Last Sunday, we were invited to a special assembly day of Jehovah's Witnesses. The assembly hall is located in Colon, deep in agricultural country. It is only about 1/2 hour drive from here, so we decided to pass up the bus arrangement and drive ourselves. Big Mistake.
Our little car ("Krispy Kreme") stopped 3 times on the way. It just stopped running and I had to pull over the the side of the road and sit. This is me, sitting and steaming at the inconvenience. After a while it would start and go for another couple of k's, then stop again. I almost decided to turn back, but realized the problem. We had been driving with the brake on! Now before you judge me harshly, let me explain. The parking brake was having a problem releasing completely, so we were just overtaxing the engine. I fiddled with it (the technical term most mechanics use) and eventually got it to release and we continued on to the hall.
Once there, we found that it was much like any assembly hall in any of the dozens we have seen over the years. In fact, since Uruguay is predominantly European in ancestry (80% or so of Italian extraction), we felt quite at home there. It could have been an assembly hall in Washington State. For some reason, however, while we looked just like them and dressed just like them, we found it very hard to understand what they were saying. They persist in speaking Spanish!
The program lasted from about 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon and included a baptism. Since we had arrived a little late (we had a good excuse this time), the attendant seated us in the front row. Now this row is usually reserved for those preparing for baptism (I guess the attendant forgot that). So, at about 11:00, when the speaker started giving the baptism talk, explaining all the new privileges and responsibilities associated with entering into full association with a world-wide brotherhood, he kept glancing down at Denise and I seated right in the front row. He commented that not only were there youth among us who have come to appreciate the need to get baptized, but also some mature ones (looking directly at us and smiling warmly). We tried to look dumb (which was not too hard) and I think he might have been a little disappointed that we didn't line up with the others to change into swim trunks for the baptism. As with many assembly halls, the floor in front of the stage opened up to reveal a baptismal pool. Below is one of the candidates about to receive full water immersion baptism.
We enjoyed our visit. I am beginning to have new found respect for anyone who leaves his country of origin and travels to a new land as immigrants. Most immigrants in the US stand out in a crowd (which we don't), but they face the difficulty of learning a new language (and English is a difficult one), on top of having to make a living. With all the time in the world, we are stuggling just to learn Spanish.
On the way home, we noticed that most had arrived in special event buses and many on motorcycles. Ours was one of the few who took the trip in a car- and that almost hadn't worked. Maybe next time, we'll take the bus and "leave the driving to us" as the old Greyhound slogan used to go.