Wednesday, March 07, 2007

we're all the same underneath

Yesterday, I went for a stroll through Chapultepec, the massive park near the financial and diplomatic area of Mexico City. On the recommendation of my sister, I was headed to the Museum of Anthropology and Natural History. The walk through the park past all the stalls selling the contents of an upended showbags, wrestling masks and funny looking corn chips is worth the visit alone. After flirting with the idea of buying some 10 Peso sunnies, I got a little hungry and scouted for a place to eat. I spied some food stalls off the main path and headed towards them. Half way down the path, a guy brandishing a menu came running up behind to direct me to his stall. As I had my headphones in I only heard him when he was right next to me, and he scared the shit out of me. I guess I’m still a bit jumpy with that personal space thing. No way was I eating at his dog’s bowl taco stand now. After finding a place that looked ok, at the same moment I decided to buy something without meat I forgot the Spanish word for beans. While hunting my phrase book for the word, a young blonde hair gent, dressed in a white shirt and a black tie, with a black name badge came up and asked me if I needed help. Sure. I was hungry, a little tired and totally up for this Mormon to process my order for me. A cheese beanie taco. It has a different name than the taco, which I've totally forgotten, but for argument sake is a big taco.

With my order finalised, I ask the nearby table of Mormons if I can join them. I figure it can’t hurt to sit down and chat with these guys, as they are sure to speak English if anything. Just don’t get talking about Jesus and all that other nonsense as that always ends badly when this little ape gets talking about that fairy tale shit. We talk about travelling, the logistics involved in being a missionary in a devoutly catholic country, bikes (and not riding them in Mexico City because you will die), and growing up in other countries on account of parents being missionaries. I’m fascinated with people who grow up under these conditions. No matter what their political leanings, religious beliefs or musical tastes, I always find their stories interesting. Maybe this is because I love travel or grew up in sleepy little Semaphore, but I dig chatting to these people. I tell them about my random Mormon meeting in Hungary and they laugh. I work out that it’s March 6, one year since I left Australia and there’s a few nods of approval from the Mormons. We’ve kept the conversation polite (ie all about me), and the subject of god and his magic powers hasn’t come up. Then one of the older, more well trained door salesman pops the question: “so do you believe in god?”

Great. There goes a nice, normal conversation about bikes, Mexico and travelling. I know it’s something that occupies most of your life, but once I said “no” to the god question, you could have worked it out that I didn’t want to visit your temple or watch your Spanish videos about why I’ve had it so wrong for so long. But no, this isn’t a normal conversation. This is a sales pitch. The biggest problem I have with Mormons, Jehovahs, Resistance, Unionists and any other membership dependent organisation is that it’s just a fucking pyramid scheme. Like friends lost to Herblife and Amway, you can’t have a normal conversation with them. They are always looking for an in to get you hooked onto their idea, to help you understand that the answer to you’re every woe is somehow found in the magic 9 step program, previewed in the brocure they’re leaving with you. I had this a few years ago when I ran into a friend at a pub I hadn’t seen in ages. As I was about to leave, I gave her my mobile number and we said we’d catch up in a few days. We caught up, and within about 5 minutes she was on the play about this amazing new system she’s discovered. This thoroughly pissed me off, as she had only been keen to catch up with me to snare me in her sticky web of sales pitch. Nonce. I saw her a couple of years later. She said that the whole thing had fallen in a heap about 4 months later and that she ended up spending more money than she made on whatever the snake oil she was peddling.

“Well, our lord Jesus Christ has many answers for you.”

“Funny, I didn’t have any questions. Look, religion is great for building community and giving people hope when there is none. When you guys travel overseas it must be great to be able to find people with a similar way of thinking and hang out with them. Sort of like an instant community. But sorry guys, it’s just not my thing.”

He then goes into a diatribe of how his sister had cancer and how he prayed for her and then magically two weeks later it left her body. I then told him about how a friend of mine’s parents, who were devoutly religious and had spent the younger years as missionaries, had a bad car accident thanks to a drunk driver hitting them. My friend’s mum was killed (after a rather painful, drawn out death), and her dad had lost one of his legs and his best friend. My friend, a girl who believed in god, first got angry at god and then lost her faith. The Mormon said that god sometimes does things to test our faith and that his faith had been tested on a few occasions. I decided not to get into my old anti-religion routine where I give converting the bible basher into an atheist a go, but I resent them having a 5 minute conversation with me and then trying to devalue everything I believe in. No point acting hypocritical and doing the same thing. I did think afterwards that riding a bike through Mexico City would be a good way of testing one's faith and wish I had challenged them to some kind of duel. Extreme Mormons maybe?

I finished eating and as if to convince me of his ideas, the team leader tells me about the magic healing powers which had been handed down to him from some old guy who touched him as a kid. Hmm.. I get given a little card inviting me to the temple where there are plenty of videos and material for me to see. Me: “it’s in Spanish right?” Mormon: “errr, yeah. But I’m sure someone there could explain it to you”. I decide to play their game and invite them to come to the Natural History Museum with me. “It’s very informative and I’ve been told it’s really good.” The sales pitch guy looks at me uncomfortably. I think he worked out what just transpired. We say our goodbyes and leave it at that.

The Museum was interesting. Enough English to keep me off the street for a few hours. I ran into the Danish guys I had met in Cuba and again on the top of the pyramids last week. Their group had now been reduced to 2, with one of them going to Brazil and the other one doing her own thing in Mexico. We all decide the world is a small place and casually say goodbye, with the idea of randomly bumping into each other somewhere else. I laid outside on the wall of the pond warming myself up in the sun, drifting off into dusk like sleep for about 4 minutes while listening to music. Afterwards, I walked through the park, bought a cup of fruit, which I ate with the help of a squirrel and an old lady asking for money.

One weird thing I noticed when I started to use the internet again here in Mexico, was discovering I’m being stalked. Well, not really. Back in September I signed up for this thing called Last FM and then completely forgot about it. Ever since then, every song I’ve listened to on my computer has been logged and then uploaded to this website for all to see. I only discovered this when I did a search for a friend of mines band on Google, which then brought up my profile on Last FM. I’ve now added a link to it in the side menu of this page.

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