Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ooooooooh, I'm Halfway There! (I am Indeed Living on a Prayer)

Thanks Bon Jovi, for starting us off right. That's right, folks, this week, I will have successfully completed half of the mission. Please, hold the applause. I can't hear it anyway. Part of me is like, "what, where did that go?" The other part thinks, "I have (get) to do this all over again before I can eat a Tina's frozen burrito again (yes, that is THE only reason I'm excited to go home). Nine months feels pretty legit though. In two more transfers, I'll have a whole year, and then it's just ice cream and sugar cookies from there. You learn to measure time very differently on the mission. Immediately after turning nine months, I will start to say, "I'm working for 10." It sounds super goal oriented, but really, it just brings me personal comfort.
So, how will I celebrate the big day? (the 27th). My companion Hermana Bryant and I will be ordering a pizza through our mission grandparents, the Browns. They're the go-to guy and gal when we need, well, anything. Since I don't live in the capital, if I want something exotic and rare like an envelope, I give them money and they bring it to us, along with our mail, once a week. So they agreed to hook us up with the pizza connection. Hey, you don't turn nine months everyday (or every month). I'm doing it in style.
But speaking of starting all over again, last night was transfer calls, and I found out that (unsurprisingly), Azua and I are still gonna be together. Till death do I part, it would seem. But I already knew I would be because I'm training, which means unless your horoscope goes completely out of wack, you stay in the same area with your same companion for two transfers, o sea, a lovely 3 months. Transfer calls make me feel like vomiting, but getting them when you already know what's gonna happen ain't no thing. Ok, that's a lie, but it's less of a thing. But I have never wondered more about what the future will bring than when I've been on the mission. Never. It'll be interesting to go back to a world where Saint Patrick's day exists and where my Monday is not actually Saturday.
And remaining in Azua also means remaining waterless. But it rained today, and since we had no water coming out of the tap, we just put a bucket outside, and used that to do our house cleaning (on P-day is when we're supposed to do our thorough house clean). I cleaned with rainwater, yo! It just feels cool to say it. I feel so rustic. Like, Bear Grills or something. I am a wilderness woman. Maybe I'll teach survival classes when I get home. I'm still looking for my life calling so maybe these are what the stars are pointing to after all. But besides the water woes, staying in Azua means staying with the people. Now that IS something to celebrate. If I'd been transferred before I'd gotten to see Olga baptized, I would have flipped my flop. That poor woman has been through a pila de crap and yet she wants to be baptized so bad. She came back from the capital two days before her baptismal date and was still ready and willing to go through with it. I was like, "you're prepping your body for surgery, relax! We'll get it done." I know I've mentioned her before, but guess what? I'll probably mention her again.
And we have Eladio's date set for Cinco de Mayo. My companion is stoked for that one. She wants to eat chips and Salsa in his honor. Or maybe just because she's craving them. Either way, I'm down for it. He is the man who walks with a crutch, and is semi-blind. Both he and Olga will make great members, because they both understand the importance of committing yourself to something important. That's the kind of dedication I need to keep in mind when I'm working to finish MY LAST NINE MONTHS HERE! I don't remember if I already mentioned that I'm completing half the mission this week. It's kind of a big deal.
And speaking of big deals, happy birthday to the guy who think he is one, my beloved bro Braden T. Sweeney. He is turning 21, which really is pretty monumental. Live long and prosper, little bro. I will eat a Mas y Mas chocolate bar in your honor. And as for the rest of you, to some I wish living long, to some, I wish you to prosper. Let's not get greedy; you can't have it all. Like me for example. I have no more time. It's a cruel world. But next week will bring a new Monday, with new ideas about recent experiences. See ya there.
Sincerely you Sweeney,
Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What to Do when your Options are Few

So, I´ve heard it said that small and simple means can bring about
great things. Well, I hope that´s true, because sometimes even small
and simple is hard to come by. Being without is not a feeling I´m used
to, but the funny thing is, I used to think of myself as taking things
in stride. I mean, my family acquired a TiVo a mere few months before I
left for college. Then I went to college, and- No TiVo! I had to GET
UP to change the channel! The indignities of life were many. But the
thing is, I got used to it. Eventually, I just knew that when a
commercial came on, I couldn´t fast forward my way out of it. So I
started to make good use of my time during those trying periods of
overly-played promotions and got up to get a snack. It´s amazing how
ingenious we can be when duty calls.

And now, once again, I find myself being called to the front lines. I
am left to ponder how I can make a mountain out of a molehill. I have
to accomplish something big or at the very least, SOMETHING, with
little or nothing at all.

Fire one: Spanish. It comes and goes. Sometimes I´m fluent and
sometimes I´m not. But everything my companion Hma. Bryant feels in
regards to most first-time missionary moments, I´ve already been
there. Right now, she is struggling with the "why doesn´t anyone pay
attention when I talk?" dilemma. When your words are few, how do you
have a conversation? How do you teach about something as important as
Christ's restored gospel? You just... do. You take what you know, then
watch it grow. And sometimes the growth feels deathly slow. But when I
think about how far I´ve come (and how far I will hopefully go), I
realize my companion will be just fine because I am. And as your vocab
grows, the more confident you feel. And the more confidence you
feel... hello mountain, adios molehill.

Fire Two: Poco agua. I normally don´t think of myself as a demanding
person. And I prefaced this with "normally." But I do enjoy the
occasional night showers to rid myself of the sweat and grime of the
day. I also enjoy clean dishes. And laundry. And floor tiles. These
things seem, well, normal. But when there is no water coming out of
your faucet, these necessities of everyday life become more like
flittering fantasies. Which means your reality becomes conservation.
Wash the dishes every so often. Bathe more frequently from bucket (the
house I live in in Azua has a normal shower, unlike in the Yuca, so
this isn´t normally necessary). And pitch in with your neighbors to by
an extremely long hose that can reach the tank on top of your house so
you can, with permission, use the cistern of the people across the
street. I´m not sure I´ll ever be able to willfully wast water again.
I wonder how many people in the states even know where there´s comes
from? I didn´t use to. But now I do. Now I do.

And on a slightly less depressing note, I have Fire Three, which is,
cereal and other food options in general. The D.R. is not big on
diverse flavors and cereal is expensive. As you may have seen on a
past episode of "How to Do in the D.R.," I eat cereal in s special
way. My flavor of choice is Cornflakes. Why? Because they are so very
versatile. You can put bananas in them. Yogurt. Coca powder. And
suddenly, they are transformed before your very taste buds. The
potential is endless. Hey, it´s small. It´s even a little simple. But
tasty. Very tasty.

And finally, what about Fire three, which would be, if your members
are few and far between? For those wondering what the difference
between a branch and a ward is, it´s essentially the members. In a
branch, there aren´t as many people as there are in a ward, so some
people have multiple callings. In a ward, there can be lots of
activities, because there are enough people to share the work and put
them on. But I´ve gotta say, this branch rocks it with what they´ve
got, which is essentially, a lot of really dedicated youth willing to
put in a lot of time and effort. They go out with us to visit
investigators. They sometimes teach seminary. The put on the Wednesday
mutual activities. And pretty much anything else that is necessary to
keep a healthy branch up and running. And not to say we don´t have
some outstanding adults, cuz we most certainly do. Some people have
faith and dedication that I can´t seem to wrap my mind around. They
give talks in Church often and frequently and visit less active
members, even though many of them have school, personal business,
personal lives. It just goes to show as our mission president says,
the Lord doesn´t need a lot- He just needs what he has to be faithful.

But what really amazes me most of all is how little time it takes to
retroceder, o sea, go back to how things were. It´s hard to imagine
going back to a world of easy-access frozen burritos and of course,
TiVo (no, this blog is not sponsored by either), but that´s because
I´m not sitting here with the remote in my hand. How long does
experience continue to teach? How much of what I learn will affect and
stay with me always? Hard to say now. But I hope at least that I can
remember what I´ve learned long enough to apply it in my "normal"

Oh, and before I forget, sadly, Olga and her kids were not able to be
baptized. She had to go to the Capital for a surgery. But she is very
enthusiastic and sure she´ll be ready for this weekend. As long as
she´s up for it, so are we. Ready for anything, and then some.

Well, I´m off to see the picture show. Ok, I´m really off to go end
P-day with a Family Home Evening with Hermana Segunda and Hermano
Querido, members of our branch. But life in the D.R. is a little like
a constant show, so I guess, one and the same.

Yours truly, and truly yours,

Hermana Sweeney

Monday, April 16, 2012

The King Stays King (Yes sir!)

Well, I am so full to bursting with things to say, I just don´t know where to start. Or maybe that overly-satisfied sensation comes from the fact that I´ve spent the past week ringing in the Semana Santa with an unhealthy amount of habichuelas con dulce (sweet beans). And I do mean A LOT of sweet beans. It may make me a sadist (it doesn´t), but it was amusing for me to watch my companion child try and choke them down each time. She is not what you´d call a fan. But then at Christmas time, I was the one suffering with the espeguettis, so we´ll call it fair.

Anyway, according to my good friend Romeo Santos (the only music artist that my part of Azua ever seems to feel like blaring at night, morning, and all times in between), The Kings... stays king. Yes sir! I think Romeo might know some English because he loves to throw phrases of my native tongue into every one of his songs. Some of them make more sense than others. And I know for close to a fact that he did not make up the one about the King. I do know that during Friday evening, when a lot of business here close (wish I´d know this before the day was upon me), apparently, someone who lives close to us thought the only thing to do that day was to get drunk and play one of Romeo´s songs on repeat. Actually, repeat isn´t a strong enough word, but i don´t have any others to better describe it. I feel like that one song is now a part of who I am. I can´t beat it, so I´ve joined it, o sea, it´s joined me. So I´ve had some time to think it over, and the King can only stay King if he´s dang good at his job. Which makes me wonder how good of a king am I?

Or rather, how well do I do my job ever? I´ve thought over my college career, and internships, and feel like I tried hard and did pretty well, but I always had the feeling that maybe I could have done a little more. Is that just because as humans we are always looking to outdo ourselves (and sometimes, everyone else?) or is it because we really have more to give? Being a trainer has made me stop and evaluate this concept. "Aren´t we supposed to be doing this?" "What if we did it this way?" Often times, it´s pretty annoying when someone tries to come in and "change things up." But really, when you see a problem, isn´t it natural to want to fix it? I used to be that way, more at the beginning of my mission. And not that I don´t still want to help, but I feel like I know what my limitations are more than I used to. Some things that we want to change simply can´t be done. But as my companion has reminded me, it´s not a good reason not to try. How many cheesy, heart-warming movies exist that tell us to keep fighting against insurmountable odds? (don´t answer that). But I guess a King wouldn´t be THE King if he told his kingdom, "well, I gave it a good run, but it looks like I´m not gonna be able to provide you with the food and protection you need. Later." So, if at first I don´t succeed... I still have to be the King."

And I did feel like one, just a little, when we finally had Madelin´s baptism, (and the day before Easter, too!). She was happy, I was happy, we were all happy. You will know this when you see the pics that I´ll send to be posted in a couple weeks. I feel like we did an entire photo shoot for it. People here love them some pics. But it was my companion´s first baptism and my first in Azua, and after resetting her date twice, it just felt good to see it come to pass. Hopefully, we´ll get to see Olga and her two kids keep their date as well, this coming Saturday. Some people have been through so much that when something good happens to them, it would take a real creepy beast of a person to not feel some sort of positive emotion. Olga is a true example that no matter how suck-tastic life can be at times, that, well, you just gotta fight through it. Can´t read? Well, learn. Find some to teach you. Do what it takes. Maybe someday, I´ll reach that fighting point. We all have it, but not a lot of us are pushed to it. But...

"When Everything is Wrong, we Move Along"- The good ol´ All American Rejects again.

And moving right along with an incredibly unrelated topic, I just have to end by saying that I have gained and lost a lot of flexibility in the mission. As part of our schedule, we are supposed to get up at 6:30, and hit the floor exercising. And during these sessions, I have come to find that whereas it was once so easy to do the splits, now, it is not so much. I think the tendons in my legs are so stiff from the constant walking we do that they refuse to do me anymore favors. "You wanna stretch like a gymnast?" they taunt, "then quit workin' us like we´re an inexhaustible resource." Noted. But in other ways, I´m increasing the gamut of my flexibility. You may not be able to see my muscles from space like you can my brothers, but it´s something I can feel, at least. This last Saturday, we attended the velorioPor eso, estoy aquĆ­. And another such instance had occurred earlier that day with Wellington, the 16 year-old president of the Young Men. We went out with him to talk to some less active members and their parents about their Duty to God, a program designed to help the young men of the church build good relationships with their parents and achieve worthwhile goals. Oh, that sounded good. Maybe they´ll make me the spokesperson. Anyway, after we had finished with the person we´d planed to visit, Wellington asked if we could go on a couple unplanned visits directly afterwards. Well, we had some other things planned, but, once again, could I say no? This young kid is trying to work with parents and other youth without a whole lot of experience of how to do it. So, the moral of the story is, be flexible. Who knows, you might just be able to touch your toes.

And to that note, I shall end with another. Happy Easter to all! I´m pretty sure I saw the Easter Bunny on Sunday. He had fur with the pattern of a Dalmatian and was busy chasing a chicken. Go figure.

Con Amor and more,

Hermana Sweeney

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All-American Rejects

Well, from what I remember of American culture, I like the band, but to them, I am not currently referring. Essentially, what we got goin’on in our district is a parade of the pale and pasty. We are an all-American district! This is my first experience in a district without any Latinos in it, so I’m sorta just letting myself enjoy it. If I absolutely feel the need to express myself using some English then by George, I can do it. As Prince and Ms. Spears would gladly attest to, that’s my prerogative. Just to let you know, every Tuesday we meet as a district to discuss how we can better our part of the mission and help our investigators. And whenever we’ve had Latins, the conversations have always been more, er, spicy? The Latins I’ve met have not even the hint of a problem expressing themselves and there opinions, so if there was ever a problem or a situation that arose during a meeting, they’d just let out how they thought it should best be handled, and that was that. Hmmmmmm…
Which makes me wonder how I have changed and how I have remained the same. In some ways, I feel more Dominican. If there’s no water when I turn on the tap, I don’t find that so strange anymore. If another missionary tells me they don’t study the language as part of their daily study, I gladly tell them that’s ridiculous. But the funny thing is, we all like to think we have the answers and know how things should be done, when in reality, we all give hypocritical advice we don’t always take ourselves. No one likes being told what to do, yet all of us at some point have tried to persuade someone to adjust to our perspective and/or way of doing something. But that’s just the human condition. We want to help but not necessarily to be helped.

I did, however notice the more Dominicanized, advice-giving version of myself in my last blog. Part of it I owe to my current circumstances of being surrounded by lifestyles of opinions and the opinionated. The other part comes from my own frustrations of hearing the things going on in the lives of my friends/family and not feeling like I can actively do anything to help them. So, what’s my solution? To the blog, of course! It’s the quickest way I can get out the most advice/feelings/information in the shortest amount of time. Cuz we all know that time is pesos. But I just want people to know that even if though I don’t know all the answers to all problems (just most of them), doesn’t mean I don’t want to help in my small, half-Dominican, half-American way. And most of all, if I could give any useful advice that I’ve learned from the mission (you know, besides that the gospel blesses lives), it would be that just because you can’t have it now, doesn’t mean you can’t have it. I don’t know if that catchy turn-of-phrase has already been copyrighted by some other witty jerk, but it’s true regardless of who it’s from. Waiting is another game humans don’t seem to like to play. But that’s why we have to endure instead. As Elder Uchdorf, one of the current apostles of the church said, enduring is not just waiting. It’s striving to fight through the hard times and enjoy the good. Well, I paraphrased, but that’s the idea in a banana peel. Sitting on a fence won’t get you anywhere. Make like a cow and moooooooooove. As long as we try, strive, and drive ourselves forward, we’ll make it where we need to be. Wherever that is. Like a small, tropical island, for instance… just saying.

However, one part of me that will never become Dominican is the part that refuses to be without shame. This past week, I’ve had people ask me for everything from my phone number (not so uncommon) to a pair of basketball shorts and the skirt I was wearing (not-so-common). My companion and I were making our way down the street when a lady with a young girl and a shopping cart asks for the skirt I was wearing. “You live at the Mormon chapel right?” She asks. “When can we do the exchange?” Apparently she’s Evangelical and as part of their religion, they have to wear skirts all the time. So I guess she was bored of hers and wanted to try something new, something fresh. “Uh, you do realize I’m a good two sizes bigger than you?” I said, trying to reason her down, but she wasn’t having it. I managed to get away (skirt intact), but I’ve seen her a couple times and she’s still waiting for her new apparel. Who knows? Maybe as a going-away present when I finally leave Azua.
Oh, and in other news, we are currently in the midst of Semana Santa here, or the Holy week. They celebrate Easter here for a whole week. There are olive branches hanging off of car fenders, bike handles, you name it. I can’t complain. Easter’s a great holiday. I love me some cadbury eggs. And I am also truly grateful for Christ and his sacrifice for all of us. He did rise again! Some things you just can’t buy a big enough thank you card for.

Well, that’s about all I have for you this time. This week on “How to do in the D.R.” please enjoy the complimentary how-to tuvi instruction manual. You never know when you’re gonna need these things.

Semi-faithfully yours,

Hermana Sweeney

*Brought to you by the now dead and ever-attractive Hermana Lund.

1. First, You get your hairs all did nice and purtytuvi.
2. Divide the hair into two parts, as though you were going to do piggy tails.
3. Wrap the hair around your head in a counter-clockwise motion and pin it with bobby pins.
4. Keep going
5. Yup, you're getting there.
6. Make sure the hair is tight around your head. It should sorta look like a beautiful cinnamon roll.
7. It's time to put the tuvi on now
8. So do it already!
9. There you go!
10. Now remove all the bobby pins through the holes in the tuvi. Spin it around on you head a couple of times, to keep hair firmly in place. Yeah, I know it sounds weird.
11. And in the morning, remove tuvi (with class and sass, of course)
12. And now, you're looking all sorts of good!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

525, Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah

Well, if you have never heard of the more-than-slightly provocative
musical Rent before, consider this your crash course. It is a story of
seizing the day and enjoying every moment of life. And yes, there´s
your plot about gay relationships and drugs. But I will focus more on
the former. Let me know if I veer off track.

Anyway, maybe it´s the fact that I´m weird or that I´ve been living in
a different culture for a little bit but it has become clearer and
clearer to me that America is a little sick with a fever, and no, the
prescription is not more cowbell. The real problem is how we measure,
and the yardsticks we use to do so. Once again returning to Rent, in
the most well-known of the numbers (“525,600 Minutes”), the characters
question, “how do you measure a year? A life?” What questions! How do
we? In numbers, numbers, NUMBERS! Why are we always measuring our
happiness this way, especially when so doing makes us miserable?
Another great question. I´m full of ‘em today.

It reminds me of before I even started my mission, just a little after
I found out where I´d be going. What was the most common response to
the information that I´d be giving of my time and energy to serve Big
Guns upstairs?
“Wow, that´s so exciting! A foreign country? You´ll probably lose
a lot of weight!” If you were one of the many people who said this to
me, please feel free to kick yourself within the next few moments.
Really? My own personal thoughts whenever I heard that delightful
comment was, “you´re right, the real question here is, diet or
mission? But when I realized I could travel far far away to a
different land and leave behind all the conveniences of home, really,
the choice was easy. Mission! I can maybe try to teach a couple people
about Jesus, and then get back to that whole weight loss thing. I´ve
gotta keep my priorities straight, after all.

But seriously, it seems that everyone is always saying “I´ll be
happy when this measurement comes to pass.” Insert number of pounds to
lose, dollars to make, life experiences to have... “I´m 23 and I´ve
never been to Europe? How will I ever know who I really am if I don´t
go to Europe? Now I´m not a complete jerk. Just a little. And there´s
nothing wrong with having dreams and aspirations. There is something
wrong with basing your whole life around things that are sometimes out
of your control. You can´t be skinny right this second. So work on
it. Or if someone is ok with how they are, let them be. We can´t all
look like Kate Moss. But I hear so many people write/tell me about
their diets and how miserable they are to even eat. We´re supposed to
be hear on this planet to have joy, people. I tell it to investigators
everyday and now I´m telling you. EAT! I know, I know, everyone has
different bodies, sugar´s a drug, more blah blah blah. But find a
happy medium. Eat junk once in awhile. But eat it. And if you want to
go on a trip, save up. But don´t think if other life experiences you
can´t always plan for get in the way and you can´t go, that your life
journey is for naught. That´s just not so.

And yes, I know. In America, we value difference, right? I mean, every
once in a while, a movie like Hairspray will come out, and we remember
that big people or any type of minority needs love too. And then we go
right back to our regularly scheduled mindsets. To quote a dearly
beloved band teacher from back in the day: Knock it off! Let yourself
be, and others too. Or I´ll come after you.

Although, all that said, I will confess that some joys are measurable.
Not how many baptisms we have, but the fact that we have them. We´ve
been teaching a girl named Madelin for awhile, and she really wants to
get baptized, but we have to keep pushing the date back because she
either wasn´t completely prepared with all the lessons, (and I refuse
to have a convert immediately become less active), or she mixed up the
dates, so she set it for when her mom will be out of town. But it´s
all good; she is getting baptized the 7th of April. Good things come
to those who wait. At least, that´s what they tell me.

And last of all, what would a blog entry be without a really good
update about my special friend? I have had a couple more encounters
with my Godshield guy, and this time, I was behind literal shields.
The most memorable time, I was behind a locked gate of a member we
were visiting. He passed by, noticed me, but obviously, couldn´t get
passed a locked gate. So he just gave me a really creepy smile and the
"call me" hand gesture. I might just do it. Phone shields count too.

Anyways, that´s just a day in the life. My poor trainee-child got sick
and we stayed inside a couple days. That´s how I roll. I make a
fabulous parent. Not even with me two weeks and she´s already sick of
the mission. No, she´s great. She´s just learning the language and yet
she´s taking Azua by storm and taking part in every lesson we teach.
Now that´s how it´s done folks. Don´t over think it. Just do. Cue cheer
section. And cue my sign off.

Love (without measure)

Hma. Sweeney