Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wait, What about the Other One?

Well, here I am, another week wiser. What have I learned? Well, quizás most importantly, how to find my way around my area. As most people who have spent a quality amount of time with me know, I can´t find my way out of a plastic bag. So, the first day I get my new companion, Hma. Rodriguez, I find out that it´s here birthday, with no advance warning. That... sucked. I wanted to make it special, but really, the only thing I could think of was Krispy Kreme. So I got her a tasty donut, and we spent the rest of the day getting failed by all the citas we´d put for the day (failed= how we say people weren´t home, they failed us. Cita is Spanish for appointment. Now you also are a little wiser). "Happy Birthday to yoooooooou......"

But don´t worry, the next day, I managed to get us COMPLETELY and rather hopelessly lost while trying to meet up with the Elders in our district so that they could give us some much-needed pass-along cards and booklets about the Restoration of the church. There´s something interesting about knowing you´re going in the wrong direction and yet letting the newbie convince you that "it could be this next turn." No, it´s not. It never is. That´s a moral lesson for you. If a person has less time than you in an area and you know you need to go the other way, well guess what? GO THE OTHER WAY!!!!! This is sound and proven advice. I also love to ask various people along my path to Mordor, o sea, my desired destination that seems impossible to reach, for help. I will get help, but not the kind that will get me where I need to be any faster. More like the kind that is a completely different set of directions from what the last person I asked just told me. You´ve got to love the D.R. Do or DIE! I am very CAPS friendly today. But I know, thankfully, got my groove back (thanks, Stella), and am leading us fearlessly through the street and callejones and Diagon Alleys of Quisqueya. There may be hope for me yet.

But speaking of my new comp. and Krispy Kreme, I really enjoy the idea of both. I can actually understand the Spanish of Hermana Rodriguez, and because she has stolen my trainer, my trainee AND all my areas, we have a lot to talk about. She knows how all my old investigators are doing and progressing and what is new and exciting with all the members of my old ward. Sadly, Hma. Rosa, the one who wore all white and lived in La Yuca, moved away. I heard from Hma. Rodriguez that when she and another Yuca member learned I left, they cried. Somehow, that shouldn´t make me feel good and yet... I know, I know. I´m a beast. But a beast with a heart of gold.

And as for Krispy Kreme, well, I shall share with you all how said donut joint will be playing a rather large role in my life. This Friday. The 27th. WHEN I HAVE A YEAR ON THE MISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now that one definitely deserved all caps. I can´t believe it. Ok, yes I can. In some ways, I still remember the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and the Yuca with vivid clarity, as though it wasn´t too long ago. In other ways, I have definitely felt all those days, weeks, months, and transfers that have brought me to this point. Hma. Rodriguez wanted to know how it feels. I said "like I earned it." Amen. But anyway, to celebrate the rapture of me, I am buying a whole, gluttonous box of Krispy Kremes. They have Spiderman donuts, cheesecake donuts, and even Guayabana flavored (a fruit that grows here and is oh-so-tasty). But yes, a box contains a dozen, a donut for every hot, delicious month I´ve lived here. But who knows how long they´ll last; I guess I better savor each one. Now I don´t know if I´m talking about donuts or months left to me on the mission. Oh well, enjoy the simile.

And know, going BACK to Hma. Rodriguez (hey, she´s my mission sister, we have history), I have to admit, I feel bad that she´s literally been in my shadow the whole mission. If there´s something more frustrating than being in a new area, it´s people reminding you about it every few paces. "Hey Hermana Sweeney. Oh, what happened to the other one?" Hma. (insert name of former comp.) This is especially prevalent with recent converts who are none to happy to have to say goodbye to the missionary who taught them the gospel. I have also been on the receiving end of this greeting, and it´s never fun. You just want to say, "My name is Hermana (insert name of new missionary), and I´m going to rock your world and practically beat you up with the spirit. Prepare yourself." And I have to give Hma. Rodriguez her props, she introduces herself magnificently. We have a really great teaching style together. I´m excited to experience the craziness that no doubt awaits us this transfer.

Especially since we have a lot of good investigators progressing, and some references (potentially interested people) from other members. I love references, but being a member, I know it can be hard to give them because sharing your personal beliefs can be intimidating, especially in America. Here, people have no problem telling you how they feel about, well, ANYTHING, so I don´t have to be so shy about it. Plus, it´s my job for the moment, so I gots to tell you about it. But besides Robbinson, I am also sharing said beliefs with Eoudy, another really clever teenager. He´s 13 but looks to be 17, so I didn´t believe him at first when he told me his age. Both of them are the only people we have with baptism dates, but we have a lot of other investigators with a boatload of potencial. We shall see. I´m just glad all the youth finally got back from the first EVER Dominican Republic Especially for Youth (EFY) camp. Apparently, it was a great experience for them, but it was a little lonely not to take them out with us on citas or harass them in the street when we pass. But they´re back and all is right with the world.

And as a final parting thought, I would like to point out that I find it comical that people will try to talk to me when there is a ridiculous amount of noise surrounding us. First of all, did you know you´re speaking Spanish to me? Strike one. America, we call this thing in front of which we´re standing A GIGANTIC STEREO SPEAKER! I couldn´t understand you even if I could read lips because the sound waves are pulling back all the skin from my face and I can´t see a thing. I don´t get how people do it. It´s cultural adaption, and I still have a lot to learn, I suppose. Oh well. I have another six months, don´t you know. It´ll come.

Well, that outta do it. I shall leave you with nothing more than my new signature. As I have been taught by various missionaries, it is very distinguished to have a title. So I have thought it through, and finally, a year later, I have mine. Maybe I´ll even explain it... one day.

12 months, 1 year, who´s counting,....

Hermana Sweeney "The Fearless" (Except on Sundays)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Just a Different Kind of Hard

Short. Sweet. Neither of these concepts applies much to me, but as for my blog today, well, such is the case. It´s the night before transfers and all through the mission, everyone freaks out, as is tradition. I actually am rather pleased with my circumstances; my new companion will be Hermana Rodriguez, who was trained by my trainer, Hermana Brown. In the mission, that makes us sisters. She will be my first Dominican companion. Hermana Lund, my step-mom (second companion), also trained during her last transfer, and her child, Hermana Lopez, is coming here to live in the same house as me and to whitewash Bella Vista. We´ve already lived together, so this should be good. And my Step-son/step-brother who was with me in Azua with Hermana is going to be in my district. Family Reunion y fiesta! I´m pretty excited, but as for being the only one staying in my apartment and area from this last transfer, I have my doubts about getting myself and my comp. around this jungle of a city. Stay tuned for next week when we see if I fly high or fail with glory.

So, in short, it will be hard, but I´ve been thinking to myself that it´s interesting that in every stage of our life, we look back and are amazed at how "easy" another phase of our life was compared to the here and now. "I remember back in elementary school when all I had to worry about was sharing cookies," or "remember in college when it was study and play ALL DAY!?" I was wondering, as I am here in the middle of it all, if I will ever look back with similar sentiments about the mission. Right now, I feel like no, but then again, that´s the real issue. Being in kindergarten wasn´t easy because we didn´t have the hindsight to know how to handle the problems and situations we were facing. Each new phase of the journey becomes difficult because we haven´t reached the peak of that stage of our lives. Once we reach a new phase, we look back and wonder how any of it could have been all that difficult. A little thing called perspective, and when we´re tolling and laboring, trying to survive, we sometimes don´t see how far we´ve come (I love the Rob Thomas song of the same name. It be so very true). But I suppose instead of being afraid/begrudging the next phase of the journey, we should think of it as the opportunity to combat another kind of hard. I haven´t gotten to this level of gratitude yet, but I do believe that you can gain without pain (take it from someone who LOVES to consume endless goodies), but the rewards are few. When I get off the plane at the end of this mission thing, I´m coming off like a champion. Like when I graduate college... and high school... and yes, even kindergarten. And then it´s off the races again.

Speaking of things that are hard, I don´t know why it´s so difficult for me to have a normal baptism. We watch these beautiful training videos of flawless, spiritual baptisms, and then cue center stage to the Dominican Republic West Mission. This Saturday, we did have a great baptism, with the previously described Carlos. We had a baptism from the other ward, Bella Vista, right after us (we share a chapel). But we had to let them go first, because our baptism was missing some key participants, namely, a member of the bishopric. So we let the other group go first, which meant our baptism started two hours late. And the young man who baptized Carlos happens to be a good deal shorter than him, so the first attempt found Carlos unable to come back up again, and when he did, he made hard contact with the back wall of the font. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, the baptism continued and all went more or less smoothly. My favorite was the musical number "I Stand All Amazed" that was sung by Carlos´s brother-in-law and sister. The first first was sung by his sister in Creole, the second by his bro in law in English and the final verse by the both of theme in Spanish. It was very calm and tranquilo way to end a typically untypical D.R. baptism.

Oh, and I might as well add to my seemingly endless list of interesting teaching places. This last week, we taught a lady in her restaurant while costumers ate and the T.V. blared. Normally not ideal conditions, but you take what you can get sometimes. Later, we taught in a mechanic shop with a very avid and attentive husband and wife as our audience. He asked us where in the Bible it says the Mormons are the true church. I mentioned scriptural allusions, and how Jesus himself mostly spoke through veiled parables, but focused more on when it comes right down to it, the church of Christ is the one that bears his name. That IS what the scriptures say. The Bible doesn´t mention any particular religious sect by name, only that by their fruits ye shall know them (Matt. 7). So if you want to know, do a little taste test. There´s just really no other way.

And finally, I have to confess, that the T.V. blaring in the restaurant was showing the same soap opera that seems to play in ever house at around 3:00 in the afternoon. I have yet to discover the name, but I will shame myself into admitting I am not completely vague on the details. Apparently some really attractive blond and Latin man has a really attractive girlfriend who fate had him run into continuously until they just couldn´t deny their feelings anymore. That, and there´s a creepy blond nanny who I assume is only said position for selfish and fiendish purposes, and a little girl, who means the world to tall blond and handsome. I´ve never actually heard anything anyone says, but I´ve seen bits and pieces here and there. Whenever we come to teach and someone is watching this show, no one looks too happy to turn it off because we came a-knocking. This place is in bad need of some TiVo. But I may have to make this show an addiction when I get home, if only to keep up with my Spanish skills. Although something that always interests me is that people in Soap Operas are never watching T.V. themselves, because they´re out living their own lives. Interesting...

Well, in short (ok, obviously, that wasn´t the truth, this is a normal-length entry), I love something that is truly short, which is my hair. It is all gone, and it feels fan-tab-ulous. Hma. Consuelo has magical hands; she didn´t even have to use hair clips or anything. Just scissors, a razor, and some magic spray. She works in a real, professional salon, and has over 30 years experience, so I was happy to leave my hair in her hands. And on the floor. But anyway, happy birthday to another stylist, my own sister, Dusti the Wonder Baker. Ask her to make you a pastry sometime. She´ll be happy to do it. And then she´ll give you acrylics. Here´s to aging well, sis. And with that, I take my bow.

Dramatically yours,

Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I will Not Serve the Dark Lord (But I will Chop off All My Hair)

I have lived under their reign for too long, and I am starting to lose my patience. They have little time and even less mercy. They are never there when you need them, and yet they demand payment in full. I am talking, of course, about the Dark Lord, o sea, The Land Lord. I am waiting to meet such a one that is really good at there job, aside from my grandparents. From what I understand, a Land Lord owns a house, rents it out to other inhabitants, and these people upkeep it and care for it. However, if something should break down or bust within said house, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Land Lord to fix it. It´s almost like it´s there job or something. But almost (not every) Land Lord I´ve ever had has become almost offended when I´ve suggested they fix what is out of order. Or the other popular approach is to just ignore my supplications and hope the problem will fix itself, o sea, that I will fix it for them. Does that mean that the house will become my property if I do so? Because if not, I don´t want to fix the toilet that with the surfboard seat and inability to flush, nor do I want to patch the entire section of roof that is leaking. Yet more often than not, this is the case. It´s nice to know some problems are international, because our Landlord here apparently never answers his phone, and our shower is leaking incessantly and apparently, it is showering down on the people who live below us as well. Our downstairs neighbor mentioned we should get if fixed, and when I, in a slightly indignant manner said that that really is the responsibility of the Landlord, she said, "maybe so, but he´s sitting high and comfy in his house and we´re the ones suffering. Fix it, and hit him where it hurts, out of the rent payment. If you don´t pay at all, I´m sure he´ll make his way over here somehow."
She has a point. The problem is, we don´t pay our rent; the mission does. And the mission hasn´t been able to get a hold of this guy either and they have other houses to deal with as well. So, to all you Dark, insidious Lords out there posing as homeowners with benefits, I say to you, don´t rent out your home if you are: a. Cheap b. Lazy c. Cheap and Lazy. Be responsible! Responsibility is one of those things that everyone wants to give and no one wants to take. But I will serve the Dark Lord no more. I have high hopes to own my own dwellings when I get home. But I won´t look too far into the future, lest I loose my grip on the here and now.

Because presently, I have important things to do! Like finally cut my hair. It is time. A year later, and it be looking sad. It needs to be sharp and sassy again. I just hope this lady, Consuelo, knows what she´s doing. She´s a member of the church, and owns her own salon and is apparently and expert with short hair styles. I can´t tell if she wears a wig or not, but she seems to be well put together, so I will judge this book by her cover and hope she can do the same for me. And out here in the jungle, besides the good Lord himself, who am I really trying to impress? But really, if it looks bad, I´ll just form my own wig from all the hair the Latins I live with brush out every day. I swear, they all have the EXACT same, thick, luxurious, long black hair. So good cut, I´m in luck. Bad cut, good wig. It´s really a win-wig. I mean, win-win.

But since the Latins are unintentionally giving me all their hair, the least I could do was pay them back. There is a saying that goes something like this: Give a Latin a S´more and their happy for a day. Teach them how to make a s´more, and they´re happy for life. So I followed that saying, and taught all my Latin roommates to make s´mores. It was my own personal way of celebrating the 4th of July. Sadly though, one s´more eater is no longer with us. Yes, sadly, Hermana Beltre, the one from La Yuca, went home due to Anemia problems. In her place, we now have Hermana Gomes. She´s one of those girls who´s a combination of really attractive and really nice so that you´re not quite sure what to do with them. Once I learned we both have a passion for talking about delicious food, though, it became easier to figure out.

Though speaking of delicious foods, I am trying not to be a giant, Capital-living glutton. I teach people about the 10th commandment constantly, and yet, I myself am covetous. One of my roommates eats brownies for breakfast, and doesn´t gain a pound. I ponder eating a candy bar and suddenly my skirt feels tighter. It´s an unfair world. But I can´t do anything about the fact that some people can eat whatever the heck they want and apparently not suffer any unfortunate consequences. I can manage my own food intake, however, and not worry about what other people look like. So I´m taking down my goody gobbling to every three days and bidding the soda fountain adieu. I do believe I feel a little lighter of step already. I do feel better when I eat better, and when I feel better, the whole world stops and stares for awhile. But that could just be because I am a Rubia americana...

And in other news, we have a baptism this Saturday with a young gent named Carlos. He doesn´t love to read is a bit of a class clown, but he knows all the answers to the lessons, and is what you would call a miembro seco, or someone who goes to church and lives the lifestyle without being baptized. But he´s ready now, and I´m tickled pink to be a part of it. It´s amazing how awkward teens can get when you talk to them about the Law of Chastity though. Maybe it´s an inheritance from my mother, but talking about sexual purity is not really that embarrassing for me. No sex before marriage. Nor porn. Good thoughts. It´s pretty straightforward. But it´s not something most people sit around and talk about everyday, so I understand the discomfort. It´s not like it´s a subject that´s constantly being shoved in our faces in the form of songs and movies and jokes or anything...

And to end, I feel like I must share a paradox of serving in a certain area in the mission. Normally, most people know where certain major streets and areas are within the city where they live, but they couldn´t necessarily tell you the intricacies of every alleyway or where smaller streets and courts are. I, on the other hand, know very well every little cranny and nook of my area, but in relation to the city as a whole, I could have less of a clue where I am. I see big buildings in the distance and just know that part is out of my area and I don´t need to go there. Someday, I´ll come back here and be amazed to see where things REALLY are in relation to where I´m working. But for now, it remains an unattainable mystery.

And to that end, I am through with all of you. I will pick up where I didn´t start next time. And in 6 months or so, we can all get together and have a good old-fashioned uprising against all the dark lords. Because the fight between good and evil is just never finished.

Courageously yours,

Hermana Sweeney

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I was Proud to be an American Once...

Is it really barbecue and fireworks time already? Didn´t I just get to this country a year ago? (almost). Why yes, yes I did. It´s sorta an out-of-body, o sea, an out-of-country experience not to be in my native land during this great time of partying, er, I mean, patriotism. But this is the last 4th of July I will spend in the D.R. so I might as well live it up. And to do so, I bought the ingredients for smores. True, they will be D.R. smores, but hey, what do you want from me?

Complaint of the week: Might as well get it out of the way upfront. Don´t you love how no one has time to write? I do. I love it. I understand too. I mean, I have one hour a week to pump out various emails and a BLOG from the comfort of an Internet café. That is the epitome of no time. Exhibit B. would be that America is now full of phones that come fully equipped with email. Uhhhhhh... you can check facebook and write emails from the bathroom. I am still recovering from my mind being blown. So when people want to impress to me how greatly they are lacking time to write, well, I´m just gonna give you the "that´s stupid, try again," look. If I have learned anything about being on a ridiculously rigid schedule it´s that usually there is an extra minute or two somewhere. Use it wisely.

Ah, that´s better. Let´s see... oh yes, my astute observations of the difference between my native culture, and the culture of the natives here. O sea, many of these things seem to apply to Latins as a whole. You may, being American, feel the urge to puff up and say, "you´re stereotyping," to which I will respond, "why yes, yes I am." Anyway, Americans: We enjoy going out (often) for fast food, and when we do, how do we eat it? Well, I do believe I will take a bite of my burger and a sip of my Sprite, and then toss in a couple of fries. Sometimes I might put the fries in the burger or dip them in my ice cream dessert because frankly, I can. Latins: Eating out, in whatever form, is a special experience. You don´t just eat all the items willy nilly. There´s a greater order to these things. Start with the smallest item, usually the fries, and work your way up to the burger. Finish with drink. A lot of Latins won´t drink anything before or during the meal cuz they don´t want it to screw up their digestion or make them too full to eat the food in front of them.

Cosa dos: We, the American people, have our day of independence in the summer. I am specially convinced that our Founding Fathers waited until this special time to do so, knowing it would be prime time for barbecues, vacations, and NO SCHOOL! On the other hand, most Latin countries decided to make themselves free in September, or in the fall. I´m not quite sure why, but that´s just when they decided to do it. If anyone has any idea, I am open to suggestions.

But with all the things that are different, I think Goethe summed it up well with his quote that "he/she who doesn´t not know a foreign language knows nothing of his/her own." Touche. I think it has to do with the principal I discussed a few blogs ago of why we need opposition. The ying yang stuff again. If I don´t know another language or culture, what do I really know about my own? I have to be able to have other customs and traditions and lifestyles to compare against my own. There´s also some things that are expressed in English that can´t be said in Spanish and vice versa. That being said, I feel like I´ve learned A LOT about my culture. And yes, I really am proud to be am American. There ain´t no doubt I love that land, and heck, I´ll be seeing it sooner than I dare to imagine.

But while I´m here, I´m playing it all by ear and drinking it all in. And I´m not the only one. Last week, I discussed one of our investigators, Robbinson. This week´s star is Charlin. She´s 15 years old and can pretty much recite anything we give her to read verbatim. She´s one smart cookie, that´s for sure. She can even explain to us why the commandments God gives us are perfectly logical and help us live vidas más sanas. O sea, better lives. She has a sister with Down Syndrome, which immediately won me over. It was nice to be able to explain to her that people with disabilities will one day have bodies in their perfect form (Alma 11) and that her sister is one of those really special spirits that was sent here the way they were because they are practically perfect already and don´t need to face the same challenges the rest of us do. It´s nice to know that, being as I have a sister with a handicap, I can relate to one of our investigators in that way. Looks like God knows what he´s doing when he sends us missionaries hellter skellter after all.

And to sum it all up, I will end with one more Latin experience and one more American one. Last week, I was cleaning the kitchen. My Latin roommate, Hma. Oroxom, saw my efforts, and laughingly said I could get married, I clean so well. I laughingly told her that I fully expect whoever I marry to do as much housework as me. The laughter stopped on her end and she looked at me like I´d lost my mind. "What?" I asked her. "No, no," she said, shaking her head, and for all the world, looking like a priest coming out of a confession booth. Oh, well. I guess not everyone has perfectly logical expectations like I do.

And finally this week, while my companion was sick and I was indoors, I decided to make the cookie mix my dear mother sent me. Our oven doesn´t work (oh cruel fate), but let´s remember that I´M AN AMERICAN and I certainly wasn´t going to let something like a broken appliance keep me from putting an end to my craving. I made the mix and then made created something that was a mix between a cookie and a burned blob of dough. And yes, I ate it and even shared. That´s how I roll. Was it good? Más o menos. We´ll go with better than nothing. But it was ingenious, yes, I daresay the same ingenuity that built that fine country somewhere out there.... Well, until next time, wave your flags high in the sky and enjoy your colorful sky light explosions.

Red, White, and Blue (and somewhat tan),

Hermana Sweeney