“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

-Miriam Beard

Expectations can be a bitch.

I like going to movies having heard from all of my friends that it wasn’t very good. This has a tendency to lower my expectations and normally I am pleasantly surprised. When I have high expectations though, my chances for disappointment are increased substantially.

In life, when we experience new things, generally there are expectations attached. Sometimes we aren’t sure what to expect, nevertheless, we hope for the best.

Traveling to a new place is loaded with expectations. Normally they are high or we wouldn’t be traveling there. Different places come with different expectations. I would not expect to have the same experiences in Paris as I would in Mexico City. For me, some places come with high expectations (New York City), others, relatively low ones (Cleveland).

Sorry Ohio.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect heading down to a new continent. I tried to keep an open mind and low expectations. I have not been disappointed.

Santiago, Chile and the coastal towns of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso were magical. The climate and topography are South America’s equivalent of the bay area in the U.S. With the Andes as the backdrop, Santiago is breathtakingly beautiful on a clear day (which was one out five due to pollution while I was there). The people were kind, attractive and more than willing to help a couple of American guys out that generally looked lost and bewildered most of the time.

This is also the heart of wine country for Chile and if you know anything about wine, Chile has really come into her own on the world stage. There is a sophistication about the Chileans that was a welcoming surprise for me. After all, Chile is the country that produced one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, who’s home I was proud to visit.

When the Chileans learned that I was going to spend two months in Argentina to study, there was an instant expression of sibling rivalry. When I arrived in Santa Fe, I discovered quickly that the rivalry goes both ways.

The bulk of my time in South America will be here in Argentina, so I have a feeling that my opinions in the end will be biased a bit toward this land. But Chile will always have a special place in my heart for the experiences that I had, the people that I met, and for a brilliant travel companion that succumbed to the high level of expectations in his own mind. (I love you buddy.)

I have quickly and easily slipped into a comfort level here in Santa Fe that has allowed me to befriend the youths of the city, my professors and their associates and most importantly the urban fabric and rhythms that create the atmosphere of a city that is gently waking to discover her true beauty and potential.

Much, much more to come . . .


People and Airports

Airports are amazing. They are the perfect crucible for mankind. Each person may have a different destination, yet each must go through the same communal process of the airport.

There is no doubt where you have landed if you go through the Salt Lake Airport on a Tuesday. There are LDS missionaries everywhere. It has been over 11 years since I departed from the Salt Lake airport to head to Eastern Europe on my mission. My parents drove out from Colorado to wait with me at the gate. In our post-terrorist airport culture, visitors at the gate are no longer allowed. Instead the missionaries were huddled around the phone banks each with their own calling card saying their farewells to their loved ones before they embarked on their two-year adventure.

I caught up with a gaggle of missionaries in Atlanta that were heading to Sweden. I remember the kindness of many that stopped me when I was waiting at JFK to head east, so I saddled up next to the group and said hello. The whole group was relieved to have someone friendly talking to them. Most admitted that they had never been outside of Utah so Atlanta was really intimidating to them.

We chatted for a half-hour about what the LDS Church was like in Scandinavia (which was just across the Baltic Sea from my mission). I explained to them that I was heading down to Argentina for two months to study with the University of Utah. Seeing an opportunity, one of the more adventurous Elders asked me if I knew much about the LDS Church. They were all astounded when I told them where I served my mission.

I don’t really fit the profile of a returned missionary anymore. I have earrings, facial hair and clearly I wasn’t wearing any temple garments anymore. Politely, they did not pry, nor did I offer an explanation, but we did have a sincere and meaningful exchange about what to expect their first few months in the field.

One elder asked me for advice on being a good missionary (in which I found both honor and irony). I told the group the only advice I ever give missionaries these days; love the people, the culture and the country (ies) where you are serving. I explained that while it was key to study the language and the scriptures each day, it was just as important to study the culture, the history and the dynamics of the communities where they will be.

People seek for a common bond, and by knowing (even a little) about the place where a person is from binds their heart to you one conversation at a time.

I sat by a lovely older white woman that grew up in apartheid South Africa on the plane to Atlanta. I asked her a few key questions: How was life in Capetown? Had she been to Durban? What did she think of their newly elected president Jacob Zuma? Instantly she knew that I could relate to where she was from even though I have never visited that vast continent. She almost had me in tears twice as she described her first-hand experiences in Cape Town through the transition out of apartheid. She told stories that were incredibly personal and powerfully moving. (South Africa just bumped way up on the list of places to visit).

The plane ride would have been very different if I hadn’t known anything about South Africa.

As I related this story to the group of missionaries at the Atlanta airport, they got the point. And while I did not conform to their expectations of what a returned missionary should be, they (and I) were grateful for their conversation.

As I stood up to leave, one of the elders asked me if there was anything they could do for me.

I just grinned, asked them to keep me in their prayers and told them that they would be in mine.


A Transition

The semester is over. No more ethics, no more stats. No time for relaxing though.

I’ve written a lot the past four months and explored areas of ethical life that I didn’t even realize existed.

The jury is still out whether or not my personal ethics have changed. I really don’t think so. I do know that I am much more aware of issues that affect our lives everyday, and that to me, is a successful semester.

Now, I embark on a new chapter and another new adventure in my life. Most of you know that one of my greatest passions is traveling. The opportunity to spend two months in Argentina was just too good to pass up.

I leave with an open mind and a grateful heart. I am already falling in love with that country, her history and her people. There is generosity of spirit and life in Argentina and I am anxious to harvest all of the knowledge and wisdom that I can during my two-month stay.

And so this serves as a transition chapter for my blog. I will be updating this frequently while I am away.

I finish with the prayer for travelers that my parish prayed with me this past Sunday:

O God, our heavenly Father whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It is my hope that I can somehow capture my experiences in word, pictures and video and share them with all of you. This will be my first crack at a travel blog.

I hope you enjoy . . .

. . . and for now, a very warm adieu.