Monday, November 23, 2009

9 People + 4 Continents = 1 Brotherhood

Monday started off early too. I rode the Santiago subway for the first time. They were really nice and cheap too. We got up early because we were going to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. They are beach towns on the west coast. We wanted to get the most out of our day so we left pretty early. Our group was Fatso (Ruthie's pet name for Paul) and Lucy (Ruthie), Koos Koos (Greg Koos), Destiny's Child, and me. We were able to get seats on a charter bus for the hour/hour and half bus ride to Vina. It was really a beautiful drive. They all said that it looked a lot like California, but since my one journey to California never ventured outside LAX, I can't vouch for that. We passed several beautiful vineyards.

When we got to the bus stop in Vina, a woman saw our badges and stopped us. She was deaf, so Destiny's Child tried signing to her, but Chilean sign language is somewhat different. They think that she studied for a while, but wasn't a Witness. About that time, the local brother, Miguel Peralta, showed up. I think he said he was 27. He reminded me a lot of my group of friends at home, so that was nice. Despite the fact that Ruthie corrected his English several times, his English is as good as mine. That made for a much easier tour to listen to than we were used to during the previous parts of our trip. He really wanted to squeeze as much into our day as possible, which is my kind of day too.

After a short bus ride and walk, we made our way to the water. We chartered a small "tug boat" for a circle around the harbor to take some pictures. There was a battleship and submarine in the water. They told us we couldn't make pictures of it. That made me want a picture even more. Anyway, I obeyed the law. I already felt like that tug boat was the perfect opening scene for an episode of "Locked Up Abroad" so I didn't want to push it. When we got off, the owner of the boat warned us that there were two men at the top of the pier that were known to prey on tourists. That was like telling us not to look at an eclipse. We moved around to the other side and made our escape.

On our way to breakfast, we met some more brothers and sisters from Spain. We ate at a nice little cafe that reminded me of some of the coffee shops in Nashville. After another short bus ride and walk, we made our way back to the water. I told them all that it was my first time to see the Pacific Ocean. When we walked down on this rickety pier, they even insisted that I get down and put my hand in the water like on a movie when someone sees the ocean for the first time as their dying wish. The funny thing is that I believed that I had not seen the Pacific myself until the time of this writing. I guess I somehow forgot out the 6 hours I spent in the Pacific Ocean at the Great Barrier Reef and going to Bondai Beach in Australia. So for the sake of simplicity and honesty, I'll say that it was the first time I have seen the eastern coast of the Pacific Ocean. When we walked up from the pier, there was a grumpy old guard pointing to a sign that said we weren't allowed on the pier. So we played it cool and apologized.

After a short walk on the pier, we made our way over to Daniela's (Miguel's fiance) apartment to change into beach gear. We met a couple from Germany and South Africa that were visiting there too. After we changed, we made our way to the beach. The beach there is great. The sand is similar to Miami, and they had plenty of waves. The girls laid out while the guys played football with a rugby ball. I was on the "World Team" with the brother form Germany and the brother from South Africa against Miguel, Koos Koos, and Fatso. After my long run for a touchdown at the beginning of the game, I was pretty much useless. After we roasted for a while, we talked to some more brothers we saw on the beach walk, and went back to the apartment.

The next couple of hours are sort of a blur. It's amazing how much you forget in a week. After a quick stop at the Kingdom Hall, we dropped off Koos Koos and Destiny's Child at the bus stop to return to Santiago. Paul and Ruthie made their way to Miguel's apartment where we were going to spend the night, and Miguel, Daniela, and I went to a cookout at the apartment of a local couple. I didn't eat much because it seemed like I had done nothing but eat since I got into South America. The couple from Germany and South Africa were there too. I actually had a lump in the throat moment in their house. They rolled back the carpet for some dancing. At one point, I was sitting in a Chilean brother's apartment, next to a couple from South Africa, watching a German couple salsa dance. What other religion in the world is going to offer that kind of diversity and brotherhood? That morning, I didn't know a single person in that room, but within 12 hours, I wanted to return to Vina del Mar someday and definitely visit my my new friends in South Africa. I even got a number for a brother in Durban, South Africa, where the convention is going to be for my friends to call when they get there to ask about some local sites. What a small world it is in the truth.

About 1:00 a.m., we made our way back to town. On the walk to Miguel's apartment, we remembered that Paul had the only key to the apartment with him inside. So we had to ring the doorbell and wake them up to get in. He stumbled his way down and let me in. When I was laying there reflecting on what seemed like a 100 hour day (we did so much in one day!), it was truly surreal. Miguel hadn't moved in yet; he was still living somewhere else. He was nice enough to lend his empty apartment for Paul, Ruthie, and I to stay in. The brother across the street had lent us coffee, breakfast, towels, etc. What a brotherhood. I was laying there in an apartment of someone I didn't know 18 hours before, and he was lending his home to people that he didn't know 18 hours before. It was like a taste of paradise, when we will be able to travel the earth and stay with new friends along the way. Even in a foreign place with no t.v. to distract my brain, I was asleep in about 30 seconds.

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