Friday, May 08, 2009

Cultural Barriers

I spent two years as an Mormon missionary in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the mid 90's. Most of the missionaries in my MTC district were headed to the same mission. One of them was Ryan. Ryan came from a pampered background. Which I heard all about during the MTC. His dad was a VP at an international hair care products company and his mom was a phsychologist. He also had plenty of photographic evidence to back up his story. He lived in what I would still consider a mansion, complete with a large swimming pool and hot tub, a gym - the works. His parents bought him a nice car, a nice truck, a bullet bike, jet skis, a boat . . . .. well, you get the picture. Ryan hated the conditions in the MTC and didn't hesitate to voice his complaints. It only got worse for poor Ryan once we arrived in Argentina. As it turned out, Ryan and I ended up in the same apartment, which was a squalid dump even by South American standards. I was partnered with an American, Ryan with an Argentine named Campos. Campos spoke no English. Ryan not really any Spanish. As we they tried to settle in that first night, they struggled to communicate. Finally, in frustration, Ryan decided to take a shower. No hot water. Regardless, at least he could wash his face before he went to bed. As Ryan was finishing up, Campos started laughing. At Ryan. Campos did his best to explain the situation to Ryan, but to no effect. So he explained it to my companion in Spanish, who translated what had happened to Ryan when my compansion could compose himself enough to talk instead of chuckling. You see, Ryan had taken the time to really clean his face with a facial cleanser. After having rinsed it off, he had grabbed the first towel that was handy and dried his face with it. After all, the maid at home always kept fresh hand towels at the ready. The towel he grabbed was not a hand towel. And it was by no means fresh. Ryan had thoroughly dried his face with a well-spotted bide towel that was crusty enough to stand upright by itself. Dirty enough that none of the others would use it for any purpose, regardless of how desperate they were. Or even touch it. After Ryan learned what he'd done, he spent the better part of an hour scrubbing his face again - which was red the entire next day.

3 comments:

Mr. Flynn said...

nice.

Fish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fish said...

Great story, Fish! I love stories about the rich kids getting in the crosshairs and going down! -- from your wife. You're still logged in.