Bus riders, like most humans, are creatures of habit. We tend to sit in the same seat around familiar people, most of whom remain nameless because we never speak to each other. There's the sleeping guy in the back corner, "Curly" with the slicked-up hair, the guy from the high council who always smiles and waves at me because he knows me from somewhere, and the church office worker in the little German hat like the the one worn by the mean Nazi in Raiders of the lost Ark.
Today it was a little odd because there were some extra people I didn't recognize. I like the back of the bus for the rather selfish reason that it just doesn't get as crowded, and even when it does, the women don't make it back that far with the guilty obligation I feel to stand up and offer a seat. This morning, across from me were three teenage girls which was a little odd because, while understandably sleepy early in the morning, they were all three snuggled up with each other trying to snooze. I noted that two of them had on exactly the same kind of boots, so I figured they must be sisters or at least close friends.
Then I noticed that "Curly" and this kid next to him on the back seat were speaking Portuguese together. Then a kid next to me piped in and one of the girls said something in Portuguese as well. Suddenly awake and animated, I said to all those in the back of the bus, "Vocês são todos brasileiros?" [Are you all Brazilians?]. They said they were and asked if I was. I said no, but I was an "ex-missionário" who served in Brazil some time back. Joâo, the kid next to me, and I talked for some time and he explained that they are on an exchange program living in host homes to learn English. They will be here for a couple more weeks then move on to California. I told him he'll enjoy the weather better there. His buddy was explaining all the layers of clothes he had to wear here.
João asked me where I had been in Brazil, how long and how long ago. He was sure I must have studied Portuguese after my mission and was surprised to learn there were universities around here that offered degrees in the language. I guess he was rather inquisitive asking me about what missionaries did and what Brazilian books, movies and music I was familiar with. At least I had some answers and my iPod to show him all my MPB (Música Popular Brasileira).
As the bus got more crowded with all that base of 20 extra Brazilian kids, the adult leader of the group, a young guy about 30, ended up standing back by us. João told him I was another Portuguese speaker and "ex-missionário" and he said that his mom was Mormon and he visited with the missionaries at her house nearly every Sunday. I told him, "Well, you're certainly in the right place now!" which doesn't sound quite as ironic in Portuguese as it does in English with the Brigham Young context--even if the bus rolling past Temple Square was the right place, at least this morning.
And tomorrow, I'm going to have to get to know "Curly."
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