Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Good Halloween Costume

My sister Klari called me this morning to tell me about her seven-year-old's Halloween costume. His first choice was to be a vampire cow. I told her that a couple of his cousins, the youngest two Weathercolour boys, wanted to be a vampire cat and a vampire wolf (I think) respectively. She wondered if maybe he had been talking to them (my alternative theories include possible exposure to the Bunnicula series or else that vampires in general are so popular in our wider culture that both households have picked up on it and then simply combined it with the general young-person love of being an animal for Halloween). I thought that it was a great idea, but Klari said that she didn't have the resources to pull together a vampire cow costume in the time available. (Mrs. Weathercolour happens to have fake blood at the ready, so it was relatively easy for her.)

Klari offered her son a choice of costumes which were within her power to create. He picked to be a stoplight, just like our mother (his Nana) had years before: black garbage bag with a hole in it for your head, three construction-paper circles, and some tape to hold the circles on will do it. He walked around all day feeling very pleased with his costume, and expressed his happiness by saying numerous times that he was dee-liiigh-ted.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Little Translation

I've noticed how the translation stage in a child's life, unlike the unrolling stage (which can strain familial relationships) can bring closeness as families work through it together. The moment of translation is an ah-hah moment, the magical event of: someone really understands me. Even if it was only for a single word, if that word was very difficult to remember or pronounce, then the understanding becomes precious.

The first time I visited Germany, a little more than a year and a half ago, was the first time I had ever set foot in any country in which English was not the primary language. I was a little bit afraid to go in to town by myself-- not that I was afraid for my safety at all, but I was afraid that no one would understand my High School German, or that I would commit some sort of huge cultural faux paux, or something would happen that was so horrible or embarrassing that I hadn't even thought to worry about it. But I took a deep breath and went in to the old town on a tram, and I sketched a little at the gate to the old town, and then I wandered around window-shopping until dusk-- it was quite pretty. I hardly talked at all, and hardly needed to, and it was just right.

Right about the time I decided to head back to my friend's apartment, I heard a small child's voice behind me. "Licht," it said. ("Light," in German.) I glanced behind me.

"Ja, Licht," said the man who was holding the child. (Yes, [that's right,] light.)

In that moment, I was pulled in to the warmth of the interaction-- and, let's be honest, it was also that time of day when the light of the setting sun makes everything glow in that certain way and (this is strange but true) I somehow find it easier to believe in the Innate Goodness of Human Nature in such a light-- but suddenly I knew, rather than just believing, that even Germans who only spoke German were as completely human as I.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Almost made me cry

Just a couple, from my ol' favorite, the BBC website:

The first is about a British minister who was in Russia, doing a call-in show, when this old lady calls and says that she is a long-lost relative. The folks running the show cut her off, because they thought she was probably a crackpot, but he ran off right after the show was over to find her-- turns out that they're relatives after all, and she had thought she was the last one in their family.

The full article doesn't tell you much more than that, but here's the link to it anyway:

And here's a link to another article about the same thing, but this one has a picture of his grandfather, who was the relative's father's cousin. I think.

OK. Next one was titled "Youngest Headmaster in the World," and I thought it was going to be about a kid who was super-smart-- but it turned out not quite how I had expected. Turns out that this young man, from India, began to teach some of his friends school lessons, as a game when he was nine; but over time, the game grew more serious, and now every day after school he runs a free school for the kids in his village who can't afford to come to regular school. He's sixteen now. Eight hundred kids show up every day. He has nine fellow teachers, all of whom are also volunteers and also either high school or college students.

Anyway, in this case you really should read the whole article, and yes, it really did make me cry. So there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Scouting at Bear Lake and Tell Gubler

I mentioned before that my dad has told me that one of the funnest things he had ever done was be a camp commissioner at a Boy Scout camp at Bear Lake, which straddles the Utah-Idaho border. I asked him the other day about how he got involved in this job, and here is some of the story he told me. I am assuming that Tell Gubler has long since gone the way of all the earth, so I am using his real name here.

During Papa's freshman year at BYU, he worked at the Cannon Center Cafeteria, where, because at that time they did not wear earplugs, he believes (and who will disagree?) that he got a good start on his adult hearing loss. After his mission, he worked for the BYU press, which was a job he enjoyed because he wasn't stuck all the time in one place; he got to go all around campus, delivering printing jobs. One day towards the end of the school year, he delivered a job down at the Richards Building--one of two P.E. buildings on campus, and the one that housed (and still houses) what is now the RMYL major-- Recreation Management/Youth Leadership. On one of the bulletin boards, he saw an advertisement for a job as a truck driver and canoe guide for a boy scout camp, the following summer. He thought that sounded pretty interesting, so he went up to Salt Lake City, where the Great Salt Lake Council Boy Scout Offices were, in order to apply. While he was talking to the guy who was in charge of the canoe job, he heard an old voice behind him. "You don't want to do that. You want to come down to Bear Lake and work for me."

[This begins the part of the story where I typed almost as fast as Papa talked, making him wait every couple of sentences while I caught up. I have rearranged and added bits at will, but I read the finished product to Papa and had him approve it. The italicized parts are where I was talking.]

The voice belonged to a man named Tell Gubler. He was slow of speech. That may have been his last year-- he was just a couple of years before retirement. There was nothing about him that would make him seem exciting, I guess would be the word. He really came across as dull. He just kind of emanated a feeling of-- what's the word?-- I guess old school? Do you know what I'm saying?


It was almost like he came out of a previous generation-- well, he WAS out a previous generation, he very much was. Part of this was colored by what I learned about him later. He didn't tell me that he knew my parents, that he had made a life of Boy Scouting.

Of course, you couldn't get more Swiss than Tell Gubler (name-wise-- William Tell and all). He hired me as camp commissioner.

What did that mean?

Hmm. It sorta meant I did oddball jobs. I taught rope-tying, and orienteering, and helped with the canoe trek sometimes, kind of. I guess it was quite a help when that storm came in. [Another story for another day...] Killed rattlesnakes. Played Risk.

So, if you were the camp commissioner, what was Tell Gubler?

Camp director. And there was B---- -- can't remember his last name-- and, oh, what was the other guy's name? His wife was D----... can't remember. They were the assistant directors. The assistants were also professional scouters.

I did tell you what Mom said when she found out?

Your mom?


When I went home between that time that I signed on with him and when camp began, my mother, finding out where I was going to work and who I was going to work with, said "Your dad and I don't know anybody we love and respect more than Tell Gubler." You don't get anything more shiny than that. [Dear siblings and relatives, I must tell you: Papa got a little choked up at this point in the story.] Before the year was out, I understood. And agreed. That was what was so profound about Tell. There was nothing immediately impressive about him, that I could see.

Tell was the professional scouter of the Teton Peaks council when Lloyd and C------ and Grandpa Cox got their Eagle Scouts (and G---- got his Life Scout that night). It was our last Sunday in Shelly, before we moved to Moreland. I think it may have been in sacrament meeting that they did the court of honor. So, Tell knew Grandpa Cox, and I think that the family connection gave him a lot of confidence in me, at least in the scout camp. He had no idea that I had never gotten past tenderfoot.

But you did hold up your end of the deal.

Yeah, there was one day at the end of the camp when he and his two assistants cornered me-- all three professional scouters-- and tried to talk me in to going in to professional scouting. I thought about it, but I knew that when you're a professional scout, you spend at least two thirds of your life fundraising, and it just didn't seem worth it to me. Well, not all of your life is fundraising, but only a couple of months of it would be at camp, and overall it just didn't seem that fun to me.

I suppose that part of the reason why the camp was so good was because I felt so successful at what I was doing.

Did I tell you that the thing that impressed me the most was digging the trench? It was a couple of weeks before camp actually began, and we had a two-day retreat for all of the scout camps, all of the professionals and all of the staff for the scout camps, at the Bear Lake camp.

So what area did this encompass? How many camps did they come from?

I imagine that there were at least three, if not six, camps in the Bear Lake region.

So, yours wasn't THE Bear Lake scout camp, it was one of them.

Yes. There were at least a couple of others on the other side of the lake. Our side was on the west side, and it was very barren. They had planted trees, and I was in charge of moving the water lines. I think that the trees eventually died, which is really sad, because I think it would have been really nice to have had them there.

Oh! the thing that impressed me. They needed a trench built for a water line. I remember Tell didn't say anything about it. I mean, he was old enough that he looked kinda fragile. So, he went out without saying anything to anybody, and started digging this trench line. Here's a couple of dozen scouters, maybe more, and it's pretty clear that he's the oldest of anybody. And within, oh, I'd say fifteen minutes, there were at least half a dozen, maybe a dozen scouters, that were manning pick and shovel on the line, because it made us feel guilty to see him working without anybody to help him.

It reminds me of something he said at one of our campfires to the scouts. He talked about when he was younger, he worked on a Turkey farm, and he could tell when he fed the turkeys and took care of them, their chirp was a little different. It was a sort of an idealistic thing, that even turkeys can tell when they're being taken care of.

[Note on how I have told this story: the first paragraph is my retelling of what I remembered of a coversation about how this all went down; much of the rest came from a conversation which started as me trying to verify the details of what I had written, but ended up being a recollection session about Tell Gubler, with Papa mostly talking and me interspersing questions. In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that the one piece of dialogue with quotation marks around it is made up-- it happened mostly like that, but not exactly.]