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Ophelia Syndrome part II

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2013 by tanman1

Re-reading my blog post about the Ophelia Syndrome made me want to voice new ideas and thoughts I have had regarding this topic since first writing about it.

I have come to realize that many members–too many–within the Mormon Church have a bad case of the Ophelia syndrome. For instance, we Mormons are generally very satisfied and take for granted that we have a living prophet who receives direct revelation from God. Yes, the prophet does receive revelation from God, but so do we individually. Should we really just follow the prophet and other Church leaders blindly without ever questioning them or their opinions on certain matters? No! We are entitled to personal revelation, and we should constantly be thinking for ourselves, asking questions, and sincerely praying to God that He confirm what Church leaders teach us.

Some members may think what I am saying is heresy. But here are a few quotes from former prophets of the Church themselves.

Brigham Young: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”

Hugh B. Brown: More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In this age of speed there seems to be little time for meditation.”

And finally, Joseph Smith: “We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.”

So why are people so comfortable with blindly following the Prophet and believing everything he says whether truly inspired or not (because prophets being mortal men are capable of committing error and expressing incorrect opinions or beliefs)? I think it’s because it takes responsibility off the members. It is of course much easier and more comfortable and not as risky to surrender our agency and blindly obey what someone else tells us. That way, if that person we blindly follow happens to be wrong, we have the excuse that “I was just following what he said so I should not be accountable.” Wrong! That person should still be accountable because they did not think or ponder or truly seek guidance and revelation for themselves concerning the matter.

In conclusion, when people express opinions or beliefs about certain topics that seem contrary or not exactly in line with what the Church teaches, we should not be so quick to judge them, especially when they have studied it out, prayed about it and received personal revelation when we on the other hand may not have done any of those things. Perhaps we are just blindly following what others say.

I feel that in the Church, members too easily mistake cultural beliefs/ideas/opinions/attitudes for true doctrine of Christ. For example, many members believe all “true Mormons” should and must be Republican, that any Democrats are not following Christ as they should. How wrong! Mixing religion and politics. Stating that one political ideology is more righteous, correct and superior to another.

Anyway, I’ve ranted long enough. Those are just a few of my ideas on the subject of the Ophelia Syndrome. To everyone out there, study it–it being whatever–out in your mind, search, meditate, ponder, pray, feel with your heart, understand whether it be right, true and good. Do not simply believe things or say things because “everyone else” seems to believe or say the same things. What if “everyone else” is wrong, huh? What then? Educate yourselves with an eye single to the glory of God.

One last thing. I don’t want people–if anyone ever reads this–to go away with the idea that I am trying to say it is OK to justify every sin or make bad things look good. I am not saying that at all. I am just saying that many things people believe to be “wrong” or “evil” are simply a result of damaging, bigoted attitudes passed on from generation to generation. All people are subject to the bigoted and prejudiced attitudes of their culture and time. For example, not even 200 years ago, slavery was perfectly acceptable. Most of society truly believed colored people were inferior to whites. That they were not as smart, not as “human.” Thankfully, such a ludicrous lie has been replaced with a realization of the truth. We are all God’s children regardless of race, sexual orientation, social status, etc. Slavery is just one example. There are many more examples out there.



Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2012 by tanman1

I had a very interesting conversation with my friend Miguel on the bus as we were traveling to Teotihuacan to see the pyramids. He asked me if I knew what the word “alburear” meant. I had heard it before in Santa Rosa when I was hanging out with some of the jovenes there. They had asked me if I knew how to “alburear.” When it was evident I had no idea what they were talking about they concluded that I did not know how to “alburear.” Anyway, so I finally found out the significance of the word. It is the way in which Mexicans joke around with each other. Alburear literally means “to play on words.” It is a contest of one’s masculinity, creativity, intelligence and ability to think quickly. In a word, it shows prowess. If you are especially good at it, people tend to want to be around you more and include you in their circle of friends. Interestingly enough, the majority of plays on words in Mexico revolve around “el doble sentido” (double meaning) and sexuality. I found out from Miguel that there are so many common, innocent words that if said the wrong way in a sentence will almost always be taken as its sexual double meaning. As it turns out, gringos who go to Mexico are constantly made fun of without even realizing it even if they speak excellent Spanish. Mexicans like jokes at the expense of another, especially if the person has no idea what the joke is, due to their failure of recognizing the double meaning of a word. Alburear is how Mexicans have fun and entertain, and they are especially adept at it. It’s important to realize, too, that they aren’t trying to be mean to you or single you out, they just find it extremely funny. For instance, my gringo friends and I were on a tour of the alleyways of Guanajuato. At one point in the tour, we stopped to watch a skit two teenage boys performed about the legend of “el callejon del beso” (the alleway of the kiss). At one point in the story, the kid kept saying “un punal” and pointing at a kid in our group (we were four gringos) and the audience kept bursting out in laughter. We had no idea what was so funny. The word punal means dagger and the kids just got to the point in the legend where a father stabs his daughter with a dagger and kills her. We later found out that “punal” has a double meaning. It means dagger, but it also means gay. Obviously, we didn’t find it very funny, especially the kid who was pointed at and called gay.

Alburear is something that takes time learning and that you have to get the feel of. It is one of the many nuances of the Spanish language. It is not something you can learn out of Spanish grammar books, but only by real life experience living in Mexico. Miguel said it’s a good idea to be familiar with it so that people don’t make fun of us at our own expense.

Gender Roles in Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2012 by tanman1

In Mexico, and especially in the ranchos, there are very specific, defined gender roles unlike in the U.S. Women do all the cooking, cleaning, and washing, and I mean all of it. In the three months I was with my host family I never once saw my host dad or any of his sons wash a plate (or cook). Also, men do not wash laundry. I heard a story about a gringo in Mexico who was very enthusiastic about learning and trying new things. In the ranchos, all their laundry is washed by hand in the river or in a wash basin. So the gringo decided he wanted to learn how to wash his laundry by hand because he had never done it before. As he was washing his laundry a lot of the men looked at him weird or made catcalls. To them washing laundry is something only women do, and if other men are seen doing it they are thought of as less manly or less “macho.” Mexican males have to keep up their image of toughness and “machoness,” so doing “women’s chores” definitely puts a blight on their image.

Many women also help their husbands and sons by bringing them meals during the day. Once day I had the opportunity to go with my host mom, Graciela, and take food to her husband and son. She had a big old bucket of food and bowls that she balanced right on top of her head. I carried the water pale. We got to their corn field and ate with Alfredo, her husband, and Isidro, her son. Something I noticed right away was that Graciela made sure Alfredo, Isidro and I all had a place to sit. She moved some rocks around so that we all had a nice, flat rock to sit on while we enjoyed the meal she had prepared us. What was interesting though is that Graciela sat right on the ground, she didn’t even get a rock for herself. And that is the way of things. The women are always expected to serve and please their husbands and other males. I think it’s something they learn early on, if they are not able to please the  men they will never be married (because men won’t desire them) or if they are married and they don’t please their husbands they will be beaten or completely ignored. Anyway, after the meal, Isidro and Alfredo continued working in the field and Graciela and I gathered wood for the stove (used for cooking). By the end we had a pretty good-sized piled, maybe weighing 25 or 30 pounds. I assumed she was just gonna tie it up and put it on the donkey, but no, she picks up the whole thing and sets it on top of her head. I should have offered to carry the wood, but I didn’t because I thought she was going to put it on the donkey and before I knew it she had it up on her head. So I carried the food and water bucket back to their home. It was rather ironic/slightly funny to see an old teeny Mexican woman carrying a heap of heavy wood on her head and strong, young gringo carrying a light bucket walking side by side down the road. I’m sure many people laughed at the sight of it–I would have.

Women are also mainly responsible for raising and disciplining their children because their husbands are out in the fields all day and have very little time to spend with their wife and children.

So, I’ve already mentioned that the primary responsibility of the male is to work and provide for his family. But it is not uncommon for women to help their husbands out in the corn fields. Men also must keep up there manly image and they do this by drinking, smoking, swearing and telling sexually explicit jokes. A women, on the other hand, should never be seen smoking or drinking in public. I remember my host dad talking about a woman who he saw drinking beer in a public place and he said it looked ridiculous and that she shouldn’t have been doing that. Women generally do not swear as much as the men do either. Men are also responsible for fixing things around the house that are broken. I would say those are practically all the responsibilities of the men. As you can see, women are expected to do a lot more and are considered inferior to men.

Visit to a cemetery

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2012 by tanman1

When I first stepped through the gate into the cemetery of the rural village Aldama in Irapuato, Mexico, I immediately noticed all the colorful wreaths and flowers lining almost every tombstone. The cemeteries I have been to in the U.S. are ot nearly as decorated with flowers as this one was. Usually, there are flowers scattered sparsely throughout the cemetery on various gravesites. Perhaps most the decorations were left over from last year’s Dia de los muertos. I hear that all the surrounding villages go to Aldama to celebrate Dia de los muertos at the cemetery and decorate the grave sites of their deceased loved ones. There were many fake wreaths and flowers made from paper and plastic or other materials.

Something else that almost immediately stuck out were all pictures and statues of the saints, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Jesus Christ. Also, there was always a cross in some form on every coffin or head stone.

I also noticed how almost all the coffins were above ground. It is much more common for them to bury their dead abocve ground in a stone box than it is underground. I suppose to them it is more respectful so that people don’t walk on top of the dead by accident. But that definitely struck me as odd because in the U.S. all the coffins are buried underground and then marked with a headstone. These coffins or tombs or stone-like boxes–however you want to call them–are usually decorated with colorful tiles. On top of them are the statues of the virgin, Christ or other Saints, as if placed there to watch over the dead. Many coffins had stone books on them with inscriptions, either passages form the Bible itself or words expressing love for the deceased, that they rest in peace. Many inscriptions were little poems or euologies.

Something else really interesting was that there were thick cement walls filled with the dead. Each body is placed inside a little cubicle area, and these spaces are all stacked on top of each other. Each facade of the cubicle has a head stone with the ame of the deceased, perhaps a picture, an inscription with their name and date of death and a picture of a saint. There were also stone vases on little shelves where you could place flowers, and most had flowers in them. It seems it is much more common for people to leave flowers at the graves of their loved ones thanit is in the U.S.

Some of the tombs were like shrines. For example, there was a little space surrounded by glass adna locked door which people put flowers or the virgin Mary behind. Many headstones only had the death date adnot the birth date. The people who were buried underground usually had a fence surrounding the site so that no one would accidentally step there. Many gravestones were also inscribed with prayers to aints or angels to care for the dead and bless them. The cemetery was surrounded by thick, high concrete walls and you could only enter through the gate.

Overall, it was a very interesting experience. There was a little office inside the cemetery where the caretakers worked. The government of Irapuato is who hires the caretakers and other people to continue building coffins and cement cubicles to place the dead. The most interesting thing to me was how Catholic the cemetery was with all its statues of staints, the crucifix and the virgin, and also how most the coffins were above ground. It was certainly quite different from all the cemeteries I’ve ever been to in the U.S.


Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2012 by tanman1

In the months leading up to the elections the ranchos were buzzing with presidential candidates from all the major political parties. All were vying for the position of president of the state of Gunajuato. Candidates and representatives came from PRI, PAN, PT, Verde, PRD and others. Almost every candidate brought with them free T-shirts, hats, calendars, bumper stickers, etc., to give away. There were also drawings where people could win prizes such as ironing boards, blankets, tables, silverware, glass cups, and other things. I imagine that all these candidates were hoping to buy their votes from los campesinos. I later talked with someone about it all, and he told me that what the candidates do is illegal. They go to the ranchos, make a ton of promises which they don’t indend to keep and give out free stuff to pretty much bribe los campesinos to vote for them. And most campesinos don’t know or aren’t very educated as to what each political party represents, so naturally they vote for whoever brings the best things and whoever makes the best promises.

I also talked a lot with my host dad about his viewpoint of the elections. To him all candidates are corrupt and don’t keep any of their promises. He said he stopped voting in elections along time ago porque se desespero por la deshonestidad y las palabras vacias. He hardly ever even cared to hear what the candidates had to say, and whenever they came he would stay home and not go out to meet or hear them.

Whenever a candidate came there was always a fairly large crowd of people that came to meet them. I think the majority of them were only there for the free stuff. The women always gathered together and were at the front of the crowd while the men always stood together in the background.

It seemed that most the campesinos were for the PRI. Many said the same thing, that the PAN aren’t for the campesinos, they’re for the rich, city folk whereas the PRI care more about the campesinos.

Elections happened two days ago. The preliminary polls say the new president is Pena Nieto from the PRI while the new President of Gunajuato is from PAN. I really hope that there are many positive changes that come about from the new change in presidency and that the campesinos are given more help. The campesinos need more money to be able to send their children to high school. The majority of kids in the ranchos only graduate from la secundaria and don’t even continue on to high school because their parents can’t afford it. How are the campesinos supposed to ever improve their lot in life if they don’t even have the means of getting a good education? Perhaps many want to continue farming and want their kids to farm as well, but certainly not all. That is something I would like to investigate more.

Otro dia en Santa Rosa

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2012 by tanman1

Wow, my bed just felt so comfortable this morning that I didn’t want to get up. I slept till 8:45 and then decided I should probably get ready to leave. So I showered and packed and then went downstairs with my stuff. Hna Navarro made me a quick breakfast and then dropped me off at La Central.

I would have missed the bus headed for Santa Rosa if it weren’t for running in to one of Alfredo and Graciela’s daughters. I didn’t recognize the right bus because it didn’t read Diamente like the other one did. Apparently, it was the bus that all the villagers who work in the strawberry fields take.

When I got to Santa Rosa I dropped off the beans, rice and oil that I got for my host family and then went to my room to take a nap. After my nap I headed over to the health clinic to talk to Arturo. On my way I ran in to one of Martin’s sons-in-law and talked to him for a while. I asked if I could interview them and he said sure. Then I asked when and he said he didn’t know when he would have time. It’s really interesting how Mexicans make commitments just so everyone’s happy even if they don’t really intend to keep them or take them seriously. It’s all about face and getting along with everyone. I really do hope I can interview them some time. He was working on a house and I probably should have offered to help…

Anyway, I had a long chat with Arturo at the health clinic. I told him some more about my project and had him read my letter of introduction so he would understand more why I’m here in Mexico. I asked him some questions about the health care system here in Mexico and he said there is a ton of corruption and so much that needs to be improved. For example, it is required by law that doctors report all cases of Hepatitis and where they originate so that other kids/adults in the area can be tested to prevent a huge outbreak. However, when he reported such a case, the medical reps or whoever they were told him to obliterate it because they didn’t want to take the time to investigate. A lot of stuff like that happens which is why Mexico’s health reports and statistics are super inaccurate. The higher authorities hide a lot of information from the public. Arturo said that when he was in school studying medicine they made the healthcare system sound muy bonito. But now that he actually has some authority and is like a doctor, he’s discovered a lot of corruption in the system and that it isn’t at all how his professors or other health care people painted it. He said at first that he really tried to fight the corruption and ask the higher ups why they wouldn’t accept his reports or do any investigations or change things that needed changing. But they never listened so he finally gave up. It all has to do with taking advantage of people and getting rich, which is really sad. I hope that within a few more years, there won’t be so much corruption. Since the health care system is government run, I suppose all the problems do stem from the government. People who have political standing who are in charge of the health care system are just as corrupt as other people in politics or in government positions. Arturo also talked about how the higher ups ask him why he doesn’t fill out some of the charts and papers he’s given and he tells them it is because he doesn’t have the necessary instruments to do some tests. He talked about how the health clinic is not equipped with everything it should have…

We also talked a lot about la republica de Mexico in general. About how politics here is a joke, all the drug cartels, the seriousness of the drought, Mexico’s economy, and all the negativity that the media focuses on. Arturo said that Mexico is one of the five richest countries in the world (as far as economic and other resources go) and yet many people are starving. He said that there are a lot of cosas ilogicas and that it makes no sense how some things are run. Then we hit the subject of immigration. I told him a little bit about Arizona’s policies on immigration. He said he can understand why the U.S. is trying so hard to control immigration. I just said that it is a very delicate situation that isn’t easily resolved. Finally, I left to go eat la comida. I’m glad that I was able to visit Arturo a long time and build some rapport. I also let him know that I plan to observe Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I made it very clear that I want to serve in any way I can, I just didn’t know what I could do. He started coming up with things I could do to help in the health clinic, such as rearranging medicamentos and other charts and stuff. So I quickly accepted and we are going to start this Thursday. I don’t know if I’m going to go to the helath clinic tomorrow because Arturo won’t be there till 12 due to a meeting he has.

After talking with Arturo, I went and ate la comida at Alfredo’s. Then I sat and talked with him and his daughters for a while. Now I am here and am probably going to translate the letter of introduction that Dr. Ward wrote for me and then watch The Avengers.

Ya tu sabes

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2012 by tanman1

Well, today was OK. I got up at 8:00 and got ready to go to the clinic. When I got to the clinic, I hesitated to knock on the door because I knew the doctor was in the middle of a consultation, so I decided to wait which was my first mistake. Finally, after fifteen or twenty minutes of waiting the patients came out and called the next patients to enter. I hesitated again to enter with the patients because I was worried they would think it was weird if I went in with them. This was my second mistake. I had to wait for about thirty or forty more minutes. By the time I finally entered the consultorio to observe the doctor it was 9:30. I observed for about an hour. Nothing new came up, really. I was so tired from my lack of sleep the night before, that I was hardly paying attention to anything that was going on. Arturo asked me if I wanted to talk to the patients and find out what problems they might be having. Sure, I would like to, but then I wouldn’t know what to say after that or which medication to prescribe. When I go to the health clinic I feel so useless. I’m like a constant, quiet shadow. I wonder if Arturo is ever uncomfortable that I am there just watching. I really want to find out other ways to serve. My original plan was to volunteer and do different things to help the clinic out. But it doesn’t seem there is anything for me to do. Hopefully, they will find something for me to do or else I will think of something…

After about an hour and fifteen minutes of observing, I left the clinic and went to interview Maria Elena. She was very nice. I spent a few minutes getting to know more about her, asking her questions, and telling her a bit about myself before beginning the interview. I think that this helped a lot and made the actual interview a bit less awkward. At first Maria didn’t want me to record the interview, but I assured her that only I would hear it and that there would be no personally identifying information. I let her know that she could answer the questions honestly and sincerely. So I began asking her questions and mostly got simple yes or no answers. I need to ask questions that require more explanation and not just a yes or no answer. I also struggled asking some questions the right way to get the desired information and also so that my interviewee would understand. It was kind of awkward only because my Spanish was a bit awkward and my questions weren’t what I want them to be yet, but I’m glad I have one interview under my belt. However, this interview will most likely not be used in my data, but rather just be a practice interview. Maria Elena isn’t in the right age group for my project anyway. At the end of the interview, Maria offered me a glass of water and a cough drop. Mexicans, maybe Latinos in general, eat cough drops like candy. I thanked her and then went to Graciela and Alfredo’s to eat lunch.

Lunch was really good. They served me rice and caldo, papas and tortillas. I talked to Alfredo while I ate and then excused myself by saying I was very tired and needed to take a nap. When I got to my room I read my scriptures and then laid down to take a half hour nap which inevitably turned into a three hour nap. After my nap I showered and then headed over to Alfredo’s for la comida. They served caldo again with chicharron and salsa and of course tortillas. You’ll have gathered by now that Mexicans eat corn tortillas with every meal. The homemade corn tortillas are delicious. The chicharron actually tasted OK. I talked to Alfredo a really long time and didn’t know how to excuse myself to go to my room. I still don’t know how to politely excuse myself from conversation. It seems that Mexicans just like to sit and talk and talk and talk. But I already know that this is part of their culture. They especially like to converse over meals and after meals which is why meals last anywhere from one to two hours, sometimes even longer! I read in my Mexican culture book that Mexicans like to talk about politics, economics, and business, which I have found to be true from talking with Alfredo. Alfredo always brings up politics or technology and stuff about other nations. It is interesting talking to him, but sometimes it just goes on for too long and I get really antsy to leave. But I don’t leave, because as I’ve already said, I don’t know how to politely excuse myself, which is frustrating. Finally, I told Alfredo that I was going to go play with the kids, but somehow found myself sitting down and talking again, only this time outside of the kitchen! After 20 more minutes of sitting and chatting, I said I was going to my room to study.
On the way to my cuarto, los ninos called me over to the little arcade/tienda. So I stood and talked to them for five minutes or so. They were playing some gambling card game and smoking (at least the teenagers were). They asked me if I was going to play soccer with them, but I told them I didn’t know and that I was really tired because I had hardly gotten any sleep during the night. They seemed to accept this excuse–which was true–and I left.

In my cuarto I read some more in my book. I also sat and thought quite a bit about my project and all the homework I have yet to do for my courses in the field. I’m mostly concerned about my project. I don’t really think it’s a good project and still don’t really even understand what I am trying to study exactly regarding the doctor-patient relationship. I felt a little bit better when I read the little packet put together by former field study students called “What I wish I Would Have Known about my Field Study.” From what I gathered, many of them didn’t really understand what it was they were studying and felt their projects could have been executed better. I suppose I shouldn’t feel too stressed about it because it is my first field study and there is virtually no one out here to help me. I am going to email my mentor though and ask for some suggestions on what kinds of questions I should ask and how I should go about collecting data.

It is also a bit unsettling that May is almost over, which means I am about one-third of the way done with my field study. Will I accomplish everything I need to in the little time I have? Ya veremos…

Oh, something interesting. While I was at Alfredo and Graciela’s, there little two-year-old grandson fell off his carrito and started crying. As he was crying, Alexis asked him mockingly if he was a little girl. The two-year-old’s mom and grandpa both told him to say no, he wasn’t a little girl. Almost immediately, he stopped crying and started playing and laughing again after he told his cousin that he was not a girl. I just think it’s interesting how boys are not to cry or show pain or emotion. They learn this from such a young age by the insults they receive. It’s also interesting how women are used as examples of weakness and crying. If you cry, you’re a little girl. If you show pain, you’re a little girl. If you aren’t manly enough, you’re a little girl. Boys, teenagers, fathers, grandfathers inculcate boys from the time they are very little that they must not show weakness or emotion, that they need to be tough.

Returning to the subject of my project, I think that perhaps it might just be easier if I interview random people I meet in the villages rather than patients I observe at the health clinic. I think I could get the same data and results either way. I do want to be more involved with the village, though, and there way of life. I just don’t know how to go about it. I would also like to find out more about Mateo’s project because I’m pretty sure his project was medically related. I could probably learn a lot from what he did. I am going to search the database of field study student final project papers.