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.