Monday, April 15, 2013

Week 10: On Being White in Guatemala (and Other Irreverent Thoughts)

As promised, a selection of colorful details about missionary life here in Mazate:

First off, about being "canchita"

In the US, it's common to see people of all colors, speaking all different languages, etc. At least, in Bloomington this is the norm and not very exciting at all. In this part of Guatemala, it's exactly the opposite. Exactly zero other Americans have crossed my path, and only two blonde people, one of whom was albino. Even the other sister missionaries from the states are all dark-haired. I have never felt more blonde.

And I wouldn't even notice. except everybody else does. One Sunday a couple weeks ago, the Relief Society president touched my curls and said I'm just like a little Barbie. I took it as a compliment, because the RS president is named Edna and hard core legit awesome, but surely my mother will know how much I inwardly bristled at that. The same day, we met a dad and his grown up kids sitting on the front step relaxing, and sang a hymn to them. He told me I sound like Britney Spears.

I promise you, I do not sing hymns like Britney Spears.

A few days ago, I got my first marriage proposal thrown out of a tuc tuc passing by, from some teenage boys inside who knew just enough English. Before that, it had just been 'que bonita' o 'where are you from' said creepily by men in the street scratching their bellies.

I do not feel too horrible about it though, and never feel unsafe, so Grandma can relax. It's not threatening, just entertainment for them, and the other sister missionaries get it too, even the Latinas, and the gringo elders get it really bad. It's kind of funny, actually. My companion and I have taken to introducing ourselves first in all situations, because if we don't we'll be halfway through a spiritual thought and the person will interrupt to ask where we're from. Still, sometimes people interrupt to comment on my eyes being blue.

It's kind of weird, but I get it I guess - if I only ever saw white people on TV and then there was one at my front door I'd want to talk about it too. I think what it really is is a statement about the situation here, with lots of people trying to get to the US and nobody really trying to immigrate to Guatemala. I took ethnic diversity for granted in the States, took it for granted bad. Never again.


On Saturday, we had two interesting experiences with prayer. The first came at the end of a lesson with an evangelical preacher and his family (we didn't know going in that that was the situation.) It was a good lesson all in all, about the restoration, and they asked questions (and he preached a little bit about the need for every girl, including all 5 daughters seated in the room, to wear skirts always, and how dancing and dying hair is bad, and then I thought of all the times at home people said Mormons were prudes). At the end we asked him to offer the closing prayer, and he did.

My head was bowed but my eyes were only mostly closed - good thing, too, because as I peeked I saw his feet coming closer and closer, and his hand came out to touch my companion's head. Good girl that she is, she wasn't peeking, and had no idea this was happening, and flinched like crazy. I giggled just a little at that but mostly kept composure, and then he briefly touched my head and the head of the member we had with us, to bless us, and it was all very nice, just unexpected.

Later that day, we taught a really cool lady who is the only one of her six siblings not married, who stays at home and takes care of her 80 something year old father, who was married for 54 years to her mother, who died recently. We taught the plan of salvation and then the father gave the closing prayer. It was nine minutes long, and while he was talking the cat threw up and six mosquitoes bit me. No lies.


I hope these details have been amusing, and no one thinks I don't respect the culture here. I love it, There are probably better details, but that's all I've got for today, folks.

your favorite Barbie
(missionary dolls coming soon)

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