Sunday, June 21, 2015

Welcome to Nauvoo!

Melanie, the boys, and I arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois last Monday (June 15th). We’ll be living here through July as I work as a tour guide for some of the historic sites. It’s an opportunity I’ve been very excited about, and I wish I had more time to document what’s happening. But, alas, my responsibilities keep me incredibly busy. In addition to being trained as a tour guide, I am taking a night class on church and Nauvoo history. I’m not taking the class for credit, but I’m in class 12 hours per week and have readings to do. Add to the schedule sleeping, eating, putting kids to bed, and maybe watching an episode of Orange is the New Black, and there isn’t much time left. It’s exhausting, but invigorating in its own way.

If I’m being completely honest, I was a bit overwhelmed during my first few days of training. There are so many things to remember, and as I accompanied other tour guides on their tours, I learned that tourists ask all kinds of questions about everything imaginable. I could imagine myself constantly responding to their questions with “I don’t know,” and that made me feel anxious. One time, at my boss’s suggestion, I went out on my own and practiced giving the tour to myself. I was hopeful as I embarked on the tour, but came back with some deep cracks in my confidence. It was a discouraging moment.

Here I am, just a few days later, and I feel much, much better about things. I have now given two test tours to a fellow tour guide. The first was an exercise in humility as I hemmed and hawed, trying to gather my thoughts at each and every tour stop, choking on many false starts, and racking my brain to keep all of the details arranged neatly in my mind (which they rarely were). We went out later that day and tried again, and I did amazingly better. I still had my moments of needing to pause and remember, of questioning the way I had explained certain things, and of rambling and bouncing around a bit too wildly in what I was saying. Since that time, I have given my family an abbreviated version of the tour, and I would now be less than terrified if asked to give an actual tour to actual tourists. I assure you, I came a very long way in 24 hours.

Tours will be given seven days a week, but I have had the weekend off. It’s been really nice. I’ve been doing homework and rehearsing the tour, but it’s still nice to be off of my feet and out of the heat. Yesterday, Melanie, the boys, and I went to dinner with some of the other people here in Nauvoo. Thankfully, it was a very loud restaurant and Creegan’s less-than-appealing behavior—it seems he only now is hitting the terrible two’s, about two years too late—wasn’t too noticeable. Nauvoo doesn’t offer much in the way of restaurants, so everybody drives 20-30 minutes away to Keokuk, Iowa, on the other side of the Mississippi River. After dinner, my family stopped at Walmart, which doesn’t exist in Nauvoo, during which time it started raining very heavily. We then had to drive through the rain, on a small dark highway that was (thankfully?) illuminated quite frequently by some very impressive lightning. At times the alternating darkness and lightning caused a strobe light effect. It might sound cool, but it’s far from ideal when driving a winding road. Lest I forget, there was also some fog and, at times, patches of dead mayflies, which become super slick when crushed under one’s tires. Apparently, they are known to cause car accidents because of their slipperiness, even when it’s not raining. Good times.

Today was Father’s Day and also Melanie’s and my first opportunity to experience Community of Christ worship outside of Utah. This week happens to be Reunion for members of Community of Christ in this particular region. Reunion is a big part of Community of Christ life and is basically a week-long family camp. Because it’s Reunion, worship services were held at nearby Camp Nauvoo. I’m not sure how to describe it, only because in superficial terms, they did pretty much all the same stuff we do in Utah. But it felt a little bit different. A teeny tiny bit, at least. I’m tempted to say it felt more evangelical, but probably largely because we arrived early enough to be a part of the “hymn sing,” which involved singing and clapping along with a recorded song that featured guitars and drums. We’ve never had something like that at the Salt Lake City Community of Christ, and certainly never at an LDS church. After the services ended, we met several people, and they were as kind and gracious as anybody we’ve ever met at Community of Christ. Eddie, Peter, and Creegan played with several of the adults there, playing run away and that sort of thing. We met a very nice woman named Julie, whom the kids really liked. Julie is blind, and she would try to catch the kids as they ran by. She taught them a bit about how she uses her cane to get around and even let them try it out. Really sweet people, from what we can tell. I think it will be nice next week when the group isn’t so large and we’re doing even more standard church services. I think that will help us feel all the more connected to our Nauvoo Community of Christ family.

After getting home from church, the boys and Melanie presented me with a Father’s Day gift—a Diet Mountain Dew hat. Miraculously and unexpectedly, it fits me much better than many other baseball caps I’ve owned. It’s nice. We then had leftover pizza from our outing last night. After some downtime that involved TV shows and/or video games and/or reading, I dragged the family over to the visitor’s center where I work and bought us all some root beer. I’d heard that the Red Brick Store Root Beer is quite yummy, and we sell it in the visitor’s center, too. With Father’s Day as an excuse, I also bought a book on polygamy and a copy of the one and only edition ever published of the Nauvoo Expositor, the infamous newspaper that revealed some of Joseph Smith’s secret practices and was quickly thereafter destroyed by order of Joseph Smith, who was also the mayor of Nauvoo. It was Joseph’s destruction of the newspaper that led to his arrest and incarceration at Carthage Jail, where he was killed. I knew you could get a copy of the Nauvoo Expositor here in Nauvoo, and it’s been on my list of must-buy souvenirs. With a very generous employee discount, our haul today cost less than $20. Not too shabby.

There is so much more I could talk about, and hopefully sometime I will. My night class only lasts through the first few days of July, so I’ll soon have more time on my hands. Maybe I can play catch-up then. Among the things I hope to share are some of the photos we’ve been taking. I do not currently have a way of putting the images on our laptop, but I’ve ordered a card reader that should arrive within a couple of days. The home we are staying in right now has a great view of the Mississippi in the back, and I’d love the opportunity to make people jealous. In the meantime, let me share a photo that will make you decidedly not jealous. It’s a photograph of a mayfly I found on flickr, properly credited to nutmeg66 (see license). After four nights in Nauvoo, I encountered my first mayfly on the door leading onto the deck at the house we’re staying in. When I ventured outside, I saw that mayflies were all over the place, often dead and scattered on the ground like fallen leaves. I was told they appear quite suddenly and in unbelievable quantities. They live a very short life, being dead within 24 hours of reaching adulthood and coming out of the water. You might go weeks between batches, or more might come out within a day or two. There are so many of them that they literally use snow shovels and even snowplows to dispose of them! They don’t bite, so the main problem they cause (aside from the heebie-jeebies) is a fish-like stench as they rot. As I said earlier: good times.

Until next time!

1 comment:

  1. Did I just NOT post ??? I wrote a comment ..THEN filled out the info below...the publishing info[mudderbear]. It looks as if the other didn't take as this is telling me "COMMENT SHOULD NOT BE EMPTY " !!!!!! welll... DUH!!!!! I cannot win for losing with computers or cell phones. It's a generational thing !!!!
    Anyway....loved hearing from you. Can't stand hearing about the bugs or looking at their nice pictures either. I saw something like it at Mama's once with a stinger that looked a yard long. It totally creeped me out. Stay away from those. ! We miss you Ben, all o f you, especially on Friday nights. Becareful and Blessed. I'm sure you are doing fine with the tours. You are loaded with charm. Sending you love and this comment, I hope.