Here's another post about why I am the way that I am. This post covers "traumatic but kind-of funny stories" and at the same time, helps explain why I value alone time so much.
TRAUMATIC BUT KIND-OF FUNNY STORIES
We'll start with my experiences abroad. I lived in the Dominican Republic for a year. I was a missionary. I spent something like 14 hours a day locked away in a freezing classroom that was too well-lit and learned to speak Spanish in 6 weeks. Then I flew to the Dominican Republic and discovered that they don't really speak Spanish there. The Spanish I learned was like the kind of English you would encounter at a nice formal party with British royalty. The kind of Spanish they speak there is like the kind of English you'd find in a back-alley drug deal in Harlem. I spent the first 2 months completely lost and totally dependent on my trainer for everything.
For those of you unfamiliar with the system, it goes like this:
-A single mission contains anywhere from 50-200 missionaries (give or take). The organization is set up like a corporation - you have a man at the top, he has assistants. The mission is split up into zones. Zones are split up into districts. Missionaries report to their district leader. District leaders report to their zone leaders. Zone leaders report to the assistants. Assistants report to the president.
-You are paired with another person of your same gender and are required to be around them 24/7 for at least 6 weeks, often up to 3+ months. You don't get to choose who this person is, the mission president does. Often, his pairings are interesting (to say the least), and when you ask him about it, he says he "felt right about it" which you can't really challenge in an extremely religious environment like that because feelings are very important and challenging them is like challenging God Himself. My companions ranged from a 3-times convicted felon to an ex-terrorist, to a male nurse and various others.
-When your companion eats, you eat. When they go to the bathroom, you wait right outside the door. If you're in someone's home and they go into the other room, you go into the other room. You never leave each other's side, which is very unfortunate if you happen to dislike your assigned companion. It's like being forced into a marriage with an ugly person you can't have sex with.
-There are very strict and specific rules and if you break them, they tell you that God is unhappy with you. You are never alone and you have pretty much zero privacy outside of pooping and showering. They are always watching you and if you sleep in late or don't shave or anything like that, they tell on you and you get guilted.
-You work 6 1/2 days a week. You wake up at 6:30 and go to bed at 10. Every. Single. Day. It's like being stuck in the movie Groundhog Day. Every day is exactly the same as the last day. You don't get to play on the internet. You don't get to watch TV. You don't get to listen to music. You don't get to take naps. You don't get to visit or talk to your friends. You don't get to leave your assigned area (which is usually a couple miles wide). You only get to call home on Christmas and Mother's Day. You don't get to play sports. You wear a white shirt and a tie every single day. You do your laundry once a week on the day they tell you to do it. You clean your house once a week on the day they tell you to do it. You are never referred to by your first name - only your last name. You are never alone and you never get to do what you want to do.
-You wake up at 6:30 (I feel it's important to emphasize that point) every day, study for two or three hours, and then you're out on the street at about 9, trying to talk to people about God. Sometimes you go in their home and share a lesson and invite them to church. You eat lunch at 11:30 and during siesta - when the rest of the latin world is sleeping - you're still studying (language, stuff about God, etc.) You do this until like 2 or 2:30, and then go back out and come home at 9:30. There is no rest. No breaks. It's all you do. If you're sick, you still try to go out because they make you feel guilty if you stay in. If it's raining, tough.
-In most of the places I lived, there was no electricity or water.
-Missions are supposed to last for 2 years. I only lasted 1.
-If you don't say you had the time of your life, you're labeled as a bad missionary and people assume that you suck and you are ostracized for the rest of your life from the religious community.
-I hated nearly every second of it and it was a very slow and painful descent into insanity for me that took me several years to recover from and I still have nightmares about it.
-Don't worry. I'm happy now.
Now that you're familiar with the system, I'd like to tell you about one of my companions, Alalkaid. Everything I'm about to say is true and he has pictures and documents to prove it. Even if you don't believe me, it's still a pretty funny story.
His real name (spelt phonetically because it looks like he cancelled his Facebook account so I can't look up how it's actually spelled) is Leuris Hal-alkaidh, but we just called him Alalkaid (all-all-kai-EED).
Alalkaid was from Riyadh Saudi Arabia and was a former member of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. He witnessed the airplanes crash into the twin towers.
He went to "terrorist university" to become a chemical weapons specialist. While in school, he set off some sort of biological bomb as a prank that made everyone in the school really sick. His government saw this as an act of treason and banished him from the country and threw his family in jail.
In Saudi Arabia, they do a lot of desalinization of water, which requires some pretty heavy expertise to engineer. The government told him that if he got a degree in potable water engineering that he could return. He went to the Dominican Republic to get the degree and that's where he decided to become a Christian, betraying everything he knew.
Alalkaid was extremely friendly to me. You'd think that two people that were raised to hate each other would do exactly that, but we didn't. We were buddies. He walked around in shirt, tie and turban, and I didn't think anything of it. I'm sure people were confused when they saw a tiny Arabian with a turban bouncing around the streets of La Vega a few steps in front of a big slow-moving American. Dominicans told me to be careful because he was going to blow me up.
There were a few conversations that we couldn't have with each other such as the war in Iraq. It wasn't your normal discussion of "should we have done it" vs. "should we not have done it." It was more, "your civilization will not survive this horrid mistake" vs. "we're America and we do what we want, bitch." It was conversations like that that we avoided.
He didn't speak English and I didn't speak any of the other 5 languages that he knew, so we talked solely in Spanish. Humor from one language to another doesn't translate all that well. Humor from two different languages funneled into one language is even worse.
He taught me some Arabic words - at least I think he taught me Arabic words. Looking back at it, it's entirely possible that he was just messing with me. He told me that "matar" is "airport" in Arabic. "Matar" is "to kill" in Spanish. True or not, I'll probably never know, but it's still funny.
When we first moved into our house, the previous missionaries left it a complete mess. It was like walking into a tiny Wal-Mart warehouse after a massive earthquake. We began cleaning.
While sifting through the aftermath, we found an old camera (the kind that takes film and stuff) and he said (in Spanish), "This would make a great bomb!"
I thought he was joking.
The neighbors had a dog that would not shut up. It wasn't a tiny, yappy rat-dog. It was a big, blackish brownish dog that looked like a German Shepherd, but I don't think it was one.
In the Dominican Republic, dogs are viewed as rats. They're everywhere and they're a nuisance. People throw rocks at them for fun. The idea of someone having one as a pet wasn't unheard of, but it was a little weird.
This dog would not shut up. All night, barking barking barking in that half-low, half-whine sound that makes you twitch every time you hear it. Normally, I wouldn't mind too much considering I don't sleep anyway. But back then, I enjoyed my sleep and it was very precious, considering you went to bed at 10 and woke up at 6:30. For those of you that have never experienced it firsthand, 6:30 in the morning sucks and I would never wish it upon even my worst enemies.
We didn't sleep for about two weeks. At night, we would yell at the dog. It would bark even more as if it knew it was pissing us off. Its barking would cause all of the other dogs in the neighborhood to bark, elevating the problem even more and nudging me a little further down the insanity meter.
We were talking one evening over a game of Dominos (instead of sleeping because of the stupid dog) about what we could do with the dog. Praying to God that the thing would shut up wasn't enough. It was time to take matters into our own hands. I kept suggesting things like talking to the neighbors and seeing if they could bring it inside at night or something. He made a joke about blowing the dog up with the camera that we found.
I decided it was a funny joke, so I played along and said, "Yeah, you should put meat grease on the bomb so the dog comes up and sniffs it before it goes off!" He thought it was a great idea and we laughed for a good while about it.
Turns out it wasn't a joke.
One night, after having dinner (which included some meat), the dog was doing its annoying doggy thing. I got up and yelled at the dog in the 2 languages that I knew (feeling proud of myself for successfully learning a language). Then Alalkaid got up, yelled in his 5 languages (totally showing me up) and then went staggering out of the room mumbling something Arabic. I figured he was going to the bathroom, so I didn't think much of it.
About a half hour later, there was a bright flash and a loud bang outside my window and the dog never barked again.
Now let's look at it from everyone's point of view (that I made up). We'll start with me (which isn't made up).
Brandon's point of view - Upon witnessing the doom of a beloved pet, Alalkaid came back in, climbed in bed and immediately fell asleep. I slowly brought my blanket up and covered half of my face and trembled silently while trying not to breathe or wet myself.
Alalkaid's point of view - Upon witnessing the doom of the dog, he climbed back into bed and pleasantly dreamt of home - riding his favorite camel named Akmed through the sand dunes just outside of Riyadh while launching RPGs at his neighbor's dog and giggling like a small child.
The dog's point of view - "BARK, BARK, BARK!"... *slight head turn in curiosity*... *trot trot trot*... sniff sniff sniff... "Ruh roh"... *LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL*.
The neighbors' point of view - Upon coming outside in the morning and finding half a dog carcass leading up to a small crater in the ground, they puked their guts out and then mourned the loss of their precious dog, Tauki. To this day, they think a meteor did it.
Stay tuned for other traumatic experiences such as teaching a lesson down the barrel of a gun, watching a machete go clear through a man, and watching a man's head get completely blown off by a shotgun.