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!
Hermana Sweeney