Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Little Shout Out

Not long ago, the BYU women's soccer team played New Mexico. BYU has a really good team and we won the game, but not before the New Mexico players acted horribly. They committed foul after heinous foul against the BYU girls. I was pretty outraged when none of the offenses were even penalized. Apparently I wasn't the only one.

Somebody made a youtube video of it and it got spread around. The particular player who committed the majority of the offenses is a savage. Anyway, she wrote an "apology" in the New York Times but left out the part where she apologized or said sorry. Nice. The story and video can be found here.

The silver lining in all of this is that the BYU girls were pretty good about not acting in-kind. So, this is a shout-out to all the BYU girls who kept their composure and beat New Mexico soundly without stepping down to the level of their opponents (a.k.a. the filthy savages).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Life: The Best Game EVER!

I have a roommate with a gaming problem. He spends most of his time playing World of Warcraft, Halo, and Call of Duty online. Most of his life is wrapped up in those games. When he isn't working, he is entranced by his games.

He said to me last night "I wish that all the achievments from my games were worth things in the real world." Please stop and ponder the significance of that statement.

Gaming = investing time and energy into something where the rewards are imaginary and the achievments are worthless. It is like working hard all month for your boss to hand you an envelope with your pay. When he does hand you that envelope he says "You've worked real hard this month. You've earned this." You excitedly open your envelope only to realize that it is stuffed full of monopoly money.

Life = Investing everything you've got into things that really matter and really count. Education is something that matters. Working hard matters. Forming and raising families is something that matters. Eternal Life matters.

Life is better than that game if you are daring enough to give it your very best. So, if my roommate were to say that to me again, I would tell him that life has real achievments that he is equally capable of reaching.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Great Friends, Great Thoughts

I like having great friends. I like being surrounded by people that lift me up and make me better. I would venture to say that is one of the reasons I love BYU so much; it is just easier to find great people like that when you are at a great place like this.

On one such occasion with just such friends we were some pretty great thoughts. One friend asked us "What are we going to do to return to virtue/invite others to return to virtue this week?" She was basing her question on the talk by Sister Elaine Dalton. The entire talk "Return to Virtue" is a powerful invitation to return to virtue and lead the world in doing the same. It is beautiful. My friend's invitation was beautiful because she was inviting me to return to virtue with love and meekness and as my friend. Then we all took turns giving ideas of how we could do that this week.

In short, I am striving to be the type of person that lifts others and invites people through example and words to be something better. I would like to thank my friends. If you are my friend it is because I enjoy being around you and your presence in some way lifts me and encourages me. If you are my family, on the other hand, it is because Heavenly Father knows that, in the long run, your presence will make me better (patience, humility etc.). If you fall into either group, thanks for being there to help me.

So, what are we (you+me) going to do this week to lead the world in a return to virtue?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Me vs. Mt. Timpanogos

I have fears. These fears include, but are not limited to, an intense fear of heights and an intense fear of enclosed spaces. I was once stuck in the elevator of a parking garage for half an hour with 15 other people. Let's just say it didn't help any.

A few days ago I took a date and went with my brothers to hike up to the Timpanogos caves. It did not occur to me that such an activity would involve both heights and pretty enclosed spaces. I would just like you all to imagine the look on my face when I looked at the door to the mountain and realized, for the first time, what I had gotten myself into. It was one of those "oh crap!" ones.

My first thought was that I could tell my group to go without me and that I'd just meet them down at the cars. I then realized that I had brought a date along. If I left her to go through the cave alone then I would be one of those guys that girls tell their roommates about during pity parties. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place (the hard place was actually a huge precipice...if you want to be picky). I asked around to figure out just how enclosed the spaces were and I was told that there were places where I would have to get down and crawl. Again, oh crap.

As a last resort I told my date of my fears and said her that if I started freaking out, she should slap me across the face as hard as she could. She smiled and said "really?" I said yes, but not without being nervous that she'd smiled while saying that. With a few deep breaths, and maybe a prayer or two, I walked into that cave.

One of my big irrational fears was that an earthquake would occur. Luckily, the guide calmed my fears by assuring us that our deaths would be quick. Though she smiled creepily while she said it, I didn't feel reassured. In fact, I couldn't help but notice that she didn't say it would be painless.

However, I made it through without being slapped once. I vanquished my claustrophobia and conquered the mountain. Now I just have to conquer my fear that Janet Reno will strangle me in my sleep, and heights.

I have questions

Question #1: Is it allowed for somebody who has never even been to California to join a group called "Californians against Utah weather"? I really hope the answer is yes and I have reasons. First, I spent all summer in Chile which was in winter season the entire time. So, I'm sick of winter. Second, the other day it was warm and cozy to the point where the huge guy that is my roommate left the air conditioning on all night. When I woke up the next morning it was suddenly freezing and they were forecasting possible snow. What?! I don't know about the rest of you, but if the weather has to change I'd prefer that it be gradual.

I guess I wouldn't be offended if the group denied me entrance, but I want people to know I agree with their ideals.

Question #2: What is the best "getting to know you" question you have ever heard? I will leave the definition of "best" up to the reader. And by getting to know you questions I mean the crazy questions people always ask you on those first dates, or when you are forced to sit for a while with a chatty person.

I was volunteering at parent teacher conferences today as a translator and there was just such a chatty person who was asking me the sort of questions that are just a little too personal for our 45 minute acquaintance. Then I overheard two girls talking and one of them definitely asked the other what her favorite animal was. I laughed out loud as I instantly imagined somebody asking their date that. Now, please fast-forward to my blind date tonight...

I was talking to my friend at one end of the table when Sally (name changed) emphatically states to her date Jim (name changed), "Oh! the giraffe is by far my favorite animal; they are my passion!" She then named off all of the things that she owned that were associated with giraffes (it was a long-ish list). By the end I was obviously crying with laughter.

The End

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm Back!!!

So, I have decided that now that I have school under control (or at least as under control as it is going to get) I am going to return to my blog. Writing on here as been a great experience for me and I want it to continue.

I will grant you that life might not be quite as funny now that I no longer have hilarious conversations with the man of the house where I lived, but I have a good feeling that Provo life is going to provide me with more than sufficient reasons to occasionally laugh out loud...or at least quietly chuckle.

So, join me if you dare in what promises to be just as good a chapter as the last.

Also, go BYU football!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Leaving

The process of leaving started two weeks ago while I was driving to work with the director of the laboratory. I said something about fall classes and he quickly asked me when I would be going home. He was surprised by my answer and I could see the wheels turning in his eyes as he started planning a going-away party for me. I called him out on it, but he would not give me any details. It turns out I'm incredibly gullible/trickable when it comes to surprise parties. Until I walked in the door I had no idea that they had been planning this party with everybody in the lab. Either they are talented or I'm a fool, either way it was a great party. I care about those people and I am grateful for all the experiences I had with them.

My ward also had a dinner for me and they all said really nice things about me. I'm getting better at being less-awkward in situations like that. In the end, I left that chapel feeling I was walking on a cloud.

It is important to note that I have delayed feelings; they either hit me gradually or much later. The first hint of emotion happened when I loaded my suitcases into the car and looked back thoughtfully at my house. I stood briefly in my room and took mental pictures. The car drove up, I slowly exhaled, grabbed my bags and left.

The second pang of emotion came at the bus station. I gave Lorena a big hug, shook hands with my professor then walked towards the bus. I loaded my bag underneath then handed them my ticket. As I looked back I heard Dr. Maureira say "make me proud". It continued as the bus engine started and we pulled away.

The next one came after I had rushed through the entire airport (I am always rushing in airports) only to walk into the tunnel and stop. Time slowed down as I realized that I might not be back here for a very long time. I made my peace. I looked around until I started getting strange looks from airport personel, then borded the airplane to a greeting from a woman from Georgia. At that point it was over for me and I was going home/leaving home.

This has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. I am so grateful for the turns in the road that you never expected but that are so much better than what you had planned. This has been one of those turns. Now, on to a new adventure.

Words are Small

These last ten days have been some of the most beautiful days of my entire life. It was so great that when you start to talk about what was truly a sacred experience, words seem too small. At times like those I sing, but it still seems to fall short. I'll share a few of the experiences of the past weeks. To understand this, you have to know that there is a list of people from my mission that I have no idea what happened to them because they moved or other things happened. There are many times when I literally lay in bed at night and think about those people and wish that I could see their faces and know how they are doing.

One of the people on that list is a really cool girl who got baptized while living with her crazy mother. Her name is Alesca. She moved out suddenly a few weeks later and I was transferred shortly thereafter, so I never knew anything more about her. Fastforward to two sundays ago when I was sitting in priesthood thinking about a family that got baptized in the same place around the same time. I felt very strongly that I needed to call them that very day (I had one week left in Chile). I went home and got out my missionary planners and found one that had two phone numbers for them. I called both numbers - no answer. A few minutes later, the second number returned the call, but it was not the family that I was hoping to contact. Instead of apologizing and hanging up like I normally would have done, I looked through my planner trying to figure out who it might be. I realized that I must have written the number for Alesca's crazy mom in that box by accident because they were beside eachother. I quickly asked her if she could give me Alesca's number and she told me that she was living in the same city that I was! I really could not believe this chain of events! I called Alesca mere seconds later and I got to see her a couple times before I left. It was a miracle.

This past saturday I finally went to my second area. It was the closest of any of them, but I had been delaying the trip. So many people had moved away from there that I almost didn't see the point in going. When I got there I was going to go directly to our mamita's house because it was her birthday, but instead I went to the house where I lived. The missionary's still lived there and they were just leaving the house. I stopped to talk to them and they asked me my name. I said that during my mission I was Elder Peterson. They stared at eachother in disbelief and said "you're Elder Peterson!!" Let me tell you, I didn't expect that response. They then said, "guess who is getting baptized today!" I was paralyzed while dozens of faces passed through my mind. They said that Alberto and Maria and their kids were getting baptized. I was in complete shock! They had one of the most beautiful families but when I left, things started coming undone. The missionaries had seen the sheet and gone to find them again, but the family always talked about me. One hour before I had to leave for home I got to sit there and watch each of them get baptized and hear them share their testimonies. It was a miracle, and I will never forget it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saturday Night Fever

It was saturday night and I was dressed to the nines. I was heading to the ward party with my friend to learn the chilean national dance. Learning how to dance the cueca had been on my list of things to do for some time now, so I felt like fate was smiling in my general direction. The activity started out by learning the basic steps to the dance. Once we felt comfortable with the basics we were encouraged to choose a partner for some more complex stuff. I felt comfortable so I began the selection process. I had been eyeing a foxy 70 year-old in the corner with silver hair and a killer smile. Now it was my chance. I sauntered on over and gently suggested that we "cut a rug". She smiled demurely and accepted.

She knew her way around the dance floor, but I pride myself on being a fast learner. The dance required partners to be about 2 feet apart at all times, but I felt like it was just her and I on the floor (it really was just us on the dance floor at that point). I managed to keep up with her and her demure smile throughout, and I am now a semi-spectacular cueca dancer. It was pretty excellent. As to the silver-haired dame, I realized in the end that it would probably never work due to...cultural differences. I expressed my interest in being friends and we said goodbye.

I am pretty sure she still thinks about me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Snails see beauty in every inch

The other day I was sitting on a bus with a very good friend talking about life. It turns out I like doing that. It was a beautiful day and we were watching the pink, orange and purple colors that accompany any respecteable sunset. We were talking about the type of people that don't let their circumstances define them, but choose to be themselves and define their circumstances.

I said that it was almost impossible to be unhappy on such an incredibly beautiful day then she mentioned something really cool in relation to being happy. I think everybody has had the experience of being really sick and just wanting to not hurt anymore. I remember many times when I would go to sleep at night as sick as a dog and wake up the next morning feeling 100% better. She said that when that moment arrives you just breath in the air, ecstatic to be sitting there without any pain. It is so simple but it's one of those blessings that we take for granted.

I think it is like having a bag of blessings into which things are poured and things are lost. Sometimes we are not healthy and sometimes we are poor. Other times we feel like their is nothing more we could ask for. However, everybody has blessings in their lives; it is about being willing to recognize the ones you take for granted. How many times during periods of great health do we just wake up and smile because we don't hurt? How many times do we stop to take in a beautiful day rather than focus on the negative stuff?

Counting our blessings instead of our trials brings happiness instead of gloom. In short, I think being happy really does come down to seeing your glass as half full rather than half empty (and my friend supports that conclusion).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dani and Chuli

I spent this past weekend visiting my friend from the mission Elder Silva. He happens to be pretty cool, but he lives over four hours away so this is the only time I have gotten to see him. The trip was really cool and we had some really brilliant conversations. However, my favorite part of the entire weekend was meeting Dani and Chuli. These two girls are cousins and they have been members of the church for one year.

These two nineteen year-old girls are from the hood in every sense of the word. When they met the missionaries they were going to go to a party in another city that was going to last them the entire weekend. The missionaries were brave enough to invite them to church and for some reason they went. They said they really don't know why they chose to go to church, but they told their friends afterwards that the "mormon party" was pretty cool too. Ever since they were baptized they have faithfully attended every single sunday and every single activity. If there is somebody who needs support, they are there to support. If they are asked to do something they do it. The best part about these two girls is that they have been through really hard things and they know what it feels like. They also know what it feels like to be from the poorer part of the city where gangs and drugs are prevalent. In short, they have the potential to be examples for a lot of people who are going through rough times and for those youth who are straying.

Yesterday Chuli got up to share her testimony and among other things she thanked her cousin who has been her best friend and her support since long before they joined the church. She shared a beautiful testimony that was both incredibly sincere and insightful. It was a great experience to get to know those girls this weekend and laugh with them and hear their testimonies. The gospel really is the only way that we can be truly happy.

In short, the best part about being here in Chile, in case you were wondering, is the people.

P.S. In the next installment I will tell you about the sixty-five year-old woman who was my dance partner at the ward party. If she were only younger...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plant #29

There is this little plant that has clearly had it rough in the greenhouse. While it was a seed the mother plant was attacked by a fungus that apparently got on the seeds as well. We tried planting the seeds several times with no results except rotten seeds. When we realized that a fungus was attacking the developing seeds, I used a chlorine treatment and then a chemical that induces germination. It still seemed to fail...then one of the seedlings popped up! I was really excited even though the plant had clearly been damaged by the ninja-like fungus. The plant continues today in the greenhouse because I refuse to throw it out. It is small and fragile so it is useless for our experiments, but I just can't bring myself to give up on it and throw it away.

It might be slightly unreasonable, but there's a part of me that thinks that one day I am going to go out there and the plant will be big and healthy. Even if it never gets as big as the other plants I feel like it would be heinous to throw it in the trash when it has struggled so hard to survive. This might be significant in some way but I prefer not to look too much into it. I think I just like to see things/people make it.

On a funnier/scarier note, I had another conversation with the husband of the house where I live. This is a true story and he is crazy. We were watching a report about social security and the crisis it's facing. This is how the conversation played out. (things in *marks* are my thoughts)

Raul: "I think the solution to all of this is to just have everybody retire at the age of 50."
Louis: "What?!" *crap, I forgot to ignore him!*
Raul: "Yeah, because people would travel more and spend more money for longer if they retired younger. Because people retire and then they travel."
Louis: *deep breath...* "Okay, but this is how the social security system works..." (I then explain how the social security system works) "...so I don't think lowering the retirement age would solve anything."
Raul: (He looks at me as though I just don't grasp his higher logic.) "If you look at any of the great civilizations like the Romans, the Greeks, or the Egyptians they all died earlier. If you look at their society they didn't really have any people above the age of 55." (He looks at me again like I just don't understand.)
Louis: *just walk away!* "I think that had more to do with their quality of life..."
Raul: "Yeah, but they were rich and did really cool things like the pyramids!"
Louis: *Holy crap, I've been sucked in. GET OUT NOW!*

That was the point where I knew that I had but two options: 1) smile, nod, run. 2) Collapse in convulsions on the floor do to the taxing nature of his warped logic and possibly wake up in a padded room with large guys handing me a cup full of pills. I chose life. I ran like the wind.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coyhaique

While I was in my last area of the mission this past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with a great family that I taught. The mother of the family, Andy, is one of the coolest converts ever. So, there I was sitting in sacrament meeting with two of the little kids who are normally insanely rowdy, Ignacio and Cata. Cata is five and is off the wall most of the time. I was trying to keep her busy during the meeting by asking her to draw things for me in my journal. When I was out of ideas I thought quickly and asked her to draw me. She smiled like a skilled artist who has met a pleasing task. She stared at the lines of my face to the point where I decided that every neuron in her brain was firing with her rendering. I was not sure exactly what to expect, but I couldn't help smiling as she just stared at me. At last she began drawing. It took her about 5 seconds to produce a modern interpretation of "the stick figure with large shoes". I, out of respect for the genious herself, laughed on the inside and smiled on the outside. I then asked her to draw a girl beside me so that I wouldn't be alone. She smiled all too knowingly and began her second brilliant creation: "the stick figure with bangs". Note: three out of the five seconds it took her were spent on the bangs. I love that little girl and her family.

About a year ago I was having one of those weeks that I wish I could have just rewound or skipped over. It was really rough. I was walking up the stairs to my apartments when my roommate handed me a letter with my name on it. I quickly opened the outside envelope to find that my mom had forwarded a letter from Andy and her kids to me. Each of them had sent me letters in their varying capacities. Cata's contribution was scribbling on her mom's letter, go figure. Ignacio wrote only a few sentences but it changed my perspective completely. He said that every night as a family they pray for me and that they love me. A six year-old boy at the end of the south american continent was praying for me. There are so many reasons for us to be happy and to be grateful; I am grateful for that little family that always remembers to pray for me.

In short, I feel very blessed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Me vs. Monday

Monday and I have never been friends. We had a really rough patch in high school when mondays were the days everything went wrong. There was a period of peace between us while I was on my mission but the battle began again in earnest when I returned from the mission. One friend asked me on a particularly bad monday how I was doing. I said "I'm doing great...and by that I mean I have gotten my trash kicked and my lunch money taken." At least he laughed. I have tried bringing my "A game" but I still seem to get slaughtered every time I flip my day calendar to monday.

I thought I could make a fresh start while here in Chile but my hopes have been repeatedly dashed by consecutive mishaps. Once I tried taking monday off to go to Arica. I even took tuesday off just to be sure. However, it appears that monday has a contract with tuesday and wednesday to prevent escape (I didn't see that one coming). If you don't remember what happened on that particular wednesday please refer to "true beauty" where I got covered from head to foot in mud while on my way to work. I felt like the little kid on the playground who learns through sad experience to just give up his lunch money without even being threatened.

However, I scored a resounding victory today. I came to work despite the fact that I had only slept four hours and I began my experiments for the day (Albert, you owe me big). One person after the other complimented me on my progress and my work in a short period of time. I am a scientist, so I felt like testing the limits of my unexpected luck by speaking to my professor. He too complimented me on my work and said he would like to continue working with me when I returned to BYU! Bewildered, I had to quickly scan my surroundings to make sure that I wasn't on candid camera. So far I have been unable to discover any cameras or evidence of a secret plot to boost my self-esteem. The investigation is still ongoing as tuesday and wednesday have not yet been throroughly questioned. For now I am working under the tentative hypothesis that the monster disguised as monday has either given up or repented of his ways.

If that is the case then I couldn't be happier. I feel like I've done my time.

...I hope I haven't been on candid camera. Four hours of sleep doesn't look good on anybody.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moments

The other day I was at a celebration dedicated to two girls who finished their final projects for graduation from college. In Chile they have to do a thesis to finish their bachelors degree so it is a bigger deal. The principle food at the party was crêpes and the french professor asked for my help making them. It turns out I am a sucker for a compliment...would you call that flattery? In any case, I made half of them and they were all delicious. It was also interesting because I realized that it was the first time anybody has offered me alcohol. I know, perhaps I have lived a sheltered life but I am okay with that. One guy jokingly said "be a man". Another girl said I should try it to understand what everybody else was talking about. I said no.

The party ended with me being the only one of the dozen people that drank orange juice. The house where the party was held is a part of the thousand acres where I work located about 10 miles from the city. As we were walking along the gravel road through the woods to catch our bus home I looked up at the starry sky. It was incredibly clear and you could see the amazing expanse of things. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the word of wisdom and for the gospel in general. I felt incredibly grateful to understand my part in something bigger than the little life we experience here on earth.

Life seems to insist that we be constantly moving. I think I am going to take a little more time to be still.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

True Beauty

Picture an uncharacteristically beautiful winter day. The sun was shining and the temperatures were nice. I was feeling particularly good that morning so I had put on my favorite blue shirt and my best DI pants (the ones that look like Mr. Rogers donated them). I was running to catch the bus as I normally do but I was also taking the time to appreciate the nice day; sometimes I multi-task. It had been raining all day yesterday so the ground was wet and the air was clean and fresh. As I went running along I caught up to some people who were blocking the sidewalk so I stepped off to the side (I was still running). At that moment I glanced away. It was a bad time to look away. I glanced back just as my foot touched the thick mud that surrounded the sidewalk. My face must have been brilliant as my foot slipped out from under me at lightning speed and I flew into the previously-mentioned fresh air. Almost as brilliant were the faces of those people who lined the very busy street, though I myself did not witness their faces due to my intense concentration on the art of flying.

I landed flat on my back in the biggest mud puddle I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I layed there for a brief moment trying to soak in the thing that had just happened. I was now covered in mud from my white tennis shoes all the way to my hat. Due to the skid motion produced by my running pace, I plastered my jacket, sweater, shirt, and undergarments in mud. Only my socks survived the crash landing. Think about that for a moment.

The person who stops to pull me up is none other than a school bus driver with his bright yellow school bus. Perfect. He asked me if I was on my way to high school (I am 23 but I still look 16). Bless his heart, he managed to keep a straight face even when I couldn't. He helped me wipe some of the mud off and then went to tell the great story to his friends while the subject was still in view (subject = me). Also, I made sure I didn't show the back side of me when I stopped a taxi to take me home. The taxi driver put a piece of cardboard down on the seat so I wouldn't dirty his car, but he still put on a semi-disgusted face.

I am currently grateful for Marjorie Pay Hinckley who said "the only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache." It is also comforting that I will probably never see anybody on that street ever again. Silver lining: the freshly cleaned lab coat in my backpack remained untouched through it all.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Home

Home has been and always will be a word that has great signifigance for me. Before my mission home was always the place where my family lived . During my mission I felt that same peace that I associate with home in every one of my areas. After my mission I realized that, at least for me, home was where the Lord wanted me to be. When I got back from the mission I stayed in Aitkin for two months waiting for the fall semester to start. I love my family and it was great to see them, but I no longer felt at home in Aitkin. Why? It was not where I was supposed to be. When I got back to BYU at the beginning of fall semester I felt that powerful feeling of being home.

While I was in Arica this past weekend I got to spend a lot of time with my companion, Elder Bascur. He was my last companion and we worked really hard together and had a lot of success. It was great to remember the mission and the experiences and goals we had back then. As we talked I felt that feeling of being home, but this time I had no idea why. I knew that I wasn't supposed to move to Arica, so I wondered why I was feeling that same feeling.

Alfredo Bascur is one of those people who brings out the very best in me - the real me. When I am around people like Elder Bascur I catch a glimpse of the person I want to be all the time. In short, when I am around people like that I feel at home. I feel that same sense of peace, joy, and calm that lets me know that that is who I really am and that is where I belong. That is the real me. I want to work harder to be that best me every second of every day no matter who I am with or where I am.

While I was there, I was able to focus once more on who I am and where I am going.

Also, on the over-night bus ride to Santiago I was lucky enough to sit beside one of the few chilean guys who is 6'6" and 300 lbs. When he sat down I tried to count my blessings. "At least he doesn't snore" I thought as he dozed off. Nope, mere seconds later I realized he snored too. Conclusion: don't count your many blessings before they hatch.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Million Faces

Today I was walking down the street at midnight after having gone to visit some of the members. I had fun and I think it was really productive. As I was walking down the street I looked up at a man who was walking towards me and the distant face made me remember a young guy named Felipe that I taught in Pucón. As he got closer a part of me hoped that it was him even though it was incredibly unlikely. It wasn't him.

Felipe was one of those investigators that you instantly love. He didn't get baptized, but I will never forget his face. So it is with all the people I was really able to teach. I don't think I will ever forget them. I find myself in a store and I hear a familiar voice and turn around hoping to see Marcelo and Violeta. I am walking down the street and I see a family that looks like Erwin and Adriana's family. Some of these people are people I am going to be able to see while I am here, others have moved away or changed phone numbers. Felipe is one who has since moved.

When I cross the veil, I think I am going to embrace my family members and shed some tears of joy with them. The very next thing I will do is search for the wonderful people from my mission. I will look for all the people who did not get baptized while we were teaching them. I hope that they will have accepted the gospel. I hope I will see Felipe there.

I am grateful for those two years and for the chance I have to remember them. I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ which brought me to Chile in the first place. At the end of the day, the gospel is what makes relationships truly significant.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Waste of Skin Award

Three weeks ago I ate some hamburgers at my pension that I realized, a little too late, were not fully cooked. Crap. Literally. Since then I have been having stomache problems that don't want to go away. I had some really bad stomache problems this morning and finally decided to go to the hospital. My insurance company pays for everything so I decided to go to the best hospital in town - the German Clinic. I have come to put confidence in most things that have German in the title (chocolate, female soccer teams, vicious dictators etc.). As my adventure begins I would like to remark that my stomache problems have been persistent for the past three weeks regardless of me trying to avoid eating harmful things.

I went to the emergency room this morning and stood in line with all the people who have swine flu. "Great", I thought, "I am going to go home with something worse than what I had in the first place." The girls at the desk were incapable, to put it lightly, and inspired little confidence. My suspicions about the worthless secretaries were confirmed when the nurse came to the door and called out for Martin (that is my middle name). Later on, somebody called for me and again they yelled "Martin!". At least they are persistently wrong.

The Doctor was my favorite part of the visit and the winner of the prestigious "waste of skin" award. He walked into the room and his first words were "what is the problem?" at which point I began describing my stomache issues. He then began examining/pushing my stomache and ordered some tests. The lengthiest interaction I had with him was the part where he asked me what the problem was. He literally did almost nothing. He came back with my blood tests and said I had no infection and told me to see a gastroenterologist, in as many words. At no point did he introduce himself or show me results or information. He did not explain anything. He did not even try to smile or treat me with respect. He also committed a deadly sin by speaking to me very slowly, as though I needed to look every word up in the dictionary while he spoke. That visit cost my insurance company $120.00. I payed $120.00 to find out only that I had no infection and to be treated like a convicted criminal who is feigning sickness to get out of the slammer. I should have just walked down to the corner and handed the money to the bumb on the corner. At least he smiles when you walk by and that much money would have made him smile even bigger.

The results of the test were various aspects of my blood levels. Because that is part of my major I was able to read the results and find out for myself what was going on. In other words, that Dr. could be sold into slavery and nobody would miss him. Also, I could do his job for half what he gets payed with no problems. I could even use the money I got from selling him into slavery to pay of my school loans. I think my path is clear:

1) Does anybody you know have connections in the slave trade?
2) Do you know a good gastroenterologist in Temuco, Chile?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting to Know Me

I have learned a few things about me but I will give you some notes from this weekend before broaching that topic.

I was sick to my stomache on friday and saturday. On friday I finally took some medicine for it so I could get to sleep. I was sitting in the living area waiting for it to kick when the husband of the house came to ask me where the pain was and how it felt. He is the type of person who believes he knows everything about everything but really knows absolutely nothing (he doesn't even know that he knows nothing). Unfortunately, I have discovered that I am not above laughing at him. I answered his question by describing the pain, at which point he diagnosed me with a severe case of cold stomache (it has barely gotten below freezing here). If I had eyes in the depths of my soul I would have been rolling them at this point. I told him that I had just drunk a cup of hot mint tea and a cup of hot chamomile tea to refute his stupid diagnosis. He is also harder to reason with than a brick wall, so he remained undaunted in his synopsis. He told me that those were all wrong for the stomache and that I needed to drink a tea of such and such. He then went outside and grabbed a leaf off of one of the neighbor's bushes and brought it inside to show me the cure. Naturally, I remained skeptical about the cure, the self-crowned curer, and the nature of the neighbor's bush. He went into the kitchen and I headed for the hills (my room) where I slept through the night. Conclusion: He is ridiculous, medicine is not.

I have discovered through self-diagnosis that I have levels of anger. Stage one of my anger is me laughing at awkward situations and not making a big deal out of little things. Stage two involves me shutting down and not talking to people because I don't want to say something I'll regret etc. The next stage of me getting angry is the explosion stage where I tell you exactly what I think of you and your behavior. Basically I put on my very best angry eyes and I equip my state-of-the-art angry voice and I throw down. Luckily, I don't make it to this stage very often. I think the mission helped me to recognize the way I deal with these things and make a change. Now I try to communicate before it reaches the "shut down" or "armageddon" stages. Yesterday I was teaching the youth sunday school class and I almost made it to the armageddon stage with two students that I expected way more from. Fortunately, I recognized how I was reacting and took them aside after class to talk to them. It went well. At the end of the day, I choose how I react. Me getting angry helps nothing and nobody (though it might come in handy if I was forced into a battle to the death with somebody bigger than me).

Conclusions: I don't like getting angry (but, then again, I have never been forced into a battle to the death with somebody bigger than me). Also, I should probably overcome my natural reaction to laugh at the husband. In my defense, he claimed he invented sloppy joe's! I couldn't help myself.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NOT TODAY!!!

Things I am thankful for: my legs, my ability to run, and...my feet.

Last night I was making a delicious pizza from scratch with a recipe that I have for equally delicious focaccia bread (recipe can be found here). I realized that some things were lacking for my delicious pizza, so I went to a little store about four blocks from home. As I walked to the store I did what I usually do when I go out after dark, I kept my eyes open for people who might rob a very white american. That means you cross the street or turn around and go a different way when you see a group of guys loitering, and don't carry around expensive things or lot of cash. I have to recognize the fact that my face might just as well say "rob me!" because I am clearly american. So, I act accordingly.

In the block right before the store I saw a guy slow down and stop as he approached me so I put some space between me and the strange guy. I went into the store and watched the door to see if he would walk by. He walked by once by himself then a second time with another guy. Both times he looked in the store at me. I made my purchase and waited for them to walk by again. As soon as they did I went out the door and ran in the other direction. For those of you who don't know me very well, I like to run. Sometimes I run just for the fun of it. This time I ran because I was not about to let those punks take my money. Perhaps they just had some questions about the principles of biochemistry, but I wasn't about to hang around to find out. I looked back when I reached the corner and saw that they had turned around and were walking towards me. I ran the rest of the way home and then finished my delicious pizza. I forgot to mention that I am grateful for the genes that code for long legs.

The moral of the story: if you are not big/scary enough to demolish them (I am not), then you should be fast enough to outrun the savages. If nothing else you could at least be equipped with a formidably ear-piercing scream. Also, the pizza was delicious. I made the sauce from tomato paste with garlic and oregano and I topped the pizza with cheese, red bell peppers, and chicken. Once it was done I thinly sliced avocado and put that on top as well. It was a good day.

And yes, I will be careful.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I Still Believe in Summer Days

I wanted to share some notes from this past week and the weekend in Alerce. I will try to be tactful by sharing the funny things first and the thoughtful things last.

1) My current bishop in Temuco came up to me while I was playing the piano in the chapel. The following is the conversation (things surrounded by * marks are my thoughts):
Bishop: What are your talents Louis?
Louis: I play the piano...I sing...
Bishop: We could do a practical mutual one night for the youth.
Louis: Yeah! *singing and playing the piano are not the most practical skills*
Bishop: What is your major again?
Louis: Microbiology.
Bishop: So, you could teach about the law of chastity!
Louis: ... *...*
Bishop: Yeah, you could talk about it from the science perspective!
Louis: *birds, bees, ...and bacteria?*
Bishop: ...and we could invite the parents.
Louis: yup, we sure could. *Is this what skydiving feels like?*
Bishop: How about the 19th?
Louis: Sounds great. *This sounds crazy*
NOTE - microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms. It is not the study of chastity.

2) I was riding home in the bus and I went to the tiny bathroom in the back to change out of my church clothes so I could sleep. I entered the already shady bathroom (well after dark) only to realize that the lights were burned out. Determined, I began changing in the pitch-dark bathroom anyway. I learned that I would probably be good at being blind. Also, the bathroom smelled like the black death, so I am glad that I couldn't see the thing that was causing the tragic smell. I did manage to change despite the bumps, the dark, and the smell.

3) I arrived in my first area of the mission and I wanted to calmly walk from house to house to soak it all in, but I couldn't stop myself from running. All day long I ran from place to place. It was a pretty amazing feeling.

4) All my converts in that area are still active and thriving. One of them is the first counselor in the elder's quorum and is getting sealed next month. Another one is the teacher for the principles of the gospel class. She is a single mother and her son just turned 8 and wants me to baptize him. That was a really cool moment for me. I will be going back in august to baptize Luis.

5) There is a family that has a highly disabled son that I became really good friends with. He has a severe case of epilepsy that has taken away a lot of his mental capacity including the ability to walk. He would always get really happy and smile really big whenever I came over. I haven't been in that house in 3-1/2 years but the moment I walked in that house he got so excited and gave me the biggest smile I have ever seen. Of all the people in Alerce he recognized me the fastest. I cannot wait to meet my friend again when he no longer has those physical limitations.

This trip to Alerce was really meaningful for me for a lot more reasons than the ones that I mentioned. It is really good to remember; going to Alerce was about remembering.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lab Cred

"Laboratory cred" is the same basic concept as street cred with one notable difference: Lab cred, once lost, is basically lost forever. For those of you who don't know what street cred is, it is defined as "Acceptability or popularity, especially among young people in urban areas" by none other than the American Heritage Dictionary (I think that is funny). Lab cred is about credibility among your laboratory peers that leads to trust and acceptance. Today I would like to talk about this phenomenon.

There are certain things that can raise your lab cred instantly such as being named Albert Einstein and being brilliant. Also, if you have a long list of past achievements demonstrating your brilliance it wouldn't hurt (e.g. nobel prize in applicable field). Otherwise you must slowly and surely build up your lab cred by small acts of brilliance and by avoiding acts of non-brilliance. I will explain.

Your lab cred can suffer significant losses for such simple mistakes as exposing everyone near you to hazardous chemicals, large spills, reckless behavior, and/or asking someone if they are pregnant when they really aren't pregnant at all. Unfortunately, as I said before, such losses are pretty permanent. Luckily, there are ways to tell your lab cred is swimming in the tiolet:

1) If everyone suddenly decides to take their break when you take out the beta mercapto ethanol.
2) If people consistently offer to do things for you when expensive equipment is involved.
3) Your friends happen to all be people who work far away from you.
4) You think you are the best-dressed person in the lab because everyone near you has started wearing clothes they don't care about.

So, now that we all understand the concept of lab cred, I'll tell you what happened yesterday. I spilled the blue liquid marker three consecutive times on the counter-top (it was a very awkward container, in my defense). I dropped an entire tray of DNA samples right in front of my coworker (her name is Lorena) after which I promptly yelled "Lorena!" in an accusatory tone. I was trying to salvage some of my remaining lab cred by blaming her, but I think my very red face told the tale. Next, I was preparing a PCR reaction that takes time both to prepare and order the components for when I dropped the only bottle of one liquid primer on the floor...with the lid off! My mouth was wide open as I watched the tube do an olympic-class gymnatics routine on the floor. When it finally came to a halt, I slowly reached for the tube. To my complete surprise and glee, not one drop of the liquid had left the bottle. Mind you, I was not joking when I said olympic-class gymnastics routine. I smiled like a child with a candy bar. Then I thought of my lab cred and slowly looked right and left to make sure my reputation was intact. To my even greater surprise, nobody had seen the gymnastics routine but me. I, with greater confidence this time, smiled like the grinch who stole chistmas (once he had stolen christmas) and continued preparing the reaction.

So, I think my lab cred is still doing okay. Also, I have not been guilty of any crazy offenses yet. Though I did accuse one of my coworkers of being pregnant once. I think I played it off well but I will never forgive myself. People who do things like that are the type of people I normally make fun of. Maybe it's just karma.... To all those individuals I have ridiculed both publicly and privately, I apologize.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Me vs. The Man (or something)

I shall tell you a harrowing tale of betrayal and lies, of savages and airheads. So, fasten your seatbelts.

I moved into my new pension on sunday where I was promised my own bathroom and a nice room for the expensive price of 130,000 pesos per month. That's very high but it's in a nice neighborhood so I accepted. Besides, I was tired of looking and bartering. However, there were several surprises waiting for me.

The first surprise came when I actually moved in on sunday and discovered that half of the room was filled with stuff. Half the closet, one of the dressers, the cabinet, two shelves, and a random duffle bag on the floor. When I asked them about it, the son came in and took a stack of movies from the corner and left. The movies were the least of my worries. The second and major surprise was that the son sleeps right next door and smokes like a chimney...in the house. Also, the bus I take every morning was supposed to pass right outside my house - false. I had to run/walk for 12 minutes to take the bus. Other grievances: no hot water that morning, no heat, no hot breakfast. Not exactly the best start. I changed places the next day.

Now, let's talk about the company bus for a brief moment. Not only did my coworkers tell me the wrong street to wait for it at, but they also gave me the wrong directions to get to that wrong street. And, since two wrongs do NOT make a right, I got very lost. Even though I had woken up extra early, I still had to run like mad to get to the correct corner. Finally, legs trembling and lungs failing, I was standing at the right corner. Victory! Now all I had to do was signal the bus driver to stop as my (misguided) co-workers had told me.

I saw the bus coming two blocks away and prepared to signal him. I stuck out my hand in traditional fashion but he showed no signs of stopping. I started waving my arms - no reaction. Perhaps I wasn't making the right sign. I quickly reviewed all the secret hand-shakes I had learned as well as everything I knew about the gadianton robbers. Still no reaction from the bus driver. I was not going down that easy; I gritted my teeth and began chasing him at top speed in my dress shoes. Two and a half blocks later he stopped briefly because of traffic, but he was on the opposite side of three lanes of one-way traffic. I jumped up and down but he was blind to my existence. Luckily, he wasn't deaf to my existenence. After weighing the options carefully, I ran across all three lanes and knocked on the door of the bus...with a very angry look on my face.

I made it to work that day on time despite them all. I rose victorious over such notable foes as the smoker next door, the misguided co-workers, and the savage bus driver. To all my compatriots who silently fight similar battles I declare that it can be done! I wish you luck.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The World Spinds Madly On

I wanted to share some thoughts and pictures. Pictures first:

Here are the plants I work with. I have been drying these leaves and extracting DNA from them.




This is my desk in the lab. It is not much, but it is mine. Also, that is my lab coat. Yup, my very own. I am grinding up leaf samples to extract the DNA. I am using liquid nitrogen which makes it look infinitely cooler.






As to the title of the blog it is the title to a song by the weepies. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

Everything that I said I'd do
Like make the world brand new
And take the time for you
I just got lost and slept right through the dawn
And the world spins madly on

I wish that I had woken up sooner in my life to the possibilities that surrounded me all along. I don't want to let any more pass me by. I don't want to forget the promises I have made. I was listening to this song tonight and thinking "don't ever 'fall asleep'." I realized again, as I have in the past, the importance of taking the time to smile, to say I love you, to give a hug, and to put away your work when somebody needs you.

The other night my professor was at the office until 10:30 PM. He came home to eat and went back again. While he was gone his wife went to do the dishes and the kids didn't let her get anything done, so I started playing with them so she could finish. I was having great fun with them, but then I stopped and realized that their Dad should have been the one there with them.

I don't want to fall asleep while the world spins madly on. You inevitably wake up and realize that you have let the best stuff slip by. A guy that I knew had a list of 7 mottos to live by. When he passed away they were published as his obituary and one of the first ones was "people are always most important". I believe that.

So, to those I love and care about: I love you and I care about you and don't you ever forget it. Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug for me. I'll see you all soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Me and Julie Andrews

In honor of having spent a few solid days in Chile so far I felt it appropriate to make a list...Julie Andrews style!

A Few of my Favorite Things:

1) Food - I love Chilean food. The end.

2) People - People are very straight forward and less tightly wound here. It is nice.

3) Talking to Converts - I got to call some of my favorite people on earth last night and talk to them for the first time in almost three years. It was so nice to sit there and talk to them as I remember all the wonderful moments I had with them. Soon I will see them and it is going to be phenomenal.

4) The beautiful sky - There are fewer pollutants in the air and a lot more visible stars. I am in the coutryside where there aren't a ton of lights so I can go outside at night and look up at the stars and just think cool thoughts.

5) Lab Coats - Yup, I have a lab coat with my own name embroidered on it and I LOVE IT! I am mentioning this so you guys will be prepared for my come-back the next time you beat me at frisbee or cards or something "Well, I have my own lab coat..."

That is about it for now. Also, I went to church on sunday and I was a little shocked when the priesthood teacher said "wur ahr yu frum?" (where are you from?) in horrible english to me. I just laughed on the inside because I speak dutch better than he speaks english (I don't speak dutch). I made a special point of making lots of comments in his class. I think I surprised them : )

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Come in Houston..."

So, I made it aboard the plane in Salt Lake this time. I even made it aboard the plane in Atlanta. Then, against all odds, I even made it aboard the bus to Temuco. Finally, after more hours than I care to talk about, I have reached my final destination. I have even showered and had a good chance to sleep. In short, I am alive and well.

I have to say that coming back here at this particular time is one of the more interesting things that has ever happened to me. I started my mission in Chile during the American summer which coincides with the Chilean winter. I am coming back under the exact same circumstances. They use wood stoves to heat their homes here which puts a lot of smoke into the air during the winter. So, when I got on the bus and started to drive into the colder south I was overcome with memories, smells, sensations, and experiences that I had almost forgotten. It is really interesting to me how many of those memories are connected to those smells. Something as simple as the humidity and the smoke smell in the air takes me right back to four years ago when I stepped off the bus in Osorno.

This is the type of thing I would sit there and day-dream about during boring lectures in biodiversity. I cannot wait to go to my areas and visit the people I love. I saw the buses that said Pucon in the window and I wanted to just jump on board. Don't worry though, I still know where my home is.

So, will you guys still love me if I come home smelling like a campfire? I would like everyone to think about that for the next little while (three months). If the answer is no, I expect you to rethink until you have reached a better answer. I, in the meantime, will be having the time of my life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Day, Another Disaster

Okay, to fully understand the tragedy that occurred on this seemingly normal day I am going to have to start at the very beginning.

I spent all day yesterday saying goodbye to all my close friends and packing up all of my belongings as well as preparing/teaching sunday school. I finally went to bed after 1:00 am. I had to get up at 7:30 am to do laundry, take my boxes over to Johan's apartment, obtain a criminal background check, stop by work to make sure my two replacements were still alive, and go get a physical. The physical was an interesting story all by itself, but I will tell that another day. Why would I leave all of these things until the very last minute like that? Well, I found out about the physical and the background check on friday at about 4:30 pm. Still, I felt like I could do it.

I was rushing like mad from the time I got up, but I managed to leave my house by 1:00 in plenty of time to get to Salt Lake City for my 4:35 flight. I was finally calming down as we got into the car and started driving to the airport. I thought "whew, I'm going to make it."

Then it occurred to me that I had forgotten to print off my itinerary. I quickly called my friend and asked her to tell me the confirmation number and flight number. She read me my confirmation number and then said "yup, your flight is through Delta and you are leaving at 2:57 pm." FYI, it was 2:57 pm at that very moment. For those of you who suffer from short-term memory loss, I firmly believed that my flight was leaving at 4:35 pm. If there was ever a time in my life when I felt like swearing the colors of the rainbow, that was it.

The next part of the story involved me talking with BYU travel and Delta airlines for a total of about an hour, and paying $280.00 to reschedule my flight for wednesday. I have never had somebody kick me in the gut repeatedly, but I assume that it must feel something like that.

The best part: I sold my contract today and the new kid has already moved into my spot. So, I will be couch surfing for the next two nights. Fortunately I am now at a point where I can laugh about it, as I hope you do when you read this. They say that laughter makes us healthier, so you are welcome.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The blog.

So, as many of you already know, I will be escaping to Chile for the summer to do plant genetics research. If you have already fallen asleep at my description, I am ashamed of you. If you are still awake, don't fret, that's all the detail I will go into. I will be leaving on May 11 to go back to the country I served my mission in and I won't be coming back until August 18. Excitement Level: 10/10.

People tend to look at me like I am a super genious when I tell them I am going to Chile to do plant genetics research. I laugh because I happen to be pretty normal, I just got lucky this time and convinced them otherwise.

Unfortunately, I can't sneak anybody into Chile via my luggage because it's expensive, lack of oxygen, customs, and airport personnel are not as careful with luggage as we hope. However, this blog has been designed to keep everybody "posted" (I kill myself) on how things are going. Maybe I am exaggerating how many people are interested, but ignorance can be bliss sometimes.

I'll see you guys when I get back.