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...


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