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 PanaderĂ­a, 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)