Thursday, April 17, 2008

Provo Culture Chapter 1: The Elders

I'm not talking about the actual missionaries. I'm talking about the returned elders, with a new mission: to prove to Utah County what a sensational missionary they were. But how will you ever know who they are? In street clothes and without name tags, they just blend in with the masses. However, there are a few ways you can recognize an Elder when you see one. Here's how:

At church, an Elder will always have some kind of mission memorabilia to show off. IE the kangaroo skin scripture case, some sort of Tongan skirt/wrap that they wear over their slacks, or the classic leather-etched scripture case (usually depicting a scene from the Book of Mormon) from any Latin region of the world.

Within the first 10 minutes of conversation they will let you know that they spoke one of the "three hardest languages" there are. Even if it was just French, they'll be sure to tell you the "dialect" they spoke was far more complicated than any state-side missionary could ever dream. This conversation will go something like this:

You: "Oh so you went on the mish to Spain? That's pretty neat".
The Elder: "Yeah, I really miss the people. And the language. You know, REAL Spanish is the third-hardest language on earth to speak, besides Finnish and Mandarin."

Side note: if the Elder in question actually did speak Finnish, he is automatically the King of all Elders in Utah County.

Elders are known for their fantastic accents. It's the one piece their mission they can't ever let go of. If they went to Hawaii for their mission, they must pronounce it "Huh-vi-ee". If they went to Tonga, it's "Tone-ga". Samoa is "Sah-moa". An Elder is no longer an American when they get back. They are now a native of wherever they went. This also explains what I like to call the "Aloha Phenomenon". This is when an Elder (or actually even Mormons that have recently come back from a vacation to Hawaii) will get up in sacrament meeting and begin their testimony/talk with the following:

"Aloooooooooha! (crowd mumbles aloha back) Oh c'mon, you can do better than that! ALOOOOOOOOOOOOOHA! (crowd is forced to repeat again)"

Here's what you will find in the living room of an Elder:

A giant flag of wherever they went, tacked onto the wall. This is especially pleasing when all four members of the apartment are Elders. All four walls, covered in memories.

When deciding what to eat for the night, a true Elder will always know the closest authentic mission-food restaurant around. They will take you there and speak the native language with the waitresses (this is actually a great bonus to knowing an Elder). If they are an advanced Elder, they will make the food for you themselves. They will be sure to let you know that most restaurants in the states serve only a "watered-down" version of truly authentic food from (insert awesome country here).

The following conversation will happen with most Elders. Beware. It is NEVER funny but they feel obligated to say it.

You: "So when did you get back from your mission?"
Elder: "Two months ago. My mission was the best 8 months of my life!"
You: fake laughter

So there you have it. There are other characteristics to watch for, these are just the basics. Just make sure you treat an Elder delicately when you meet one. They won't know how to react to sarcastic remarks or even constructive criticism. Just let them get it all out and hopefully they will normalize in another two years.


AMY said...

Holy crap cat. I am so happy right now. I have to check your blog everyday of my life I guess. I like your blog because it is like an interpetaion of every converstaion we've ever had. haha

cat.janer said...

GET IT. Us. Lops. Convs. No Ya Ya MEKs on the blog though.

Marci & Daniel said...

ha ha ha! love the "advanced elder" cooking for you. oh cat, you are a brave women for enduring provo for so long.

Four Winns said...

Oh, Cat! Tonga! It's funny cuz it's true! They also can't say they went on their mission. The correct phrasing is that they SERVED a mission. Don't mess it up.

Carly said...

Please tell me that people don't actually wear sarongs over their slacks...that makes me want to die.

Staci said...

OK, so you always make me laugh out loud!! Good thing you've found a great guy.. because I don't think this post is getting you any dates with the RMs!

Leandra said...

ljfsalkjfsldajflajfdjafldjfa;d;alkjfd.C'mon crowd, you can give me a better "aloha" than that! fjajadjlf still funny. Hey rich poulsen, I actually don't want to come over for chillain hot dogs but thanks anyway.

fry said...

I'd kill everyone in for Provo to go away. SO YOU BETTER PRAY......

RicAnn said...

That is so freakin true! I lived in Orem for a year and it was just like that! YOu nailed it on the head. Your posts are always entertaining.

Dan and Laura said...

Cat, you pretty much have described every experience i've had with other RM's, myself included. You know, true Canadian Cuisine is pretty hard to come by with places like Subway and Dairy Queen being so scarce around here...

Jenny Payne said...

Thank goodness for returned missionaries. Where would Provo be without them? Maybe not on the top of #1 Weirdest and most Unsatisfying places to live List I guess. Its rare to find a normal one out there isn't it? But a rare treat indeed.

Eliza said...

Cat, this is Eliza Bell Thompson, I've totally stalked your blog before and laughed hard, but I so related to this post I had to come out of my lurking. Anyway, so funny and so painfully true. That aloha thing KILLS me, oh why do they have to put us through that torture. another pronunciation that they do is for Sao Paulo, Brazil they say "sooow palo brasil" wow, so glad I don't deal with that anymore. good luck!

Keith said...

Cat - you kill me. The aloha bit I think was invented (discovered?) by the late Don Ho (google him)...and used by every single poly missionary since. Used almost as often as RMs accidentally let it slip it into their homecoming talks that they were an A.P. back in the day. Good thing I never did any of those ridiculous things. What a bunch of posers.

Leandra said...

Cat and the missionaries sittin in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Ricki and Tyler said...

Oh Cat how I miss you!! I'm glad I found you. Love this post...cause it is totally true. Good old Provo. Those were the good old days. Keep in touch!!!

Love you forever!!! Ricki