Since the days here feel like they last forever, with so much happening and yet maybe not a lot worth mentioning, I thought I’d describe what the average day is like here:
6:30am (not 6:29am or 6:31am) – We wake up and go to the living room to ‘exercise’. As I mentioned last time, I am grateful for exercises that can be done whilst sitting or laying down.
7:00am – We shower, get ready, and eat breakfast. Figuring out what to wear, despite not having that many options to choose from, all of them being dresses or skirts, might be the hardest decision I have to make all day. Actually, no ‘might’ about it – it is definitely the hardest decision of the day.
8:00am (not 7:59am or 8:01am) – We study at our ‘desks’ (Costco tables) in our ‘study’ – the only non-carpeted room in the apartment, other than the Kitchen. This room looks a lot like those freaky serial killer/terrorist plot planning rooms you see in TV shows sometimes – we’ve got a big map on the wall with numbered dots for different people, white boards with names and symbols by each, binders with records and notes about every person missionaries have ever met with in our area….if it all wasn’t aimed at helping people with their eternal salvation it might be really, really creepy. It might be a little bit creepy anyway. But this hour of personal study is often the highlight of my day, despite the fact that it is at 8am.
9:00am (not 8:59am or 9:01am) – We do companionship study, which includes singing a hymn (just the two of us – not quite as awkward as it sounds, but almost), praying (kneeling on the cold hard ground is not my favorite thing), reading from the missionary handbook and this hilarious booklet called ‘Adjusting to Missionary Life’ (I will include some quotes from this one of these days, it is highly entertaining and gives a great glimpse into the kinds of things missionaries deal with), and then we discuss what we’ll teach the people we have planned to meet with the rest of the day.
10:00am – For the first 12 weeks we do an hour of extra study which is basically a review of all the MTC stuff.
11:00am – 9:00pm – We are out and about meeting with people or trying to find people to meet with. Here are a few examples of appointments or non-appointment interactions from the last week or so:
-Yesterday we went to meet with a couple that had met with missionaries a few times last year. We went to their house early last week and the husband mentioned we’d be welcome back on Sunday (yesterday) when his wife was home. This was pretty promising (we thought) but when we arrived, the wife told us she was Catholic and had God in her heart but that she didn’t care what denomination we were, her husband needed the word of God so he would be nicer. She then walked out of the living room to leave us to it. The man sat down on the bed that was randomly positioned in the middle of this room, that we had to slide past in order to get in the front door, and his shorts literally came half way off….and they stayed that way for the entirety of our visit. He proceeded to tell us how he doesn’t work anymore, he’s on disability (the pride with which people talk about having the government pay their way, especially when there is no obvious reason, at least to us, that they can’t work is still astonishing to me) but how he loves to listen to people talk about God. But after about two minutes his wife came back in and proceeded to yell at him – she ranted about how he calls her names, how he thinks of her as a domestic servant, how she is ready for a divorce, how she should go back to her country (Philippines I think), and then somehow got talking about how the doctor wants her to have a mammogram even though she isn’t sick. The husband then kept saying how crazy the wife was, she kept looking at us and telling us that he needed the word of God so he would be nicer, and we eventually gave them a pass-along card and made our way around the bed to the door while they were still arguing. Containing our laughter till we reached the car was almost impossible.
-Visited a member of the Ward in a rest home who can’t communicate all that well, and only ever wants the missionaries to sing to her, specifically all the verses of ‘Sunshine in My Soul’. So we do that, every time, along with a few other songs and mostly leave it at that. This last time a man in a wheelchair came up to the door of her room and made comments about our boots looking like they were ‘made for walking’ – we think he maybe was making a song request but neither of us knew it, and he wasn’t really able to communicate much more than to repeat his comment about the boots. Good times.
-Had dinner with the relief society president and her husband and spent a few minutes discussing the new Star Wars movie they had just seen – well actually we discussed Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which lead to discussion of other old actors/actresses, at which point the man turned to me and said, "What are you…70?" I loved it! When I’ve told people my age here most have said they would never have guessed I was that old, which I think they mean as a compliment, but I’m not sure it is.
-Visited an older less active member of the Ward who has been trying to quit smoking for a long time. She lives in a trailer with one, sometimes two, grandsons and 5 DOGS. And apparently her sister came to stay with her over Christmas. I truly don’t understand how they all fit, but apparently it’s not that uncommon. And I think only one of them smokes so I don’t know how the rest of them stand living there. It takes several hours after we leave before we don’t smell like we’ve smoked an entire pack of cigarettes ourselves. When we visit her we always get a little bit of her life story, which is fascinating, and try different faith-promoting discussions and commitments that we hope might help, but we’re not sure they actually do. The TV is always on when we arrive, and it stays on for the duration of our visit. We even asked if we could turn it off and she said no, because there was a program about space on and she likes space, but she did agree to mute it. This is pretty much how it goes at every single house we go to, members or not. The TV stays on while we all sit there and talk and will either be muted or just turned down low. In Ohio this is apparently socially acceptable, or maybe it’s just socially acceptable with missionaries. I know maybe it seems like this is a sign that they don’t like us and want us to leave, but I swear even the people who like us and invite US over do this.
-As we were leaving the trailer park the other day we stopped to talk with two girls (about 10 years old). They were very nice and we gave them a card with a link to this year’s Christmas videos, but before we left one of the girls told us that we should be careful because ‘there are lots of kidnappers and drug dealers around’. She was pretty nonchalant in her warning, like she wasn’t all that worried for herself, but did seem sincerely concerned for our well-being.
-My favorite houses to go to are the ones where we don’t have to do missionary ‘backing’. There is a rule that whenever the car has to be in reverse, the non-driver (me for these three months) has to stand behind and watch to make sure the driver doesn’t back into anything. Sis. M is pretty good at finding pull-through spots or turning around in places where backing up isn’t required, but it still happens and it can be somewhat humiliating. Houses on busy roads with a double-yellow line are an exception to that rule, as is our recent convert’s house because there are two known sex offenders within a block or two, so I always like it when we get to go there 🙂
9:00pm – We are supposed to be back to our apartment by this time so we can plan for the next day (confirm appointments, fill in any gaps, make backup plans for appointments that will inevitably fall-through, etc.)
9:30pm – If we’re done planning and updating teaching records from the day, we get to take an hour to get ready for bed, write in journals, etc. though we never seem to be done by then.
10:30pm (not 10:29pm, not 10:31pm – I really, really love how important it is to be exact) – Lights get turned out, usually a nice thing.
So that’s how the days generally go. In general I’m not sure I’m handling it all that well, it doesn’t sound or seem like it ought to be that difficult but I have certainly had a harder time than I maybe expected. Well, I expected to have a hard time, just not necessarily in the ways that I am, but oh well…I will never run a marathon so I suppose this is how I’ll learn endurance. Hopefully the fleeting moments where I think I might have maybe helped someone somehow will become less fleeting.
Oh – one other interesting occurrence this week. As I’ve mentioned, we are the primary choristers (thanks for all the suggestions on that front by the way!) but this last Sunday, about 30 minutes before Sacrament meeting, Sis. M was asked to fill in and speak, I was asked to lead the music in Sacrament meeting (I thought my arm would fall off after all the verses of How Great Thou Art, The Spirit of God, and I Believe in Christ – none at a very brisk pace), then we were asked to fill in as Sunday School teachers as well, but we pawned that off on the Elders. I’ve just been the primary pianist these last two weeks because the regular one is out of town and Sis. M has had to fend for herself up there…next week we’ll be tag-teaming it.
On a more spiritual note…I’ve been thinking about things that are meaningful to me as I’ve been thinking about what on earth I’m doing here, and I always come back to this one verse – 1 Nephi 11:17 – "I know that God loves his children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things." That might be the theme for these 18 months…I’ve found it to be helpful in dealing with the many things I do not understand or like – focusing on what matters. And also thinking about the fact that I know change is possible, for me and for others. I don’t have any idea how the Atonement works but I’ve definitely seen that Christ is the great agent of change – he is the catalyst for making us ‘new creatures’ (2 Cor. 5:17), and that is a hopeful prospect.
Hope everyone had a good Christmas. Thanks again for all the messages and prayers – both are appreciated.