Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mormons and My Epic Struggle Not to Avoid Them

To escape my usual response to rain - which is to take the excuse to read all day and never leave the house - I took a proactive stance and decided to take my computer to a local cafe and correspond with the world from there. I ended up at McDonalds - what can I say, I go where ever the wi-fi takes me.

And who should I run into but Suji's very own Mormon missionaries, Elders Rogers and Heyfield. Now, I've had interactions with them before. The first time, I ignored them at a bus stop. The second, I actually greeted them on the street. The last time I saw them (Suji is really not that big) I was at this same McDonalds and Elder Rogers - who saw me trying to communicate my desire for chicken tenders to the uncomprehending girl behind the counter - jumped in to help me. This was back when Ne-hyeung was still trying to convert me to her church so I can't say I was too nice to them. The fact that they were both very charismatic - possibly something they learned in order to go on their mission - didn't help. I was sick and tired of people being nice to me just so they can convert me and I got the heck out of there as fast as was humanly possible.

Today, though, I saw them before they saw me and I thought of it as an opportunity to mend some fences. I know not all missionaries are bad people - I know quite a few who are great people, in fact. And I've known at least one Mormon who was a genuinely decent person (though I've known several more who were pretty unhinged). So, in the name of a functioning ex-pat society, I picked a table close to them and started a conversation. It was pretty great, actually, because they both seemed to fall in the non-crazy spectrum of the religion. They both loved traveling and one had worked in Alaska with a tour company - something I had been thinking about. They left before I did but not before recommending a nearby Mexican restaurant that is supposed to be great. All in all, I learned something about stereotypes and prejudices. And when I figure out what that something is, I'll let you know.

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