Saturday, January 21, 2017

Vignette 1: Altar Girl

When I was in Kyoto I realized the theme of my life could be summed up as, "experiencing things that can't be seen."  Even though this theme bears a lot of fruit in my travels, it's roots are sunk in the rich, brown earth of my home.
I met a missionary the second Sunday I was there.  She was a little awkward, but funny, and I found myself thinking we could be friends.  It's been a long time since I felt that.  Glenwood is where I joined the church, one of the few good things Iowa gave me during my long years of middle and high school.  But Iowa is still Iowa, and I am a long time gone from when I was baptized.  I've been places and seen things so far our of their ken that it's laughable.  There was a time, though, when seeing a missionary was the highlight of my day.  In fact, when I traveled abroad the first time in Venice, and I hadn't been to church for two weeks, I could have kissed the two I stumbled across in a campo in Dorsoduro (I didn't...that is a BIG no-no).  They helped me to find the closest branch - on the mainland in Mestre - because there was once a time when I didn't see traveling as an excellent excuse to ditch.

Those days are long gone, too.
It's not easy to be single at my age and Mormon.  The Evil One and I discussed this once, the last time we were both in the same country at the same time.  When I was in my 20's teaching in Korea, I was surrounded by fellow single like-minded adventurers, but as I've gotten older and wandered far from the expat beaten path, it has become rare to encounter single Mormon last one left Mongolia around four years ago, as the church was preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary in the country.  There are plenty of married families, even if they come and go, but - no offense - they don't get it.  They're units - you can't be friends with one of them without getting tangled up in the whole lot of them.  It's a weird dynamic.

It's tempting to shrug my shoulders and say, "This is hard.  I've outgrown it."  Probably I could find something to do with my Sundays, and the money I pay in tithing.  The problem is, I actually believe it.  Going to church on Sunday, reading scriptures while I brush my teeth, talking over my problems with God during my morning walks (when I can manage them - I haven't done a stellar job lately) - they make me feel good, make my days and weeks go more smoothly. 

You can probably argue that I'm conditioned to feel this way, indoctrinated from an early age by parents who felt that I should have a spiritual upbringing, even if they never forced me to join one church or another.  And that might be true, although there are plenty of people raised the same way (ie, my brothers) who have nothing to do with religion as adults.  For better or for worse (although usually I think it's for the better, in my life at least), it's a fundamental part of who I am.

I had a conversation with the Evil One on Christmas, and she mentioned having the missionaries over for dinner.  After meeting the awkward young sister in Glenwood, I decided I should do that - I can't tell you the last time I did, but it was probably in college.  So last Sunday, when the sisters in the Khan Uul Ward sat next to me, I decided there was no time like the present, and we set up an appointment for Wednesday.

Fortunately, my apartment was still relatively clean, since I did that before the vacation - although I did have to hide some of my souvenirs from Kawasaki and Tyrnavos.  I decided to go with Greek, cooking up stuffed peppers and serving them with tzatziki and Greek salad.  Not as good as my Korean yiayia's best, but since we were in Mongolia it would have to do.  I picked up a bag of tortilla chips when I saw them at Good Price, since one of the sisters was gluten free (now there's something I didn't have to worry about the last time I fed the missionaries), and left school a little early on Wednesday so that I had time to get everything together before they got there at five.

It was kind of awkward.  Don't get me wrong - I intend to do it again soon, because awkward or not, I think it's something that's good for me, and I need the blessings.  But I'm not the kid I was when I used to regularly go out with the missionaries, and that's okay.  It takes all types to make the world go round, and my type is pretty badass, even if there are things I need to work on.

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