Monday, March 19, 2012

I Get the Best of Both Worlds

Well, I´m just gonna get right down to business, 1. because I´m not really in a blogging mood, and 2. This keyboard sucks more than a vortex. Literally, thank you to all the OTHER spacebars in the world that function properly. A holiday to celebrate you to be shortly announced.

But what to say more than jdfkljdkfjakljdfkdlfjdakljf(/%$&/?????????????? Yeah, I think that´s the language I feel fluent in right now. The "what the frick?" one. I will describe being a trainer like this: it means being tired. And fluent. But mostly tired and fluent. Well, forcibly fluent. I don´t know what it is that makes the human brain go into overdrive when it knows it has no guardrails, but as soon as all my Spanish safeguards left (Hermanas Lund and Amaya), my brain was like, "well, crap... let´s understand some Spanish, shall we?" So, we have been, better and better. Not to say I understand every single thing, but man, is it nice to feel fluent. But not so nice to feel tired. The extra effort required of my brain is making the rest of my body more and more useless. They may have to wheel me off the plane for my homecoming on a gurney. Serving with might, mind, heart and strength? Add a few additional organs in there and we may be onto something here.

But I am starting to actually recognize the change that´s coming over me. Especially now that I´m training Hermana Bryant. Because trainers are supposed to be good. Examples. Good examples. And I´m good. But I´m no saint. So I struggle between wanting to show her the way perfectly and not caring about obeying EVERY SINGLE RULE. She loves the idea of obedience. I love the idea of my sanity. So it´s interesting. But what´s really interesting is when I realized this morning that she´s exactly how I used to be when I first got out on the mission. I had certain expectations about what would happen and what I would be able to do. And then when things aren´t always exactly the way you planned them, you get frustrated or elated, depending on the situation. So, in spite of the fact that I´m not always the perfect example, at least I have one to clarify what I´m trying to explain.

So once upon a time, Hermana Bryant and I made our first lunch together. She was stirring the macaroni noodles when suddenly I hear her say, "uh, Hermana, there´s bugs in here." I thought she meant a couple little ants, so I went over, and low and behold, there were two cockroaches floating to the top of the water. She was ever so slightly freaking out, and I thought,"well, that´s gross. But fixable." So, I spooned them out and told her the water would boil it out. And she responded, "is that gonna be your solution for everything? Just boil it?" I may have laughed hysterically. Because a former version of me was right there with Hermana Bryant, properly disgusted. But the present version of me just couldn´t work up the energy to care. Yes, I eat cockroach mac´ and cheese. Sure, I´ve lost a little of my pride. I´m gonna be real cute when I get back to the states. But it only got better that night when we had no water and she asked how we would be showering. I filled her in on the magic of bucket showers, and she was like, "wait, we shower out of the poop bucket?" To which I said, "it´s not a poop bucket, we just use it to flush. And occasionally mop the floors." She may or may not have purchased her own personal bath bucket after that. And I may have had another burst of laughter. Is this what real parenting is like? Getting a real kick out of all the things your kids do? Cuz our first week has been a real scream. It´s actually pretty fun watching someone relive the magic I´ve lost a little bit. Every wolf whistle, every bucket shower, every Dominican meal is new to her, so it had sort of become new to me. And it reminds me that at one point, I thought life here was weird and hard. And look how I´ve grown. The hard part is convincing her that she´ll get there someday too. But that´s the thing about experience- sometimes you need your own to grow and learn the truth of something for yourself.

Anyway, hence the obtaining the best of both worlds, in a Hannah Montana fashion (you´re welcome, Delaney). I now have what was formerly two areas as one area, and a four person house is now for two. And I have the best of the Dominican and America, as in, I can understand the culture and language here and because I have a fresh American comp., I can still enjoy my own. Is this the spot where I should use the word(s) win-win? Cuz I think I will.

Well, that´s about all the effort I can exert for one blog entry. But I must leave you with this critical wisdom: First, if you thought that the word Smurf is funny in English, you should hear it in Spanish. For our night of friendship that we hold at the church Friday nights, we played a game involving verbs. You try to guess the verb by asking where, how, etc. you can do it, but you replace the verb with the word Smurf. So everyone was asking (in Spanish, obviously), "can you Esmurf in the morning?" and things like that. Esmurf. My favorite word and wink-wink joke with Hermana Bryant.

Oh, and if any of you come to the D.R. and are in desperate need of nail polish, look no further than your local Pica Pollo, or translated, fried chicken restaurant. The chicken will give your stomach much fat and sadness, but the shades of polish are to die for. I´m going to indulge in decorating later tonight. So you see, I haven´t completely lost my ability to be cleanly. Or at least, somewhat attractive. And with this information to mull over, I bid you adieu.

Cuando en Cuando,

Hermana Sweeners

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Things I'll be Missing

Well, as much as I like words (I really, REALLY do), they simply don't suffice to describe the myriad of sentiments I am currently experiencing. Hermana Lund, my good mission madrastra, buddy, and American sanity in a sea of Latins, as gone the way of the earth. Kicked the bucket, so to speak. In terms of her mission experience, she is dead and gone. And it sucks. There's just not really a more eloquent way to describe it. This seems to be one of my personality traits: I just can't let go of things, whether that includes bad feelings or good. And I think about it too much. Like, "yeah, it was great to have that time living together, blah blah blah, but it's never going to be the SAME again."

Nothing stays the same. What an original idea. But still, original or not doesn't change the potency of the feelings that accompany the concept. And mine is sadness. I could say the blow was softened by the amount of crap I inherited from her, but that wouldn't be true. Ok, a little true. I am now the proud owner of a rechargeable flashlight, a reversible Egyptian skirt, and various hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works (cue angelic chorus). And that's just to name a few. I kid you very little when I say that a mission funeral reeks highly of the real thing. The dying missionary mentally makes a will and when the time comes, they literally give away most of the stuff they came with. Sheets, towels, clothes, whatever. It all goes. No one wants to have to worry about lugging three suitcases full of junk home with them. Although the amusing irony is that what is given away is always more or less more valuable then what these home-going missionaries brought with them initially. You end up with a lot of used agendas, interesting letters you received during the mish (insert not-so-subtle hint for all of you to write said letters), and interesting but cheap knick knacks. Though I have to say, I'm glad I'm learning the art of dying now and not later. Especially since I'll be training this transfer and the more I know now, the better. But we'll talk more about that later.

Anyway, the point being, Hermana Lund is gone and I'm bummed. We had some crazy cooking/contacting/living-life-in-general experiences together. And it made me how much I hate missing things. Which of course, brings me to the fact that I missed my mother's 50th birthday, my cousin Trevor's 18th birthday, and, oh, P.S., happy birthday today to my little love pizza Delaney because today she turns 15. What the what? I will also not be there for my brother's 21st birthday, when hopefully he more or less becomes somewhat of an adult, nor for the rebirth of the nation from whence I came, also known as the U.S. elections. To be honest, none of this really hit me until a few days ago because normally, I just don't think about it. I go on automatic robo pilot, and concentrate on what I'm doing in the moment. Except when my mind wanders and I think about what I'll be putting in my next blog entry or will write in a letter back home. Otherwise, I'm decently focused. But when I realized that I'd be missing so many interesting things in one year, I was just like, "uh... that kinda sucks." Then again, it's probably a good thing I haven't been over thinking this particular subject, because I'm sure I would have left the states kicking and screaming. It was hard enough realizing I'd have to give up Jack in the Box tacos. Add to that birthdays, elections, and the latest season of The Vampire Diaries, and well... we're just gonna let me go back into robot mode again.

And yes, to top it all off, it's transfers again, and yes, I am training. All I know is that her name is Hermana Bryant and that she's from Arizona. Oh, and that we'll both be staying here in Azua. As much as I thought I'd be staying in La Yuca, I had equally strong feelings that I'd be getting myself outs of here. But the unexpected twist is that there will now only be two hermanas working here instead of four, the very thing I was almost positive wasn't going to happen. But like I've said before, you can only learn to live life on the edge of expectancy, because you have no idea when, where, and with whom you're going to fall. And I really don't know what big guns upstairs is thinking by trusting me with a newborn missionary. I don't feel prepared! I go from being fake engaged to having a real/fake mission child. Who'd have thunk I'd have to go on a mission to meet with such a scandalous life? And then, to top it off, I get to be the step mom of my stepbrother, Elder Carlson, because I was be the oldest Hermana in our Zone, (yup, me and my whole 7.5 months), and me and my new companion will be the only hermanas in the zone. I will also apparently be inheriting a son (can you inherit children?) because another Elder in our zone is also training. Although I am the only hermana newly training this transfer. So, Elder Bagley (the other trainer-in-training) and I will be headed to the capital today around 3:00 p.m. my time via guagua or some sort of bus-like transportation. Wish me whatever is stronger than luck, because to err on the side of the cliche, I'm gonna need it.

Anyway, I'm gonna call it a day. To quote a recently and dearly departed friend, "give me a break." I mean, I am in mourning and all. Though this whole experience of watching someone else prepare me to go home naturally has made me think about when my turn comes. If it ever does. I remember Facebook chatting with a friend from the Washington Seminar back when I was still deciding about the whole mission thing. He just said, "oh... cool." And I was like, "well, that's an ambiguous and telling reaction," to which he responded, "no, it would be cool. The mission is just really hard." And I responded (only mentally), with, "well, I feel like I've mastered the hard by now, and it's never stopped me before. How much harder could it get?" I was so young and cute back then. If only I'd known. But to bring Hermana Lund back from the dead momentarily, I will leave you with this gem she told me once: "Well, I wouldn't CHOOSE it. But I wouldn't change it." Amen to that. And to this entry. Off I go to throw some ashes.

Solemnly,

Hermana Sweeney

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You Can Do More than You Think

Don't you just love it? So inspirational. So uplifting. Maybe so unlike past blogs? I couldn't tell you for beans; it's not like I read my own works of art. I guess you'll have to be the judges of that. But let me explain what I mean, because well, if I don't, you won't have the foggiest idea of what I'm talking about.

Anyway, it has come to my attention lately that I'm pretty good at doing a lot of things. Sound like I'm bragging? I sure am! It finally made sense to me a couple weeks ago why some people come home from their missions depressed. It's because we're mere children out here, with not a clue what the frick we're doing and yet, all these people are dumping all this responsibility on us like we're professionals. So, you better learn to play the part or you're gonna look like a dern fool. Some examples coming your way just around the riverbend.

I've already mentioned that I have somehow found myself in the position of helping start a choir and teaching English classes. Now English may or may not be my best subject. I feel like I have made it my footstool and conquered it with both pen and sword. Music however... well, ask anyone who was in band with me. I can give you the lyrics (words, mind you), to almost any song, but until I came on the mission, I didn't realize I knew so much. That's because the people here can't sing their way out of paper bag. They wouldn't know what an A flat looked like if it came and joined them in the shower. So me and my trusty pitch pipe (thank you brother), are doing are best to knock some notes into these pitch less people. And we actually performed our first song the Sunday before this last Sunday (if you can't tell, the days are all sorta of becoming one, endless day. Except for P-day, that is). And to my endless surprise, we sounded good. The Mormon Tabernacle we are not, but we all were singing the same notes, and we even taught the director how to divide into parts, so the men where singing the complementary counter-melody. What the what? A real choir we certainly are/were. But none of it would have been possible had I just sat on my hindquarters and thought, "man, I know next to Jack squat about directing. I guess I'll just wait for someone else to take the lead." I mean, that is option A of course. Maybe your hind parts need a rest. But if I've learned anything (boy have I ever), on the mission, it's that you can do more than you think. A lot more, usually. I used to really minimize my abilities, at least, in my mind. That's because we all know there's someone who has our same skill and can do donuts around our abilities. But that's not the point. We weren't given talents so that we could be the best; we were given them to enjoy and to show-off, a.k.a. serve other people. And so if you can play the flute better than me, bully for you. If you can make a mouth-watering lemon torte, I applaud you, mostly if you're willing to bring it over to my house. By if I feel like playing my flute and having my torte (and eating it too) I'll be durned if I'll let your talent take away from the joy I get from doing the same, regardless of who is better than who. So you make the Torte. I'll make a killer lemonade. And we'll use four arms, which mathematically are better than two, to kidnap whichever pop artist is popular at the moment (not that I'd know; in case anyone forgot, I'm on a mission), and they can utilize their gift of song for us. And then, everyone wins.

Another brief example involves yesterday during church, when the Relief Society President asked me to read a scripture out loud. So I obliged. And then she looks at me and asked "can you explain to everyone what that means?" And I looked inside of myself for all of two seconds, since that was all the time I had, and thought, "good question." Could I? Well, guess I'd better find out. So I got going, and out popped the explanation. Not perfect, but pretty complete and intelligent-sounding. And everyone looked satisfied, so I'm calling it scoreboardacis. But it's like the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenant says, (if I was an on-the-ball missionary, I'd have the verse and chapter for you, but you get what you get), you open you're mouth and then it's filled with what you need to say. You know, that faith word people like to use so much. You act knowing that if you trust and believe, that God will have your back. It's worked thus far. We'll see if we can keep it going.

However, there are some things that I just can't do, no matter how I try. Like avoid my special, crazy friend. You know, the one who first tried to kiss me, then throw various objects at me? Well, last week, I had just been thinking about him, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but... him. But in my thoughts I was like, "I'm with the Relief Society, her counselor, and my companion. There's no way he's going to try anything." Well, that was faulty logic apparently, because he somehow slithered through all my lines of defense, wound up his hand, and made like he was gonna slap my butt. I was just like, "uhhhh...." My brain doesn't tend to work too well in these situations. So I only had time to move a mere inch away by the time his hand was nearing my rear. But somehow, he magically missed me. I don't know how this keeps happening. Just like in the other two instances, he should have been able to touch me. But there seemed to be some sort of a wall blocking his progress. I can't really explain it, even to myself, but for some reason, much like my good friend M.C. Hammer, this guy can't seem to touch this. And it's either because he can't hit the broad side of a toaster strudel or because I, like Harry Potter, have a magical cloak, but mine is of unmolestability. Before anyone freaks out, remember that in Spanish, molest only means to bother. So essentially, we get molested on a constant basis. Anyway, I call this shield my God wall. Although I have to say, next time, I'm not going to wait to see if said wall holds up another time. I'm going to beat this guy down with my umbrella. An Hermana can only take so much. It's part of that whole acting with faith thing again... around and around we go.

But to avoid the utterly obnoxious man situations we as Hermanas face on a minute-to-minute basis, I went back to basics and my old companion, Hermana Lund and I, invented me a pretty solid fiancee. So I'm totally engaged, in case anyone was curious. Yeah, me. His name is Stephen Joyce. Hermana Lund invented all the details, but all I really cared about is that he wears the thick-rimmed black glasses I find so attractive. So let's see, a good chunk of my friends are either married or engaged, and I'm still in the fifth grade, inventing boyfriends. I can't even pretend to be ashamed. Stephen is saving me a whole lot of real annoyance. Anytime a Dominican hisses us over, pretending they care to learn more about Jesus, I introduce them to Stephen instead. It may be a dirty lie, but it's a white lie, so it's pure. And who's to say I won't end up with a Stephen. Only time will tell. But if I tell them that I don't have anyone back in the states, they take this as an invitation. I had a large baker dude tell me he'd wait for me. Thanks. If Stephen's moved on by the time I get back, we'll see. I do love me some bread.

Well, well, well, I do believe we have run out time, much like I have run out of energy to type. But I'll keep keeping on if you will. Oh, and to all of you who write to me, you have or will get a letter back, and I appreciate your words. But knowing the postal system here, you may not get it until after you get Stephen and mine's announcement. So, sorry about that... But just remember, you all have access to Tina's frozen burritos and Jack-in-the-Box and I don't. So cheer up.

Con amor y more in store,

Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, March 4, 2012

You and Me Shouldn't Sit Under the Mango Tree

Ok, first of all, let's all take a moment and appreciate that today,
the 27th of February, is the D.R. Day of Independence. Which means
about everyone on the street got drunk at 11:00 instead of directly at
noon. And there were flags covering every available space of public
and private institutions. But more importantly, it's my official
seventh month on the mission. As long as we're prioritizing here. I
personally can't decide if it seems like the time is speeding or
dragging. Or both. Depends on the day. For example, all P-days go by
in a blur of early morning cleaning and a frenzy of letter writing.
But the days when we have three Jos├ęs in a row to teach and none of
them are home when we come by, well, those are the days that seem like
weeks. But yeah, I woke up to a bunch of ridiculously cute
"congratulations" cards from my companion and housemates today. Awwww.
The only thing better than patting yourself on the back is having
someone else do it for you.

Well, I feel like much how mine and Hermana Lund's last English lesson
focused on food, this blog needs to do the same. Food is one of my
special hobbies, and I feel like I haven't done it any justice up
until this point. Let's start with the class, shall we?

So, Hma. Lund and I decided it might be useful for our students to
learn a cultural note or two alone with every lesson. So after
teaching the basic food groups and teaching them how to ask other
people about their favorite concoctions, we shared with them the
difference in how food is viewed here. For example, there is no such
thing in the states as "a bueno tiempo," which essentially means if
someone is eating something, they will say that phrase as a way of
offering you whatever they're eating. So you're options are to take
it, or to say "a buen provecho," which just means, "no no, you enjoy
it." It's becoming stranger and stranger to me that in the states, a
lot of us (I'm speaking of me too) guard our food so jealously when we
have so much of it. I think it's just we don't like mooch mentality.
We're willing to share... if it's of our own volition. But as the
well-known saying goes, "no one's gonna lay a finger on my
Butterfinger." At least, not unless they ask. Or are prepared to duel
me for it.

I, in my non-obvious, completely subjective manner, made it more or
less clear that women do NOT spend their whole day cooking. Children
and spouse do not come home to eat a lunch time, nor is lunch the
biggest meal in the states. And here, if you interrupt someone during
their meals, it's no big deal. You'll probably just get invited in to
eat with them. But in the states, if you interrupt dinner, you are
usually expected to get you outta there. I think all our Dominican
students left feeling mentally feed. And maybe a bit disappointed that
America isn't the land of the free after all. You gotta work for it!
But at least there's the 99 cent menus.

But some more food for thought came my way this last Sunday as my
companion and I traversed the Calle Mercedes, searching for the people
that had earlier in the week promised us that they would come to
church. Of course, it's easy to promise to do something in the
afternoon of Tuesday, and another thing to have to actually get up at
the crack of dawn Sunday to bring it to pass. But I'd really rather
people just admit to me that they have no intention of going. It would
sure save me a lot of walking. Not to mention that the Calle Mercedes
is evil and I hate contacting there. Everyone is Catholic, and so they
either don't want to listen, or will listen only to contradict. I'm
just of the mindset that you shouldn't kill the messenger. Listen or
don't. That's up to you.

Anyway, at the end of that calle of doom is the solares, or rather,
the unpaved, farm-like area that has houses few and far between. In
one of these homes lives a family, in particular, a 15 year old girl
we're teaching. We came to her house expecting to hear some excuse for
why she wouldn't be able to come to church. But she was all ready to
go. And I was like, "you mean, you can leave right now, right this
minute? Wait, explain this to me again, more slowly..." I've kinda
started to make myself accept that everyone let me down so that I
won't get disappointed when people fail me. How human of me. But it
didn't even matter to me that we had a long walk to the church because,
we had someone with us. And that was all that mattered. But you may be
wondering what any of that had to do with food. Well, her house is
essentially a fruit farm. It's pretty dang cool to actually see on
what trees bananas and papayas grow on. But early in that week, when
we asked the whole family to go to church, the mom said she couldn't
go because she had to stay with the house. Normally I'd think that was
a crock if I didn't know it to be true. If you live on land where
fruit is growing openly, you're automatically a target for robbers.
So, you either always have someone guarding the house, or you get
robbed. Win-win. It made me feel pretty, well, something. But that
something became something more when at the end, I asked if I could

need a bathroom." I guess there's a first time to pray for everything.
It would almost be funny if it weren't mostly sad. But they're good
people and I dearly hope they get a bathroom. I wouldn't wish not
having one on my worst enemy. Most days.

Well, that's about all that I can vomit onto the page for now. But the
advice I put in the title remains: the mango trees around here are
quickly producing fruit, and if you're sitting under said tree at the
wrong time,,, you're gonna get hit. Mangos have no mercy, nor much
discrimination. But I can't wait till the season when they're ripe
draws nigh. Apparently, you can get them super cheap, and when they're
full-grown, they can get as big as your face. I'll let you know how
that goes. But I can already tell you... it's gonna be good.

So till next time, eat your fruits and veggies and share your bag of
chips. If it's the family sized bag, at least. And a flavor you don't
really care about.

Love,

Hermana Sweeney