Backpacking in 82 Days-October 19-26 Final Days in NZ; Start of Asia

We are in Bali now, but here’s a lazy recap of the end of New Zealand and other such endeavors. I’m also having wordpress issues, so ignore the hilarity of BIG pictures.

October 19- It was my 25th birthday, and probably the best one yet. It’s damn near impossible to top what Devyn and I did. We did the Pure Glenorchy: Lord of the Rings scenic tour. It was an early morning, half day tour and after a lot of wine drinking the night before, 8am wasn’t friendly. What this tour does: It’s a 4×4 tour where you get picked up from your accommodation with a small group and they take you to various locations from the film (ie. “boil, mash em, stick em in a stew scene” isengard, Lothlorien. Aside from the nerdgasm, it’s a beautiful scenic experience.

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After, we had some time to kill in Queenstown, being we got back at noon. Now, Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world and makes backpacking on a budget difficult. We splurged on a jet boat, but that’s about all we could afford. Bungy jumping, skydiving etc all range from $190-300+ NZD.

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We got an amazing wardrobe with this adventure, clearly.

To top off an excellent birthday, we ventured to Fear Factory Queenstown. It’s hyped as NZ’s scariest haunted house and in the tourist pamphlets, it has some pretty rave reviews. Devyn and I are huge horror fans and don’t scare easily. We think modern day horror sucks and has been dumbed down to torture porn. How scary can this really be?

My hats off to FFQ for they freaked the shitballs out of us. It’s a maze you do in complete darkness and you have to follow these red lights. You’re constantly feeling around in the dark, with “things” feeling around for you. We were pretty much stalked and mocked by a crazy woman the whole time. She laughed maniacally, grabbed us (they can touch you) and turned off our red lights. It’s hard to explain how good they get you without recapping the whole 20 minute maze. What they do well is playing off subtlety, the unknown, and messing with your imagination. It’s what true horror is.

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October 20-23- We left Queenstown and took a long drive to Christchurch. Other than stopping off the side the road to check out an old church, it was an uneventful few days. Christchurch was badly damaged from an earthquake in 2011 and it’s a scene right out of a post-apocalyptic movie. No words can explain how gnarly the damage is. We felt a bit odd and disrespectful taking photos of the damage inflicted. We really just spent the days preparing to leave for Bali.

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Recap on NZ-kiwis are amazing human beings. I’ve said it before, but they live a hobbit lifestyle. Good food, drink, and company is all that’s important. They are incredibly helpful to travelers and were genuinely interested when we mentioned that we’re from California.

We listened to a lot of NZ politics radio and their news mainly concerned the Ebola scare and ISIS. Global news was a larger topic there. Being an island on the other side of the world, their political problems aren’t as large. They had an hour of a vet giving pet advice. It was great! An interesting parallel with them and the states was their “issues” with various Maori people. From what I gathered was that they tend to be the participants in many crimes committed in NZ. However, allegations came out that the police were racist and targeting Maori people much more. Understand the parallel America?

October 23-26. 4am wake up call to get to the airport and start our trek to Denpasar, Indonesia. After a layover in Australia and a 12 hour endeavor, we landed in Bali. It was there where we really felt out of our element and truly on the other side of the world. Mushrooms are legal here, but everything else equates to the death penalty.

Leaving the airport, we were bombarded with people trying to carry our luggage and get a tip out of it, as well as taxi drivers trying to rip you off. Thanks to our Lonely Planet guide, we learned to walk through a parking lot 300 meters away and hail our own.

The drive to our hotel is where it sunk it. Their traffic is an all out free for all. Ironically, the best drivers I have ever seen. On these narrow roads, they know how to maneuver.
Aside from going to Mexico to get drunk when I was 18, this is the first time for myself personally, that I saw first hand poverty. It’s only supposed to get worst as we work our way to Cambodia 3 weeks from now. It’s incredibly humbling.

When Devyn and I return to the states, we have to save up for our wedding, buy cars, get jobs and an apartment. If these are our only problems, we are spoiled. The real Balinese people, (not the hawkers) are beautiful people so it’s pretty heartbreaking.

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That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our few nights in Kuta enjoying the beaches and great/cheap food and beer. It’s another reason we felt terrible; we are living like kings and queens basically at the expense of a poor country. I understand tourism has boosted Bali’s economy, but it sounds like an invalid reason to pat ourselves on the back. I really want to return to the states much more appreciative of what I have.

As a californian, I’m just a lucky person. It’s why I can’t stand nationalism. Unless you have served he country or have overcame obstacles to live here, (those leaving Mexico) your nationalism is justified and God bless you. Everyone else, according to Chris Rock, are just lucky. I’m no better than these people because I was born advantageous. Our goal here is to respect these amazing people to the hugest of our abilities and show our gratitude for their incredible hospitality.

You do learn how to be pushy. Hawkers are always trying to sell the tourists cheap merchandise, such as clothes and tours. They’re always coming up to you trying to force a sale, so while being polite, you have to be pushy back. You can’t blame them, though. They’re just trying to make a living in a tough environment.

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A lot of Australians holiday in Bali. We met an awesome family at our hotel and it was the first time on the trip we really met a cool group at our accommodations and really compared cultures. Until then, it was just crusties in our hostels. Until we visited NZ, Australia, and Bali, I was under the impression everyone hates America. We do suck on a gargantuan level, sure, but when I was in Europe 6 years ago, it was open season on me. Just like we are with others, they were genuinely interested in American and California lifestyles. So, yeah, shut up England (I know not Europe) and France.

Our first few nights were in Kuta. Seeing the poverty of good people made Devyn lose it (I found a good one) and last night, the high level of stray dogs and cats hit me. Unless you’re callus, I guarantee any first time travelers will tear up while visiting Southeast Asia.

We left Kuta to travel to Ubud today. It was an odd and shady circumstance of changing ghetto shuttles 3 different shuttles. While we were slightly on edge, we still had fun.

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Once in Ubud, the Balinese continued to spoil us with kindness. We found a really awesome room 3km from the center of town for $23. That gets you a resort. Devyn told them it was our pre-honeymoon and, well….

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We’re undeserving assholes. Wear right next to rice fields so needless to say, the scenery is awesome.

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Backpacking in 82 Days: Oct 7-18 2014

It’s been almost two weeks since we had decent wifi, and I can’t remember every date perfectly. Enjoy the incredibly long post about a trip that only my parents read about. Wifi in NZ is spotty, unpredictable and most of the time, you have to pay for it. It’s tough being a white, privileged male sometimes. Where to begin…..

October 7- Hobbiton to Rotorua. I left off before we went to a Maori dinner. Maori are essentially NZ’s Native Americans. Really interesting culture and primitive. But for how primitive and spiritual they are, they are the happiest and most respectful people. They have the bare essentials: food, shelter, family, and their deity. It’s all you need and is why Hobbiton was so sweet. It’s a reflection of a simpler time, even though it’s fantasy. NZ culture isn’t too far from that. Happy people and focus on the three aforementioned life factors (depending on your spiritual choice) image image image imageThis also marked the first night Devyn and I had real food for dinner. Needless to say, we ate our weight in meats, veggies, and beer.

October 8- We left for Taupo the next day. It’s a neat little town set on the huge Lake Taupo. That’s all I have. We were extremely burnt out and did nothing once we got there. We drank wine, ate and passed out to recharge. The next morning, we took photos of Mt. Doom (presumably) on the other side of the lake. It was clear and you could see across to the mountain range. image The alleged Mt. Doom is on our other camera.

October 9- We took off to the Hastings/Napier area that day in Hawkes Bay. It’s one of their wine regions. We booked two days there to settle down a bit and do wine tasting. Besides the wine, the town lacked a charm, or personality. The only personality we discovered were the Germans in our hostel partying all night. According to the guy at reception, “this is the time of year where German kids finish school and their parents give them money to go away. ” It’s a nice way of kicking them out of the house temporarily.

October 10- We rented bikes to ride around the different wine regions and to do tastings. What we failed to realize was that riding from the rental spot to the different wineries, or the winery triangle they call it, is about 14km. It’s no surprise the renters were impressed with us, or baffled by our stupidity. You’re generally supposed to schedule a bus to take you and your bike to the wine trail. Not for this bodacious couple! image image Look for Hastings, then look for number 2. See the triangle near 1&2? That’s the region we biked to like morons.  The tastings were almost worth it. After hitting 5 wineries, we couldn’t bike back. We we’re too pooped. So, like the awesome people they are, one of the rental’s kiwi workers picked us up and called a taxi. He even gave us a free tasting at his winery. Paul, you’re the man. On another note, New Zealand can do white wine like NO ONE’s business. Superb Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Gros. You’re drinking the earth at their level. Napa whites don’t hold a candle.

October 11-We took the long drive to Wellington this day. It’s essentially LOTR central. It’s where Weta workshop is located and a handful of filming was done there. Wellington, like most “city cities,” driving and parking suck. Their parking is worst than San Francisco’s. We booked our hostel, aka frat house for 3 days. LOTR reference: Wellington reminds me of Rivendell and Lothlorien. They’re cities built around trees. They don’t tear them down, but build around them. Most of the first night was settling in and checking out their food and drink scene. Solid craft beers in Wellington.

October 12- We checked out the Te Papa museum and other aspects of the city. Wellington has an awesome farmers market. imageimage imageimage image The weather was up to 17 degrees Celsius, so taking the cable car to the botanical gardens was solid.

October 13- We checked out the Weta Cave, a LOTR’s fan toy house. It has a bunch of props from the films as well as other films the company worked on. We took the workshop tour, which is exclusive and does not allow any photography. Needless to say, we saw a lot of props and sick costumes. We then drove to Mt. Victoria which has a walking track that was used for the “get off the road” scene. If I have to explain this, you already don’t appreciate it. This was a good last day because we were done “loitering” around the city and we were ready for something else. Unlike our hostel roommates. Their definition of traveling is hostel hopping to binge drink. With no exaggeration, many of the hostels we stay in are frat houses. Sure, Devyn and I are old farts at heart, but you’re in New Zealand! Go check out the sites. There’s also great places to drink! Check out the night life. They’re clean crusties. It’s such a waste to sit around blazing during the day and have a hostel party at night. The only reason I ever did that was because I couldn’t legally go to bars. In the words of my parents; “grow up!” Yes, I sound old and senile. imageimageimage October 14- We had to wake up early to catch the ferry to the South Island. But our alarm was muted and it wasn’t until we realized it was too light outside to be 6am that we noticed. We had less than an hour before our ferry left. We packed in a hurry (I forgot a shirt in the process) but we made it. It was well worth the freak out because on a clear day, the ferry from Wellington to Picton is amazing. . image image The pictures don’t do any justice, so why waste time? Once in the South Island, we planned on staying in a small town called Renwick. It’s near Blendheim and Marlborough. They’re areas known for their Sauvignon Blancs. Guess what we did? image One winery only made Pinot Gris, so it was interesting tasting one wine and trying to see how aging wines really makes a difference.

October 15- We took the 7 hour drive to Franz Josef. The drive we took down the coast from Westport to Greymouth is one of the top 10 most beautiful drives in the world, according to Lonely Planet. Today marked the day where I also realized Devyn likes to put diesel in cars instead of regular gas. It was an expensive mistake, but we had fun talking to the mechanic, who was really open about his life. He also showed us his house.

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October 16- We woke up and left Franz Josef. It’s an amazingly warm, small town with a pretty awesome view.

image It’s been the small towns like this we have had the most fun. They usually mean great scenery, people and of course, food&drink. The drive from Franz Josef to Queenstown is stunning in itself. image image

Queenstown is really neat. Much like Wellington, it’s built around the trees, but on a larger scale. The mountainous background doesn’t hurt. It feels like Colorado mixed with California, but with better food. It is the adventure capital of the world. Sadly, we are on a budget so can’t bungy jump or skydive. We’ve done both in the states, but still a bummer. I recommend coming to NZ with a lot of money. Really cool activities and events, but it’s all costly.

October 17- This was a day tour to the Milford Sounds. Awesome stuff! We had a long bus tour from Queenstown to Milford and on the way, you see some great sights. Our bus driver made the drive fly by. Once you get to Milford, it’s where the cruise boat is. You take it through the Milford Sounds, which is surrounded by waterfalls and treacherous looking mountain ranges. The rainy weather made the scenery awesome and ominous.

image image image image image image image It’s another prime example of pictures not doing any justice.

October 18- It’s raining in Queenstown and we did our laundry. I don’t have any photos for that. It’s my birthday tomorrow and we are doing the Pure Glenorchy: Lord of the Rings tour.

Backpacking in 82 Days-October 5-7 2014

Finally found free Wifi! Here’s a nifty recap for the past few days……

Also, we have a fart ton of photos on our other camera, but can’t get it to connect to wifi. Suggestions?

10/5….Devyn and I met in San Francisco on the 28 bus, got engaged and decided travel. So, to start off our trip, we spent the first night in San Francisco’s and Portlands love child; Auckland. It has all the characteristics of a city, minus the crusties. It even has a large Asian influenced culture.  After living in a city, it’s a bit underwhelming and you aren’t mystified by the city life. Our hostel had 12 people in it, with a weird dude that was trying to pick up on a Latin girl. There was also a French guy yelling in his sleep.

We didn’t take much photos of Auckland and the next day, being the 5th, we picked up our car and learned how to drive on the wrong side of the road. We took a trek through the coromandel peninsula, with our end destination being Hahei.

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Hahei is ridiculous. It’s like a Hawaiian paradise, times a really high number; you choose. Devyn drove on the left side of the road really well, almost killing us a few times. We had to dish out a few extra bucks to get the hostel in Hahei because of the isolation.

Our hostel

Our hostel

Kiwis are awesome. Happy on life people. We had dinner at this paradise’s own brewery, The Pour House. It’s only been open for a few months and will already be in Lonely Planet’s 2015 NZ travel guide. Due to being on a tight budget, we’re living on nutrition bars. Eating here started us on our diet of beer, mussels and pizza at the end of every night.

image image Flights of beer and grub.

10/6….. We woke up bummed to leave Hahei. Before leaving, we hiked to the cathedral cove. The pictures sum it up better. imageimageimageimage

From here, we had a really long to Matamata, home of Hobbitn. It’s a small place in which you can tell the LOTR films put on the map. Roads to here are littered with road kill. The animals are farmed well and all free range, so they seem to get on roads often. We ate our beer and pizza diet at The Redoubt. It’s a small pub decorated with LOTR stuff.

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10/7……We woke up and went to Hobbiton. Do I really need to talk about it?

image image image image image image image image image image image image image Hobbiton was epic. There’s at least 100+ photos we took, but for the sale of my patience, here are a few. Getting free ale at The Green Dragon at the end of the tour was solid. The film crew really did an awesome job at creating this world. It’s the same feeling you have going to Disneyland, but mixed with Middle Earth. It’s insanely authentic. We are both huge fans of LOTR and re-read the books before the trip. We even saw where the Old Gaffer lived and saw the Hobbit hole used for the final shot of Return of the King. I was depressed to leave. I got sucked in that world of beauty and simplicity….mixed in with ales. We are now in Rotorua and heading here after Hobbiton is a sure fire way to bum yourself out. You’re high on life and then you’re here, where it has the stench of sulphur and rotten eggs because of the volcanic activity. Tonight we are going to the Maori equivalent of a Luau.

Backpacking in 82 Days- October 4th, 2014

Yes, you read that right. We went a day ahead flying to NZ and are currently in the future. It’s really cold in the future and in the future, you only have 30 minutes of wifi before you start paying for it! We are jet lagged so enjoy these photos in absence of anything interesting.

Double pack

Double pack

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Backpacking in 82 Days-October 2nd, 2014

Day 1 of our trip through NZ, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia. We are currently at LAX; it’s really beautiful! Talk about soaking in the sites. I have terrible flight anxiety so Devyn and I went to the airport bar, drank and took a Xanax. Off to a solid start! It’s also the smallest terminal I’ve seen. You have a Starbucks, a bar, a toilet and that’s it. #whitepeopleproblems

Aloha!

Aloha!

That's beer

That’s beer

Kings 2014 Champs=Good for hockey in California

It’s probably been about 20 minutes (probably even longer once this is posted) since I watched LA King’s Alec Martinez score in double overtime in a game 5 against the New York Rangers to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Easily, the King’s road in the playoffs, for me personally, was the most exciting four rounds of hockey I’ve watched in a while. A few weeks ago it was even hailed that the Western Conference Final between LA and Chicago was classic, fast-paced hockey. Needless to say, watching the King’s in the playoffs has been heart pounding and exciting, with an excellent finish.

Now, before the bandwagoning accusations start flying, let me set the record straight: I’m a diehard Red Wings fan from pre-puberty days and I laugh at modern day Kings fans who don’t know who Barry Melrose is. Below I will demonstrate my proof:

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I’m about 10-years-old here; around two years after the Wings swept the Washington Capitals to be the last team to win the Cup two years in a row.

 

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I also got arrested in October of 2011. Notice anything? That’s right! My face does look chubby!

 

 

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I’m also a huge fan of the sport in general. I played for my high school and won state back in 2006. So does this eliminate any bandwagon allegations yet? If not, well, I can poop on your face if that helps.

 

Back to the topic at hand: the Kings, at the hands of muppet face Darryl Sutter, now lead the three California hockey teams (Anaheim-1 cup, San Jose-0, LA-2) in Stanley Cup Championships. Now, regardless of how you feel about the Kings, set aside all emotions and just hear me out. With LA bringing the Cup to SoCal twice, not only is California slowly being put on the map in regards to hockey, but it seems California residents are finally paying attention to a great sport. Now that the Lakers suck, those alleged sports fan have another local team to root for.

Throughout my childhood, basketball, baseball, and especially football dominated popular sporting events and I was always the outcast watching those pasty Europeans and Canadiens chase a piece of rubber around. Now, California’s basketball teams don’t make it past the second round of the NBA playoffs and the NFL is turning into a circus sideshow, with players bitching about pass interference to get an extra 15 yards. And baseball, well, I’ll try avoid being bias about baseball (it sucks). When the Anaheim Ducks won back in 2007, it brought some minor attention (and yes, bandwagons) to the sport. It was also great seeing Teemu Selanne get his name on the cup. I mean, who doesn’t like that guy? Unfortunately, Anaheim is not a major city like Los Angeles, so the attention is minimal. And let’s be honest: The San Jose Sharks are the San Diego Chargers of hockey. They look great in the regular season, but blow it in the playoffs. I don’t think anyone is waiting around for San Francisco’s unwanted step brother to pull off any magic.

With Los Angeles, people know that name. With Anaheim, I generally had to remind my friends in San Francisco (I spent my college life there) that it’s where Disneyland is. When I say hockey is a great sport, I don’t use “great” lightly. It’s fast, physical, intense and most of all, there’s so much respect in the game. I recommend to anyone who is new to the sport to read The Code. It discusses the aesthetics of fighting in hockey and how wrong people are when they call it “barbaric.” Anyone else notice how at the end of every playoff series there’s a handshake line? There’s so much respect and class in that sport that it’s mind boggling how people watch anything else.

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And I can’t fathom how Superbowl Champs call themselves “world champs.” It’s an American sport! No one else plays it, so I guess technically, you are the best team in the world. But I was too distracted to give a fart during Kurt Russell’s pre game introductions. Going back to class in hockey, watch Teemu Selanne’s post game 7 interview, after the Ducks lost to the Kings earlier this playoff year. It was Selanne’s last NHL game and the Kings pounded their sticks on the ice (it’s a hockey way to convey various positive emotions). I think he sums it up quite nicely. “[Class] it’s what the game is about.”

 

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https://www.evernote.com/shard/s370/sh/374afba9-c68b-4e14-8fb9-1b63e06bff77/35c79a29b5042ae895545803516a749b

Click that ^ please to further your understanding.

Once LA started gaining momentum and looked like a threat in the playoffs back in 2012 (first time since 2001) people started paying attention. I’ve noticed a surge in old friends and companions I had back in high school who started waving the King flag, but flash back to when I’m 16, they didn’t know what icing was. Now, they’re talking hockey smack and going to sports bars to rep their team. Hey, I completely agree with many of the bangwagoning accusations. Yeah, more likely than not, they’re paying attention because the Kings won. The Kings have them. The Ducks had them. The Red Wings have them. There’s no escaping it. But regardless of that, it’s a great stepping stone for hockey to gain more West Coast recognition and fans. Those poor souls who wait all year for a 16 week season (football) of prancing goons, or those who have the time to watch all 8,435 baseball games, now hopefully, have had their eyes opened. There’s a great sport being played and we can finally stop basketball from being played at every restaurant! The Mid-West and East Coast are fine; they don’t need any additional help. The West Coast does! Especially California.

We’re a coastal state. People are surf bums, potheads, hipsters, assholes, and there’s a ridiculous rivalry between NorCal and SoCal, where all the beef is really in the Bay Area for reasons I’ll never understand, other than to toot their own horn. Even if you’re a disgruntled Shark fan, look at the grand scheme of things! We’re not known for this sport on ice, but we’re slowly gaining momentum and fans along the way. It’s the last few sports played with any real heart.

Sure, some of the fans will probably dwindle away once the Kings lose their crown, but to sum all of this up, how I see this, it’s great exposure to one of the greatest sports ever played. The more fans that this sport can gather, the better. Speaking of cups, I say this with the upmost sincerity:

There is only one cup in my book and it has nothing to do with soccer.

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Hockey memes courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/hockeymemepage

Check that out! Quite hilarious.

 

Jesus, let’s grab a beer: Mormons Part I: 1/25/14

This recap was written 2 weeks after the actual date. Serious noting didn’t start until my 2nd visit with the Mormons. I sent a text to the number the “Book of Mormon’s” playbill to receive a free book. One week later, two Elders visited my house.

My initial encounter with Elder Larman and Elder Cheung is exactly how Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park and Book of Mormon musical, describe them. They really look like they’re on the verge of dancing/singing. They are so friendly and polite. I invited them in and they asked if they should take off their shoes. I almost broke out laughing, not because I’m trying to mock them, but because it was so shockingly polite; that uncomfortable laugh.

I respectfully declined their request. They say down with their shoes on and we opened up in prayer; another thing they asked before proceeding with. After, from what I remember, they gave an introduction about who they are and what they do. They’re Mormon missionaries serving in San Francisco, but are from somewhere else and serve almost 24/7. They wear those slacks and ties you normally see, and they share a cell phone. So, whenever I call Elder Larman, I’m calling Elder Cheung as well.

They asked what I knew about the Mormon religion and they seemed surprised that I had decent knowledge about the reason and resurrection of Jesus, the Angel Moronai speaking to big J. Smith, and Smith translating a third part of God’s testimony, now known as the Book of Mormon, from gold plates with special seeing stones…..even though no one ever saw it. They asked what I thought about Jesus Christ. I replied, “I want to view him as a historical figure, and discover more about him, in some context other than a Bible.” Apparently, that’s what the BOM is, according to them in answering my statement.

For the most part, it was very much an introductory sit down and to get information, I’d have to seek out God and their teachings. I showed an interest to keep our conversation going. There’s only one thing that sticks out from this encounter. I asked Elder Larman why he finds Mormonism to be the right religion, as opposed to the others. He grew up in a Christian family, in Texas, and he was at an age of trying to find “answers.” A great meaning to life so-to-speak. He got on his knees and prayed to God to help him discover the truth. It was here, where he felt God tell him, “You’ve always known the truth.”

Flashback: Elder Larman remembered a time where he was briefed about Joseph Smith and the BOM and this moment, is what he correlated with the truth. He felt the “Holy Ghost” tell him that Mormonism was the way to go. Through Larman’s story and him discussing his faith, something struck me. Seeing him describe his life and religion on such an emotional level got me ALMOST sharing his emotions. I felt, “Holy shit! What if he’s right? This is a powerful feeling!” But, after this split second, this moment reminded me of a ceremony I attended at a Christian church when I was younger. At this time, I stopped calling myself religious, so I must have been 17+. The pastor was speaking about the blood of Christ and how being born again is an amazing experience. What I felt here, was the same feeling I had with the Elders.

But it was the emotions that were striking me, not their belief. It’s such a fallacy; appeal to emotions. I’ll touch more on this later. But, what I can say is, if I was someone who was seeking a sense of belonging or answers, I’d probably buy into Mormonism and let me emotions take over and throw out rationality. My emotions and brain would be convincing me that I’m feeling Jesus. This was really the tip of the iceberg. I discovered more of this emotional appeal when I visited them at their chapel.

BUT…….I finally received my free books!

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