Baltimore has a huge African American population; I think the majority of people there are African American and so it was really interesting for me to be such a minority, because I just never experienced that before, and especially the public transportation is predominantly African American.
At least three out of four people who take buses and things like that are black and so living in the city was a huge change for me. I loved it though. I was all for adventure.
The sisters; I actually think they even have maybe taken the sisters out of the city now too just because… I was the first one in the city… but it’s pretty dangerous, it’s pretty rough. There weren’t often times when I felt unsafe but especially… they ended up getting a car after I left. I didn’t have any form of transportation other than public transportation. So, getting out of relatively scary situations was not really an option, like I just had to figure out where the nearest bus stop was and then wait an hour for the bus to come.
It was very different in that way but I loved the city. The people there were always extremely humble. There was a pretty high poverty level and so, most of the people were looking for something to kind of give them hope and to help them out but so my companion and I in that case were both shotgun, or white washed, whatever you want to call it, where both missionaries were taken out and we were put in and so we were both new in the area and there was no map or anything for us. So, we had to find a bus stop, to get on the bus, to go to wherever the map might be, we had to ask around and things like that; get a map and then figure out the bus routes.
So we spent a lot of time doing that and the buses there are incredibly unreliable, just baffling unreliable; we would wait an hour and a half to two hours sometimes just sitting at the bus stop waiting to get to an appointment. So it made it really challenging to not only be at appointments on time but to schedule things because we not really sure how the bus system worked and things like that but most of the time once we were on the bus and things like that there was not really any worry of safety or anything, but waiting at the bus stops could be really, really sketchy.
In the city there’s something called the…. um, what is it called? There is a drug that they give people to help them overcome heroin addictions and it’s run by the state or it might even be federally run where they give them this extra drug to help them wean off of heroin and onto this drug and then so they’re off of that drug.
There were people that would abuse it, so they would use heroin and that at the same time just as a supplement because it still kind of gave them a high but when they did that it made them totally doped up like they were just so incredibly out of it and so we called them “œleaner’s” because we’d be sitting at the bus stop and the person would be like standing up straight and you’d see them just like start to fall over and they’re not sleeping, they’re just so out of it that they don’t have any equilibrium. Except that they’d never fall! It’s remarkable! They never fall but they could be folded in half with their head almost touching their knees and they wouldn’t fall. It was fascinating! But you know they were around pretty often, but the people we were the most scared oddly enough were teenagers because they were the people that would rob you.
So like, groups of teenagers we just kind of avoided them because they were probably the most likely ones to hold up missionaries with guns or knives or whatever. The older gang members would generally be pretty respectful of missionaries because they knew who we were, they knew we were God people and they would leave us alone and even there was a set of elders that were living in Baltimore and they had their bikes stolen which I mean, that’s like 600 bucks sometimes, and one of the older gang members found out about it and a couple of days later there were two bikes! Where the other bikes were you know in the locks and everything like that and they had stolen bikes from who knows where! And had given them to the missionaries because they knew that the missionaries needed them and they were mad at the people that had stolen the bikes and so in those cases most of the time like if they were older people you didn’t have to worry.
But as women, being a sister downtown that was a little more dangerous. We’d be at the bus stops and people would be like
“Do you realise where you are?”
Because we were white also so we looked incredibly out of place you know, white girls in these nice dresses and skirts and they were just like,
“Do you know where you are?”
And we’d be like “Yup, we do unfortunately” but most of the time people took care of us, the cops sometimes would follow us home and just like from a distance we could see like an undercover cop was following us home or whatever. To make sure we got back but unfortunately there was a lot of gang activity when we first got into the area, there had been a gang war and a whole bunch of people, like upwards from 30-40 people were murdered that week.
So, we definitely had to be careful, you didn’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So we stayed out of the city and were more in the suburb area after dark. We were never in the city after dark, you just didn’t do that. Most of the time elders stayed out of the city after dark as well because it was pretty precarious.
We lived kind of in the city- we lived in an area called Nottingham or Essex which sometimes Essex was worse than the city because the city kind of made a push to clean up Baltimore, probably six years ago where they moved… there were a bunch of high rise buildings downtown that ended up… Ah, I’ve got to talk about Ro Homes too… but a bunch of buildings downtown that were all section 8 housing and so it was just these huge apartment complexes that a bunch of people that were very underprivileged, that needed federal housing, would live and the crime there was unbelievable. Like cops wouldn’t go into those places pretty much and so, they were like “We’ve got to clean up the city” so they tore down the buildings and sent everybody to section 8 housing outside of the city, so just in the surrounding areas like Essex and Dundalk and Nottingham and those things.
So it was just like trying to put out an oil fire with water where it just spreads it everywhere, instead of having it be concentrated. So we were in the city technically; in the city boundaries, but we weren’t like in the heart of the city because it would have just been too dangerous for us to live in there. Oh, and the other thing like Ro Homes, um, the city is setup with a bunch of Ro Homes which is essentially town homes which is just a lot more ghetto than most town homes that you’ll see on the West Coast, and they usually have chain link fences and they usually have pit bulls. I would say at least half of the houses there have a pit bull in their front yard which was totally intimidating.
And there were dog fights every once in a while we would hear dog fights in the town homes or in the Ro homes but the way the city is setup, it’s pretty trashy most of the time but there are some areas where it’s just kind of cool because all of them are lined up and people will sit down on their stoops at night and things like that, and just talk to each other.
Sometimes it felt like an old city feel because kids will play in the streets and stuff like that but it was pretty fun.
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