Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Little Italiano...

So normally this blog is all about me. That's what I know, that's what I like, and that's the way it is. However, recent amusing occurrences in the life of my brother, and his surprisingly decent written communication skills, made me decide to include an update of his life here. Some of you know William, Anziano West as he is currently known, some of you may not but I think you will all find this updated entertaining.

To catch you up, William is an LDS missionary in Italy. He spent three months in the Provo Missionary Training Center and has now been in Italy for almost four months. This first snippet is from his stay in the MTC and highlights some of the difficulties in trying to learn a new language in three months:

Over the course of the week we've also had a few other funny mistakes. In practicing food vocab i tried asking for a "head of lettice" which is Testa di Lattuga in Italian. However, i said "tetta di lattuga" which, it turns out means a nipple of lettice. Can you imagine the look on my teachers face? It was a good 5 minutes before we could continue. it was very funny. We also found out that we had been teaching all week in our practice lessons that Jesus Christ was "deep fried" for our sins. The word for suffered is Sofferto. We used Sofritto. I'm just glad that i didn't make that mistake in sacrament meeting in Milan. Oh man...

This next bit is from a church experience he had in early December:

I failed to plink out the first few notes on the piano for the opening hymn, then president announced that one of the sisters would be giving a talk (having completely forgotten to inform her earlier). She then gave a quick testimony on how she had seen that the downtown Ancona Nativity scene was missing the baby Jesus, and how she had born testimony to a beggar right there about how we don't need to steal Jesus to have him in our lives, but how we can have him in our lives through following the word of wisdom. My companion was translating for her (she is nigerian and speaks english) and he was dying - trying not to laugh and figure out how to translate "stealing Jesus" at the same time. Very funny.

For those of you who get William's emails, you wouldn't have heard this next one. He wrote this one in a letter to me, and asked that I not tell our mother so if any of you talk to her, DON'T tell her this story:

So we were doing house to house tracting in some student housing. We got in at one apartment with two Albanian students (one named Blendi, he told us he was named after the English word 'blend', the other was pretty much all consonants, Zlithr or something that will never be pronounced right by an English speaker). So these two guys seemed super tired - moving slowly, talking slowly - they just seemed exhausted. We just assumed it was because they'd had a long week at school. So we started teaching the lesson, and pretty soon we started getting tired too. I couldn't pay attention to what my companion was saying, and from the way he kept pausing and looking around the apartment, neither could he. At first I assumed it was because we had also had a long week, or because the TV was on. Then I noticed a jar on the table full of what looked like sugar. There were also lighters and a spoon that had clearly been used to melt the 'sugar'. We had walked in on these guys doing drugs! Needless to say we got out of there as soon as we could. We definitel got a piece of whatever that was - our brains were way fuzzy and we just had to give up halfway through the next lesson and leave because we couldn't think. Who would have thought the word of wisdom would be so hard to live as a missionary.

And the last story, maybe the best, comes from his letter this last week:

Monday morning, we had gotten up early to catch the 6:30 train to get to interviews. We had just gotten on the train and i had just opened the Book of Mormon to start off the 3 hour journey when the man across the isle started gasping for air. He was at lest mid 70's, and minutes before had seemed fine - complaining a bit because of the cold train car. But now he was fighting to breathe and his wife (also in her 70?s) was starting to panick. We came over to see if there was anything we could do, and i'm not going to lie, i was freaked out. I knew that somewhere in my mind was all sorts of stuff about what to do in all sorts of different situations like this. However i was well aware that it had been 6 years since i had really been trained as a lifeguard, and 3 since i had practiced CPR. I didn't remember a thing! But the guy was getting worse. His breathing slowed and then stopped and he started turning a really nasty green. And nobody was doing anything. So i had people help me lift him onto the floor (my italian completely failed me, and with a mix of hand motions and my companion's translations we got him situated on the floor). I was still in denial at this point. I couldn't give CPR. I was not qualified. I didn't remember anything at all. I would probably just cause more problems. with all that going through my head i grabbed his wrist and tried to find a pulse. There was nothing there. Suddenly this was all very real. This man was dead if i didn't do something right now. So the next thing i knew... i was giving CPR. Its fascinating how when in doubt you just flip back to the super basics. all i remembered was the stuff i learned from the first time i learned it - 1 breath, 15 compressions... i realized that i was doing it that way, i didn't plan to do it that way, it just happened. Then after a few repititions, a girl on the other side told me to just to 5 compressions - i, being freaked out and well aware that my skills were quite rusty, just assumed that she knew better and told her to do the compressions while i did breaths (nope, she didn't know what to do, but it hey, cpr was happening so i just kept breathing). So between the two of us we gave CPR until someone else took over after a few minutes. It was terrifying. After the other guy took over (he certainly was no pro, but still cpr was happening which was about as much as we could ask for) i just tried to comfort the poor wife, who had been standing behind us the whole time watching (can you imagine?) I just tried to calm her down, had her sit, tried to comfort her (i didn't do much. the language part of my brain had long since shut off.) So the results: During the ameteur CPR the man started breathing twice, but since his heart didn't start back up it didn't last long. The train stopped at the next stop (miraculously this station was right by the huge regional hospital) and the ambulence arrived and we were told to wait outside the train. For about 15-20 really freaky minutes we sat and waited and prayed that everything would work out. It didn't look good. we saw a defibrilator (the classic electric shock heart starter) go in, we watched the paramedics jog back and forth from the ambulence. I felt terrible for my sorry excuse for CPR, thinking how i could have acted faster and bolder, etc... Finally they carried him out of the train, and in a wonderful moment we watched them pumping the breather bag (that means he isn't dead), and then watched him moving around. And in that final rush of emotion and adrenaline, finally knowing that this guy was alive, my companioned turned to me and said, "ok, now i'm going to say it. That is the only lip service you are going to get for the next two years!" What would i do without such a great companion? In that moment i could finally relax, laugh, and stop worrying about my performance. 5 minutes later we were back on the train (we got to ride first class because the paramedics left all sorts of stuff in the other train car) and the day just wen't on as if nothing had happened. We even got to talk to a few peolpe about the gospel because of it. And who knows, maybe they will remember the terrified missionary on the train the next time the missionaries knock at the door.

So there you go, some experiences from my Italian missionary brother. I know everyone says missions are really hard but it sounds like he's living the life! All of his letters are entertaining, he gets fed a TON of amazing Italian food (he's already gained 11 pounds), and he's living in Italy! What more could you want?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Central Park Squirrels

I spend last Saturday morning in one of my favorite places in this whole world, Central Park. I always enjoy walking through the park because I always get something out of it. Sometimes I get great pictures, sometimes it's great people watching, sometimes it's a great New York hot dog. This time, I saw some fascinating people, ate a great hot dog, and learned something about squirrels.

The Central Park Squirrels have been conditioned to put up with, even seek out our genus because they trust in our beneficence, but even more in our constant supply of food. Their pause in our presence is no longer a result of fear, but of contemplation, is this person worthy of my presence? Do they have enough food to make this exchange worth my time?

This sizing up is not so unlike us in the way we treat each other. Animals we treat with equal openness or closed-mindedness. And for the most part the animals do the same, treating all humans with equal suspicion. But this discriminating aspect of human nature, this is what we've passed on to the Central Park squirrels. The squirrels are certainly less guilty for their judgments than we, their's comes from natural survival instincts, a search for food. We however, are guilty of shallow, hurtful discriminations.

Thankfully, I was apparently judged as one who is worthy although I prefer not to think about the factors that lead them to believe I had food to spare.