a realtor looking at a house for sale. Up on the hill everything is very nice and clean and people really do look happy.
I'm especially happy these days. Being in a new place has been good for me. Alone time helps me figure out who I am and what I stand for. I've been doing the things I need to to feel the spirit more in my life. There's just a feeling that you get when you're doing what you want to deep down. It's kind of like the feeling you get after you go running or work out. It's always hard to get motivated to do those things but you really want to and when you do you feel great. There are spiritual things I've needed to do better at--like really praying, reading the scriptures, participating in church, thinking about others, serving, being close to my family, and things like that. I'm doing better at that stuff and it feels good. Everything just feels light right now and I really think things are going to just keep getting better.
I'm turning 25 in not too long. I remember thinking about the future when I was a freshman at BYU and thinking that after my mission things would be really hard dealing with being gay and trying to reconcile that with all the other parts of me. Pre-mission that wasn't much of an issue but I just imagined it becoming more and more of an issue as I became more and more obviously unmarried. Somehow, I imagined that that would mean that my entire life would become increasingly unhappy. I've been gladly surprised to find out that things are just fine. Every year in recent memory has been better than the last. Getting old sucks in a way. I guess I'm getting closer everyday to becoming a name on one of those gravestones. At the same time though, I'm cool with it cause it really is a sweet ride and I'm just glad to be here for it.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
This evening I went to a fireside with Sheri Dew way up on the hill. I left early to make sure I could find it so I ended up with an hour to just drive around and explore. The hills are all a vibrant green and covered in field grass and wildflowers. There was a soft breeze and the sun was setting and little, cool-looking birds were all over and it was just amazing.
Sister Dew's fireside was sweet. Listening to her made me remember why I do all the Mormon things I do. I drove home listening to "Everyday" by Maren Ord. That's the song that the main character in "The Single's Ward" listens to when he's sitting in his car looking over the valley and remembering his baptism and getting the priesthood and being a missionary and he decides to turn his life in the right direction.
I'm trying really hard to keep going in that direction. BYU was a great environment but I think I got too casual there and too comfortable. Change is good. I'm going to work extra hard to do the things that make me happy. I'm especially trying to get close to God again and feel really comfortable praying and actually feeling like he is listening and like I'll be willing to follow the inspiration he gives me.
As far as gay things go, I'm feeling very, very not gay. I'm not feeling straight either, but I really just don't think about that stuff. Work has me busy and I'm kind of disconnected from all the gay stuff so it just hasn't been an issue.
The strange thing is I found a place to live on Craigslist that was really close to work and one of the roommates says my other roommate might be gay but so far that guy is too cool to talk to me so I don't think that's gonna be an issue. Incidently, the other roommate is quite cool and tries really hard to make me feel comfortable and introduce me to people and stuff, so it's all good.
Someday shared this scripture today and it completely resonated with me. It's the words of Joseph Smith from Liberty Jail. When the Lord's on your side, nothing can really go wrong. It's true.
Doctrine and Covenants 127:2 "Deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulaton; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it."
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I treated myself to a good hostel in Cuernavaca where I got a private room with private bathroom and queen sized bed, free breakfast and dinner, and a pool with hammocks by it for about $30 a night.
If any of you read this and realize how cheap and cool Mexico is and decide to go please invite me along--I'm addicted.
On Tuesday I visited a colonial silver mining town in Guerrero state called Taxco. This town was magical. I spent hours and hours just walking up and down the cobblestown streets. The buildings are all white and the roofs are all red tile. The streets are full of white VW Beetles and Vans that are the taxis. The whole town is built on a hill so you are always going up or down and it's usually steep.
You see that little red circle in the top right in the above picture? That's a big Jesus statue. I kind of felt it calling me so I weaved my way through the streets all the way up to it. The VW vans pretty much fill up the entire street so I had to keep checking my shoes when the passed to make sure they hadn't run over my toes.
I took tons of pictures in Taxco. I'm most proud of the first one on this post. I think it turned out pretty cool.
Someday I want to go back to Taxco and be able to walk these streets and eat in these cafes with someone special.
Mexicans in Mexico protested American immigration policies the same day with a protest against everything Gringo. I saw lots of posters reminding people not to shop at American businesses like Wal-Mart and McDonald's but the press the next day said nobody actually followed through. I even ate at McDonald's that day cause I was running low on cash, banks were closed, and McDonald's accepts plastic. I'm all for more rights for immigrants in America but I really question how boycotting American businesses in Mexico would do that? McDonald's and Wal-Mart are two of the biggest employers of Mexican-Americans and contribute a lot to the Mexican economy. Oh well, I think the lesson I've learned the last few months is that protested are just kind of a big joke. They are fun to watch though.
After a couple hours in Cuernavaca's centro, I weaved through the layers and labyrinth of Cuernavaca's city market and came out a couple blocks away where I caught a bus headed to Tepoztlan. Tepoztlan is a small town in the hills about 30 minutes from Cuernavaca. Tepoztlan is supposedly special though, cause it's magic. According to various websites (if it's online it has to be true) Tepoztlan is one of few mexican villages officially recognized as a "Pueblo Magico" or Magic Village. I don't know what that means or who makes that decision, but nevertheless I was pretty pumped to see this place.
I got off the bus in Tepoztlan and saw two Mormon missionaries waiting to get on the bus. Maybe they are what makes it magical. I chatted with them for a while and told them I was jealous.
The town was pretty cool. I saw lots of hippies, and Europeans and South Americans and stuff... Listening to accents and trying to guess where someone is from is pretty fun.
Everyone who comes to Tepoztlan hikes up to see the Pyramid. The hike is a lot longer than I expected. I was wearing jeans and it was hot.
But the view was worth it... it was almost, but not quite, magical.
Monday, May 8, 2006
We went to church right next the Temple. Going to church in Spanish is so much better than English (I know I'm biased). I've only gone in Spanish a handful of times since my mission. The ward was awesome. Four new members were confirmed. A recently reactivated sister gave a talk on enduring to the end. A recent convert preparing to enter the temple with his family gave a talk on preparing for the temple. A recently returned missionary gave a talk on honoring the priesthood. All the young single adults had a separate Sunday school class where the teacher was hilarious and gave us cookies. All the girls got excited about my roommate, especially when they heard he was there on business. We went to church with a girl my roommate met at BYU who lives down there. During relief society several girls asked about his availability and tried to get the girl to bring my roommate back for a fireside that evening. Priesthood opening exercises lasted 55 minutes. The two males who were confirmed in sacrament meeting received the Aaronic priesthood. We spent the rest of the time planning a mother’s day ward party. The Elder's quorum president sent the 12 year old new convert around the room to beg for money to pay for the party. We broke off into our quorums for 5 minutes and talked about retaining converts.
I didn’t fall asleep once. I felt the spirit. I remembered how happy the gospel makes those people who have experienced life without it.
Teotihuacan, a pre-Aztec city. Constructed and inhabited from about 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. May have been the biggest city in the world at that time. About an hour from Mexico city.
Me and my roommate ran up both pyramids.
One of my favorite moments in Mexico: We were on our way through the Zocalo when a sudden thunderstorm burst. We ran to hide under a tree with several old ladies who had been selling necklaces and stuff on the sidewalk. When the rain broke through our leafy shelter and when we remembered that Mexico City rain is acid rain we booked it to the National Cathedral. The cathedral doors were packed with people waiting out the storm so we squeezed past them and took a seat inside right in front of the Crucifix. That’s when we noticed that mass was going on in the front half of the cathedral. My hair was flat against my head and streams of water drained from my hair and down my face and neck to my already soaked t-shirt. Shivering I closed my eyes and listened to the rain splash off the rock sidewalks outside. The soft voice of the priest on the other side of the cathedral was indistinguishable. Suddenly, just as I was drifting into a semi-sleep a choir lit up the room with piercing chants. It was electrifying.
Lots of people associate Mexico with poverty. When I come back from Mexico people are always like "isn't the poverty just sad?" Yeah, maybe but honestly that's not what I notice. There are tons of poor people who really don't have access to the life they deserve, but at the same time, Mexico is alive, vibrant, and rich. The colors are bright. People gather with family and friends whenever they can (usually around 11 at night). They dance in the street. They stop to smell the flowers. We could learn a lot from our southern neighbors.
First thing I saw when I walked out of my hotel on my first morning in Mexico--Protesting campesino men, wearing only their underwear...their very skimpy underwear. This is why I love Mexico.
Coyoacan- A little haven of serenity in one of the biggest cities on the planet.
I traveled alone 5 of my 8 days in Mexico. Being an independent person I really like the freedom of solo travel and busting through crowded subways and unfamiliar streets all alone kind of makes me feel brave. Sometimes I'd see cool stuff and wish I had someone to share it with. Sometimes I'd wish there were someone to take my picture so I didn't have to use stupid traffic mirrors.
I met a girl in a restaurant and she took me to visit her college. She's an economics major there. She kept telling me about her sister who has dated two different Americans.
The University is huge. Supposedly there are 500,000 students. I don't know if I believe that, but it is big anyway. There are soccer fields all over campus, big grass ones and little cement ones.
I bought a T-shirt at the University. I forgot to look at the back. When I pulled it out later I saw that it said "Los angeles en el cielo aman a un Dios divino. Nosotros en la tierra amamos a los Pumas, a las mujeres, y al vino." The angels in heaven love a divine God. We on earth love the Pumas (the school mascot), women, and wine. Fitting.