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.