Friday, December 24, 2010

Thirtieth Anniversary of the End of My Mission

At the Feria internacional de Santiago (FiSA) - Dec. 1980
On Paseo Ahumada with the old MTC district - Dec. 1980
On arrival in Albuquerque - Dec. 24, 1980
Today marks thirty years since I returned from my church mission in Chile.  I don't have to say that it seems incredible that so much time has passed since that occasion; I can still close my eyes and imagine myself in any one of my mission sectores, although it was only a short time after I returned that my mission seemed to have all been a dream -- a common phenomenon for returned missionaries.  To put some agonizing perspective on the time that has passed, I ponder what I would have thought if, on Christmas Eve 1980, I'd talked to someone who had come back from his mission on the same date in 1950.  I would have thought, "Man, you're old!" and couldn't really have imagined being similarly situated down the road.  I still have occasional dreams about being in Santiago and, oddly, I sometimes find myself "speaking" in Spanish to someone while I'm dreaming.

The top photo above shows me at the "Feria internacional de Santiago" or "FiSA," which roughly coincided with the end of my mission. (It wasn't, properly speaking, a "world's fair," but it might as well have been one for all the preparations that were made and the excitement it generated in Santiago.) My last companion, José Cerda of Viña del Mar, Chile, took this picture of me in front of the American pavilion.  (I'm wearing the light-gray suit I had made to come home in -- it's still the only tailored suit I've ever owned or am likely to own, although I didn't have to put on much weight before I could no longer fit in it.) The photo in the middle shows my old MTC district (L-R: Wayne Illes, me, Scott Kimball, Mark Anderson, Steve Timm, Joe Grigg), after getting together to have lunch on Paseo Ahumada, one of the big retail areas in downtown Santiago, on a p-day shortly before we all went home. (This wasn't the whole group, as one elder had gone to California on his mission, a second had already finished and gone home, and a third had been sent home several months earlier for reasons of immorality -- although by this time he'd already been back to Chile and had married his Chilean girlfriend.)  The bottom photo shows me, with my old friend Ken Foley, at the Albuquerque airport shortly after I arrived. What a disorienting day that was! And it was only about nine or ten days later that I had to return to BYU in Provo. (I never realized, before now, how sun-bleached my hair got in the antipodal summer, although I well remember how pasty-white my legs were from not seeing any sun for two years.)