Monday, July 31, 2006

Red Lake III: Strange Moments

There are a few moments in life when the ridiculous seems only too familiar. These are my strange moments in this great sovereign nation.

The Mennonite Woman – As it turns out there is actually a fairly large Mennonite population in Minnesota. Who knew? Anyway, I do not actually know very much about their culture or their beliefs other than they seem “Amish-esque” (if you will excuse the strange euphemism) in appearance and practice.

They do seem a little less conservative as I have noticed that many of them actually have vehicles, deal in real money, and do things of that nature, but one can always peg them in the stores because they make all their own clothes and what not.

The strange occurrence begins one day as my Site director and I are traveling from the local store in Red Lake to return to the site, and we pass a Mennonite couple selling various fruits and things out of their car. Intrigued, I decide I would like to get out and support them. So as I approach, the woman (large and gruff in appearance) is neatly arranging baskets of raspberries.

Not particularly interested in raspberries but still not wanting to walk away empty handed, I ask her how much for the baskets. I see her large, dirty, dry, and calloused hand begin to tremble a little. She began to mumble something, and it becomes very apparent that she does not speak English very well. Also, there is something else lying dormant in her reaction; she portrays a nervousness that somehow makes it all seem extremely awkward. As my mind quickly races through the different reasons for this intensity, her husband (also large and dressed humbly in a flannel shirt, overalls, and a straw hat) lumbered from around their mid-sized truck with a barrel of squash in hand. He pauses for a moment to spy the scene, and it dawns on me that this woman, beyond her lack of English skills, is also extremely nervous to talk to a man who is not her husband.

The Husband dropps the basket and hulks his way to the merchant table. He points his bloated and worked hands at the differing sized baskets of raspberries and loudly says, “These two and half! These three and half!” I gladly hand him a five and pointed at the smaller of the two.

As I return to the car I pause and reflect about the scene that had just occurred and think, “I just bought raspberries from a polish speaking Mennonite man whose wife, being probably three times my size in (mostly likely) sheer muscle, was completely intimidated by me and had immediate cultural biases toward me, on a closed Indian reservation in the middle of a summer of intense ministry – This is weird!”

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