Monday, November 10, 2008

Colors of the Season

When we were at home, this season held two things for which we were always looking: the first snow and the first Christmas tree. Well, we still haven't seen snow here. But here is a picture of the first Christmas tree. Christmas music has been playing in the stores here for quite some time (at least since mid-September), but this is the first tree.

Completely unrelated, other than it was experienced on the same walk into town, was an offer made to me today. While walking to the market, there is an area where people seem to gather and just hang out. I think a jeepney to another village loads there. During the day, there are always people sitting on the steps to a couple of stores. The people are of all ages and just seem to be hanging out. Whenever we pass, some are talking, some smoking, some chewing moma, (and if I am with Lisa, Adriana, or Alexie, some are staring/gawking).

One of the stores in front of which this collection of people gather sells packaged ice cream cones, popsicles, and such. Today, I was debating indulging in such a treat. There are other places I have found the same treats, but this store is ideal because it is on the way to the market and I am finished with the ice cream by the time we make it to the market - so my hands are available for eating then empty for carrying our purchases. A perfect arrangement in my opinion.

So today, I am walking along, thinking about ice cream and the rain falling. I am with Lisa, so I would really rather be on the other side of the street - but there is the thought of ice cream. As we approach the group, I see a man who reminds me of a pastor I have been trying to contact. Now my mind is bouncing around between ice cream, gawkers, the need to go to the ATM across the street, is that the Pastor Angelo?, ice cream sounds good, is wearing a raincoat on a warm day really keeping me dry?, that is not Pastor Angelo, time to decide about the ice cream before we pass, etc. Suddenly a man I do not recognize at all stands up from in the steps right in front of the ice cream cooler and approaches me with a clear plastic bag and invites me to join him in a chew. "Moma, moma, you chew with me." He was quite insistent. My mind was not there. I declined as we passed by. No ice cream today, I guess.

Then it hits me. What kind of missionary am I? Here I was invited to join in what seems to be a major pastime - hanging out, spitting on the sidewalk, and staining my teeth and lips red - and I absentmindedly dismissed my opportunity. I have never tried moma, but it is very popular here. It seems to be the chewing tobacco of the mountain people.

Perhaps next time...


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