Sunday, December 16, 2012

Devil with the Name Tag On

You and me and the Devil do NOT make three. I am not a witchy woman. What is with the people this week? Answer: They are no longer people. They have turned into a hideous sub-species of perpetual drunkards. I don´t know if the people who are telling me I´m a blond American devil are drunk or just crazy. Yesterday, Sunday, the supposed day of the Lord (go figure), is when people started freaking out on me. One bearded gentleman (why do most of them have beards?) started chasing us with his big metal pole telling me I´m the devil, so I ignored him and entered in my apartment complex. He left me alone. As Hna. Paus and I, later that day, were walking up to the craziest street in this entire country, the Dr. Defillo, when I lady with Medusa-like hair and milk streaming from her mouth yelled for us to cross to the other side of the road, because, you guessed it, I´m a giant devil. I think she had me confused for someone else... but anyway, I couldn´t help but think how lucky I am not to have a ton of self esteem issues, or this country would probably have broken me in pieces. I just wanted to have a special break-out moment and inform these miscreants (or lovely children of God... you know), that "No, I´m not to devil... your mom´s the devil!" But that´s not really fair to their moms.

But back to the crazy Defillo and the absurdity thereof. My comp. and I were passing to pick up some of our investigators and bring them to church. It was 7:30 in the a.m. And what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a car with all it´s doors open, blasting music at the top of its lungs, with what was surely a rather large prostitute dancing with a couple of severely drunk dudes. Freshly drunk dudes. There were open beer bottles and cups filled with alcohol on top of the car. The Defillo- where the party is always just getting started. Considering one of the people we were bringing to church was a 10 year old boy, I felt like I wanted to shield him from it all, but here, you just can´t. You see all you could possibly imagine and then some. And it´s only gonna get worse because during December, everyone receives double payment from the government, so everyone think they have a lot of money. So you have to watch your back, because, well, everyone assumes that everyone else is walking around like a mobile bank. And they want a withdraw. And they will search you for it. As a missionary, I haven´t had this problem. Yet. And I hope it stays that way. Let´s just say missionaries aren´t known for our incredible wealth. We work for free- with benefits of a, er, more spiritual nature. But yeah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Please be careful to cover your rear (and your front, and belongings you hold dear).

In pleasant news, I can sorta cook Dominican food now. It´s a work in progress. My rice-making abilities have improved. And I can make some decent beans. Beans beans, the magical fruit. And fried bananas. Well, they´re really plátanos, and when you slice, mash, and fry them, they really taste more like potato chips. Sort of. Comparing the me now to the me of a year ago, I really can´t believe the crap I eat. If someone had told me what my mission would be, I would have said, "boy- you CRAZY!" But I find that it´s really mind over matter, you can eat what they serve you from any platter. It would appear I´m feeling rather rhyming and whimsical today. That would probably have to do with the fact that our Zone is preparing our Christmas presentation. Our annual mission Christmas party is in exactly a week from now. Boo-ya! I don´t have to cook (there is such a thing as a free lunch), and I get to see all the missionaries I haven´t seen in forever. It will be extreme. And our zone will be acting out how it would be if missionaries contacted and converted the Grinch. I will be one of the narrators. And it is gonna be just a whole pile of fun. Can´t wait.

But speaking of crazy boys and zones, I´ve learned a valuable lesson this week during our zone conference. Us hermanas brought oatmeal cookies to share. Yes, it´s true- no one deserves us. Especially some of the Elders in our zone. After greedily partaking of the goods, some of them thought it was perfectly natural to leave their crumbs all over the place. When I informed them otherwise, some half-heartedly picked up a little here and there. And some had magically gone deaf during my clean-up announcement and others thought I was speaking pig Latin. It´s not that hard, my dear young gents! Clean up after yourself. No one is your maid. As the Prophet Alma so wisely put it, "oh remember my sons and learn wisdom in thy youth..." Good point. If you develop good habits early on, the better you´ll be later on. Now don´t get me wrong, a lot of these guys are really great Elders, but I am reminded of a saying I´ve always heard and always hated- "well, you know, boys will be boys." No, boys will be what you let them be. O sea, people in general. Expect more, get more (do NOT apply this saying to your holiday wish list). But really, if we let people know our expectations and don´t just give them pre-made excuses, (starting them off right while they´re young), it just really makes a whole world of difference.

And finally, I would like to rejoice and praise the brilliance of cheap Christmas decorating. Colorful snowflakes hanging from invisible wire from the ceiling? Festive. Tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree? Space saving. Homemade candy count-down paper chain? Tasty anticipation. It´s amazing what you can do when you put yourself to the task.

And an apology- this blog contains little to no info. on investigators and their progress. That´s because this week was a typical series of ups and downs. People being touched by the spirit. Making commitments they don´t keep (going to church, reading the material we leave, etc). But such is the mission. You just have to rejoice in the day you´re in and the success that you had. You never know what people will decide to do tomorrow. And it also doesn´t help that I´ve been a little distracted. One of our ward member only has four fingers on his right hand. I just noticed this last week when I shook it. We contacted a man on the street who has 6 fingers- that´s right, there was a fully-formed thumb on the side of his other thumb. I was highly disturbed and fascinated, and could only think of The Princess Bride movie quotes the whole time. And he´s not the first case I´ve seen. I´ve seen people covered in boils, people with spines that put Quasimodo to shame, and lots of people with the same skin condition Michael Jackson claimed to have. Half black, half white. I would say there must be something in the water, but I probably shouldn´t because it´s probably true. But it just goes to show that these things shouldn´t matter as much as we think they do. Here, these people are just accepted and absorbed into society, in spite of their appearance. What a concept. Lesson observed, lesson applied.

Well, that´s what we call a wrap. Not a sandwich wrap, although that would be tasty. But we will be saying the goodbye word. But don´t cry for me Argentina. The truth is, I never met you. Cuz I´m in the D.R., baby! And so I shall remain. Well, for a little while longer at least.

Keeping it Klassy,

Hermana Sweeney "the Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Out with the Old, in with the Not-As-Old

Remember that time when everything is different than how it used to be? Yeah.... But sometimes that´s good and sometimes that´s bad. How profound. But, as Jesus was know to do now and then, he gave some good insight into the human condition when he observed that no one who has old wine will automatically want new wine because they will claim the old is better. He was referring to the new, higher, better law he had brought to the people to replace the Law of Moses. But it can be applied to any other life change as well. We seem to either want to cling to past traditions/habits, even if there is obviously a better way presented to us, or sometimes we take the opposite stratagem and try to abandon everything, hoping that going to a new place, starting over, whatever, will make everything from a shattered past become a forgotten memory. However, I think the real trick is, unshockingly, finding a happy balance between the two. Forgiving, forgetting, and moving forward, but remembering that the past is a shaping factor for future experiences. I still get embarrassed when I think of some of the stupid crap I´ve done (both during and before the mission). Sometimes you find yourself doing the same stupid stuff and you can´t help but think "man, I thought I shook this already." But just like how learning a language is an incessant process of repetitions, so it is with learning in life. Sometimes, we overcome certain weakness quickly, and others are life-long struggles. And as annoying as that is, as long as we´re trying, and repeating with greater frequency the good and with less frequency the bad, we learn how to be happy, better functioning human beings. And we find that taking the Lord´s advice and trying a new beverage maybe isn´t such a bad idea after all.

In my current case, I am still in an old area (well, for me, anyway. The 7.5 months I will have by the end of this transfer is an eternity in the mission field), but I am surrounded by new and it´s really amazing how it´s helped me regain my focus. It´s just too easy to put yourself lazy being with the same person for a long time, and Rodriguez and I were together A LONG time. But now, I´ve got the experience with the area, with the people, and time on the mission in general, and Paus has all the luck. In all my time here, we´ve had several part-families we´ve taught, but either one or both of the parents is never home when we try to visit, especially the men, and in spite of our best efforts, they always seem to escape us. But as soon as Paus gets here (after I´ve already been here half a year), all of a sudden, ALL the husbands our home. And I mean ALL of them. And we´ve gotten to talk to them and help a couple of families get set up to set wedding dates. I´m excited, especially because one of the ladies especially has been waiting for months and months and MONTHS (I´m not even quite sure how long) to be baptized, but she just became a dry member (someone who comes to activities and church but who isn´t a member), because she dragged her feet with the whole marriage thing. We helped her get the documents she needs for marriage, but it still just wasn´t coming together for her. Now we have a date more or less set for the middle of February. It´s gonna be good. Now if we can do likewise with a couple other families we´re teaching... but I shouldn´t get ahead of myself. The D.R. wasn´t built in a day. Especially the building close to our house that´s been in construction since before I started the mission. One cement block at a time.

Another positive change I´ve seen thing transfer: my clothes! I finally caved and took a couple blouses and skirts to a male seamstress (weirdly, I know the word for that in Spanish and not in English), and he fixed them right up. A combination of me losing (a very little) weight on the mission and the ridiculous washing machines that stretch out your clothes like a four year old with Silly Putty is equal to one frumpy looking Fraulein of an Hermana (bonus points for using two languages there). And as I´ve mentioned before, people here don´t just buy things new if they can fix it, and then fix it again, and maybe fix it some more. So while yes, I still do Sharpie in the bleach stains on my dark blouses, and bleach the colorful stains out of my white clothing, at least the clothes fit, and I´m somewhat fabulous, if only in a second-hand store sort of way.

Oh, and I feel I must confess, in the mission, I had a couple dreams: one was to be the step-mom to one of the other Hermanas (be the companion of someone right after they´re done being trained), or kill someone (be their last companion). As of yet, neither of these things have happened, and I only have one transfer left. And I think we all know what they means- Yup, I have to pretend I really did fulfill my dreams! Or just look at my situation differently (oh the power of unintentional positive thinking). With Hna. Lund, I wasn´t her companion when she left the mission, but I lived in the same house with her til the bitter end and got to see her off. And I inherited a ridiculous amount of mission treasures from her. If that isn´t killing someone, I don´t know what is. And with Hna. Dawe, as she puts it, I´m her American madrastra (technically, Hna. Rodriguez is her companion). But I guess I´m the wicked step-mother. I teach her the things that maybe Rodriguez won´t think of. Or at the very least, I´m her English-speaking outlet. It´s very mutually beneficial. So even if I didn´t ever get to see my dreams come to pass in the way I had hoped, I am getting to do them vicariously. And that will just have to do.

The only other good changes in my immediate past have been finally, FINALLY having Hna. Paus tuvi up my hair. Yes, it took me this long. And I´ve seriously doubted it, but if you could see my face, well, you´d know I´m a believer. Not a trace- of doubt in my mind. Off came the tuvi, shake of the head, and I had the best hair day I´ve had in awhile. I don´t know how or why the tuvi works so well, but like many good things in my life, it just seems wiser not to question it.

And guess what´s back? Back again? English classes! Tell a friend. Yup, back to my Azuazian roots, teaching the Dominicans how to speak like a Gringo. But the experience here in the Capital teaching is, well, a whole other experience. In our Azua sessions, we were lucky when 4 or 5 people showed up, and that included when they´d bring their havoc-wreaking off-spring along. Here, we easily have classes of 15-20 people, anxious and ready to learn. Hey, I´m not complaining. And as of this week, our students can now introduce themselves and tell you the days of the week. True story. I just hope the enthusiasm keeps. That´s the thing with learning something new (o sea, changing your routine). It can be a lot of work, and it´s not always fun and games. But we´ll see. If they can at least ask someone where the nearest bathroom is and how the order a hamburger, we´ll call this a success story.

And this week´s story is now successfully coming to a close. Till next week´s tales of triumph and terror, just remember: don´t underestimate change. Especially anything greater than a nickel. It might come in handy when you´re in a pickle.

Unchangingly yours,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (Except on Sundays)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The American Dream, I Know What that Means!

Howdy Partners. This is your capitán speaking. Well, capitána. But the feminist in me refuses to acknowledge the genderizing of nouns and verbs. Which means I may be doomed to have terrible grammar, but at least I´ll be getting my point across, even if I´m the only one who knows it.

Anyway, as some of you may already know/taken for granted, this week was the great big day of thanks. And I feel quite ashamed of how I have been mistreating my American roots this week. I just realized that for 6 months, o sea, half a year, I have been living with pure Latins. What? How? So this week has been quite an adjustment for me, because I now have another American in the house, Hermana Dawe. Which means i´ve been speaking a whole pile of English. I can´t even stop it. It is English-rrhea, which is a lot better than the real thing. And because she only has a couple transfers in the field, she´s been able to catch me up on some of the stuff I´ve been missing over the last, oh you know, 16 MONTHS! Anyway, I´m used to being here in an ever-constant climate, void of many holidays that are sacred to me (Halloween, Ground Hog Day, etc.), but Hna. Dawe is not. She also experienced the exact same punch in the face of being born into La Yuca, being trained there, expecting to stay, but being forced to leave after only two transfers. I think I can relate... and it was exactly a year ago for me too, when that transfer from Hades happened. So big holiday plus hideous transfer usually equals a little bit of trunkee, o sea, a whole mess of messy emotions. So we decided to do our best with a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner. We succeeded? Depends on what you call success. Here on the mission, we just don´t eat as much as we do in normal life. So I´m appalled to so that after only one plate of chicken (like the little roasted kind you can buy at Costco), some stuffing, a bit of cranberry sauce, some mashed potatoes and a couple of rolls, I was done in. We all had to go pass out on the bed, clutching our stomachs afterwards. I think one of us kept going to the bathroom to throw up, but it´s all kind of a blur. Well, it didn´t take much to get us turkey drunk (sans turkey), and the hangover was quite unpleasant. I hope I can be in better form for the next Thanksgiving. Go big or go home. I think I´ll do both.

But I didn´t just have a food failure, but a history hiccup as well. My new companion, Hermana Paus, was asking why we even celebrate Thanksgiving. SIDENOTE: I now know why everyone loves having Paus as a companion. She is BOSS. We already get along like we´ve know each other for a couple transfers. She´s just so relaxed and tranquilo, and in a mission like the one I´m in, that´s a HUGE asset. I´m really gonna enjoy our time together. Anyway, I started telling her our grand history: "So, a religious sect in England, the Puritans, were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. So they decided to go somewhere where they could enjoy religious liberty. Anyway, they all built 3 ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria..." wait, that´s not right. Hnas. Dawe, Rodriguez, Paus and I were like, "uhhhhhhhhhh.... no." Well, that´s what happens when you live in a foreign country all day. After day. Apparently, you forget your real heritage and adopt another.

And I know Thanksgiving is technically supposed to be a time of, well, thanks, but I´m having a little trouble on that front. Hna. Dawe wasn´t content to leave the Yuca without bringing along a friend: The light demon. When I came here to Quisqueya from Azua, I brought the water demon. But the light demon is worse, because if there isn´t light in our apartment (the light powers our water pump), then yup, you guessed it- there´s no water either. Hna. Dawe was used to not having much light, except early in the morning and late at night. But none of the rest of us were. And so we are cursing demons and gnashing our teeth. There are some thing I just will straight up not miss about living in a third world country. I´m sorry, a developing country. they have Doritos and Oreos here now. But I´ve come to accept that it´s part of the adventure, good or bad, happy or sad.

As for the whole dividing the area thing, it seems to be working out alright. Magically, there´s an area I haven´t already contacted yet. It was definitely a pain in the rear to have to divide up all the investigators, and sometimes running into the other Hermanas in the street because we had the same idea of a member we could visit, or a place we should go (Quisqueya is only so big, you know), but we´re making it work. And I´m enjoying living in a house of four once more. More excitement, less cleaning.

Oh, and I feel I wouldn´t be doing my blog history (which I don´t remember any better than American history) justice if I didn´t recount the following blurb from my Dominican life: Anyway, so sometimes being white and blond here is associated with being clueless (well, that´s something that seems to cross the cultural divide). Anyway, for some reason, no one here thinks I understand how to cross the street. Granted, trying to reach the other side of the road here in the D.R. is a lot more death-defying than doing it, oh, I don´t know, ANYWHERE ELSE, but, hey, I´ve got it. I´ve been doing it for almost a year and a half, and for almost 7 months in this area alone. But during my time with Rodriguez, she would always grab my arm and frantically say, "cuidado," to which I would give her my famous "I´m 25 years old and know how to cross the street by myself, thank you very much" look. But it wasn´t even just her. Many of the men who make their living giving motorcycle taxi rides will sometimes yell to me or grab my arm to "pull me out of danger." It can be pretty annoying. But I guess I should just be grateful they´re not willing to let me become a street pizza.

And finally, the cool-spiritual story of the week: Paus and I were making our way through the many winding and tiny streets (think of a rat in a maze), when we passed by a man I´ve seen before a few times, who sits on his work all day, on the ground, because he has a huge gash in his stomach and two legs in casts. But this time, we stopped to talk to him. And he said, "I used to go to your church. Yeah, yeah, with a guy named Fausto." I racked my brains for someone with that name in our ward, but came up empty. This man described the kind of truck this member has, and where he lives, but I could only think of one person, and his name isn´t Fausto. But the man in the casts turned out to be the ex-spouse of another lady that we visit and teach. It´s a small small world. But I had the feeling that we should stop by and visit a member named Hermano Ledesma. And while we were there, I who should walk in from another room but Hno. Lara, his neighbor. We asked them if they knew a Fausto, and Hno. Lara raised his hand. It was him, I just never knew his first name. We told him about his friend, and he asked to be shown where he was. So we took him there. It was a neat moment. God just puts us where we need to be when we need to be there. And most of the time, we just don´t even know it.

Well, folks, that´s about it. I hope there was a little something for everyone. I know I enjoyed myself. But until next time, keep it real, keep it fun, and keep it real fun. Or else.

Gratefully yours,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Woah, Woah, Don´t Worry... It´s not What You Think

And it never is. I know that I never guess the transfers right. I know this, and yet, I´m still always so surprised when I´m way off (Sampsonite). Anyway, I´ll tell it in brief, so I don´t depress myself with the craziness of my unknown future. I´m staying in Quisqueya AGAIN, and so in Rodriguez. But not as companions. I´m getting the much-coveted Hna. Paus, (everyone says she´s cool) and my companion is getting a girl named Hna. Dawe. She, like myself, was trained in the Yuca, and thought after her two training transfers where over that she´d be staying there. I know this, because her zone and my zone had an activity, and she told me so. Instead, she´s coming here, with my old comp, and we´re dividing an area that I´ve already been in for four transfers and that is not very big to begin with. I feel like this should make me despair, but there are some advantages: 1). I don´t have to pack 2). I don´t have to pack ANYTHING. Ok, I am going to switch rooms. But that doesn´t count (and so no one thinks Hna. Rodriguez is as cruel as she really is, she gave me the better end of the deal, because we have the undesirable task of dividing up all the investigators we were teaching together so that there are enough for both new companionships to teach. She let me have the people I wanted most essentially. It´s worth the change of space). 3.) A house with more Hermanas usually is more fun, means less house cleaning for me, and more money to buy food together. 4). I get to continue teaching people that are really cream of the crop

Number four is especially important. They say that all good things come to an end. I say all good things come AT the end. It´s always at the end of our 6 week transfers that we get a few new awesome references that have the potential to become even more awesome investigators. There´s just a real difference between someone that listens to everything we say with a glazed-over expression and the people who are so intrigued/weirded out/hungry for more, that teaching them becomes a true interaction, an experience. It´s not an everyday thing either, so when it happens, it´s especially hard to let go of. But for now, at least, I don´t have to. One lady, who we´ll call Grace, was just really animated about us teaching her the Plan of Salvation. And during the whole lesson, she kept saying, "I´m so glad you guys came, I was waiting for a long time for you guys to show up," (sometimes they or we get confused about what hour we say we´ll be stopping by). But this is the kind of response that makes all the cockroaches, dirty streets, and pervy dudes seem worth it. This is how we hope people feel when we stop by. Because on the mission, I have developed Casper syndrome. I´m a friendly ghost, but some people are so afraid of what they see and might hear, that they immediately run. Then again, there are the people who go out of their way to seek us out so that we can pray for their lost and godless friends. That´s always a treat. But remember: you normally have to be wearing a life vest in the river of life to help someone else who´s drowning. So, save yourself! Or at least, care about your own salvation as much as your "wayward" friends. Or the beam that is in your own eyes might cause you to knock them out cold.

Anyway, I´ve come to a couple interesting conclusions in this especially busy week. One: I understand more now of how the Book of Mormon prophets must have felt. They say many times, "I would like to write more about what I feel/know about this subject, but the people who will be reading this either aren´t able to understand it right now or it´s not really appropriate at this time." In writing my blog, I feel that I´m pretty straightforward, but because of my current mission calling, there are some things I just can´t say, and some experiences I can´t share completely, because, well, it´s hard to explain (with the limited time I have) all the people I meet and the culture I´m living in, a culture that is so very different from my own. It´s not a bad thing, but it is frustrating at times. Oh, and after our second companion exchange with Hna. Dalia, whose parents have a non-profit organization in Guatemala, I realized that sometimes, that´s what missionaries are- non-profit servants. Many members like to enlist our services for a variety of different things. Sometimes, (in my case), it´s helping their child with English homework. Other times, it´s helping put together their baby shower. Although I have to agree with an Elder who said, "I don´t know why they don´t call it a Baby Bath. Who gives babies a shower?" Good point. For Hna. Soto´s baby shower, my companion and I were put in charge of the shower games. I think my favorite was called "Baby Gigante." It´s when a team of two races against another team of two. One woman is the baby, the other is the mom. The "mom" waits in a chair on the other side of the room, and the "baby" has to crawl on all fours to get to her. The "mom" then proceeds to pick up her "baby" and rock her, and sing her a lullaby. The baby then has to crawl back from where she came from, and the "mom" also races back to the other side of the room to feed her baby some of that really tasty baby food from a jar. it was quite a site, and I don´t know why, but hearing it all done in Spanish made it all the more amusing. The crowing moment was when one of the "babies," who is about 40 years old, spit out her mouthful of food onto her unsuspecting "mother." I guess she wasn´t expecting it to be so gross. And we, the looker ons, weren´t expecting to be so delighted. But all in all, it was a highly successful shower, bath, whatever. And it makes me realize the real profit in service is watching all the hard work paying off in the end. There´s nothing quite like it.

And now... bragging time. Well, I don´t know if it´s really bragging or conveying the truth, but it FEELS like an achievement, at least. As of this transfer, I´m officially the Hermana with the most time on the mission. Super cool? Oh, yeah! It´s like high school all over again, feeling on top of the world when you finally are a part of the senior class. But technically, I haven´t reached the top alone. Hermana Clark has the same amount of time as me. But still... I´m pretty impressed with myself. It´s not every day you serve an 18 month long mission for the Lord, after all. Well, I guess I can stop patting myself on the back now, lest I fall over.

Oh, and how can I forget the unforgettable BAPTISM OF CHARLIN!? Now, that was an experience. Of course, the whole thing started late, and there were one or two mishaps in between (one of those things I mentioned I, well, just shouldn´t write about), but the point is, it HAPPENED. It´s done, and Charlin was then confirmed a member of the church in sacrament meeting the following day. It was a true privilege to be a part of it all. Someone at her age, only 14 years old, who, in spite of opposition from family and some friends, still did what she thought was right. I´m glad to know that these people exist in the world, and even better, that I get to meet them and be part of their lives.

Well, I´m oddly sentimental today. How bout we round it all off with some good ol´fashioned nonsense? First of all, I had no sense in saying Hna. Dalia is going to Puerto Rico. She´s going to the Santiago mission, which is in this country. She´ll be leaving to go there tomorrow. So young, so fresh. I hope she´s ready for a wild ride. And second of all, I had a really interesting conversation with my now almost ex-companion, Hna. Rodriguez. Apparently, some cartoon characters in this country are the same as characters in our country (bugs bunny, for example). And then others are just completely different, so as to keep the alliteration and flow of the name. For example, Fred Flintstone here is "Pedro PicaPiedras," o sea, "Peter RockPicker or RockCutter." We argued as to which one sounds better. For me, it´s all about the Fred. Sorry Rodriguez, but tell Pedro to shove it. Oh, and also interesting is that some verbs in Spanish have been created directly from English ones. We were passing Blue Mall one day (we´re not allowed to go in there), and Hna. Rodriguez asked me, "what´s 'hangear?' I read the sentence it was in, saw the picture, and realized it means "hang out." In Spanish, you can say that you pass time with your friends, but there isn´t a real direct translation for "hang out." Well, until now, I suppose. I checked, and the word didn´t make it into the dictionary, not even my tigre Dominican version. But the continuous break down of the language barrier never ceases to fascinate me.

Anyway, I´d love to hangear more with y'all, but well, I gots to go. The profitable (but non-taxable, non-refundable) life of service never ends. Well, not for a couple more transfers at least. Until then, remember to be grateful. Be grateful that there is a day to be grateful in our country. And that it is accompanied by food and lots of it.

Thankfully yours,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on transfer days)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I´m Not Yet Dead!

Muhahahahahahahha! They come at me with swords, with spears, and with onions, and yet... I live. As long as it´s not Britney Spears, that is.

Anyway, I feel like a good many people are familiar with the movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail. One of those movies that´s too stupid and good to be true. But one of the parts that really tickles my fancy is when there is a guy passing by with a giant wagon, calling for the people of olden times to "bring out your dead." The film treats the theme of the Dark Ages, so of course, there would have to be a shout-out to the black plague in there. The area the wagon is passing through is filled with dead bodies, ravaged by the plague. But one overanxious survivor is bringing to the wagon a body to dispose of, a body that, well, isn´t yet dead. The person being dragged tries to protest his state of existence, insisting "I´m not yet dead!" But his companion proclaims just as vehemently that he is, indeed dead. Considering the Black Death and the Dark Ages is past (well, considering that Obama is still President, that may or may not be true,) I never anticipated being a part of such a conversation. But I apparently overestimated the ridiculousness of mission customs. And one of these is that you are born into the mission... into an area, and you have your mission "mom," or trainer. But if you are born into a mission, well, how do you think you leave it? That´s right- you suffer the pains of death. As with the real thing, some people don´t want anything to do with it, they want to live on, never leaving. And some people receive the ceremonial passing with great gladness of heart. I don´t know how I feel. A little bit of both, I suppose. But the thing of it is, in a week, I will be entering into the last two transfers of my mission. 3 months. So weird, especially considering how the last two transfers are purported to be cursed, and full of mischief. But considering all I´ve seen, experienced, and so forth, I just don´t even want to think about how that can be true. But now I can properly prophesy that the end is near. And know one wants to let me forget it. Every time I see a group of other missionaries (during conferences, companion exchanges, etc.) everyone says to me, "Hermana Sweeney, you´re so dead!" After a long, sweaty day, sometimes that feels true. But I still have some life in me, so like a soap opera past its prime, I will continue on.

Although honestly, it´s not hearing that I´m dead so much that bothers me- it´s the general greed that accompanies it. Just like when a person passes on in real life, normally there´s a swarm of people with no shame, ready to pounce on the possessions of the deceased. In my case it´s, "Hey Hermana Sweeney, when you leave, you should leave me your..." Really!? First of all, I´m still here. Second of all, is that all I mean to you? Am I only as good as my possessions? (Dramatic and exaggerated storming off into another room). But I have the feeling that along with the sign "dead man walking" hanging from my forehead, I also must have one on my back that says "Garage Sale." De verdad, I do plan on leaving a lot of junk here- there´s people who could use it more than me. But come on. I find my generosity will most likely extend to those who refrain from circling over me like a vulture. I guess I should start planning the will...

Another thing that bothers me? (while we´re at it). I still can´t make rice to save my life. O sea, Dominican rice. I like how they make it here- firm, with every grain separated, and yet still chewable. Every time I try to make it, it comes out a mush. Where´s the rice cooker when you need it? I´m determined to get it right before I kick the bucket.

But the good news of the week: The baptism of Charlin is this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the chapel on the c/Defillo. All are invited. Seriously, after all the crap we´ve gone through and she´s gone through to get to this point, the whole world is invited.

Oh, and FINALLY, we had our exchanges with the MTC here in the D.R. It´s so weird to think that about 14 months ago, I came out of the MTC, all innocent and green as a fresh sprig, to have my first exchange with the "big girls." And ironically enough, when I went out to do my exchange, it was here in Quisqueya, where I´m now working. Essentially, an exchange is when the MTC lends us missionaries with experience some of the missionaries who will be coming out into the field in a couple of weeks. It´s so that these greenies can get some true blue experience. We were entrusted with Hermana Dalia, who will be heading off the Puerto Rico in a week. She was really great and fun and took everything in stride. When the van she was riding in from the MTC showed up to the chapel we were waiting at (she was in the front seat), I´m pretty sure the Elders who were with us waiting for their MTC compaions all about swallowed their tonsils upon spotting her (yes, this girl is very pretty). And it probably also has something to do with the fact that they´ve been bereft of the female gender for, well, longer than they´d like. But considering Hna. Dalia lived in Guatemala for 3 years, she at least has the advantage of knowing a bit about Latin culture. Although she never learned the language (for those that think just being around Spanish long enough will make you fluent, let me assure you, this is not the case). But now she gets to make up for lost time. And she got to spend the day with Hna. Rodriguez and I, eating butter bread from the Panadería, getting failed by a bunch of people we´d put appointments with, teaching a great lesson to one of our investigators, and learning how to do house contacting. All in a day´s work. I´m excited for her to get to go out with us again. Three´s company, after all.

And my cultural observation of the week: about the second or third day after being born, all female babies have their ears pierced. ALL of them. My companion says this is because when they´re small, they can´t remember it, and thus don´t have to worry about it later on in life. I personally think it´s a pretty cool idea. And it looks super cute. One of the pregnant ladies we are teaching is no longer pregnant cuz she just recently dio a luz her baby, o sea, gave birth. We went and visited her her in the hospital, and my companion made the baby a "Welcome home Emely" sign, and I brought some celebration blowers for the other kids. Babies may freak me out a bit, but Emely is pretty cute and stuck her tongue out at my companion several times, so I think I might like her.

Well, a busy week awaits me. And answers to questions, questions that need answers. Like what the heck will become of me for the rest of my (mission) life? All to be revealed in the next episode of the (dun dun dun) Unsavory Sweeney Saga. Until then...

Pins and needles,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tough it Up, Shove it Down

This may be the best advice I´ve ever given myself on the mission. It´s a great big part of being fearless. I´ve seen a lot, I´ve tried a lot, and I´ve tasted a lot. And it´s not always pleasant, as I may have expressed in the past. Well, whether the challenge be great or small, sometimes you just gotta toughen up, try not to look, and shove it on down. This was my case this last week. We visited a member and we went into her kitchen to shoot the breeze and help her straighten up. On the table was a big, transparent jug, through which I could see a brown liquid, atop which was floating something (a lot of somethings), that looked suspiciously like yellow spongy foam. I thought, "man, what the crap is that!?" I guess I thought somehow I would get away without having to know anything more about it. Not so. We were cordially invited by the Hermana to partake. It´s a juice called Jagua (ha-gwa), and I may or may not have been forced to re-taste it on and off for the rest of the day. Nothing I ate could get rid of the aftershocks. And somehow, my Dominican comp. escaped with only a couple sips. I chugged my cup. Just part of the California courtesy I was raised with, I guess. I´m just the missionary who can´t say no.

But many times, there are things I would like to say. But as a missionary, I´m not sure I should, so I usually ere on the side of caution. But it reminds me mucho of the situation presented in a surprisingly humorous movie called Max Keebler´s Big Move. It´s one of those movies that in previews looks it should be the epitome of lame, and yet, somehow when you later watch it on the Disney channel, you find yourself highly amused. And my brother and I used to quote it all the time. But in a nutshell, what happens is that a middle school kid is told he and his family will be moving within a week. So he does all the shenanigans that he´s always wanted to do (flirts with the school hottie, tells of his annoying teachers, messes with the school bully), because he won´t have to deal with the consequences. But then, horror of horrors, he finds out he WON¨T be moving. Which means he has to deal with all the disturbances he´s created. Well, like Max, I also have the potential of moving... I just don´t know. Ever. So to our crazy neighbor who lives below us and lets her dog pee in the stairwell and to the nasty street men with no shame, I would LOVE to share a thought or two with them (and not necessarily about their salvation), but do I really want to have to deal with the consequences if I don´t leave this area in a couple weeks? I guess I´ll just have to see if I reach my limit, my max, if you will, or if I can continue to turn my irritation into invitations ("hey, would you like to learn more about how your body is essential to your earth experience? Just like mine is to me, so quit harassing it.) Now that´s what I call finding the middle ground.

But there are, as usual, some things that just shouldn´t be said. This week, we´ve been contacting in an area that is decently ritzy. But all of the house on one particular street have giant black signs on then that say "we reject the food and massage business in house number 8." House number 8 is the only non-ritzy house on the block, and it seems that this business is how they make their living. Now remember, the rules for having a business aren´t the same here as in the states. You can pretty much run a boutique from your house, or other types of business, without really answering to anyone (FDA who?) But the poor lady in this house has to deal with the knowledge that all her snobby neighbors are publicly harassing her, more or less to get her to stop her business? I just don´t know why they care. And really, they´re just giving her free advertising because now I know that this lady´s main offense is massaging and serving food from her house. So now, I´m just kind of all jazzed to go get a massage... and maybe eat a sandwich at the same time. Why limit myself?

And it´s true, there is danger in following the crowd mindlessly, doing something just because everyone tries to pressure you to. But I rather detest the question "if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" Honestly? Probably. Because if a whole pile of my friends jumped off a bridge, they´d probably land happily in the water, and beckon me to do likewise. Because it´s fun. And then I´d jump, and with my luck, I´d hit a rock and break my leg. But something I´ve realized on the mission, where we live by a lot of rules, is that someone else´s disobedience doesn´t justify me doing the same. Because a lot of times, I catch myself thinking, "well, so-and-so did this, and what I´m doing isn´t NEARLY as bad as that, so..." And I know I´m not alone in this thought pattern, but all it really does for us it makes it easier for us to be mediocre. So someone got away with murder. I know I never could. And I guess I don´t really want to. It´s not always easy to watch people do bad and get good out of it, but really, most of the time we don´t know the whole story, and we certainly don´t know the end of it. So as long as I do what I feel is good and don´t try to justify myself by what Billy, Paul, and Nancy are doing, well, I think I´ll end up exactly where I need to be.

Oh, and people of the week: Charlin is finally, FINALLY getting baptized in the week after this one. Cue Hallelujah chorus. And we finally got to have another lesson with the girl who got facial surgery. Apparently, the doctors didn´t do her chin just right, so she has to go in again. I guess we´ll have to try to fit ourselves in between surgeries. They say finding God changes you. We´ll just have to see how much, I guess. But she shows potential (and some bruises under her eyes still). I hope she keep showing interest, even if she has to hide her face from the world for awhile.

Speaking of which, I have to unglue mine from this computer screen and continue on with my life. But I will say that Hermana Rodriguez and I did have a Happy HalloSween. Imagine carving apples as though they were pumpkins. And then dumping melted Carmel over the top. From decoration the dessert in less than 5 seconds. And that´s how we roll. And will continue to roll, at least, for as long as we´re still together. However long that is.

Keeping it creepy,

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Rocky Horror Más Más Show (Down)

Well, the holiday of genius has finally arrived, one of my very favorites. It´s time to whip out the overpriced candy bars and dress like something you´re not. Halloween combines my two favorite things: Junk food and pretend (I didn´t minor in theater for nothing). But even though this special day is not really celebrated in the D.R. (hey, people already have their Christmas lights up), I have still found many ways to celebrate, because, well, I´m surrounded by the horror, THE HORROR!

Scary Scenario 1 - The timeless debate of Rocky vs. Más Más. I had no idea that said debate even existed until one day I told someone how much I like Más Más candy bars. This person then told me that they prefer Rocky's. Now, being a fairly intelligent individual, I assumed all people knew that Más Más bars are superior. What is the difference between the two? Well, a Más Más bar contains a delicious combination of salty peanuts and sweetened raisins. It´s like 2 candy bars for the price of one (which is still more than I like to pay). Rocky is just chocolate and almonds. As is obvious, this is a very fair and unbiased description with all the information needed to make the RIGHT decision. And it´s always Más Más. In a world where Snickers and Twix cost enough to make a ghost blush, these are the options we are left with. And when it´s one-on-one, the heat is also on, and the sides are chosen, and the opinions are fierce. But even though Rocky may love Emily, and some people may love Rocky, Sweeney loves Más Más. And that´s just all there is to it.

Scary Scenario 2- And who doesn´t love a good horror story around this time of year? I always have. And luckily, I´m reading the best one yet. And it´s a tale as old as time (o sea, THE beginning of time). Want to give it a read? Just crack open your nearest Old Testament. I really enjoy the New Testament, but the first part of the Bible is the very definition of sick and twisted. Ever heard of original sin? I think I found it. Holy nasty if the people back in the day didn´t know how to do each other wrong. I´ve read about so many crazy rules, customs, carnage, and perversions that I almost have to remind myself I´m allowed to read what I´m reading. Fortunately, there´s some good stuff too, (well, it is God´s word), but the part that reads like a history is beyond odd and cringe-worthy. I´m just glad that the Law of Moses (the lesser law given to Israel cuz they couldn´t handle the higher one) is ca put. I don´t think I could handle it. I just hope I CAN handle reading the rest of the good word. I have a lot of horror, I mean, books, left to go.

Scary Scenario 3 - Sadly, I can´t really participate in one of my favorite traditions, that is, dress up and impersonate some sort of person, place, or thing. For the first time in a long time, I´ll be doing a costume repeat, o sea, I´ll be going as a sister missionary. Although last year, I went as Hermana Brown, so if I went as Hermana Sweeney this year, I guess that would be somewhat of a change. I will be wearing orange and black, at least. But speaking of costumes, for the kids that go to school here, a costume (or uniform), is an everyday occurrence. It´s actually mandatory. You can´t show up to school without your blue dress shirt, khaki pants, and black dress shoes. Normally for me, there´s nothing more horrific than having to be or look like everyone else. Where´s the originality? But here, I actually think it´s a great idea. With so many people in poverty, few parents here would have money to help their children look trendy. Uniforms really are a pretty good equalizer, and the lesson the distractions of people who live by the tag line "skin is in." As I may have mentioned, it gets pretty hot here, and a lot of people dress accordingly. I could see how that would provide, er, problems, for people who don´t go to school to study anatomy. I´ve seen the things that girls who aren´t even preteens are wearing, and it´s scarier than a lack of originality. So I guess I´m double-minded concerning this scenario. I´m sure as heck glad I didn´t have to wear a uniform. But I am more than happy to see an unbiased wave of blue and khaki descending from various parts of the city around the hours of noon, 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. OK technically, I´m in the house by 9:00 p.m. But if I could see them, I´d feel comforted. Oh, and in case you´re wondering, the different hours have to do with different school schedules. Some kids go in the morning, others in the afternoon, and others in the evening. It´s due to a lack of funds, teachers, etc. So the kids here actually do go to school for less time than in the states. But they seem to still have just as homework, so I guess the horror evens out.

Scary Scenario 4- And finally, I have to admit that there´s not a whole lot scarier than admitting that I´m still not perfect... at Spanish. Muhahahahahahahaha. But seriously, I wonder if the day will come when I won´t say something that makes people chuckle like when a 5 year old says something mistakenly adorable. I was in the bread store the other day (yes, that´s a direct translation), and I asked the guy to give me "4 pedazos de pan." That would be four pieces of bread. But here, if you say you want a piece of bread, they would just rip one in half, give it to you, and wonder why you´re a weirdo. You just say "I want four breads." But this morning, I made the same mistake inside a colmado, asking for a "piece" of bread. The old lady in front of me started to chuckle, as did the owner of the colmado. My companion was like, "oh, man, I´m gonna have to write that in my journal, so I don´t forget it. When you say that, it just seems like you´re going around, begging for bread." Perfect. I wasn´t intending to trick or treat for bread, but if it would actually work, I think I would do it. I´m really losing a lot of my shame. It´s sorta horrifying.

And that´s a mission-tastic Halloween for you. It´s weird to think this time next year, I´ll be carving pumpkins, eating bite-sized candy bars, and well, that´s about all I can say for certain, because I have no idea where I´ll be in a year from now. And that´s the really scary thing- the uncertainty that is the future. But I guess it´s also the adventure. And it hasn´t failed me so far. And I hope it never does. And thus, I make an end. HAPPY HALLOWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scared Sweenless,

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can´t Sleep? DON´T Count Sheep

So don´t get me wrong, I like a good literary device just as much as the next sister missionary. But biblical parables have never been a one of the few of my favorite things. Well, some yes some no. One that I´ve never been fond of was the parable of the Shepard and the lost sheep. It´s nice in theory- a Shepard has 100 sheep, one gets lost, and he goes to find it. And has success. Simple. Sensical. Not too much suspense. But the part that rubbed my fleece wrong was how at the end of the parable, it says that this Shepard has more joy in that one sheep than in the other ninety-nine. To me, that makes oh-so-little sense. Talk about giving someone jealous sibling syndrome. I can just imagine those other sheep conversing amongst themselves saying, "wait, so if we get lost too, will we suddenly become more noticed, more loved, will our sales value increase? It almost seems like an incentive for being bad to the bone. But if we remember that the Shepard is Jesus and that we are the sheep, well... that still doesn´t help much. What does help is putting yourself in the shoes of Jesus and not in the hoofs of his sheep.

For example, yesterday, Sunday, we´ve had the most investigators (people we´re teaching), in the church than ever before. It was great. It was marvellous. It was so... why I´m here. And yet, all I could think about was the one young gentleman that should have been there and wasn´t. It didn´t make me any less happy that I had the other "sheep" right there with me in the fold, but it made me sad to have someone I cared about missing. And it bugged. And that´s when I thought of the parable, and better understood it. But yeah, anyway, counting sheep may be a peaceable sleep exercise for some. But for a missionary, it makes us lose any hope of achieving even a wink of it.

And some sheep are, well, insane. I´ve met some real wackos here on the mission, but in this area, I feel like I´ve reached my max. Guru Max, that is. Like all our shining stars, his intentions are good. But the follow through has yet to be seen. In the spirit of Halloween this year, I´ve decided to go as a ghost because a lot of people only have to see us coming and they start running. We are sooooo scary. It shouldn´t make me laugh, but it does. Now I know how Shepherds AND GHOSTS feel. Frustrated and powerful. Anyway, our ghostlike charms don´t work with the likes of our locos. They must be immune. But Max doesn´t run- he FINDS us. In his new truck, he proceeded to stop us on the side of the road and then made us wait 15 minutes because, as usual, he was engaged in a lengthy business call. But he swore this last Sunday would be his lucky number (to go the church, that is.) Well, it wasn´t. And who knows if it will be. But I have the feeling we haven´t seen the last of the Guru.

We also met a lady in a hardware store who I invited to church, because she struck up a convo. with us. I then found out she is a chef, is a good friend of Gloria Estefan, already has a church, and loves hugs. She sometimes cooks for Gloria Estefan too. I don´t remember if I learned this after the third or fourth hug and kiss. She is short and petite, but she gives a wicked strong hug. She also insisted on us coming over sometime. She´d make us tea and some sort of fancy crumpet. And because we were looking for a spring in our microwave, she told us she personally would take us out looking for it (the hardware place we were in didn´t have it.) Upon telling her that the place she was suggesting was out of our mission boundaries and we can´t leave our assigned area, she looked at us like we were crazy and said, "am I not Dominican? Of course I can take you there!" Aim, shoot, miss, point. Ah, well. She essentially hugged us both out to the street corner where we parted ways. The best part? She lives super close to us, so on various occasions, I´ll have just turned my head for a tiny second and when I turn it back... there she is! In her very nice car, might I add. And she offers to give us rides. And then when we´ve said no, and turn the corner, there she is again... making sure. She has some great, cat-like reflexes. But I think the craziest part of all of this is that she´s not a crazy liar. She really IS a chef and lives in a crazy nice-huge house, and her husband owns a whole ton of gasoline stations. And she really does have religion. She´s willing to let us pray with her... but nothing else. Oh, and she probably DOES knows Gloria Estefan, because well, who else but this lady could have inspired the lyrics "the rhythm is gonna get you?" I think this lady is gonna get US! But I think I´d be OK with that at this point.

And our final loco is one who let us into her house immediately while doing street contacting. She wanted to hear the word that instant! She´s one of those people who believes in all religions and loves all religions. She had some good questions though, and already knew a little bit about Joseph Smith. We had to postpone our next appointment until the end of next week. She´s getting a... present (plastic surgery) that will take a few days to recover from. Well, whatever makes her happy. I just hope I recognize her the next time we teach her. She´s not only found every religion, but also the fountain of youth. She´s in her thirties, but looks younger than me. Craziness.

And the last couple bits of craziness: We´re teaching a lady how to read and write Spanish. It´s amazing the power that the written and spoken word have. To possess them is to have an entire world available at your whim. To not have them is to be, well, without a whole lot of options. So hopefully, this lady can learn to read, and we have the patience to teach her. In our defense, though, we have to try to teach and keep her naked grand kids at bay all at the same time. Gives a whole new meaning to the word ´mulit-tasking.´

Oh, and I kinda helped build a house. O sea, during a lesson we were having, Hna. Rodriguez turns to me and whispers, "Do you want to help that guys move those bricks?" Well, we had some time before we had to go home, and no one else to teach. Why not? As usual, this guy, being, well, a guy, didn´t seem thrilled to have to females helping him do a man´s job. How do I know it´s a man´s job? Because that´s what all the men an women kept telling us. "No, señoras, don´t do that... think of your hands!" (that was my favorite). Actually, I was thinking more about the fact that I was walking up 5 flights of poorly constructed stairs with crumbly, large cement bricks that weighed more than a Peeping Tom´s conscience. But even though my legs and arms were jelly afterwards, and I was sweating like a goat, as my companion later described us, it was a worthwhile experience. And completely crazy, of course. But after we started helping, some other neighbors got involved too. Yea, neighborhood unity! But really, if I came to the D.R. and didn´t build SOMETHING, could I really say I did my job?

OK, well, I´m calling it quits (for now, don´t get too excited). If I don´t get off my butt and off this computer, well, I might just miss my next crazy train. And we all know that´s not a very good idea. Well, full steam ahead, and wink wink until next week.

Thinking of my hands,

Hermana Sweeney "La Sin Miedo" (Menos los domingos)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

If Only, If Only...

Possibility: "If only I hadn´t" as one of the most used phrases known to humankind.
Fact: Said by everyone who has ever lived more than once in their lifetime.

I (like everyone else in the world) have had many of these experiences. It ain´t called hindsight for nothing. It´s because, like Pumba used to tell me, "you gotta put your past in your behind." But you can´t do that until you´ve moved on and have somewhere behind you to put the past. Anyway, the only good thing about this experience is that I can relate it to a gospel principle. Score! Topic:repentance
Emotion: annoyance

So, in the apartment I now live in, I find myself without a blender and without a working oven. Pain in the butt, I tell you what. But in my first transfer here, I thought, "eh, well, I´ll get it fixed soon enough." And then I just worked around not having an oven. Pretty ingenious. And I guess I didn´t figure on spending much time in this area (joke on me) for some reason, so I thought someone else could take care of it if they wanted to. And every time I got a package from my mom containing a brownie or cookie mix, my heart would twinge with regret over not getting to eat them. When I got Hermana Rodriguez as a companion, we talked about fixing the oven. We even tried to tinker with it a little bit. But not much. And we discussed co-purchasing a blender, but we really didn´t want to spend the money. What if one of us left and didn´t get to enjoy it for more than a few measly weeks?

Well, 1 transfer became 2, and 2 became 4, and I realized how dumb I´ve been. If i´d just taken care of these issues from the start, I would have been enjoying delicious brownies and papaya smoothies for the last 5 or so months. And then it hit me: This is soooooooo a parallel to repentance! As a Latter-Day Saint, Mormon, you know the drill, we live certain standards that many people think are weird and/or hard. And sometimes, many times, they are. I think it would be rare to find faithful member among us who hasn´t at least WONDERED what a sip of sherry would be like, or to let go of what you believe in and join the fun "just this once..." And then some people get frustrated when they see people "breaking the rules" and it seems like they get to have their fun, but then, when they see that they´re not as happy as they maybe thought they´d be, they begin the often steep climb of repentance to turn their life around.
"Well, that´s not fair," we might say. "So they get to experience the world AND have the blessings of coming back into the fold? Why can´t I just do the same?" Well, comparing it with my The Allegory of the Abandoned Appliances, we can choose to put off repentance and making our lives at one with God´s will- But just how I have gone months and months without very enjoyable edibles, so those who procrastinate repentance are actually procrastinating blessings that they can have RIGHT NOW! We humans are a little peculiar sometimes. But we figure it out, one ridiculous mistake at a time. And hopefully someone can learn from mine. Fix your ovens! By your Blenders! Oh, yeah, and repent.

Anyway, one thing we got rid of this week that we didn´t need in our house: All the other Hermanas that were being trained, transferred, etc. Hey, that sounds mean. But it be true. It´s not their fault they have to be there, nor is it mine. And I´m actually friends with a lot of these girls, but it´s just stressful having 8 people in a house meant for 2 or 4. But interestingly enough, the trainees of two of the Hermanas (Clark and Bullock) didn´t show up when they were assigned to (they had to go back to the Provo MTC and wait and extra day). Which meant that Hermana Clark went to work with me on Tuesday, and Hna. Bullock went out with my companion. It was really strange. Hermana Clark was technically my first companion in the Provo MTC and back then, we struggled to know what to say to our fake investigators, (in Spanish, no less), how to adjust to the mission schedule, and to always, constantly having another person at your side. Now, we got to do the real thing together, and it was pretty cool. And I got to speak English in the streets, which I haven´t gotten to do in about 6 months. Although the first appointment we had was super difficult. We had the lesson outside on the lady´s patio, and her neighbor was blasting my favorite Romeo Santos/Usher song ("Forever") and inside the house of the lady we were trying to teach, what should be playing but the beloved classic "Cuidado con el Ánglel." I don´t know how I cut through all of these distractions, especially when the baby of the main character was being kidnapped by another character with a duel personality, but so help me, I did it. And we have another visit scheduled with this lady for tomorrow, so I guess Team Gringa did ok. I forgot walking around with another American usually means more craziness and catcalls. But to have a chance to really teach and preach with the Hermana I only got to pretend to do these things with since the beginning of this crazy journey, well, I´d say it was worth it.

But now, it´s just my beloved Dominican Companion and I again, all alone once more. With another 5 weeks ahead of us. 5 weeks that hopefully include a blender, because, as of a couple days ago, we finally overcome our debilitating stupidity and fixed the oven. And celebrated with a homemade pizza. Forgiveness tastes GOOD! When you spend every moment with the same person, sometimes spending extended time with them seems daunting, especially if you don´t get along. Fortunately, my companion and I get along. But we´re still human. And you wonder, "what more am I gonna learn about this person that I don´t yet know? What other lessons need I learn?" I have never spent 3 transfers with one companion until now, so I´m intrigued to view the outcome. The best part is not having to learn all the quirks and weirdnesses of another person, nor having to explain mine. And Rodriguez and I are planning a pretty sweet Halloween celebration. If we´re together more than this transfer... we might just become the same person. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Not even married people spend this much time together.

Well, I hope everyone in the states is enjoying fall and the cooler weather and the delicious pumpkin-flavored delicacies. I will enjoy not really knowing which season it is. Such is the tropics.

Humbly yours,

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sometimes a Hut is Better than a House.

And how. Now, I know this goes against all reason, but hear me out. Let´s imagine there´s a place called Pizza Hut. It´s pretty good pizza, but I´m easy to please. Anyway, Pizza Hut exists here, and it´s still tasty. But if you want to sit and eat in the dining room with the air conditioning, you have to pay extra. The wonders never cease. Anyway, for those of us not rich enough to pay for pizza AND A.C. (a.k.a. EVERY missionary out here), sometimes you have to look for... alternatives. One such available to us here in the D.R. is an establishment called Pizza House. "Well, that sounds o.k.," you might reason with yourself. Sometimes intuition is stronger than reason. Just looking at the place, I couldn´t help but think "I think gross and cheap have to be at least two of the ingredients in this pizza." This place had no shame. They keep their already made crusts in the fridge with the drinks. With the drinks! Pizza House has no shame, and you can taste it. When it came to our table, one of the other missionaries said, "this doesn´t look so bad." And it didn´t. It´s not till you pick up a piece and bite into it that there are any obvious problems. The sauce is far too sweet. I don´t remember ordering a dessert pizza. It would be better if it were glue, because then at least the cheese would stay on it. Sick. Gross. Get it? I did, and now I regret it. At least we didn´t pay for the A.C., which was probably for the best, considering the light went out half way through the meal. Next time... Pizza Hut to go, please.

And there will surely be a next time, cuz... I am still here in the Capital. With the same companion. 3 transfers. What? But yeah, even though I was sorta hoping for a new adventure, there is something comforting in already knowing my companion and area pretty well. And yet, there will still be surprises. Did I mention wonders never cease?

One of said wonders, I will mention here and now. O sea, this is more of a test. A personal test. A reciprocal question (the only kind I can form using a blog I don´t personally maintain). Anyway, I´m sure we´ve all heard the popular assurance that "there´s no such thing as a stupid question." This is a stupid comment. I have encountered many a stupid question, more than I think should be my fair share. "How," you might wonder, "does one know if they are asking (or about to ask), a stupid question?" Well, let´s start with the personal test: 1). Are you asking the question more or less already knowing the answer? 2). Have you already posed the same or similar question to the same person without positive results? 3). Is it a comment disguised as a question? 4). Are you asking with the intent of causing offense?
If the answer to any of these is yes, you are probably wandering through the midst of the fog that emanates from stupid questions. The following are some questions that, are without doubt, STUPID:
*"Why don´t you like long hair?" (somehow, because I cut my hair short, this indicates I have a general disdain for long hair.)
*Why did you do it like THAT? (implying that the way of the questioner is far superior to the way of the doer.)
*So why did you decide to go on a mission? (only a dumb question when asked after people find out I´m 25).
*Why can´t you be more like your... mother, brother, sister, cousin, friend, Britney Spears (uhhhhhh? Cuz I´m not?)
* "Why aren´t you more physically developed? (ok, to be fair, this one was asked by a boy in my 7th grade science class. But it´s still a stupid question).
And yes, to those who would say, "well, I´m sure you´ve asked a stupid question before, so what´s your point?" I would say, "that´s true... but bringing the subject to light might help us all think twice before asking one of our burning questions, that might burn more if asked then in kept deep deep inside....

Whew. Well, that was therapeutic. Anywho, I feel like I owe an ending to the story of the incident with Arnold and Millie. So, we DID go back to visit them, in spite of our rather cool reception the last time. We learned some interesting things. First, the reason Millie was arguing with the police officer was because someone was stealing bananas from her banana plant in her back yard. Secondly, it was the POLICE themselves that were stealing the fruit. Ha! But I fear Millie will get the last laugh, cuz she be armed and dangerous. Apparently, until 5 years ago, she was a member of the militia here. She has a gun and she knows how to use it. She said as much to the police man and told them to keep their fat mitts off her property. I think my favorite part is the officers tried justifying their actions by saying they were cutting down the plant because it was attracting mosquitoes and was a hazard. Uh... no. Go take your 5 pesos like the rest of us do and BUY YOUR BANANAS LEGALLY! Should we really need to tell this to men and women of the law? Oh, well. I´ve seen enough actions flicks to know you can´t automatically trust people in power. But it is still frustrating. And in this case, somewhat amusing.

Oh, and we had General Conference this week. I believe I´ve explained it before, but once more won´t kill anyone. I think. It´s when God´s prophet and apostles speak to us about the thinks the Lord himself wants us to hear and apply in our lives. One of my favorites was given by Elder Neil A. Anderson, an apostle. He mentioned how some people leave the church when confronted with a hardship or trial in their lives. He then said doing that is like leaving the refuge in the middle of the tornado. Life will be hard with or without the church. But knowing we have an eternal destiny and purpose and that we can be with those we love forever makes the crappy times easier to deal with. Although this is of course easier said than done when passing through the actual challenge. But staying true to the end means just that: to the end. You don´t get awarded the "I tried" ribbon unless you pass the finish line. And luckily in the race of life, we are only competing against ourselves (and the forces of evil, I suppose) to gain salvation.

Well, that´s about it. I have to go home to a house jam packed full of girls (I live in the transfer house) who are all waiting to either go home, go to a new area, or be trained. Mad house doesn´t even begin to describe it. To the hut! 8 girls minus water is an equation that equals S.O.S! Wish me water.

Questionably sane,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Uh.... I´m Pretty Sure Beyonce Doesn´t Cut her Hair Here

Well, because Taco Bell has a half off deal on all their burritos, Chalupas, and tacos, my companion and I have taken advantage of this special offer for the last two weeks. When your 50 peso taco becomes a 25 peso taco, there is cause for much rejoicing. But Hna. Rodriguez wasn´t completely content. "What is this?" she asked, pointing to the paper that covers the brown food trays used for those who want to stay and eat inside (with air conditioning and the occasional 80´s tune). She pointed specifically to a rather beautiful picture of a crunchy taco. I know what a taco is, and I know she does, so using my college degree to look below the surface of her question, I knew she was referring to the presentation of said taco. "Well," I told her, "there´s a saying in English- 'you get what you pay for.'"
"Uh, this IS what I paid for," she insisted, pointing again to the falsely advertised taco. I wasn´t so disturbed, perhaps because to me, it´s really what´s on the inside that counts. I didn´t even really take the time to look at my food. It went from wrapper to mouth in one fluid motion. But what did surprise me is that my companion was so distressed about the false advertising. I feel like Taco Bell is the least of the offenders in this case. Allow me to explain. In this country, there are an unnatural amount of salons. What may look like a normal one-story dwelling may very well contain a salon inside. Women here go to the salon, dare I say it, even more frequently than women in the states. And then, to keep their ´Do looking fresh ´n fab, they tuvi it (see former blog entry for Tuvi instructions). But there are salons that are a little more upper crust as well, ones that have signs and everything declaring that, in fact, they know how to cut your hair and are happy to do so. And many of these signs have images of some well known clients. I have passed by one salon that cuts Taylor Lautner´s hair. A few around here have done wonders with Rachel Bilson. And the crowd favorites seem to be Beyonce and Hillary Duff. I have seen the same images of these stars in various salons in various areas where I have served. First of all, I find it difficult to believe that Beyonce flies to the D.R. to cut her hair. I find it less likely that she picks salons at random to do so. So, forgive me dear companion, but I find THAT type of false advertising way more disheartening than my misshapen taco. There goes my dream of looking over from my comfy salon seat to find my good friend Beyonce getting her hairs did as well. But considering that this country is borderline third world, I feel like the Beyonces and the Hillarys can cut these salons a break and loan them there images. If I ever get famous by some freak accident, I would happily do the same.

Well, on to things that really matter. Like why I haven´t posted pics on here in a month of Sundays. If I haven´t made it perfectly clear that this Internet cafe blows, I will reiterate: It is shoddy. It is at the bottom of the cow patty pile. It has no shame. And it definitely doesn´t have any CD or DVD playing units, so I have no where to insert my CDs full of images of my D.R. life. So, for the present, you will just have to use your wonderful, God-given imaginations. If you can imagine a small yellow stall with a 1990s IBM computer WITHOUT a CD or DVD drive, you´re doing remarkably well. So to make a short story long, the "How to do in the D.R." and other photo-based adventures are temporarily on hold. Lo siento for the inconvenience.

As for close encounters of the human kind, I have more information to share about our reference who is a contractor for painters. Or sea, he sells art for the artist. I´m sure that has a title, but my English words are leaving me like Ben Affleck left on a jet plane. And I don´t know if they´ll be back again. But anyway, I am going to call this guy Guru Max because, even though he claims he wants to hear more about the church, I have a sneaking suspicion he just wants to give us advice. When we passed by on Friday, I apologized that we hadn´t passed by the day before as planned, but I´d had some upset stomach issues. After his look of concern, he then told me in my face he could read pain and longing. My face is my soul´s window. I´m far from home and miss friends and family. This is causing my stomach to toss and turn. I have to tell myself I´m well, and so I will be. That´s how Guru Max rolls, at least. He hasn´t visited the doctor in years. After this insightful discourse, my companion and I went into his office to hopefully start teaching him about the Restoration of the church. We were promptly joined by his female lawyer friend, and both he and she took turns receiving calls from everyone and their dog during the duration of the lesson. After one call in particular, the Good Guru told me he´d just been invited by a friend to go swimming and to work out with him at the gym. But he assured us that he informed said friend that he was busy learning of God with a friend, and he feels that he would more happily pass the time with us. O sea, he feels that in whatever you´re doing, therein lies your happiness. Some people would find talking about God less interesting than buffing your muscles, but to him, your current state is your happiness. I have to admit, this guy would write a heck of a book. I coldn´t agree with everything he said, but I couldn´t disagree with a lot of it either. I often here people from back home tell me their life is boring. But to me, what I hear always sounds interesting and something I wish I could be doing. Just your typical case of "it surely must be more interesting on the other side of the island" (since I´m actually living on one, that could be true, for all I know). But I highly suspect we sometimes live more interesting lives than we give ourselves credit for. If you don´t believe me, take it from the Guru.

And, the lesson attempt gone awry for the week: our dearly beloved Millie and Arnold. We passed by Saturday night as we´d promised, only to find Millie and a police officer shouting heartily at each other. Um, awkward. What to do in such a situation? Well, if you´re Hna. Rodriguez and I, apparently, since you´ve already been seen, you give a tentative wave and an Hola, to which you receive the response, "can´t you see I´m busy." Yes, yes we can. I guess we´ll come back... later? Never? Needless to say, we didn´t stick around to find out who or what had caused the commotion. I was, however, intrigued to note that Arnold was nowhere to be found, and considering he´s always in the house, I couldn´t help but be curious (ok, considering the situation in general, I couldn´t help but be curious).

I also can´t help the fact that my time is up, the gig is up, I´m signing off... but not without wishing you all a Happy Fall. My favorite season has only just begun! Ok, I´ll quit quoting songs, and let you all go your own way... MUHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, and a hundred points to Griffyndor for those who can actually recognize said quotes.

Never can say goodbye,

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless" (Except on Sunays)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This is my Life Right Now

Well, it´s true. We all have our moments, and right now, my life is one. Long. Moment. I guess it happens to the best of us. But my companion said it best while walking stiffly with pus oozing from her hideous leg: "this is my life right now." They always say the things that are true are funniest. Add to that the fact that she actually said it in English and you have wet-your-pants hilarea.

But my life right now is an extension of last week, when I didn´t get a change to write. Why didn´t I? Well, at the risk of repeating myself, "THIS IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW!" We came into the Internet center, sat down, got down to business, and five minutes later... bye bye sweet electricity of mine. So we played that game where you keep sitting at your computer, hoping the power will come back. It doesn´t but you keep a-sitting and a-hoping. And then you´ve found you´ve sat for so much time that it seems silly to leave because we all know as soon as we do, who will come back? Why, the electricity of course, and he will be laughing at us for wasting so much time. But in honesty, the time was not wasted, because as it so happens, this country has no shame of God. Didn´t when I started the mission, and continues the tradition, 14 months later. And to be honest, I don´t remember myself as Hna. Sweeney every blessed second of the day. Sometimes, I just think of myself as Sweeney. Or, like everyone else, "Sweezni" or "sweety." Close enough. But I have to remember that no one else forgets. So during mine and my companion´s 45 minute waiting session, we were asked a lot of questions about the church from other people playing the waiting game. The guys who works here and control our computer usage (but sadly, not the power), was really intrigued by the idea of a living prophet. Because I already believe these things, sometimes I forget, "well, yeah, we say that there´s a prophet on the earth again, like Moses and Isiah. That´s kind of a big deal." One of the guys we were talking with made the comment that he believes everyone will be judged according to your own conscience. So Muslims will be judged for how good of Muslims they were, Baptists for Baptists, and so on and so forth. Interesting idea, but that would be a pretty screwed up God, not to mention inconsistent. So if some religions believe you only have to say you believe in God to be saved, heck, everyone wold join that church if this guy´s theory was true because that´s sooooooooo easy. But there is one God, one faith, and one baptism. (Ephesians 4:5) The scriptures state that pretty clearly. And when God says he is the same yesterday, today and forever and that he expects us to be perfect like he is, then that means that we have to do it his way and not ours. A consistent God would not give us inconsistency as the basis for our beliefs, nor would he make it a free-for-all. When he says "ask and you´ll receive (Matthew 7), I don´t think he meant it as a riddle or a turn-of-phrase. He meant "do it, already! (said in the voice of Dr. Phil or some other inspirationalist ). But I think the whole little situation was God´s little way of saying "I know it´s your Preparation day, but you´ve practically had the week off. Get back to work (do it, already!) So, we did, and we gave a Book of Mormon to one of the guys who was listening and wanted one. Scoreboardicus. The next time we passed him on the street he said he was reading it, so good for him. And after that whole crazy experience, we rushed off to the help with a wedding reception of sorts for a lady in our church ward who got remarried. Hardly a dull moment.

Well, except last week when I learned the true meaning of the word boredom. When I said my companion´s leg was hideous, I said it not in jest. Poor Hna. Rodriguez. She fell a couple weeks ago, and scrapped her knee. Rub some dirt in it and move on. But this scrap went from wound to worse, eventually covering her whole knee and leaking liquid whenever she took more than a few steps. Well, when we FINALLY got to see the doctor, he said that it was a bacteria or fungus (update: we now know it´s a bacteria). So she was prescribed various medications, and now, 2 weeks after the incident, it´s finally starting to look a little better. But we had to stay in the house a few days because walking caused her a good deal of discomfort. I only left when there was a female church member who could stay with here and another who could leave with me. So, I was pretty much sequestered. And on the night of my birthday, we spent the time I had designated to eat tres leches and soak my feet getting her leg examined, swabbed, and tested. I didn´t mind, but it took from 9:00 p.m. to midnight. Part of this time was spent driving around the entire city with the Mission President´s assistants, looking for a pharmacy that was open that late at night. And may I say, one of these Elders drives as though he´s mad that he´s never been in an accident. There were not many pharmacies open, and the few that were didn´t have any or all of the many prescriptions on the list the doctor had given my companion. The interesting question many people pose is "where do you want to be in your life when you turn 25?" or "where do you see yourself?" Well, I´m pretty sure my answer to this youthful and fanciful question was never, "The D.R. Duh." But well, I have come to accept that this is my life right now. And lest anyone worry about what happened to the tres leches, when we got back, we stuck candles in it, I gave about half to Hna. Rodriguez, and stuck my face in the rest. I blame it on a childhood of watching Nickelodeon. But if someone would have asked me if I´d seen my face in a cake at the age of 25, my answer would have just been "duh."

And now.... good news. General Conference is coming up. My last one on the mission. I will definitely be a little trunkee (homesick, English sick) cuz it´s hard to have to listen to the prophet and apostles that I´m used to hearing speak English being translated into pure Spanish. But it´s better than nothing. And what´s more, Robbinson should FINALLY be getting baptized the same weekend as the conference. Yes, we are still teaching him. And Charlin. What happens with some people is that we teach them all the lessons they need to be prepared for baptism but sometimes they need more time to feel ready or we feel they need more time. Or both. But just so you don´t think these people just drop off our radar cuz I don´t mention them as much, they´re still there. We still visit them all the time. Poor Robbinson just has to experience the typical hell fire before baptism, a.k.a. the increase in trials and problems that always seem to come when someone is making a good decision. But neither fire nor ice can stop this guy cuz, well, he´s ON fire. I hope to see his baptism. I really, really REALLY (really?) do.

Oh, and some really important extra info: Added to the list of interesting places I´ve taught, we can add art gallery. Can you say Hna. Sweeney Kryptonite? I´m already highly dis tractable; don´t make me sit in a room with fantastic art. Studying this stuff was part of my major for peet´s sake. Where are they gonna make me teach next, a bakery? Ok, no one makes us teach anywhere, but this guy, Máximo Garcia, was a reference from a member of my beloved La Yuca. He seems really slick and smooth, and just looks like someone who sells art. His main concern is knowing more about the Bible. Well, hopefully we can help him out with that. And another really good book too...

Also, remember how once upon a blog, I mentioned that there was a soap opera that is always on in peoples´ houses here? Well, I FINALLY know the name of it. You ready for this? It´s "Cuidado con el Angel." O sea, "Be careful with the Angel." Oh, I will. I will. I only catch tender glimpses of this horrible excuse of a way to fill time between good commercials, but I must admit, the lead character, played by the actor my companion tells me is William Levy, is a little too attractive for missionary eyes. I might have a future addiction in the making for when I get home.

And finally, Denia, one of the ladies we´ve been teaching for forever and a day, has the papers she needs to get married! We got them sent to us through the Elders who work in Elias Piña, o sea, where this woman´s papers (birth certificate, etc.) were. She was so happy to get them, as she´s what we call a dry member (someone who isn´t baptized but always goes to church and has all the lessons.) But now she can get baptized. I´m pretty positive that, as is forever common in the life of us missionaries, I won´t get to see her wedding or her baptism, but it still rocks pretty good to get the see the smile on her face and be a small step in the process.

Well, that´s about all of the good and the weird that I can stand to inform the cyberworld of for now. But don´t worry... this IS my life (right now), so there will be plenty more information (and probably too much of it) to share in the forthcoming weeks. Until then, the next time you see a cake, don´t hesitate to stick your face in it. You´ll thank yourself later.

1, 2, 3.. LECHES,

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless"
                              (except those blasted Sundays)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Er, Ummmm... Your Doorbell´s Showing

I would like to know if there is an easy way to inform someone of a potentially embarrassing situation. We all know that if we say, "hey, your fly is down," or "there´s an enormous bogey in your left nostril," that these casual observations can quickly convert into feeling of shame and sadness on the part of the offending party, especially if said observations are reported after a manner of announcing them in a rather public way. But what do you do if shouting is your only option, and even when you do it, know one can here you?

So as usual, I have no idea if I mentioned previously how house contacting, street contacting, or communication in general works out here in the D.R. To talk on the phone, you have to buy cards from the colmados or phone stores with a set amount of minutes on them. Actually, I have no idea how many minutes are on them, because it only tells you how many pesos you paid for the card. So I know I have a hundred pesos worth of minutes, and I still don´t know much about what that means. I know when I receive a text from Orange, the phone company, saying I have 11 pesos of minutes left, that I´m in trouble, because that seems to be worth less than a minute of call time. Which is why unless someone has an unlimited talk plan, the phone convos, at least for missionaries, are pretty darn short. Which, all things considered, probably isn´t such a bad thing. But often times, if we know the conversation will take more than 30 seconds, we beep the person first, and hang up, and they can call us back. It sounds complicated, and it sure is. But once you get into the rhythm, you hardly cry at all late late at night over it...

But back to the real communication problem, which is, ironically, the face-to-face kind. Isn´t everyone lately bemoaning how we are so wrapped around our phones that we don´t ever have time for real conversations in person? Well, my companion and I are TRYING mightily to have such conversations, but we are currently house contacting in an area that is rather filthy rich. Which means the views are always fun, but it also means the following 1). The house is behind a large gate. It might be made of bronze, or painted white, or waist high or impossible to see through, but it´s there. It´s always there. 2). For some reason, many of the doorbells are either a). missing b). broken c). unreachable. C is normally, as in most standardized testing, the correct answer in this case. Through the fence, I can see a doorbell. It´s staring me in the face. But I´d have to climb your fence, pass your dog, and if I make it to the porch, I could then reach your doorbell. Instead, I have to yell "Hola," or "Saludos" at the top of my lungs to get these peoples´ attention. Or, if by some miracle to outer doorbell exists and functions, there is only a 50-50 chance that it will be answered. We´ll look at the half-full glass and say someone answers it. This person is an middle-aged lady with a paunch in a dress that is checker-patterned and either green, red, or blue. She will tell you that the owners of the house or either gone or sleeping. We then leave our invitation to the church with her and ask her to pass it on to her bosses. But all the while, I have to wonder why the workers of these houses get to enjoy the children and commodities of this amazing castle that they guard more than the people that actually live there. But I´m just a careless observer. What do I know? But nevertheless, if I had any advice for these people, it would all start with having a doorbell that WORKS and is placed in a place where people who wish to communicate with the inhabitants can easily push it to announce their presence. Just an idea. I might patent it when I get back to the states.

But the fifty percent of the people we do talk to are pretty cool. You´ve got more than your occasional weirdo, but even they are pretty fun to talk to. But the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many people my companion knows. Often, when we talk to someone on their porch, they tell us they´re actually from Santiago, which is way up north opposite from where we are. My companion happens to be from Santiago, and even if the person we talk to lives in still another part of the country, she probably has some connection to them too. And the running joke with her is that every time she meets another Rodriguez, she tells the person, "my dad always told me I had a long-lost Aunt, Uncle, Cousin (etc.) that lived around here..." It weirds me out a little until I remember that we´re on a bite-sized island and three or four of her countries could easily fit in my state of California. So then, the "coincidences" of her knowing so many people seem, well, a lot less coincidental. It is kind of cool, and makes for good conversation starters though. The advantages of tiny island living: You apparently know everyone. The disadvantages of island living: Apparently, you know everyone, and they all know you, and hence, all you business. But there is a congeniality and sense of belonging here that is neat to witness. I think I´ll miss it.

And as long as we are talking about culture, I might as well throw in what I´m throwing down. I am totally educating my Latin companions as to the delicate art of the "Slug Bug!" Hma. Alfaro, my previous companion, never fought back and just took the slugs, even though I´m positive she saw some of the VW bugs before I did. However, Hma.Rodriguez is too slug happy, and often times, tries to slug me for cars that, in my opinion, are not even close to looking like slug bugs. I don´t know if this is passive aggressiveness or what, but I´ve been slowly and patiently continuing to slug her correctly and pointing out the very distinct differences of a Volkswagen beetle from EVERY OTHER CAR. I think it´s finally sinking in. We have to be careful, though. I´d hate for one of us to be sent home for slug bug abuse.

And finally, I will tell tale of a cool couple we are teaching. I shall call them Millie and Arnold. Millie was invited to a fruit activity we had at the church where we talked about all the health benefits of different fruits, had a slide show, and a rather delicious fruit salad afterwards. Millie immensely enjoyed the activity, and we´ve been teaching her ever since, so for a little less than 2 weeks. She works as a secretary, or something like that, in the same building as the president of this country. Pretty cool. Her husband is pretty crazy, missing his two front teeth and is often saying rather inappropriate things to his wife in front of us. He sometimes will stay and listen to the lesson if we coax him long enough, but normally he retreats to the bedroom to watch (loudly) his war movies. He´s also a big fan of Disney movies, apparently. But interestingly enough, he and I share the same birthday, and literally to the year, we are 30 years apart. This Saturday, the glorious 15th of September, he and I will be aging just a little bit more. I will be 25, and he will be 55. He thinks it´s weird I´m not married yet. I told him (more or less jokingly) that I don´t plan on marrying until I´m his age. He threw up quite the fit at hearing that, and said I´m a "Pura Jamona" (pure ham, o sea, an old maid.) MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sometimes, it´s fun to say things just to confound people. But if I would be allowed one birthday wish (I feel like I should be allowed two), it would be that I could see a piece of carpet again. No house here, not even the richest of the rich, have carpets, from what I¨ve seen. They would be a real beast to keep clean, I imagine, and I´m just so used to perpetual tile now. But someday, I wanted to walk barefoot and not have dirty feet afterwards, nor hear the echo of my footsteps. But yeah, here´s wishing myself and Arnold a Happy Birthday. May all us hopeless Jamonas live long and prosper.

One Year Older and Wiser,

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless"
                              (except on Sundays)