Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ya, Ya, Ya, Hermana Sweeney Ya Se Va… But Llego’ Papa’!

Hola, adoring public. Ok, sorry, I’m letting my fame go to my head. Well, that’s what my companion (soon-to-be previous companion, that is), compared it to. Everyone staring all the time and people sometimes giving you preferential treatment because of your race. It’s definitely awkward sometimes, but it’s only problematic when you have an investigator who is only interested in the church because they hope it will somehow fulfill their dream of being an American. We have recently discovered this problem in our 60 something investigator named Manuel. He’s a security guard and usually we just bring a member with us and teach him outside in the open air because he doesn’t live in our area, but yet, he’s never home and he’s been going to church in our area. He just called us over one day as we were walking down the street and inquired into what exactly it means to be Mormon. So we invited him to come and see for himself (that is our job). But the one time we taught him without a member, he was trying to get us to go with him and get ice cream and other weirdness. We politely declined. And apparently he’s been sharing the good word with his work buddies… that he has some ladies around these parts. Hmmmm… yeah, he’s going to the Elders. They can teach him, and if he still has interest, bully for him. If not, well… that blows. But that’s something I’m coming to terms with. I can’t make people not do stupid things. All my life I’ve wanted to do just that but It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. I can only do my part and hope it’s enough.



Another idea I’m getting used to is the fact that I’m getting transferred. Yeah, I’m officially done with the training phase and moving on to another area, Azua, to be exact. This area is know for being inhumanely hot and for having people throw rocks at the missionaries. I signed up voluntarily for all this, right?

I’m really just very surprised and super bummed. I was really starting to love The Yuca, and the People here are just fantastic. Everyone in my district had just assumed I’d be the one staying because my trainer, Hermana Brown, has been here seven months, which is a good long amount of time. I’d already been planning in my head how I was going to utilize my knowledge of the area and my new relationship with the people. Then when we got the call last night, I realized how presumptuous I’d been. I’d only been thinking about what I wanted and not necessarily what was best for the ward. Hermana Brown is in the middle of teaching a lot of the kids piano, which would be a great skill for them, as no one in the church really knows how to play the hymns for church. But I won’t deny, I’d rather be the one staying. And being as it’s right before Christmas, I am less than thrilled to leave behind my makeshift Christmas tree and countdown paper chain. The sacrifices of being a missionary. Oh, well. We’ll have to see where life with Hermana Lund takes me. She is also white and blond. I just can’t catch a Latin American break around here. I need someone to force me to speak this language 24/7 so I can learn it! I feel like a poser right not, and by Pedro if I don’t obviously look like one.



Well, as usual, there’s not time for nada. So I will leave you all with these tidbits of holiday job. Yes, Llego’ Papa. He’s one of the Presidential candidates for this country and no, I don’t know his real name because he only refers to himself as Papa’. But it sure is fun to say “Llego’ Papa’! every now and again, just for grins.

And here is a poem one of our recent converts, Rosa, showed to us. I feel like it would be criminal not to pass it on



“Pan es pan, queso es queso,

No hay amor sin un beso.”

Agreed. And with that, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and all that good holiday jazz.


Love and then some,


Hma. Sweeney


OH, and p.s. This is my family photo. Hermana Brown is my trainer, and hence, my “mom.” My “dad” is Elder Ferraras, and he earned the title because he is the elder with the most amount of time on the mission. In fact, he just left this last Sunday. He was released from the mission and is now being unleashed on the world. And thus I became and Orphan…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just Because I’m Dumb doesn’t Mean I’m Stupid!

Whew, another week, another chance to freak… as in out, about how the time passes. I am well into my fifth month of the mission. To all my friends who thought the time would drag, I say ha ha! Here it is, and there it goes, quick as a flash. I’m gonna be back harassing the crap out of everyone again before they know it. But for now I’m enjoying the new insanity that is my life. And even when I’m not, I’m enjoying the fact that I’m having a bad day. Because when I die, will I even get to have a bad day again? If “it’s all good” like we believe, then I better remember what if feels like to have a bad day. Or two.

But as it turns out, my days have not been bad. One reason (big reason) is that we finally set a baptism date with Mudo. That is not his real name; his real name is Jose Alberto, but calling people by their deficiencies or physical characteristics is part of the culture here. So Mudo is Mudo, which means mute. He has no teeth and can only grunt to talk. It used to severely freak me out, especially since everyone (mostly his family and my companion) think he might have a crush on me.  Aside from the whole language barrier thing and the fact that he’s in his forties, I dunno… I may have something to come back to here. But he has to get in line behind the peso millionaire who is convinced I would be happy as his “house mate.” He is also old. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. But what I want to try to tell all of you is that I’m happy about Mudo because we were teaching him, he had all the lessons, he would always ask us (well, sign to us) that he couldn’t wait to be baptized like his brother-in-law, Franqueli (yes, that Franqueli. EVERYONE is related here).  And then he disappeared out into the campo, or non-city parts of the country for two weeks. And apparently, he hadn’t stopped drinking coffee as completely as we thought he had. But he’s returned from the campo, he’s off the dirty bean (the sweetest smelling dirty bean of them all), and the bishop said we could set his date for anytime. So it shall be… the 16th  of this month. I have a lot of animo for this one. Sometimes I think people are surprised when people like Mudo actually realize what a prophet is or the role Jesus plays in our lives. It reminds me of my little sister, Delaney. People with handicaps may not be able to communicate on the same level as “normal” people, but they have other sensitivities that we will probably never understand in this life. Mudo may be dumb in the sense of his tongue being bound, but his mind is still perfectly functional. I hope we all remember to treat everyone like children of God because, well, WE ARE.

Another fun tidbit: We ran into Davy again! He pretty much admitted he’s been avoiding my companion and me because he’s been embarrassed. We told him we’re not here to judge him, just to help him. He explained to him that his life is “the chaos.” The first chaos was 1973 when he was born. The second was when he had four kids… with four separate women. The third was, of course, the unforgettable date of his deportment to the D.R. And the final stage is “me, myself and I,” as he put it. Oh Davy. Never a dull moment.  It would be super chulo if he’d come to church but I don’t think he’s ready. I’m gonna keep hoping though.  Just because. It is the Christmas season and all.

And some final fun facts I keep forgetting but want to squeeze in: There are huge hoyos in the sidewalk everywhere because people steal the manhole covers to sell them or whatnot for the metal. So don’t get distracted by the sights cuz you need your attention on the ground so you don’t fall down the hole and break a foot (been there, done that, want no more).  And the world here is owned by the companies Claro and Orange. They are the phone companies here and every time Hermana Brown and I want to call someone, we have to remember that we’re using our precious orange minutes. When we run out, we have to go buy more from the farmacias here, or the Colmados (sorta like 7-11s minus the gas, and they’re on about every corner). It makes for the world’s shortest phone conversations ever. And speaking of a short conversation, I, as usual, have to cut my time here short. Be good. Or try, at least, and I might do the same.

Abrazos and whatnot,

Hermana Sweeney (suini)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I don´t See Either London, and I definitely Don´t See France… Just Naked

Yes, I did shamelessly use the word naked in my blog title to pique interest. I am both sneaky and horrible. And still ok with it. But yes, I don´t know how I´ve managed to get this far into my mission blogging without bringing up this tasty tidbit. Which must mean I´m getting used to it, and that´s almost worse than seeing the nudity itself.

Ok, so essentially, people are sin verguenza here (without shame). I have seen more male child parts and even some teenagers than there is trash in the street or rats in my house. And if you´ve been reading this blog at all, you know that´s really saying, well, something. But I feel a bit like Mulan when she said “I never want to see another naked man again.” But don´t think the women are exempt in the slightest. I think my personal favorite is when I´m in the middle of teaching one of the discussions and one of our nursing investigators just whips one of her breasts right out of the shirt and starts doing her thing. I just want to be like, “uh, do you need a moment?” Don´t worry, they don´t. I feel like an unintentional perve because it´s hard to look away. It´s just so real and in-my-face, sometimes literally. But being as I know that the body isn´t a bad or evil thing, I guess I just don´t feel that awkward about it. But during lessons, we do ask the men to put on shirts “just for grins,” as my Papa Bird would say.

But speaking of nudity, I can´t believe I´ve also forgotten to talk about one of my new favorite people in the world. Get ready, get set, introducing Hermana ROSA BLANCA! She is the very model of propriety and dignity and favors wearing long skirts and shirts (let´s just say skin is not in with her). She is one of those people you have to meet to believe. Until recently, she wore white constantly, from head to toe. She is twice widowed, and used to wear all black, until she had some dream (everyone has dreams that means something here). Well, before she converted, her female preacher told her this dream meant she needed to change to wearing all white. So she did, even after she converted to the LDS church. She just "didn´t feel the time was right." I´ll never forget when I first saw her wear a blue blouse for the first time, I thought I would have a heart attack. But even more than her choice of wardrobe, I love her world view. Everything is literally as black and white as her wardrobe used to be. I remember her going on an appointment with us and telling the lady we were teaching (another Rosa, there are rather a lot of them), that her daughter was probably in a coma because she was in the wrong religion. Uh... how do you come back from that one? But according to my companion, Hermana Brown, they love hearing stuff like that here. The people, some of them at least, are a tad on the superstitious side. If you need further proof, I will direct you to the lunch appointment my companion and I had with her where she showed us on her wall the water mark image of her late husband. I was trying not to laugh and I think at one point, I may have even seen him. Hermana Rosa- a truly delightful human being.

And to all those who were wondering, yes, we had Thanksgiving at the house of Hermano Matos, our Ward Mission leader. Hermana Brown and I made homemade rolls, gravy, and a pumpkin cheesecake. We´re pretty awesome. Though I´m so used to eating like a pig during the lunch hour that I just felt like I wasn´t able to do the meal justice (we ate about 6:30 at night.) But it was still great to have a traditional, dry turkey and be around people I like so much. In addition to Hermano Matos, his daughters and wife we´re their, as well as Elder MacMahn and Fererras, who are the other two members of our district, (my comp and I compose the rest of the district). The other thing that was strange and funny was that Hermano Matos didn´t understand the customs of the meal, such as stating something you´re grateful for or waiting to eat dessert until a reasonable amount of time has passed. Minutes after the meal had ended, he came outside on the patio where the rest of us were, munching a piece of the pumpkin cheesecake. Oh, well. Thus commenced my second major holiday in a foreign country.

And I feel like as usual, I´m running way out of time so I will just say, I failed to mention the baptisms of Priscilla and Isabela also. They were the week before Rosa. Priscilla is a middle aged woman who is very calm and simple and easy to please. Isabella is a shy yet hyper 10 year old who is clever and freaked out a little when she was dunked in the water at her baptism. Well, that is the pastiche of a blog I have for you this week. Stay tuned.

Abrazos and such,

Hma. Sweeney

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tales of the Yarn Cat Mirrors

Ok, I just have to go on record and say this has been one of those hell-inspired weeks that everyone spends their free moments dreading. I doubt I have the time to explain it to do it justice. But i shall give it a go.

Ok, so for some reason, this week was when the heavens decided to weep uncontrollably. For what reason, I´m still trying to decipher. But when it rains, it pours, and when it pours, members don´t want to salir with us to go on citas with investigators. The reason we are supposed to have said members with us is so that the investigators see that yes, there are normal Mormons, and no, not every member wears a skirt and a nametag everyday, nor do they have to refrain from hugs (you wouldn´t believe the awkward amount of male hugs I have to dodge here. It´s becoming an art form for me.) It´s also to familarize potential future members with people who already are members. Sometimes, it´s nice to have a friend, so i´m told. Well, not only were people not really able or willing to go with us this week, but none of the investigators were even home when they normally are. Uh... thanks Satan. But this still wouldn´t be the end of the world had it also not been for the other following fun tidbits of my semana.

1. I had an enormous rat dart in front of me and do a cannon ball into the gutter and hit the tire of the car parked therein. It was disgusting and fascinating, and really wasn´t a bad experience. I just wanted to share it. Especially considering the fact that the rat was about the size of a cereal box.

2. My stomache, to put it mildly, is not pleased with some choice I made this last week. And walking around in hot sun plush crotchety stomache doth not a happy Sweeney make.

3. I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of a gunshot. "Crap," thought I, "my overactive imagination is waking me up even early than I would normally have to be." Then I heard the second shot and the scream, and decided maybe my imagination had some validity. And hearing abunch of people scream and shout in a language you´re still trying to learn does not make the situation any less scary. The lady who lives above us kept shouting the name of the lady in the house next to us, where all the commotion was taking place. Then the police came, and i looked out the window and some men with guns were advancing on the house, where from what my comp and i were able to gather from our neighbors (we have a door that connects us to the stairs that lead up to their house) their was a robber trapped in the house. Well, after awhile, i was bien sick of it all, and nothing was happening, so i went to bed. Come to find out later that night from the same neighbors that the thief was... a rat. Really?! If I didn´t hate rats before, i sure do now (in spite of your arguments to the contrary, Ashley).

Ok, so really, i can´t complain too much, especially because Rosa joven finally got baptized this week! I haven´t really described her, but she´s the one who like to ask me where the other Hermana Sweeney is whenever we show up to teach her and I don´t look like a sweaty soccer player. So there´s a decent looking hermana Sweeney and a beast. How sweet. But her date has been moved about three times because she was going to church consistently and then last week, when she was supposed to get baptized, her mom decided she didn´t want to sign the papers because her daughter was behaving like she was mal criada, or in other words, spoiled and rude. Now this lady has a kid that would actually well-befit this description. Her name is Diana and she loves to yell in my face and demand I giver her my headband, umbrella, etc. But she throws a tantrum to rival the best of ém, and Rosa, is well, as tranquila as they come. Once again, Satan, you butt. Well, we talked to the mom and told her if anything would change her daughter´s behavior, it was the gospel. So she signed the baptism papers, Rosa was baptized, and there was much rejoicing. I really do love my little ward of La Yuca. You´d be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated bunch anywhere.

Oh, and now, finally getting to the title and all the goodness it entails... so one of the members of the ward, the widow hermana Seneda, has in her house these fantastically hideous twin mirrors. Well, technically they´re mirrors, but the glass is so taken up with the image of these two enormous cats that look like they´re made of pink yarn that it´s hard to see your own image in them. I both hate and love them simultaneously. But that´s just art here. The real popular item here is this picture of the toddler Jesus, and he is usually either superimposed over the image of a lake or in front of an old scroll or something, and he proclaims "yo reinaré," which means "I will rein." I gotta say, superimposing is super popular here, especially for wedding photos. I think I may have to adopt this technique in my own special occasions cards when i return to the states.

Well, that´s it for this week. I think it´s probably more than enough. i know i´ve had enough of it; i´m bien ready to move on to the next one. And wishing you all a good one as well.

Sonrisas,

Hermana Sweeney

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unfortunatlely, It IS Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

I can't even take it. Halloween was but a week ago (which isn't really celebrated here) and now, there are Christmas lights and trees and all sort of decorations exploding out of people's homes. As if every house here wasn't already an homage to Jesus, now it's just even more ridiculous. I am not ready for this. I need my turkey and gravy to be on its way to digestion before I see any crazy blinking lights or listen to "Silent Night" a thousand times.  And as one of my companions from the MTC in the D.R. said, I should just make a Christmas card to send out that says "Merry Christmas, it's blazing hot down here!"

But in my regards to my earlier comment about Jesus and his apparent visitation to every house here in the D.R., I'm really not exaggerating. Everything is so God right now. Even the taxi cabs go around proclaiming "Cristo ya viene," or "Si Dios esta conmigo, ?Quien contra mi? And yes, I know, that the first question mark should be upside down, but this keyboard is not cooperating with me, so what you see is what you get. And all you fair readers with access to Google translator can use it to figure out what those phrases mean. Think of it as and early Christmas gift. Or treasure hunt. You're welcome. But anyway, it's just interesting that here, I can walk into someones place of business and start talking about the church with them, and this is not considered inappropriate (I have done this on more than one occasion, by the way). It was odd at first, but everyone here is so crazy about the idea of God, that they like to hear about him, regardless if they go to your church or not. As a matter of fact, a little girl stopped my companion and I the other night and asked to hear a message about God. Uh.... what?  In the states, I feel like most people try to flee when they see missionaries coming. But we're like mini celebrities here. In some ways, that makes my job tan fantastico. In other ways, it's frustrating, because people promise to do a lot of things like read the pamphlets we leave them or go to church, and then they don't do it. But they're all so friendly and interesting, it's hard to be too mad at anyone.

Case in point: Meet Davey. Davey used to live in New York, but then he was deported. He enjoys calling me Cali (as in California) and my companion Utah (I'm sure you can figure out why for yourselves by this point). He does not like living here. In the middle of some choice expletives, he explained to us why the people here are straight up savages (thankfully, he did this in English). He then proceeded to greet one of his street homies, then turned back to us and was like, "yeah, man, straight up SAVAGES!" It was too much. I don't know how I kept from splitting a gut right there in front of him. The next time we saw him, he insisted on running up to his apartment to bring us a really "deep" forward about how we have more medicine, less health, we've conquered inner space, but not outer space... cheesy fun stuff like that. It was about as deep as a tear drop, and I'd heard it all before, but he was so into it, that I couldn't bear to break his good spirits. He claims he wants to go to church, change his life, all that jazz... we shall see. He's just too ridiculous and fantastic for me not to want to visit with him more. And he's so unhappy about so many things, that I think he could really benefit from what the Gospel teaches.

Well, as usual, I am low on time, high on tired, and hoping that today will be enough to get me through the week. My companion and I have been teaching upwards of 30 lessons a week, which is a TON. One moment I'm on a high because someone agrees to come to church, the next minute I'm bummed because someone says they're Catholic and they wouldn't change churches if God himself came down and told them to. I'm learning to live life on a rollercoaster, and to enjoy the ride. Now that's cheesey! I just might need to send it to Davey...

Well, until next time, all I have to say is that if any of you have the opportunity to try dulce de coco, I would highly recommend it . It's like an Almond Joy minus the chocolate, and it's fabulous. I am really also fond of Tamarindo, if it's made right (a drink made from some sort of fruit named tamarindo. It looks like a root), and sugar cane. You just bite down on the cane, suck out the sugar, and spit out the fibery outsides. It's the simple things in life that bring the most joy... ok, I really need to stop with the cheesiness, cuz now we have enough to make nachos. Vaya con Dios! (The farewell of every living person here).

Abrazos and stuff,

Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Can Break my Arm, but You Can´t Break my Halloween Spirit!

Ok, So yeah, being me, last P day, I broke my arm. Or thought I did. Hermana Brown and I decided to wrestle. I beat her at leg wrestling (of course) but she got her revenge. About 5 seconds into our real wrestling, I felt a grotesque pain in my left arm. Why would I automatically assume it´s broken, you might wonder? Because apparently my bones are made of marshmallows and when I do something REALLY strenuous, like taking a step or opening the fridge, I just snap. So the thought of being broken in a foreign country seemed very possible, and very unappealing. Turns out, it is, or, that is, would be. We went to the doctor on Wednesday (we didn´t go right away, in case the pain went away. It didn´t). Well, they didn´t accept my insurance, but they accepted my 2,000 pesos pretty readily. Ai! But I swear, the doctor twisted my arm a bit, and I didn´t really feel anything, so he assured me he was 95 percent sure it was ok. Whew, thanks for that, but I would still like some x rays, if that´s alright. Well, they x rayed my clavicle bone, so we had to redo them. Then the doctor looked at the x rays in his office, which was about halfway lit and affirmed that it wasn´t broken. We introduced ourselves as missionaries, had a nice chat and he told us he´s Evangelical. Oh well, it was worth a shot, right? Then he promptly went back to watching the video he had playing on his computer. Oh the D.R. It is so not the U.S.

But today is Halloween, and that makes up for any pretend broken bones I may or may not have had. I was a little blue that I wouldn´t be able to celebrate my 2nd favorite holiday with my traditional outrageous costume, and so my companion had the brilliant idea that we should go as… each other! Being as she is small, and I am not, she looks a bit like a bag lady and I look like one of those people that doesn´t realize I´m too big to be wearing the clothing of teenagers, but hey, it´s still fun. We even traded bags, name tags, shoes, the whole bit. If you look at the pictures, you´ll realize we traded smiles too. For some reason, that´s how she smiles in pics (the way I´m smiling) and she is wearing my traditional over the top cheesball grin. Oh Halloween, you never let me down.
In other, more missionary related news, we had the baptism for Osiris this last weekend. It was really neat, even though his mother was yelling-whispering at her rather poorly behaved grand kids during the service. Sometimes I just don´t know what to do with the human race…
The next day, though, when he was supposed to get confirmed during sacrament meeting, he was no where to be found. Por suerte, the announcements ran long, and he FINALLY showed up, so he was able to get confirmed. If not, we may have had to have him re baptized because next week is stake conference (no baptisms) and if there are more than 8 days separating a baptism and the confirmation, they have to re baptize the person. This would NOT be a good idea. Osiris has a bit of a difficult family life, so he just needed it to all be over and done with. And it all worked out. Oh, God, he does come through.

Well, as usual, there is more to say, and no time to say it. I will continue my futile attempt to keep you updated on the crazy adventures of my missionary life. Until next time, I wish you all a happy night of fright and sugar overload.

Love,

Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hay Tigres en la Calle... And Chickens, Too

 Another week, another day of tryin´ to speak.  That´s the thing about Spanish, there just aren´t as many ways to be creative or witty . Or I just haven´t learned the magical formula yet. Like how I want to say "I was wondering," or "I challange you to read so and so chapter of the Book of Mormon." There isn´t really a word for wish or for challange, at least, not a challange as in, a duel. How has the Latin community survived without these words for centuries? That is the real reason I´m here now, to figure out the answer to that question.

So no one has to suffer in suspense of what the title of this blog means, the rough translation is that there are thugs in the street. I know this because every time I say goodbye to someone, they say "cuídese," which means, be careful. And I have to be careful because of the thugs in the street, or the ones that everyone is convinced are out there. I feel like I haven´t seen a whole lot of tigers, but I´ve seen a whole lot of tools. Like the ones who blow kisses or, as was discussed in a previous blog entry, ask if us Americanas can be their visas. And most of them are "sin verguenza" or without shame. One guy totally stopped in our path so he could get a good view of us in our knee length skirts and button up blouses. You´d get more of a rush looking at some of the billboards around here. But the only part that made this worthy of mentioning is the firm tounge lashing he received from my companion for having a "mala educación" or bad manners. He just claimed it was a compliment and that he likes attractive things as he gave me the biggest, creepiest smile ever. It´s pretty absurd. But I have to say, maybe I´ll just stay here after my mission. It´s good for my self esteem.

The other part of the title refers to the chickens that are always pecking around in the trash and cawing whenever the urge strikes them (not just in the morning, it turns out).  I´ll have to send some pictures of them, because the are really just too funny and I can´t get over how many of them there are. I think I was a little afraid of them at first, but they´re really pretty harmless. I mean, we eat them, for crying out loud. I did see a dog and a chicken start to get into a fight, and I was really curious which would win. It turns out they were more interested in finding scraps of food than entertaining me, but it does raise a good question of who is mightier: the chicken or the dog? Any thoughts?

But speaking of runaway food, or that is, food that can move, I get the priviledge of buying my produce from a talking truck. Everyday, a really shady looking truck comes down our street and a man with a bull horn announes that he has aguacate, platanos, tomates, eggs, and all sorts of goodies. And yes, we buy them. I really thought I was going to die from some sort of disease the first time I ate a truck egg, but it turns out that they´re a lot fresher than the ones in the store (well, sometimes). And it feels good to help the hardworking people out, the real salts of the earth, because believe it or not, a type of WalMart has made it´s way here, (I was told Wal Mart owns the chain) and it´s called La Sirena. Wal Mart just won´t be happy tell it has every country in it´s  power.

Well, I have more to say, but no time to say it. Next time, I will regale you with more tales in the life of an Hermana. Cuz I´m always giving the people what they want. Till then...

Chiao,

Hma. Sweeney

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sometimes Babies Get Borned Before You Start your Blog

Whew, what a life! It´s almost been a month in the field. I can barely believe it, except that my dirty, and over-worked shoes testify that time has indeed passed. Also, the fact that I can now understand sometimes what the people here are saying is another key indicator. Most of the time, I just nod my head and say “oh…” It seems to work most of the time cuz people here just like to talk (like people everywhere) so I have officially turned into the world´s best listener.
So to answer some of the burning questions I´ve received, here are your answers:
1). Yes, I shower out of a bucket and no, it is not with warm water. You just get used to it after awhile.
2). I realized after the last entry that I was not clear about a couple of things: a facial handeshake refers to the fact that you greet someone by clasping hands and kissing checks. I usually just feel bad for whoever has to greet me since as I´ve mentioned, I have a bad case of faucet face and they probably wonder what is wrong with the white girl who sweats like a dude and is more or less mute. Actually, there is a mute man here, and we are teaching members of his family the gospel. They call him mudo. It literally means mute, and supposedly it´s actually an endearment here.
·3. Yes, I eat a lot for lunch. Everyone here does. It´s just how they roll here. I´m almost used to bloating myself up before I walk up and down huge hills for six hours. But the good news is, I could probably punch a hole through a wall with my legs. They are looking gooooooooood!
4. No one asked about this, but for good measure, I thought I¨d mention that I am officially the music director for any ward function. This just means I stand up in front of everyone and wave my arm to the beat while my companion Hermana Brown plays piano and I lead. Now I know what my old band director had to put up with. God bless ém, but these people can´t carry a tune in an airtight ziplock bag.
Well, it´s been a pretty good week, I will say. I had my first baptism with Frankeli, and it was an experience because earlier that day, about 8:30 in the morning, he had his wedding with his girlfriend. My favorite part about that experience was when Erika, his girlfriend, spilled the McMuffin-like thing she was chowing down on all over her white dress. She seemed terribly unconcerned but I was like "NOOOOOOOO!" I busted out with my Tide to Go pen and and proceeded to help her remove said stain. Luckily for me, the stain was on her chest so I got to repeatedly poke her with this pen, and rub, scrub, rub. People were probably wondering why I was sexually harrassing the bride. Oh, well, it came out, at least. And the reason she was unconcerned was the signing of documents isn´t the big deal here, at least, not for everyone. She got her hairs all did and wore her fancy dress later for the reception. But anyway, at the baptism, I got to give the talk on the Holy Ghost. I wasn´t as nervous as I should have been, considering I was asked to give it 5 minutes beforehand and I had no idea what to say. But that´s the joy of being a missionary. You never know what each day will bring.
Which brings me to the latest news: Right before I started writing, I received a call from Frankeli letting us know that Erica FINALLY dió la luz (gave birth), so that´s pretty darn exciting. We´re going to go visit them later and see the new slice of life. I´m not the biggest baby fan, but hey, life is life. And I´m gonna go continue living mine now. So till next time, remember: Por lo gusto, se hicieron los colores.
Abrazos y otras cosas,
Hma. Sweeney

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hey Baby, Can I PLEASE Be Your Visa?

So, I´ve come to a decision: At the end of the mission, I´m going to walk up to the first male Dominican I find and ask them if I can be their ticket out of here. I mean, they ask me and my companion often enough; I feel like it would be rude not to return the favor. But in reality, it´s not that bad. We haven´t been harrassed; for the most part people just like to say "ooooh, Americanas!" I don´t know what the correct response to that is. "Ohhhhh, Dominican!?" I don´t know. But it makes me want to laugh and roll my eyes at the same time. Which I usually do.

So, in other news, we have a mice/lizard infestation in our house. The lizards have a real fondness for my shoes and my companion´s pillow. And everytime I try to catch it, it makes these impossible, Kristi Yamaguchi-like leaps into the air and evades me. It likes to be in our company though. I guess we have a pet, for the time being. As for the mouseketeer, we were doing our nightly planning session and I heard a scratching or ripping noise coming from the room that we don´t use (it´s a house for 4 hermanas but there´s only 2 of us right now). Anyway, we went into the room to check out the commotion, but I knew what it was. I´ve already seen two mice make a break for the crack under our front door. So, we looked but didn´t find. I had the premonition that it was behind the drawers, and sure enough... woop, there it was. Well, it went running for the closet, my companion screamed, and it plunged into a hole in the wall. We covered the hole with abunch of rocks, but I´m pretty sure it´s still in there, somewhere, because later that night... I heard chewing again. Ai!

Well, this entery is short and sweet this week. Ok, really just short. We arrived way late to the internet café, and that´s just how it goes when your on God´s time. But I think it only fair for everyone to know that I am getting used to the facial handshaking here and that this city of Santo Domingo is straight out of the 80s. All the signs for stores are hand painted and the clips the women use in their hair are neon colored and more often than not, in the shape of a huge butterfly or something equally attractive. Such is life. Well, I promise to be more thorough next time. Until then... remember, if you´re gonna do a good deed, you might as well be someone´s visa. It´s the right thing to do. ¿Chao!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bienvenidos a la Real World


Ok boys and girls. This is taking longer to write than normal because I am in some sort of internet café and the keyboard is in Spanish. Welcome to my whole new world. Seriously, though. It´s new, compleley different, and a little crazy. Let me elaborate with the few minutes I have to spare.

So, when I left the MTC, I was driven via truck to some church building where I met my new companion and trainer, Hermana Brown. She is as white as me, but actually knows Spanish. The people in the ward love her and give her all sorts of crazy gifts. She wore one to General Conference this past Sunday (yesterday). It looked like a giant pink butterfly but I wasn´t fooled. It was really a crazy hair clip from the 80s. During the Saturday session of Conference, one of the good sister of the ward, Hermana Rosa (one of about a billion Rosas here) also gave my dear comp some silver hoop earrings. She apologized for not having any for me. I told her not to even worry about it. Seriously, I don´t think I´m ready for any "gifts." I have other things to adjust to first. Like eating mashed roots for lunch or finding HUGE wriggling cockroaches under the sink and then having to stomp on them with my flip flop or teaching lessons in shacks that double as houses for some people while a thunderstorm rages outside and water starts pouring into the house. When we left, we were trudging through huge puddles and I literally saw lightening flash in front of my face. "Bienvenidos a su segundo día en el campo," my companion replied cheerfully. (Ok, brief confession. While I´m writing this, American top hits are playing on the radio around me. I´m trying my hardest not to enjoy myself, but I´m not making any promises).

One thing I´m really not used to is the houses here. Some are pretty nice but other look like a kid was experimenting with leggo architecture. There exist rambshackle dwellings where there ought not to be and sometimes I find myself winding up and down crazy, unending hills and inbetween cement passageways that were not meant for people of Hermana Sweeney size. It´s rather incredible, actually, to think that people live this way, but that´s only because I´ve lived so very differently my whole life. I´m not used to showering out of a bucket of chilly water. I´m not used to being wet more often than being dry (one of the older lady church members, Maria Soledad, helpfully informed me that I sweat like a man). As Hermana Brown would say, "why does life have to be so fantastic ALL the time? Come to think of it, it kind of is, for the most part. Sure, there is the general crappiness we all deal with, but we deal with it so we can move on and enjoy the sweet parts. It´s like how I suffer through soggy veggies that I know are good for me so I can get to the dessert. Yes, that´s a terrible analogy, so don´t overthink it.

OK, so lastly, I have to talk about the portions of food here. They´re absurd, at least at lunch time. We eat at the house of members during almuerzo (lunch) instead of at cena (dinner) like in America because that is the meal of choice here. The first house I ate at was on Wednesday at the home of the Matos family. My portion was so huge, I couldn´t believe it. And those who know me well know I can eat. Well, this meal got the best of me. I couldn´t conquer the mountain. And by the way, in said mountain of rice and beans were hidden surprised of chicken parts (yes, such parts and the liver, heart, etc. And yes, I did eat them). I better learn how to eat like a Dominican if I want to survive around here. But if I sound a bit complainy, it ain´t so. It´s really difficult to be a missionary, yes. But it´s also somwhat rewarding. And the people hear keep asking my companion if I understand what is being said, to which she and I both respond "si.¨" And they are all impressed because they say I speak so well for someone who is in their first transfer and in their first week. Am I bragging? A bit, yeah, but that´s only because I know that I don´t understand a lot of what is being said, and my gringa accent is embarrassing so I´m gonna take the compliments where I can get them, dang it!

Well, that´s about it for now. I really appreciate those of you I hear from. It´s nice to know there´s still a fairly normal world out there. I wonder if I´m gonna come back to America all weird and judgemental of American habits? One thing I´ll have to readjust to is flushing toliet paper in the toliet and flushing after each use. You just don´t do that here. It´s wasteful. And on that pleasant thought, enjoy your showers, enjoy your flushing. You just can´t put a price on the simple things

Chao for now,

Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'm Coming Out! (I want the world to know)I'm Coming Out! (I want the world to know)

Well, I have reached the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and this is officially my last week in prison, er, I mean, the CCM (MTC), D.R. edition. I just realized my last entry was ridiculously lengthy, and I actually don't have much to say, so this one will be much briefer.
       Other than being overly sassy and questioning to my teachers and chasing a large lizard around the temple, nothing too exciting has happened. Ok, that's not entirely true. I did get to go out into the real world for a few hours this past friday with an experienced, Spanish-speaking missionary. Us Elders and Hermanas in the CCM went on splits with the Elders and Hermanas out in the West Mission (my future territory!) and it was definitely an experience. I literally almost killed my ankle twisting it in some crazy pothole; the streets out here would be a lawyer's dream in America. If you don't constantly watch your step you could fall into some hole and into oblivion. But it definitely felt legit; I appreciate that this country is not America because it reminds me how diverse the world is and I hate the idea of things becoming too homogenized. Differences equal learning, and I love me some learning. So what did I learn out in the field? Well, for one, that I will be sweaty a great deal (which isn't really news to me) and that I better get used to having a short companion if she's from South America. Hermana Oroxom, the girl I went on splits with, was literally more than a head shorter than me. We must have made quite the pair, and it was especially interesting because I was trying to understand her Spanish (she's from Guatamala, and thus knows the language fluently) which means I have to understand someone whose lips reach about to my belly button and who also is speaking a language I'm not fluent in as though she's practicing to be an auctioner. As the natives would say, "Ai, mi madre!" But we had a lot of fun, and I was surprised at myself. Instead of feeling awkward and uncomfortable like I kept expecting, I wanted to talk with everyone and felt a little bummed when we'd just pass people by. I even invited a few people to church (In Spanish, in case anyone was wondering). Though it's weird to think I'll be doing that every day starting in a week. And that by the time I leave the CCM I'll only have 16 months of the mission left.
        The only other thing I really have to say of interest is that on Sunday, my mission Presidents, the Rodriguezes, came and spoke to us. They talked about missionary service (shocker) and had us ponder about how we want to be remembered when we leave. My favorite answer was Elder Bryant's (yeah, from MY district), when he said that he didn't want to be remembered so much for who he is but rather for the work and service he leaves behind. By their fruits ye shall know them. It's true. It's so normal to want to be recongnized or stand apart from the pack. I know I enjoy it. But for a year and a half, it doesn't get to be about me, or any of us here for that matter. It's the people and how we can help them. As Elder Bednar (my apostle of choice at the moment) said, we are the channels or conduits of information for the investigators, but we are not the light. The spirit is what converts people. True dat. As a dear, dear aquanitance of mine would advise, I need to get out the way, get out the way, get out the way, MOVE! I'm still learning how to do that, but I think I'm getting better at listening than speaking (which I'm sure will come as a surprise and a delight to family and friends alike).
Well, that's about as serious as I can be without feeling awkward. On a lighter note, I still get a huge kick out of making people slightly uncomfortable. You should see the looks on the faces of Elders and Hermanas in my district when I tell them seemingly harmless things like I enjoy bringing in cool things from other beliefs into my own (Karma anyone?), or that I'd totally be Buddhist if I wasn't Mormon (Elder Cowley in my district seconded me on that one, at least), and most popular, the dreaded F word- FEMININISM! After one of my obvious pro-female comments, Elder Blotter looked at me and asked, "so, are you... a feminist?" Why yes, yes I am. I had to explain to everyone why it's not a dirty swear word, and I think I've already won them over... in spite of me. They even seemed intrigued and impressed when I told them I've never been beaten (by either gender) at leg wrestling. So lest anyone worry that I've changed too much, there you have it. And for those who are concerned that I've not changed enough, I'll just refer you back to the third paragraph.
Well, that's all I have for you for now. Tune in next time to find out how I...

UPDATE: So I don't remember if I mentioned it in the last entry (I never remember what I wrote), but we have these things called progressive investigators where our teachers pretend to be another person and we have to treat them like a real investigator. It feels so real that sometimes I forget that it's actually just my teacher sitting in a small office. Well, the other night (Tues. Sept 20), Juan Luis (a.k.a. the infamous Hermano Rubio) agreed to be baptized. Just like when Christ told his disciples to speak and their mouths would be filled... yeah, I just started talking, and I knew what to say to meet his needs and concerns. Obviously, it wasn't really me, it was the spirit, but it still felt really great. It just makes me simultaneously excited and terrified to do it in real life. Oh, and what I said about this being a short entry at the beginning of the post... Yeah...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And Then There Were Three

Ai, mi madre! Time flies... when you're not thinking about it. And all I do is think about it. My life is ruled by hours and minutes, and I am accountable for all of them. That sounds sorta poetic. But mostly depressing. Which it's not. Just different.

    So what's the big news in my vida you might ask? Well, last Wednesday, my companion, Hermana Schillemat, and I were getting ready to close out our day after our evening family prayer (when all the missinonaries pray together in our big meeting room and we get a normal American goodie), when Sister Glazier, the Mission President's wife, summons all the Hermanas over to her. We then find out our perfect companionships are about to be torn apart. You would think I didn't realize this is what is going to be happening to me for the next year and a half, but still...  Well, she told Hermana Schillemat and I that we would stay together, so we were pretty excited. Then she moved some other Hermanas around, and then we found out that... dun dun DUN! We were about to receive the curse of the trio! I was not at all happy. I thought I was going to avoid being in a trio while at the MTC. It's hard enough to put one person's need before your own and being with them ALL THE TIME but then to have another person on top of that? I almost blew three gaskets. And I even already knew the Hermana who would be our new comp and I really liked her. I just was all sorts of disgruntled nonetheless. But I have to say, almost a week later I'm pretty pleased with our new companionship. Hermana Eteaki is Tongan and she adds a certain... something. Last night, which was Tuesday the 13th of September, she did my hair in crown braids or cornrows or something, but only on the left side of my head. It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. We also enjoy pretending to shoot and otherwise maime each other during class and at other super appropriate times (my family is very familiar with my love of fake weaponry). And another cool fact: her boyfriend of four years is from the bay, so we've been to all the same haunts in San Fransisco before. I don't know why, but there's just something super cool about being far away from home and having someone who knows your territory.  But I have to say, her biggest contribution to the companionship might have been last night when she informed Hermana Schillemat and me how to say OKOU FKLELE, or, "I have diarrhea." Which after eating nothing but rice and beans for weeks, is pretty accurate. It's also known as the fury around here. And by here, I mean the MTC. Who knows what cute name they have for it in the D.R. But I've already sort of resigned myself to getting a tapeworm. That's why I tell all the Hermanas who are freaking out about gaining weight that we NEED to pack it on so the worm has something to work with. I'm not trying to lose all my girlish figure to some nasty, intestine-dwelling creature.

     Anywho, I feel like it's story time. Ready? Ok! So, once upon a time, we have this teacher named Hermano Rubio (which I think translates as 'Brother Blond' which is how I prefer to think of him) and he is true blue Dominican. Actually, he's black, and not blue at all, but I digress. I usually like him pretty well, but he has this weird thing about us not chewing on pens. "Esta cenando?" he'll ask, which means "are you eating dinner?" No, I'm obviously chewing on a pen because it is my habit, so leave me to it! But he's never actually caught me doing it, thus all my caps are completely good and chewed. He only ever catches the Elders doing it.  He also seems to be confused by the fist bump. Elder Bateman, this small, adorable elder who's like another younger brother, and I enjoy participating in said fist bump. Hermano Rubio gives us the strangest look and says "Que es eso?" or "what the heck is that?" (I'm translating facial and spoken expressions here). I told him it meant orgullo, which is pride and he got all sorts of flustered and kept threatening us with scriptures about pride. He's joking (I think), but now I just like to say that that's what the fist bump means because when I really stop and think about it, I don't know what it means. It's just what two people do to signify that they appreciate the each other's particular brand of strange. Just one of those cultural things that doesn't translate and that I probably won't be doing much of in the field.
    But none of that was the actual story. It was a decoy. The real story happened the day before our twosome became three. It was Wednesday night, and Hermano Rubio had told us to prepare to talk about The Plan of Salvation. So my Comp. Hermana Schillemat and I get down to business and decide to focus on the atonement. But when it was our turn to teach, Hermano Rubio in all his glory comes up to us and we said, "oh, como esta usted?" to which he replied "estoy muy mal," or I am not well. That caught me off guard, but I plunged ahead anyway and ask, "oh, well, why is that?"  And in straight deadpan, with plenty of emotion he says, "porque no me gusta mi vida." I just stared at him with my mouth twitching before the flood came. I laughed so hard I couldn't stop, and then Hermana S. joined in. First of all, he just straight up tells us he doesn't like his life, but it's a thousand times more amusing in Spanish. And secondly, we'd prepared something super specific so we weren't prepared for his question. Well, it got to the point that he just moved on to another group because we'd obviously blown the moment. Ah well. As long as that doesn't happen when I'm talking to a real investigator, I'll be fine.
   And the last thing I should probably share with the class is that last week on Thursday, our district got to go out on the town and see some amazing sites around the city. We eventually made it into the walls of the old city where original buildings from the 16th century still stand. Christopher Columbus, who "discovered" this area around that time, is a pretty big deal here, and we got to go inside his son, Diego Columbus's house, which is now a museum. There was all sorts of amazing 16th century weaponry and pottery and portraits and I'm a big history and art buff, so I was enjoying myself immensely. We also got to see the ocean that we can't go into (woot!) but I was disappointed to hear that waste is constantly being dumped into it, at least in this area, so no one really swims there anyway. Except for sharks, who apparently enjoy human waste. Who knew? But is still looked super pretty to me.
      We also got to see the first chapel built in the western hemisphere and go inside the first cathedral built on this side of the world. Once again, humanities major on the loose! I studied cathedrals for about four years, so it was great to be in one. Some other notable things we got to see was a stray  dog (there are lots of them here) with an ear dyed purple, the peacock wandering around Diego Columbus's backyard, and The Hard Rock Cafe. Yeah, the U.S. couldn't help itself. But all in all, it was an amazing day and I realized I am super excited to be here and get to be out in this culture all the time. Well, in two weeks and counting. Can't even start to think about that. Too soon!
      Well, that's all the time we have for now folks. I have to go make my teachers blush by accidentally saying awkward things in Spanish. They refuse to tell me what I'm REALLY saying. Maybe I don't really want to know... but here's something I can say for sure: Adios, y hasta luego!
UPDATE: Ok, so the reason this blog didn't get out on time is because on the night of my P-day B-day, we were all woken up at 2:30 in the morning to the sound of Zeus having a field day. There was a crazy storm and it knocked the Internet out. On my bday. REALLY?! But esta bien. It was still a great day, and as a good friend of mine once said... "Let her eat cake!" So I did.   
 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And Thus My Face Became a Facuet

Well, here I am, ready to give the people what they want (which is always, well, me). 


So, this has been quite a week, and what a week it’s been.  Apparently, there was some sort of “storm” or what not, Miss Hurricane Irene.  I don’t have time to talk about it, but how they name these storms is beyond me. I hope that is my job someday. That’s why they’ll pay me the big bucks.

So the most exciting thing by far was that we got to leave the compound and go the the local university and to the store (on separate days). It was last Friday that we went to the University, which is not a very far walk, but believe me, it was enough that my entire head started leaking liquid. I am the perfect living proof that humans really are made up of about 90 percent water. But besides that, my experience was fantastic. We were supposed to go “practice” our Spanish with unsuspecting college natives.  And if we happened to slip them a church pamphlet or a Book of Mormon, well, what could it hurt?

Well, it didn’t, as it turned out. Pain free. I really hate the idea of forcing my religion on others, which is why I was so reluctant to serve a mission to begin with, but I’m not really forcing anything. If people don’t want to hear it, I’m sure they’ll tell me. But a lot of the people mostly were God blessing us left and right for what we’re doing. We talked to a man who just got back from preaching in Haiti and he wanted a couple of our pamphlets. The first person we talked to was studying to be a lawyer and she was super smart. She told us that the University is “el primer universidad en America,” which made no sense to me until I talked to a couple young gents who were completely fascinated by mine and my companions ‘ blue eyes. P.S., I have never felt so out-of-place as walking down the streets in a big white herd. In America, we’re used to having a bit of a mix. Here, it’s just different shades of dark. So I get to feel like a bit of a weirdo. But you should see one of my roommates. She’s 6’2” and here it is not against the code of Political Correctness to come up to someone and say, “wow, you’re big.” I’m just hoping no one says that to me or I may Kung Fu Panda them. And then I’d get sent home, and well, that just wouldn’t be ok. Especially to my parents who helped by all the stuff I needed for the next year and a half.  And God too. He might not be down with it.

Anyways, the best experience my companion and I had was when we talked to our “investigador de oro” or golden investigator. When we first approached her, she seemed really tired, but she let us talk with her. I honestly just wanted to practice my Espanol, but she actually asked us questions because she saw our pamphlet. So we practiced all the good stuff we’ve been learning to do here at the MTC and tried to let the spirit do the talking. It went really well and we gave her the Book of Mormon.  She gave us her number and we gave her a pamphlet with the local church numbers in case she had any questions. The best was when I told her that The Book of Mormon doesn’t replace the Bible; it actually supports it, and that the main reason for the it is to foretell of Christ coming to the Americas. She said, “oh, I didn’t know that.” Exactly. It’s interesting because if you read the Bible, him coming to America makes sense. Other sheep and what have you (John 10:16).  But a lot of people haven’t heard about it. I just loved that even though she had a religion, she was open to hearing more about  one different than her own. There may just be a lesson in there somewhere, but all let you all figure out for yourselves.
The next best thing was our district trip to the store (which was pretty much a super Walmart. It was great, except the part where all 40 of us almost died because the bus driver has the most intense case of road rage I've ever seen. So much rage, he almost sideswiped a man in a wheelchair who for some reason and decided to take a stroll down the middle of the street. But for some reason, the white lines they have here (you know, the ones to separate lanes?) don't get used a whole lot. The cars just kinda go wherever there's room. Luckily, I was sitting right behind the bus driver, so I got to watch my life flash before my eyes multiple times. But when we finally got to the store, it was all worth it. My comp and I had our pesos, and we were ready for some serious dulces. I bought some knock off oreos and some little strawberry taffies and some serious chocolate bars. My favorite is the one called Mas Y Mas (More and More) and it was full of raisins and peanuts. Oh yeah! But I bought all the little things I'd been missing like more nail polish, lotion (I had to throw my other one away in Provo because my bags weighted too much), and of course, woodsticks (qtips). I also bought a necklace that apparently doesn't match anything I have, but it looked cool, and the pesos were burning holes in my figurative pockets. But the big fear was... will I have enough to pay for all this crap? I know there are 38 pesos in a buck, which makes it seem like you suddenly have a lot of money once you get it converted, but when you see that your lotion costs almost 200 pesos, well, you stop feeling so rich. And when my comp and I got up to pay for our spoils, we just handed the lady a whole mess of pesos and I tried to tell her in my gringa spanish that yes, I do in fact want that paper you're trying to put back, and no, I don't understand anything else you're trying to tell me. I'm pretty sure she missed the training seminar on customer service, but esta bien. I'm just glad I got most of the stuff I needed, and then it was back on the suicide bus for round two. Note to self: never insult American drivers ever again.
As for the food, well... I've officially reached my limit. I CRAVE rice and beans but everything else is best described as no me gusta. No me gusta pretend American Hamburgers or chicken burgers. The condiments are trying hard to be like mayonnaise and ketchup but not quite living up to their potential. On such nights, I make good use of the bread and bananas. We have bananas at every meal and all time in between. 
There are literally buckets of bananas.
I call them banana checkpoints. In case you didn't want one at the beginning of the food line you might want one by the middle of the line. Or at the end. Or something...
But it's weird to think I'm only here another few weeks (four, four, four!!!!) and then I'm outta here! Off to inflict myself of the world. I don't know how many more blog entries I'll be able to concoct but at least there's pics now. For anyone who has missed my smokin' good looks, never fear. I've got you covered! Well... until next time...
Haz chevere!
Love,
Hermana Sweeney

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt

Ok, I confess: I am not the brightest bulb in the box right now. There I said it. And it was hard! But harder still is typing with this broken finger. Yes, it's the same exact finger that I broke exactly a year and a half ago, right before leaving for D.C. for my internship. You know what they say... break me once, shame on you. Break me twice, well, hence the light being not-so-bright. I was playing volleyball, which I am quite fond of and it was my turn to serve, which I am fonder of still. But all fond feelings found their end when one of the elders from District B (the rivals of my then-district, District H), threw me the ball, and when I caught it, the ball slammed into my pinky finger at an awkward angle. I said a few choice words in my head, made a few faces, and kept on playing. When the doctor initially reviewed the x-rays before the specialist, he said, "your finger looks terribly... normal." I felt relief. But the next day, 12 hours spent on three planes later, the first thing Sister Glazier, the Mission President's wife, said to me was, "Hermana Sweeney, your finger is broken. I said, "oh no, I was told it was just sprained." I was told wrong. Apparently, there are specialists for a reason. So I get to be in a finger splint for a couple weeks. But as my cutsey companion, Sister Schillemat (it's a German name) and I like to sing, "todo esta bien," or "it's all good!"
And it is good. We have rice and beans for lunch almost everyday. After a week here, my stomach is trained to be the most hungry at lunch time. I love when the smaller Dominican men, who are so nice and friendly, take one look at me and give me twice the amount of rice as my companion. Oh yeah, bring it on! I'm not trying to waste away to nothing while I'm serving God and all, after all!
The CCM (MTC) is smaller here, and there are only about 7 Hermanas and 40 Elders. It's been interesting getting used to my new district. We are district 1, and we are very different in our levels of Spanish and personalities. Me and my companion are pretty chill, so the intensity level of some Elders brings my feminism out in interesting ways. But they are but 19 years of age and they are really good young men. We may learn something from each other yet. The hardest thing is being back in beginning level Spanish when I've been doing it for 8 years. But it reminds me of how much I forgot and how much I need to practice. And as the Mission President, President Glazier said, it can feel like a prison at times because there's really not anywhere to go like at the Provo MTC. We go back and forth between two floors all day for classes and food. And our gym is more like a rec room. But once again... esta bien.
But now, for the main course. So, an event took place that has restored my faith in, well, everything. There is a book that was made into a movie called "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." Well, I can do them one better. My dear mother sent me a couple of packages while I was at the Provo MTC. The first one contained a cute turquoise blouse and a floral print pencil skirt.

Well, when it came time to leave for the D.R., my bags were overweight, so something had to go. The skirt, which was a little short on me, went the way of the giveaway box. That was the end of that.
Or was it?
The second day I was here, my Comp and I were unpacking, and what should she pull out but... the very skirt I left behind. I almost died of excessive laughter. It's only about 10 sizes too big for her. She brought it in case some Dominican woman could use it. But instantly, we agreed she HAD to wear it. And so she did. And with a belt to hold it in place, it actually looked super cute.

Today, my roommate, Sister Domgarrd, is wearing it. She's 6'2". Just like the story of the traveling pants, this skirt seems to look good on everyone! Next in line to try its magic is sister Breitweiser.

Anyway, I am loving my missionary experience. Only five more weeks here! Lord give me strength! It's gonna be good good times...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Days Like Weeks, the Weeks Like Days....


 Ok, so here is my first post to my blog from the mission. And by mission, I mean the computer I am sitting at, across from a vending machine, in front of a dryer. I'm a-writing while I launder.
I think it's important to realize my blog won't be as honest as I'm used to being for two reasons: One, I am sitting next to my companion, and two, I'm supposed to be positive. Hence, I may just use more metaphors. But really, it is a completely different lifestyle. I am never alone, and not in the sense of Jesus is always with me, though that's of course there too. No, it's because unless you're in the shower or on the John, someone is beside you or slightly behind or in front of you wherever you go. It's nice because you never have to feel like a loser. It's not so nice when you want a moment to make an annoyed face.
 I have to give myself credit though; I've actually been ridiculously cheerful and upbeat. I'm usually only thinking about church stuff or studying. This isn't because I have magic powers; it's thanks to a little something I call "the Church as a well-oiled machine." There really is not any time to breathe; we jump from one activity to the next. I wake at 6:00 a.m. and go to bed at 10:30 p.m. And I still feel like I'm getting nothing done. And on top of that, I feel like an oversized oompa loompa from all the cafeteria food I'm eating. My companion, Hermana C., has a lot more restraint. But when you can eat a cookie, an ice cream bar, and a plate of enchiladas, well... why not?
 
I do feel lucky with my language, because I already have had more or less eight years of Spanish study. But speaking it has been interesting. There's so much que no entiendo. Look, I'm speaking (typing) Spanglish already. I better not even know English when I get home or I'm not doing my job right. But being one of two sisters in my particular class, I feel like I have to be that much better; up my game, so to speak. I am a shining star in a sea of teenage testosterone. I knew Sister missionaries would be outnumbered, but jeez... Luckily, they're forced to be nice to us. Some even take our food trays to the wash room for us. What service! But really, most are pretty good. Although some guys would rather sing Antoine Dodson rap than do their computer language study. Oh well. I can't pretend I wasn't amused.
 
Well, that's all the time we have for today, folks! I have about 3 minutes left of computer time. If you want to see something on my blog, write me with questions. Especially when I get out of Provo and my life is that much more interesting. My email is brittany.sweeney@myldsmail.net. Oh, and I will have pictures on here again someday. When I actually take some.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Just Call Me "Sista-Gurl"

                                                       (Brittany outside the MTC July 27, 2011)
Whew, ok, so, its really been two weeks already?! Where have I been?! But time has passed so fast/slow, I don't even know if I'm facing backwards or forwards at this point. I just gotta keeping movin' along, singin' a song, playing ping pong, (no, I don't think we're allowed to do that. When in doubt... don't do it!)
Yes, that was me implying there are a freakish amount of rules. And this is me saying it: THERE ARE A FREAKISH AMOUNT OF RULES! But the weird thing is, I feel like I was made for this life. I have a good background in Spanish, I don't get homesick as easily (yes family, I still miss you), as I did when I first came to college because I now have the emotional experience and maturity to cope with my feelings. I know what to expect. I have become a cyborg. My dad will have to help me out and correct me if my nerd references are off. I think he owns stock in the Sci-Fi channel. But really, I feel like I was preparing to be a missionary and I didn't even know it. And that will help me through those times of having to hand wash underwear, or dealing with my face (which sweats like Seattle rains). So yeah, there are rules.
*Be up at 6:30 a.m., be in bed by 10:30.
*Study. Eat.
*Study more. Eat (less).
*Be with your companion always, always, and did I mention always?
*Be dressed modestly (well, yeah) and look sharp 
                                                                 (At the Provo Temple)
These are a few of many. There are 82 pages dedicated to this lifestyle and we have to read at least 3 of them a day. But I have few troubles with the rules, except for one, and it's surprising: We're not supposed to call Elders "guys, dudes, bros," or basically anything except for Elder (inset last name here). Same for Sisters. No "girl, gal, lady," etc.
Why is this so hard? Beats me. I guess because I don't think of as missionaries all the time. Which we are. My district (48H, best in the world!) was playing sand volleyball the other day, and when one of the Elders who is super short and ridiculously loveable made a terrific save, I just want to go slap him on the back and yell, Oh, yeah, that's how it's done, Zackerson!" (Oh, that's another rule. NO TOUCHING of the opposite sex. The reasons should be more or less obvious). So I have to make do with a high five and slip in an Elder. Not too hard in theory, but in practice...
Which is why I think of myself as Sista, or Girl. or better yet, the two together. I also like Hermana cuz it sounds less lame than Sister for some reason. I really liked it the other day when I was playing four square in the gym, and I was the only girl. I was making some pretty naughty plays and schooling many of those 19-year old guys. Elders. You know what I mean. And every time I did a particularly good play, they'd clap and yell "oooooooooh, Hermana!" Now that, I can handle.
Anyways, all-in-all, I am really enjoying myself. And in just one short week, I will be on my 17-hour flight, Dominican Republic-bound. Scary. Awesome. I'm gonna be so covered in Spanish, it's not even funny. And I will speak so well, no one will know I'm not native. Except for everyone with eyes. And ears, probably. Well, till next time, this is me, from the Provo MTC (for now), and I am still, for a year-and-a -half, Sista Gurl.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Can Get with This, or You Can Get with That...

Ok, so I was just presented with the knowledge that I may or may not even get to be in charge of my own blog while I'm Livin' the D.R. Loca. Great. I think my mom and aunt will be taking pieces of my letters and forming them into future blog posts. Double great. They don't have a technological clue to split between them (love you guys!) But asi es la vida; you have to deal the best you can with what you have. Which brings me to what I actually want to blog about.

The other day, I was shopping in the jolly world of Wally Mart, searching for the last minute mission items I needed. After squeezing through the usual throng of thousands that always seem to populate that particular store, I finally made it to the camping area where I would pick out the flashlight that will light my way for the next 1.5 years (ooh, your token spiritual metaphor). I was thrilled that most of the flashlights were under 6 bucks and there were a surprising amount of cheap options. But for some reason, the decision was not as easy as it should have been. I was faced with two options that put me in a quandary: for the same price ($5.97), I could get the blue flashlight that takes Double A batteries and has the soft grip handle (made from the same stuff as those computer wrist supports) with 20 hour battery life 
You can't tell from this pic, but the handle is sooooo squishy!
or I could get the silver one with 40 hours of shine that uses triple A batteries. For some reason, I truly hate these kind of batteries.
Ok, I know the package says 100 hours, but this looks almost exactly like the one I'm talking about. Just imagine it says 40 hours and we'll call it good. 
My dilemma came down to the fact that I really wanted the first flashlight, (I'm a sucker for blue and anything squishy), but it was less practical (20 fewer hours, people)! And even though it broke my heart, I felt that, being as I'm going on a mission and all, I need to be Ms. Practicality. I'd already done this before; a month previous to this scenario, I sacrificed getting a super cute watch for a less attractive, less conspicuous, waterproof one. Oh the trials of a truly difficult life.

So I reached (somewhat dejectedly) for the ugly, hard-handled light device, grabbed it off the rack, and turned to throw it into the cart full of other exciting items (razors, deodorant, hairspray) when I was stopped by a thought. There was no monkey on my back making my life choices for me. And then I remembered the song from one of my all-time favorite commercials. You know, the one with the rapping hamsters trying to convince you to buy a 2010 Kia Soul by suggesting that you can either get with this (the aforementioned Kia) or you can get with that (a toaster, a cardboard box, a washing machine). Pretty much, you realize that you'd have to be an absolute tool if you would rather drive a toaster than a Kia. I kind of have to agree.

And in my case, I could also either get with this (blue soft flashlight) or that (silver, many-hour flashlight) and I realized, (gasp) it didn't really matter! I should just get what I want and what will make me happier. So I'll have to take along a few extra batteries. We have a ton of Double A's in our house anyways (suck it Triple A's). It made me realize that I tend to fall into this pattern of behavior a lot; instead of going after what I want, I go after what I think I should want. And I came to the brilliant conclusion that I, and probably anyone else who does this, should stop. I mean, at the end of our lives, do we really want to look back at a bunch of ugly watches and flashlights? (Oooh, another metaphor, I'm killin' it today)! But seriously, people are always talking about living life with no regrets. And even though a flashlight isn't something that will really shake up my future very much, the attitude which prompts its purchase will. We need to figure out what it is we really want from life, and then be brave enough to pursue it, even if a group of rapping hamsters surrounds us and tries to persuade us otherwise. Maybe especially then.

Well, that's it for now. I'm about to go off and seize the day(s) for the next year and a half. I hope you all can do the same. Oh, and here is a link to that most delightful commercial. Because you deserve it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOHwjjhFTac

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dancing Pickles, Serving Missions, and Other Things I didn't Want to Do.

Well, it had to happen sooner or later; inevitable, like a bad ABC Family summer sitcom or the resurgence of leggings. What is this great Event (not to be confused with the wannabe 'Lost' T.V. show), you might ask? I am now blogging. Why? Well, dear anybody-who's-reading-this, simply put, I'm going through cha cha cha CHANGES! and because this is the easiest way for people to stay updated, we now find ourselves here.

So as some people might know, I am serving the Master and Commander upstairs on an LDS mission in the Capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo (West Mission). Yes, yes thank you, I know, I am wonderful. I've also determined that this means God loves me more than people serving stateside. It's a logical conclusion. I mean, I'm practically going on vacation! [Note: if you are offended by my humor, I will only cheerfully encourage you to purchase a of sense of one at a local convenience store near you].

But I have a confession, World Wide Web: I didn't hope "they'd" call me on a mission. Not really. About a year ago, I had just completed an amazing internship at a travel magazine in Washington D.C. Then in mid-August, I graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. I was on top of the world. A so-called useless Humanities degree and a sagging economy weren't enough to bring this girl down. I was going places. Like back home. But only temporarily. I really, truly believed I would easily get a job in either Utah, D.C. or by my B.F. in Los Angeles. Instead, weeks, then months passed by, and I began to get nervous. And then I realized all hope wasn't lost. My brother worked at a sandwich shop called Mr. Pickles in our hometown. Surely, he would be able to hook me up. And he did. In a matter of months, I went from this:
July 2010

To this:
January 2011

A pickle who's also a college graduate? Scoreboardicus! Surprisingly, I actually didn't hate my life during my period as a pickle. I got to dance around and make people smile (bonus points: exercise), and on top of getting paid, I got free sandwiches to boot. This experience taught me two things: Always look for the positive and dance like everyone's watching. Cuz they are.

Now comes the part where I describe how this and other dead ends helped push me down the mission path. Has anyone ever felt nothing is working out? No, just me? Ok, well I'll describe it to you: it sucks. Job applications, contests, educational programs, you name it, I didn't get it. Now I've learned that life comes with it's share of wins and losses, but this was just ridiculous. Sometime around the middle of February, with a little prodding from Sister B., a member of my church ward, I decided to heed my B.F.'s suggestion that I stay with her for a couple of weeks and look for a job. I could live with her, if things worked out. Brilliant. Finally, some sort of direction. So I went down to Alhambra, which is pretty much in L.A., and started to sorta look for jobs with the enthusiastic encouraging of mi amiga.

The only problem? I felt wrong, all wrong. How could this be? Why was nothing clear? I'd prayed about going on a mission, but more the type of prayer that goes, "I'll go if you want me to, but please don't want me to." While my friend was at work and I was alone with my troubled feelings, I felt like I should call my Noni (Italian for young grandmother). So I did. I mentioned I was feeling strange, we talked for awhile and she mentioned a mission. I rolled my eyes, but then, it seemed to make sense. The more we talked, the more I felt she had a point. So I asked God myself. And FINALLY got a response. I needed to go.

So why did it take God a month of Sundays to answer me? Because I didn't really want an answer. I wanted to meander along hoping Lady Luck would direct me to a perfect job because that's what I thought I wanted. I didn't see a mission being in the cards for me. But apparently, someone with a bit more knowledge than me felt differently. So now, in about a week, I will be reporting to the Provo MTC to get this party started. I'm terrified. I'm unsure. But tonight, while attending a recently returned missionary's homecoming, I felt the first true feelings of another emotion: excitement. It's coming, inevitable, like this blog.

Now I won't lie, sometimes a year and a half seems like a lot to give up. Sometimes it seems like it'll pass me by in a blink. But I know now that I'm doing what's best, for me and hopefully for the people I meet. And I'll be documenting it all here, on this blog, co-named by my D.C. friend Mandy. Thanks Mandy! And after my mission, it can become a 'normal' person's blog. Because if nothing else, I am the epitome of normal.

Oh, and one more thing: Fortunately for me, the final Harry Potter movie came out before I left. It would have royally sucked to have seen the other seven movies in the theater only to miss out on the most epic one. I mean, this is the end of an era we're talking about here! I had to see it! Otherwise, I would have had to abort this whole mission thing. Ha, ha, just kidding. Sorta.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, this photo is of a crappy quality because it was taken with my camera phone and because my mom didn't want to spend more than 2 seconds taking it.