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I Littered On My Mission

Rusty - June 18, 2009

As they say, when in Guatemala, do as the Guatemalans do…

I also:
- drank soda out of a plastic baggy with a straw
- hitch-hiked regularly
- chained my keys to my belt
- spoke in “vos”
- sang the hymns at half the proper tempo
- considered McDonalds a luxury
- wore a knitted satchel
- ate iguana, cow stomach and boiled plantains
- occasionally peed on the side of the road

What did you do in your mission that the Romans (or whomever) did?


  1. Since I also served in Guatemala, my list would be the exactly the same!

    I could add:
    - hung off the side of old school buses
    - never wore a suit
    - used sweet bread/crackers/any other item that looked like bread for the sacrament
    - lived on coconut milk & mangos for 4 months

    Great list! Thanks for the memories!

    Comment by Bil — June 18, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  2. I served in Utah.

    I ate lots of ranch dressing, fry sauce, and I had onions in my Jell-O salad.

    Comment by Kim Siever — June 18, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  3. I served in Georgia. I picked up a slight ‘drawl’ I think. I also became a Braves fan.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 18, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  4. I served in southern Brazil.

    I sometimes spoke animatedly with my voice raised when I wasn’t really angry or upset. This freaked out the new American missionaries, and really confused the new Brazilian missionaries, who couldn’t tell whence I had come.

    I finally started liking soccer, particularly a local outfit called Grêmio.

    Eating at McDonald’s was a step up from the regular xisburger vendors.

    I ate dishes like fried chicken with a fork and knife.

    For that matter, I always ate with the fork in my right hand and the knife in my left, including when cutting. Don’t tell anyone this, but I still do!

    I wore a beanie to bed in the winter.

    I purchased whatever I needed at the drugstore without a prescription.

    I employed Brazilian slang when appropriate.

    Then there were some things I did differently from the native population, at the direction of my mission presidents:

    I never went barefoot, even in the shower.

    I eschewed tap water in favor of bottled water (when at home), including for rinsing my toothbrush.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 18, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  5. wore a knitted satchel

    Let’s just be honest with one another and call it a purse, Nancy!

    Comment by jimbob — June 18, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  6. Brazil:

    I put used toilet paper in the waste basket next to the toilet instead of flushing it.

    I carried stuff on my head—still do when it’s the best way.

    I learned to stop asking for bakery workers to get me stuff and start demanding instead: “Give me 4 pieces of bread,” instead of, “Will you get me . . .” or, “Can I get . . .” And I didn’t always say please. But I did say thank you.

    Comment by Tom — June 18, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  7. I served in Japan:

    I apologized to people for leaving the elevator (and lots of other stuff).

    Comment by eso — June 18, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

  8. Central America 76-78:

    I flipped bottle caps with my fingers and sent them flying down the street to the delight of the local children.

    I picked up the habit of pointing with my lips in the direction of some place when asked where it was.

    I also rode on the outside of trains and hung out the windows of buses when they were crowded by US standards.

    But I never offered my elbow in place of a handshake as some of the people did when their hands were wet.

    Comment by Tim Malone — June 18, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  9. You totally would have been sent home from my mission!

    Comment by Tweeternacle — June 18, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  10. France and Switzerland. I

    *ate sea creatures that I couldn’t (and still can’t) identify

    *burned sparklers for Christmas. Indoors.

    *called out “Hello/Goodbye, ladies and gentlemen!” when I entered or left shops.

    *used squared (rather than lined) paper for all purposes.

    *learned to shrug and say “pfft!” through pursed lips in an expression that seems very rude to Americans but is simply a neutral indication of “I don’t know” in France.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — June 18, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  11. I admired the local women.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 18, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

  12. I got naked with a bunch of strangers at the public bath.

    Comment by DCL — June 18, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  13. I served in L.A. and I busted a cap in those mother-^&*(#@’s!!

    Comment by Bret — June 19, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  14. Served in L.A. amongst many, many, latino families. I was mocked my first week out for eating a certain meal with a knife and fork. from then on almost everything we ate was somehow torn apart and eaten rolled in a tortilla with rice and beans. Beef, chicken, eggs, even spaghetti!!

    I have never since had such delicious food so consistently as I received from the poverty level families in my mission.

    Comment by Ryan — June 19, 2009 @ 12:53 am

  15. I served in North Carolina. I didn’t really pick up on many local customs, but I did take to using y’all as the plural second person pronoun.

    Comment by Keri Brooks — June 19, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  16. I peed everywhere. On walls. On the side of the road. In the bushes. On trees.

    My man parts ain’t never had so much air. [sighs]

    Comment by Hunter — June 19, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  17. Tijuana, Mexico-

    Peed outside. To make it look less suspicious, I would just unzip my fly and use the hole in the front of men’s garments/underwear to do my business. I still do this today.

    I said “flip” and “fetch” a lot. Thankfully, I stopped that.

    Wore the caribener/watch on my front belt loop.

    Hitchhiked every where. I miss that.

    Give pass along cards to bus drivers for free rides on the bus when I ran out of pasajes.

    Asked strangers for water.

    Bought my gas in a tank.

    Carl’s Jr. was my luxury.

    Learned to love outhouses because you never had to worry about clogging the toilet.

    Drank Manzana Lift. I’ve been wanting some ever since the day I left.

    Bought my clothes at the swap meet.

    Called women “gorda” (fat) and didn’t get in trouble.

    Bought hotdogs by the pound from the ladies at the grocery store butcher that yelled “saulchica!”

    Comment by Brett — June 19, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  18. Brett,

    I am from northern Mexico… and let me tell you, the reason why women didn’t mind you calling them “gorda” is because they knew you didn’t know any better as a foreign missionary… that is a term that only the husband can call his wife, and they have to have a long time relationship doing so in order for it to be acceptable.

    And the butcher probably yelled “salchicha.”

    Comment by Manuel — June 19, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

  19. Ate hamburgers with a fried egg on top. Ate meat pies. Stopped saying “dude” or “man” and started saying “mate”. Started calling the trunk of a car the boot (something I still slip into occasionally).

    Comment by jjohnsen — June 20, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  20. Tom (6), how could I forget the toilet paper?!

    Another thing: I flipped my index finger against my thumb and middle finger for emphasis. You know, that thing that MTC missionaries do rapid-fire? By the time I left Brazil, I was using it like a native.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 20, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  21. I vote we adopt “y’all” or “you all” as a universal extension to the English language.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 21, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  22. Mark D,

    Only if we can do the same by replacing “ask” with “ax”!>:)

    Comment by Bret — June 21, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  23. I learned that the English language really is better when you liberally use words like fixin’, reckon, and y’all.

    I also learned that mac and cheese was slightly less expensive at Kroger than at Piggly Wiggly.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 21, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  24. As a current Carolinian I’m fine with adopting “y’all” as kosher, but feel it important to point out that “y’all” is not necessarily the plural form. Some use it that way, but when you need to be specific regarding singular versus plural, “y’all” is the singular and “all y’all” is the plural.

    That said, on my mission in Japan, I:

    Learned to squat over a porcelain hole-in-the-ground to do my business…

    Learned to carry tissue with me since public restrooms don’t provide toilet paper…

    learned to get to the ATM before 7pm, at which time it closed. This is because the bank would be mortified if their perfectly-running machine malfunctioned and there was no one on staff to apologize for the inconvenience…

    learned to fill the spaces in your speech patterns with little grunty noises that indicate that I’m still paying attention…

    and the one that took me the longest to unlearn: I learned how to bow when talking on the telephone.

    Comment by Chad Too — June 22, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  25. I would still eat boiled plantains.

    Comment by danithew — June 29, 2009 @ 2:13 am

  26. I love these kinds of posts, really interesting.

    Comment by annegb — July 1, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  27. I served in Utah and my sole focus for the entire two years was earning money. I lived on the benches, tried to avoid the white trash living down on the flat lands. I pronounced every “L” in every word.

    Comment by sam — July 2, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  28. I served in Houston. I talked to people.

    Comment by Tex — July 12, 2009 @ 8:49 pm

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