Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Elder Barker- Anaheim California

Me: "Dear Elder Barker, You are hereby called-" Oh man... 'Elder Barker' That sounds so cool!
Others: Read it Soren!
Me: Oh, right... sorry. (Ahem*) "You hereby called to serve in the Cal-" Do you think I should get a new passport for my mission. I mean in my old one I look kinda-
Others: DUDE!!!
Me: Sorry! ...Sheesh... you guys are worse than my-
Others: Whatever man. We're out of here. You can tell us where you're going over Facebook.
Me: Okay-okay. "Dear Elder... you are hereby called..." Anaheim, California?! Spanish Speaking?! But I told them I took French in High School!
Others: ...
Me: Hmmm...
Others: Well At least there won't be a culture shock, right?

That's what it was like when I opened my call letter. Okay maybe it wasn't exactly like that. I may have elaborated on the truth and taken some liberties with the script from "The Single's Ward."... FINE! I opened it alone in my dorm room- But the other way sounded better. (Hmmm... Maybe that's why they used it in a movie...)

Anyways- Yes, my name is Soren Barker and I served my mission in the California Anaheim Mission. It was quite the experience. And despite what the 'Others' In my little dialogue up there may have said, even though it was a State side mission it was still pretty different. But I'm from Maine- so really anywhere with multi-racial population would be different. Actually I had been abroad and had experienced a few different cultures before my missionary service so I wouldn't have considered myself "sheltered" by any means. AND YET- there was a definite culture shock!
For one thing, the people! There are so many people in such a small area. It's so crowded. I told my companions that back in Maine we have as many trees per capita as So. Cal has people. The amount of bodies in a given city is almost suffocating. But, it sure makes contacting easier. You can't walk four feet without bumping into someone new. The potential investigator lists filled up fast. But the "Talk to everyone you see" mindset made getting to appointments on time a little tricky- so often we had to limit our contacting down to a certain number along with whoever the spirit prompted us to talk to.

Another thing that was different was- the food! Who knew that even in the same country the food could be so different? I sure didn't. Some of it was defiantly a personal diet choice. I can count on three fingers the number of times I ate red meat before the mish, but after the first few months I lost count. The Members just loved to make us steak! They'd say, "Oh we know that you've probably had lots of spaghetti and meat balls so why not steak?!"So that was out of my range of normal. But besides that there was the Mexican dishes. I found out that Menudo is really good. It's a soup made with cow stomach. I also grew to expand my love of spicy things. It seemed that a meal wasn't complete without some hot peeper to pump up the flavor. One of my companions bought a big thing of Jalapenos so we could have them with our meals in the apartment.

But what really threw me for a loop food wise was the junk food! It must be because of the heavy Mexican influence in the area but I have never seen so much Spicy Hot Hot Cheetos and potato chip flavors in my life!

There are these people that sell produce and toys and junk food out of little carts all over. One of my favorite carts sold hot dogs "Como la Calle" or street dogs. They were amazing! And I can't look at a regular hot dog the same way. (Unless it's from a vendor in NYC... those guys must inject those dogs with something because MAN they are GOOD!!! Nothing like them. There was this one time my sister and I were just getting out of The Museum of Modern Art, we were both starving, and right outside the exit was this guy selling Dogs and- Holy Cats! They were amazing! I never knew that simple Ketchup and Mustard on a dog could taste so exquisite! But I digress... )

Another thing that is sold from street vendors is Cheetos.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Soren. Maine must be pretty sheltered to make Cheetos seem strange."

But hear me out.

My companion and I walked into the most ghetto part of our area, heads held high and ready to find some investigators. We made our way through the faulty apartment complex security (locking front doors that the locals had disabled so they could enter freely) and came into the open courtyard area. That was when I saw the kid. He was eating Cheetos. Now I've eaten Cheetos before, and I've seen other people eat Cheetos before, and I'm sure you have as well, but this... this was different. Instead of the traditional way (Take a few pieces out of the bag, eat them, brush the Cheetos dust off your fingers and repeat) this kid was eating his bag of Cheetos with a fork. A clever way to avoid the second to last step of the traditional way... but still there was something strange. I noticed other children with their respective bags and forks. And upon further investigation I saw that these Cheetos had more than just the little crunchy cheesy doodle things to offer. These Cheetos has been sup-ed  up! In the bag was a Salad! These kids were eating Cheeto Flavored Salads!

As we knocked the complex we found the puppet master of this great show downstairs. A little old lady cutting open the tops of the bags and filling them to the top with cut carrots, chopped lettuce, diced cucumber and then drizzling (practically drowning) the contents with hot sauce and lemon juice. She sold them out of her apartment and as we walked past her establishment her son was busy bringing another few flats of Cheetos into the home. Apparently business was good. And it was brilliant! It could save millions of parents hours of struggling to get their children to eat vegetables. Just make it look like junk food. I've seen it work. A whole army of children munching away at their bags of Cheetos With forks in hand and Hot sauce and lemon juice in their lips.

Of course then there was the time my companion and I were treated to spaghetti and meatballs Mexican style... with sour cream and crumbly cheese that smelled like my shoe... but that's a story for another day.

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