Monday, May 24, 2010

First Day of School


The Wanderings and Delusions of a Gay Mormon Missionary

“C’mon, we’re going to be late,” I said.

“Don’t worry, don’t worry,” Elder Lindley admonished. “They’re going to understand on the first day.”

“Which room was it again?”


As we passed through the empty corridor, a tenseness crept up on me I’d grown used to from the age of about fourteen—a sort of pressing desire for perfection never fully satisfied as it never could be, but setting me apart nonetheless. Among the uniform classrooms, we picked out the right one and found the rest of District 37-A being introduced to our instructors.


Irmão dos Santos, Irmão Andre, and another uniquely tall man looked expectantly through the pane of glass. Having classmates as roommates turned out to be a blessing and a curse. In this case, they could cover for the fact that both Lindley and I were anything but early risers, but we also knew whether each other had studied, obeyed the rules, etc.

We took the seats closest to the door out of that common combination of courtesy and embarrassment, and in a single moment all was forgiven with a forgiving smile from the instructors and a muffled chuckle from our district, with the exception of Elder Rockefeller for whom the humor was a bit too subtle.

“I’m glad everyone could make it,” the tall man said as some braces peered from his mouth. “I’m Irmão Tomas. I direct the instructors here in the CTM. I’m from Campinas and learned English in the Provo, Utah mission.”

His English was flawless. At least in my mind, it became easier to believe that somehow we’d be able to learn Portuguese by the time we left Brazil.

“I’d like to officially introduce you to your instructors. Irmão Andre is from Recife and Irmão dos Santos from São Paulo mesmo, or rather the city itself.”

“Yeah. I grew up twenty minutes away from here by metro,” added dos Santos. “Tomas was actually in my mission.”

His accent undoubtedly reminded everyone in the room of a Mexican charicature, initially. He spoke slowly and deliberately with a nasal twang which became unnoticeable moments later.

Irmão Andre stood noticeably shorter than the other two at about 5’5”. His pale angular face smirked a bit as he looked around at us. “Just so you know, I served my mission here in São Paulo. I’m half Italian, so I have connections if you cross me.”

Sister Willis passed me a semi-disapproving glance over his comment stereotyping Italians as having ties to the mob. Perhaps she’d picked up on me being the most sensitive soul among the Elders or the one who would pick up on body language such as that.

“I learned my English from companions in my mission, so I expect you to do the same for your Brazilian companions in return for what I will share with you here.”

I was impressed. He’d definitely worked hard to get to where he was at in life and had more than himself and his family in mind.

“Excellent,” Tomas concluded. “Irmão dos Santos will be with you in the mornings and Irmão Andre will work with you in afternoons and evenings, depending on when your PE and service hours fall for a particular day. Take advantage of your time here by speaking your new language and remembering what resources these two men and the other instructors in the CTM are to you.”


Over the next few days, we began to learn the rhythm of the CTM.

The immersion experience began quite early as Irmão dos Santos gave us our first Portuguese lesson. Following a prayer to begin our studies he declared, “That will be the last prayer you hear in English for two years. Now you’re going to learn to do it in Portuguese and never turn back.”

As set, memorized prayers are typically discouraged, he gave us the pieces to say our own prayers. Key phrases like “Nosso pai celestial [Our heavenly father],” “Eu te agradeço … [I thank thee…],” and “nós te pedimos… [we ask thee…].”

Swimming lesson Regardless of how easy the language came to everyone (and even in those first days it was evident who would learn the fastest), everyone experienced some frustration with the language as each of us attempted to fend for ourselves in the new language. It was like tossing a dozen four year olds into the water for their first swim class. Elder Frazier turned pale and took in a deep breaths as he tried to handle the buffeting waves of language. We spoke, we repeated, we used. It all seems so simple now, but in the moment we only conceived terms of impossibility.

At lunch, we sat together in disbelief of what had just happened and what was ahead for us. Going home did not seem like a possibility in any of our minds. We were in it for the long haul, but we were devastated like a team of champions losing the first game of the season in an epic upset. It was a matter of regrouping and resting our minds—the type of rhythm that came with time.

We returned in the afternoon to something more comforting and down to earth. We started learning what we would be teaching in a matter of weeks—the first discussion: Joseph Smith’s first vision, God as our Heavenly Father, etc. The familiarity of principles we’d all been taught from infancy suddenly grounded us and gave us confidence in what lay ahead.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Man Harem Inductee #2

Neil Patrick Harris

Even though he was on Glee this week, this honor is a long time coming for the former Dr. Doogie Howser. He’s stuck in my mind ever since hosting the Emmy Award Ceremony last September.

I guess what sticks out is his smirky smile, renaissance-man talent, and sense of humor.


Also, I really fell for a very handsome, soft-spoken young man earlier this year who looked a lot like him (only nerdier). I didn’t make the connection until afterwards, but it really drew up a red flag:

“GMB has a crush on NPH!”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Laugh of the Day #17

Several of you may have surmised my feelings on Gay Marriage by reading a bit of this blog, but what some of you probably don’t know that I feel nearly as strongly about immigration. As Arizona is one of the states that seems to have it wrong on both counts, I present to you a hilarious video (w/some adult humor):

Monday, May 17, 2010

View from a Window

The Wanderings and Delusions of a Gay Mormon Missionary

I’ve had to slow down the blog a bit as I gear up for a big project this week (and due to a certain distraction).

Instead of a regular post, I present to you a panoramic photo from the area of the CTM. This is roughly what the neighborhood looked like from the windows there.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Man Harem Inductee #1

For those of you new to the blog as of January or later probably aren’t familiar with one of my favorite posts introducing my Man Harem, a group of men who are part of my fantasy harem.

As of late, I have a few more to add and I’ll get to them one at a time. Up first:

Craig Ferguson

Humor is an essential aspect of any relationship with me. I wouldn’t call myself funny, but I can sure appreciate smart humor. Perhaps the biggest turnoff is when you share something really intelligent and funny and the guy just doesn’t get it.

Inversely, if some hot, witty guy with a Scottish accent comes my way (you know my thing for those Scots…) sweeping me off my feet with his intellect and one-liners, I think I’d have a problem resisting. Craig is definitely an instance of such.

Here’s a recent monologue from him on George Rekers (around the 2:00 mark):

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Favorite Things #5


So, if any of you know me on facebook you’ve probably registered my excitement for the newest TV-DVD release. Daria is on it’s way to my home from Amazon, and I’ve got to celebrate somehow.

In high school, I remember discovering it and watching it with Nate and Chenese. It got rather awkward when the subject of sex came up explicitly. We all looked around, blushed and switched it to a different episode.

Also, there were times in which (as a brunette with glasses) people would make reference to me as a “male Daria.” To think, I considered that as much a compliment as when people (okay one person) call me a “male Tina Fey.”


Yay for brunettes with glasses.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sonriso, Part 7

“Smile-- it's the second best thing you can do with your lips.”
~Author Unknown

It was a dream.

Every facet of the date seemed to go just right.

The couple started out at a tiny ice cream shop. Ice cream was one thing about which they were both highly opinionated, having spent a great deal of time in South America between the two. Ice cream took them back to memories of sorveterias, of Brazil, of Argentina, of missions, of disappointments, of fears, of joys, and of the idea that someday they could return and share that with someone—not ruling out the possibility of each other being in that supposed future.

Ben's Cookies

They continued their chat not perceiving anything around them. A tiny sphere of intimacy and normalcy as the world whizzed by questioning their decision to walk around eating ice cream on a blustery January day. Walking around engaged with the whimsy of nostalgia was enough to keep them from noticing their reddening noses and the subtle shrinking of their smiles to conserve heat.

As was customary, they quickly moved on to the second part of the date at the planetarium. Science wasn’t really their main focus in life, but the complexities of the universe still demanded more curiosity than anything with the exception of human emotion.

Clark Planetarium

Both in their mid-twenties, the experience returned them to the lessons of a decade ago in middle school science as the relearned concepts of density, the nature of light, and the age of the universe. At each exhibit, a sense of competition emerged as they quizzed each other on basic knowledge, covering up information and asking pointed questions:

“What is the primary reason the earth has seasons?”
“Explain the aurora borealis.”
“Glass, rubber, and plastic have what in common?”
“A nebula consists of what?”

The nerdy flirtation was balanced out by a great deal of nostalgia for middle school and for friends neither of them had really thought about for some time. Seeing the kids around them only approximated them to those awkward days and memories of unsurity and ostracization as well as coming of age. They were comfortable in their skins now and able to let go in public, taking silly pictures of each other landing on the moon and forecasting the weather.

Following a walk through a feathery snow, they contemplated what to do next. A mile later, waist-deep in conversation of dreams for the future, inspiration hit and left a smile across both of their faces. As the temple in downtown Salt Lake came into view, it seemed the obvious finale to a good night.


It was like sunset on earth. Brilliant points of pink, white, and orange painted across the sky and the trees and the pools of water as the breeze tugged at their surface. The sister missionaries skirted around the perimeter getting ready to go home weary after a day of proselyting. As they walked in silence taking in their surroundings, they found themselves arm in arm blushing a little.

Quietly, they made their way to the doorstep where it all began. The usual—but sincere—“I had a great night,” bashful smiles, and glances into each other eyes, and finally a kiss—not perfect, slightly awkward, and deliberate enough to remain unforgettable—two smiles becoming one for just one moment.


In a way, the date was every cliché in the book. Everything I’d imagined and wanted to have before I realized I was gay. I wanted a cute day date. I wanted ice cream and adventures. I wanted to walk hand in hand on temple grounds. It was better than that clichéd dream I'd desired for so long. Fearlessly, Evan was able to make those unspoken dreams—impossibly idealized and conditioned upon me—come true or at least made possible somehow. He was able to fix that piece of me that said “You’ll never have what you really want.”

End, Part 7.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Favorite Things #4

The Wayside School Books

In a moment of nostalgia this weekend some very fond memories of childhood literature came to memory. I noticed that they recently turned it into a television show in Nickelodeon.

(I died a little at hearing that).

I suppose these books stick out in my mind not necessarily because they were representative of my elementary school experience or the fact that the last book came out while I was in fourth grade, but rather because they were the type of escape I wanted as a kid. My childhood was nothing to escape. My parents were loving, I had a few close friends, and school was somewhat engaging at that point in my life.

At this point in my life, I spent a lot of my time watching television and reading to fill in that extra time. Here are some of my favorite moments from this series of books about a school accidentally built 30-stories high:

  • A disgusting school lunch being possessed by an evil, dead teacher.
  • A boy constantly haunted by the temptation to pull on his best friend’s pigtails.
  • A dead rat being mistaken for a student
  • A substitute teacher stealing kids’ voices by sucking them through a mysterious third nostril.
  • A pair of one-time use elevators
  • Getting sent home on the kindergarten bus.
  • Cows climbing up several flights of stairs.
  • One of the students hating the reader.
  • A student showing up dressed up for Halloween and realizing he’s the only one who has.
  • A student getting trapped on a non-existent floor.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mundane Redemption

CTM life could definitely be compared to high school in a lot of senses. I imagine it was a lot like boarding school, although 95% of us never had that experience. All of us were miles from our families and stuck with hundreds of others in similar circumstances. The entire facility was barred up with iron fences painted tree bark brown so as to not let people in or out and everyone was tied to someone.

Lindley and GMB

The idea of solitude would soon become a foreign concept (with the exception of say a bathroom stall). For those eight weeks, you were stuck first, with your companion; and second, with your district. It took some adjusting, but Elder Lindley was seldom out of sight and District 37-A seldom didn’t account for the whereabouts of each of its members. Following the meeting in which we were all assembled for the first time, we were guided to the cafeteria by an instructor who reminded us in excellent English with only a slight Brazilian accent, “Wash your hands before every meal. You are welcome to eat as much as you like here, but don’t forget to swipe your card as you come in. Do not forget that Friday is pizza day. It will be a taste from home.”

The Sisters cut in line as they were instructed as the Elders waited. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that being fair,” Elder Laramie whispered to the other Elders. “I’m 6th of 6 kids, and we all had to fight for our food. It didn’t matter if we were guys or girls.” I gave a reserved chuckle. Considering myself a feminist, I was cautious about the implications of the statement.
We all made our way into the lunchroom eventually. It was a somewhat sterile environment akin to a hospital cafeteria with tile floors in neutral grays and blues and Plexiglas windows. Three times a day you’d grab a plastic tray and make your way through walls of stainless steel shelves pulling out the entrees of your choice, rolls that reminded you of sea shells in shape and often in stiffness, fruits, yogurts, juices, and desserts. Later I’d spot many missionaries examining the food as I did that first week as they were arriving and I became one of the more seasoned missionaries.

Everyone I’d asked about Brazil had said to me, “Prepare for beans and rice every day for two years,” and suddenly there were the beans and rice staring me in the face. The combination seemed a bit odd. In a silent pact, all of us took a scoop of steamed white rice and a scoop of brown beans in our bowls to give it a try. We passed each other smirks, amused by the experience we were suddenly sharing with each other—the tie of being a Americans in Brazil that would be lost on many of us in the weeks and years to come, unfortunately.

The ten of us congregated around a string of tables each sitting next to our assigned companions. We’d gathered in our limited discussion the basics on each other—that Koontz had left a girlfriend at BYU, that Laramie had a twin brother in Portugal on a mission there, that Sister Willis had been planning on a mission since she was a little girl. Although we had our missions and our common culture of being born and raised in the church, it was clear (for better or worse) that we would not end up together as a group had we not been assigned—or called—to become friends.

CTM Cafeteria

Reserved, I sat back most of the day and made observations. I didn’t really have anything to share that I found noteworthy. The farthest I’d been from Utah was Montana. I’d spent all of my time in school or with friends. I grew up in a suburb straddling city and country, past and present. Normal, boring, and un-noteworthy. Lindley was his class president and an avid wakeboarder. Carter had siblings adopted from three different continents. Ballenger sounded like she’d miss football games at the U as much or more than her family. Rockefeller played soccer for ten straight years.

The feeling crept up, as I got to know these people, that I was somehow undefined. The reserved one in the corner from high school. Smart and able to write, but undefined because I did not share out of fear or shame for the mistakes that were visible to me. Angry with my quiet nature, with my excess weight, with my lack of confidence entering social situations, I didn’t want to be me at that point in my life.

Collectively, though, the district didn’t have those problems. We balanced each other out in our eccentricities and our backgrounds (similar as they initially seemed). Being “un-noteworthy” became less and less of a reality as time pressed onward. To that point, I never would have thought my life interesting (let alone believe I’d blog about it regularly), but with my fellow missionaries in the CTM, I was to gain (in the smallest degree) an understanding that the difference between the mundane and the exotic—reality and story—was not as rigid or boring as I’d once thought.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Unfortunately, Sonriso isn’t coming along as quickly as I’d expected. Another difficult post is on its way (although difficult for reasons you probably wouldn’t suspect).

In the meantime, I received a great suggestion from a friend (which will likely include some photography of my wardrobe…) and decided to put out a call for more suggestions. Any questions/suggestions are welcome here or via email (

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Response to Kurt

The following is a response to Lee Wind’s question on the subject:

In the context of stereotyping, the show definitely started out with some broad brush strokes. “Gay kid, Aretha, Wheels, Asian…” Sue labels a set of characters in an earlier episode. That said, I believe the emphasis here is on growth and development. On a weekly basis, the students are reminded of the binary typologies they’re supposed to fit into—popular/unpopular, smart/dumb, attractive/frumpy, lead/backup singer, etc.

As the show has progressed, though, I tend to view these divisions being chipped away through character development first, by pointing out the stereotypes as Sue did, assembling a diverse group of students for her musical number; and second, as the kids begin to question the places they’ve been consigned as Mercedes did when she pointed out to Mr. Schu, “You only trot me out at the end of every number so I can wail on the last note.”


Musically, she’d in many ways fit the stereotype of black backup singer just as Kurt fit his respective stereotype in his feminine falsetto. In the Madonna episode, that came into question as they busted out a new sound together. She took an empowered lead, and his vocals (and look) were arguably more masculine.

Now, these challenges to their stereotypical identities did propel the show a bit, but did not change the fact that their characters are largely dictated by said stereotypes. I’d say the “frustrating mix of stereotype and not-stereotype” is more relatable to men and women going through struggles with identity. A gay teen may not fit the stereotypes portrayed in Kurt, but he still faces them in others’ expectations.

I see this trend of complicating stereotypes continuing in the next season as Kurt’s love interest (closeted and masculine, perhaps) will certainly provide some contrast to the issues Kurt faces.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Favorite Things #3

Cole asked me a very interesting thing the other night:

“GMB, why aren’t you a Mac user?”

Under the assumption that most ecologically-friendly, socially-conscious, artistic people are Mac friendly, his inquiry made some sense. My liberal guilt has called into question my devotion to my poor PC many a time.

That said, there is one thing that keeps me going with my 3-year old Dell laptop:

Windows Live Writer


It may sound silly, but the interface of this blogging program is perfect for me and parting with it would be like saying goodbye to 30 Rock. My workplace has already offered to lend out a new Macbook, but I still can’t make the jump. Perhaps I’m misinformed or my research on the topic is lacking, but all the equivalent tools for Macs seem to be less intuitive or otherwise lacking.

Those of you on PCs and serious about blogging, I highly recommend it and those of you on Macs feel free to attempt to persuade me to join the dark side.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Laugh of the Day #16

I have another terrible confession to make: I indulge in People of Walmart. People take pictures of other people in Walmart and send them in. I'd always thought of the place as a kind of zoo, so it kind of makes sense....

Here's one of my favorites:

Lady Gaga's Mother

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sonriso, Part 6

“Life is short but a smile takes barely a second.”
—Cuban Proverb

I hate to admit it, but it was one of those nights in which sleep was practically impossible. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the coming day. The next day began with one of those mornings in which one wakes up with the energy of a Christmas morning. I arose—full of energy—early that morning to the sound of the furnace in the next room pushing out gusts of hot air. It was ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off, but too electric to hop back in bed for those unredeemable moments of rest.

3pcsuit I spent that time going through my things, making sure that everything I’d set out the night before. My black three-piece suit, peach-embroidered maroon tie, a t-shirt and jeans, matching socks, my research poster, and jacket were all waiting exactly where I’d left them. Throwing on the suit, I geared up for a day of lobbying. A true nerd, I was excited at the invite to share my research with Utah’s legislators (despite my opinion of many of them), but the excitement of the day was complemented by a romantic excitement, giving it a sense of fullness from its first hours.

For the drive down, I grabbed a couple of my “happy albums” to set the mood for the day and jammed out on the way down to Ludo and Kate Nash. I wish every day could be like this one, I thought to myself. It was difficult to question whether my attitude was healthy or not. Infatuation—even for a very cute and intelligent guy with direction in his life—is one of those emotions that became borderline unacceptable after other heartbreaks. That said, it felt good to let myself enjoy the day even if disappointment was a distinct and even realistic possibility, so I stopped analyzing my emotions and just let myself feel. As the day unfolded, this feeling did not waver, but perhaps intensified.

capitol sunrise

I parked at the Capitol Building just as the sun peered over the edge of the Salt Lake Valley, which slowly filled with sunlight like a cup slightly submerged under water in the sink. It was as if the light were being pulled in by laws of pressure and volume until the valley filled to capacity carried by the blustery January winds. Inside, I joined a number of other researchers (some nervous and some as contagious with excitement as myself). We enjoyed a breakfast together followed by several hours of engaged discussion with each other, our mentors, and the legislators. Some of the more notable moments were a few “Thank you for doing research in the Humanities” comments, catching a few noticeable shudders as Chris Buttars passed, and an unexpected conversation on lesbian poetry with one of my mentors, Dr. Cangelosi (a welcome sign that she understood and cared about my personal life without actually discussing it).



That afternoon, in the hour before I was supposed to show up on Evan’s doorstep (in as “traditional” a fashion as one could imagine for a first gay date) I tried going through the date in my head as I had many times throughout the day and every day since we’d set it up, despite the fact that we were going into it super casual. Then, on his doorstep, I stood with that lingering feeling—a cocktail of anxiety, twitterpation, and self-induced intimidation. It took somewhere between a minute and five in the mild cold of watching my breath and my indecisive hand attempting to ring the doorbell to finally realize the start of the whole ordeal.


A stern man answered the door. He opened the door just far enough for me to see his furrowed brow and brick-hard demeanor.

“Is Evan here?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yes. Take a seat.”

I did just as I was told, unsure what the consequences might be otherwise, but just as I took a seat across the living room from the man who seemed instantly angry with me, Evan peeked his trademark smile around the corner and said, “Why don’t you come in here while I finish getting ready?”

As I entered, he pulled the door shut and said, “Sorry my roommate’s kind of creepy. It definitely makes things awkward. Not just when there are guys over. I’ll move out when I get a chance.”

“It’s all good,” I said as I examined the contents of his room. In the midst of casual conversation, I felt comfortable from the perch of his bedside. Everything about the room seemed to suggest a boy next door—a few dirty articles of clothing on the floor, a half-made bed, a laptop opened up to Facebook, the superhero movie DVDs and Harry Potter novels on the shelf next to pictures of him hanging out with his friends.

He stood in front of the closet opening drawers picking out a hat.

It struck me that an outside observer would immediately glance at the two of us in that scene and perceive it as not a date, but rather two guys hanging out, and I supposed some people would think that a bad thing. I just wanted to stay in that moment taking in how good it felt just to be around someone I admired and perhaps idealized. He was smart and handsome, but so casual. So casual that sexual fantasy was welcome and congruent in my mind. But a certain fear underlay my elation like an instinctual acrophobia creeping up in the passenger of a glass elevator.

Glass Elevator

My sympathetic nervous system drew itself taut as the thought of an emotional fall crept into view:

Perhaps the reason there’s such a high homosexual relationship turnover is really tied to the fact that it’s so easy to be friends?, I thought. Connecting on that platonic level somehow gets us into trouble. We want to connect on other deep levels (sexually and emotionally), so we rush things and end up getting hurt. Don’t be too excited about Evan.

End, Part 6

Monday, May 3, 2010

District 37-A

Elder Hugentobler and Elder Elder Lindley’s prank was a little lost on me. Sure, I was surprised when they popped out from behind the door, but not as much as they were hoping—no scream and only a small jump at that.

“You okay?” Elder Hugentobler asked half in jest. He was a stout guy about 5’10”. His blond hair was short—too short even for clean-cut missionary standards, and his face embodied a potential for innumerous expressions—currently it registered something along the lines of mock remorse.

“Yeah. Sorry, man,” Elder Lindley (who had a more reddish complexion, thin black hair and blue eyes) said. “You’ve got to admit that was pretty funny, though.”

“It’s all good,” I said—unaware that I was already beginning to sway from my somewhat uptight attitude. I might see something like that as an attack or teasing before, but not knowing me and being united as missionaries, I found no ill will in their little prank.

“So where are you from?” Lindley asked.

“Utah. Most boring answer ever. I know,” I shared.

“We both flew in from Boise. We grew up just outside of town and figured out we had a few common friends on the trip down,” Hugentobler (later informally abbreviated “Elder Hugie” and then “Elder H”) explained.


“Rival high schools and everything,” added Lindley, putting an arm around Hugentobler. “I guess we’re only missing your comp now.”

“—Elder Koontz. I wonder how you’re even supposed to pronounce that one.”

Rather than getting any actual sleep, though we were all dead-tired, we talked to each other from our bunks about our families at home and what it would be like to learn a foreign language in the coming weeks before going out into “Real Brazil.”

Before we’d realized, it was time for the big beginning to the Mormon missionary’s equivalent of boot camp.

All of the newbies—around three dozen of us on that particular day—were rounded up and taken to the gymnasium like something out of a middle school built in the 1950s, except the floors and other wood features were noticeably defined in color and tone—a distinct and beautiful mahogany. There was a stage with a green curtain pulled, a podium with 5 chairs along side. To the right of the stage was a simple, upright piano. A woman in her early sixties sat opening her hymn book and reviewing the program. To either side were stacks of chairs off in darkened wings, laying dormant until a larger meeting we could only imagine at that point.

Hogentobler, Lindley, and I took our seats as far back as was possible at that point before the meeting began. Also in attendance were Sister Ballenger, Elder Rockefeller, and Elder Alan.


A white-haired man rose to the podium. “Welcome, Elders and Sisters. I hope you are adjusting to these titles quite well. As you all know, this is the Centro de Treinamento Missionario. I am President Ostegar and this is the lovely Sister Ostegar and you will be in our care here. As President of the CTM, it is my charge to prepare you for missionary life outside of these four walls. I use the word life purposefully because every aspect of your life will be concerned with the work of the Lord for the next two years (or in the case of you Sisters, 18 months)—you will speak and share the Word of God, you will feast upon the Holy Scriptures, and you will depend upon your diligence and faith for the gift of tongues to understand and speak in Portuguese.”

The next half hour consisted of introductions of the rest of the CTM Staff (Vonaldo, the de Paulas and the Oblads), a review of a map of the building, and several tips for our time in the CTM and in Brazil from the Ostegars:

  • “Don’t pet stray dogs.”
  • “For those of you that didn’t not hear the announcement earlier, this section is reserved for the Sister missionaries.”
  • “All of you are encouraged to participate in the CTM Choir led by Sister de Paula. Practice is held each Sunday afternoon.”
  • “Only the CTM-contracted barber is allowed to cut anyone’s hair in your stay. He is here for an hour before breakfast every morning and you must sign up 24 hours in advance.”
  • “Food should remain in the cafeteria. Please get your fill during dinner because it is a long time between the end of dinner and breakfast the next morning.”
  • “Do not buy meat or fruit from street vendors.”
  • “No climbing the trees in the courtyard.”
  • “We practice S.Y.L. to ensure you learn Portuguese. Speak Your Language from the moment you start learning so you can.”
  • “You will be responsible for keeping the CTM clean with weekly service.”
  • “Wash your hands several times each day.”
  • “Keep the Sabbath day holy by reverently studying and resting.”
  • “You’ll be responsible for any broken or lost locks and keys.”
  • “The Sisters will be having their own set of orientation for ‘women’s health issues’ every few weeks.”
  • “Gym time is three times a week. There’s a track, a footsal court, and exercise equipment.”
  • “At lunch you should always eat at least five different colors of food to ensure balance in your diet.”
  • “Do not forget the two names on your nametags—that of your family and that of the Lord.”

Writing Journal

Following this barrage of tips and furious note taking in the notebooks they’d provided us at the beginning of the meeting (I still use mine for writing projects—as evidenced by the picture above), Pres. Ostegar announced, “I will now read your names off as this week’s new districts 37-A, B, and C are formed. You will then meet with our staff for additional orientation. 37-A, your instructors will be Irmão dos Santos and Irmão Andre please come to the front of the hall as I call your companionships. “Elder GMB and Elder Lindley.”

We made our way up eagerly, only slightly phased by the realization of constant coupling we were now facing.

“Elder Hugentobler and Elder Koontz.”

A blond, blue-eyed 6’3” missionary in the back of the room made his way to the front of the room having arrived on a delayed flight from Wisconsin.

“Elder Carter and Elder Laramie.”

Carter was beaming, though still awkward, as he rushed over. Laramie, on the other hand, would be more aptly described as “jolly.” He also took a more metered stride not because he was shorter or Latino. He simply emanated a mellow presence.

“Elder Rockefeller and Elder Frazier.”

As they made their way to the front, I noted that Frazier was the Laurel to Rockefeller’s Hardy. He was stronger, taller, and together. The kind of support Rockefeller needed to keep him grounded in reality.

“And finally, Sister Willis and Sister Ballenger.”

While Sister Ballenger was sporty as could be, Sister Willis gave off a very different vibe—something along the lines of “Valley Girl” on first read: blond, volleyball player’s build, tan.

For the next 2 months we had our own sort of Breakfast Club… we’d eat, learn, and sleep together—same rooms, different beds, the Sisters on a different floor—preparing for our own big adventures outside of those four walls.

CTM District

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I’ve been out of commission for a couple of days as a result of a some recent events. Mostly the fact that an old flame (Jonathan) reappeared in my life and my emotions went a bit crazy. The story of how we met is coming up soon.

Apologies have been on the mind (for a few reasons), so sorry for disappearing. Thanks for your concerned messages and letting me know that what I write makes a difference.

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