Monday, August 25, 2014

Sister Fuhrer

I quickly came to call my first companion in the field (or "trainer", in mission-speak), 'The Fuhrer' in my letters home. I know, I know, that isn't really in the spirit of being a Mormon nun, so to speak, but I couldn't help myself after spending 24/7 with such a cold person and having just a few minutes each week to write (read: cry out!) home. So I guess I broke another rule by calling her that in my letters. One could argue that's probably why I didn't last, because I wasn't perfectly obedient. :/

Although she was as white-bread American as they come from eastern Washington state (I remember having to explain to her what hummus was), she had a German last name so I thought it only fitting.

I still haven't read back my emails home, and I've only made it a small part of the way through one of my journals because it turns me into a sobbing mess of sad emotions and anger. But I will eventually, because I know I wrote a lot about the way she treated me and I would get letters from friends and family expressing total shock and sympathy. But I digress.

So we gather at a chapel sort of in the west central NC, and we're lined up in front of a room, the newbies on display in a prison lineup. I, of course, feel completely out of place with these young kids from what seemed like predominantly Utah and Idaho. After all, I'm 24, turning 25 in just a couple months, am a college grad, and have lived in some pretty unique places. I'm not 19 and clueless. I'm thinking about Heidi Klum's perfume launch party I attended only a year previously, New York stuff, my carefree adventures in New Zealand, my Euro travels, my friends having presumably amazing summers at the beach filled with downtime, devoid of any sort of schedule.

The mission president says a few words and then assigns us. There are a few words exchanged with other people talking about where we're going, and they'd respond usually with "Oh whoa, yeah Boone. Boone is the best!" trying to conceal that they kind of pitied us.
 We load into a minivan of a really bubbly woman from the Branch, who became a real light to me over the next few months, and started the 3 hour drive north into the mountains. I came to call our area, because it was on the mission border, the "outer darkness" of the mission. Fuhrer didn't think this was funny.
We weren't allowed to fall asleep, and we were instructed by the mission president to not take any time unpacking when we got to our apartment. "We go to work in our mission," he exhorted. Fuhrer watched impatiently as I rolled my suitcase to one of the back rooms, and then I had to sign this sheet saying I was going to serve there (almost like a guest book?), and then we said a prayer before we left. She was a Fuhrer on a mission, literally. I didn't know what the game plan was, so I just kind of sat there in silence and trying to ask her questions about herself while she drove us to this neighborhood where we tracted in the rain. I didn't know what to bring with me so I brought everything in my backpack, and my scriptures got soaked. So now the crinkly pages will always remind me of her- yippee!

We went to Cookout, which is a barbecue fast food chain in NC, for dinner. We sat there in the car, eating, for approximately 35 minutes in mostly silence before she decided it was time for us to get back to it! That night we got back to our place at 9pm. But no, we weren't done yet! We spent half an hour "planning" for the next day. I'm probably sensitive to this, but planning out lessons for people involved a lot of what seemed like judging their life situations and evaluating a naive solution for what would "fix" it. Inside, I was thinking things to myself like, "Um, reading the scriptures daily or coming to church is not going to give her the tools to deal with her abusive husband." If that makes any sense at all. I will flesh out this notion of being judgey of people more in future posts….I am trying to get to the next more superficial part haha.

So after more companion prayers to open and close our planning meeting, I finally get a moment to myself (sort of) to unpack and get ready for bed. Soon enough, I hear yelling from the other room, "Sister, you have 25 minutes til lights out!" I thought to myself a combination of 'Oh my gosh, did she really just say that?' -slash 'ok, I can't judge her intensity- it's just how she rolls'. My dad would do a similar thing at home trying to get everyone out the door for things (my mom is a kind of perpetually late person), so I guess I wasn't too shocked, my mind was just spinning trying to get everything in order and showering off from the humid rain and processing my first day out, etc. "15 minutes!" she soon barked. Then the outbursts became even more incremental… "10 minutes!... 7 minutes!…. 5 minutes!... 2 minutes!" I was really jumpy and running around in circles trying to do everything. I know an hour sounds like a lot of time but it went by really fast. My stuff was sort of organized in the second bedroom. I remember thinking back to a rule at the MTC to keep your space clean or else 'the Spirit wouldn't dwell there'. I got conflicted with the two rules running through my head- do i worry about leaving my stuff there a little messy so I can be in bed at 10:30 or if I just had 10 more minutes I could have everything in order. I thought it better to obey the Fuhrer.

After a few nights of this time-calling, I approached her and asked her to please stop, that it's not necessary to give me these updates.  Since I could gauge that she really loved rules (and would come to find out she made up many of her own! it was awesome), I brought up the MTC rule to kind of broaden her horizons that it's not possible to be perfect. "Look," I said. "The first night my stuff was strewn all over that room and you could argue that the Spirit was not here, even though we were obeying the lights out rule." I reasoned I wasn't there to hang out by myself in the living room after lights-out because I want, like and need sleep, so I was always going to do my best to follow that rule. She just nodded, conceding that she agreed with me. Sort of.


Katie said...

I can't imagine having a companion like that. Or a friend. Or an enemy. I just don't see how she thought that behavior was at all appropriate.

And, without having ever been on a mission, I think that missions can sometimes blur the lines between rules and doctrine and really confuse some people. A friend and I were walking to the temple and crossed 9th East at the MTC intersection. We stepped into the road approx. 2 seconds before the signal officially changed and a missionary called out to us "obedience with exactness." I couldn't believe that he would bother to judge and correct us, non-missionary BYU students, rather than go on his own way.

Jg. for FatScribe said...
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