Wednesday, January 9, 2013

So... You Think Those Trees are Stupid, Huh?

Oh, what a world, what a world. There is a popular candy here that, like the Laffy Taffies, gives you double your money: a joke AND treat. What more could you ask for? (warning: if you do want something more, I just don´t care to hear it). But one of the most common thread of jokes found in these candies talks about someone being at their wit´s end. Well, I can relate in a very personal way to these jokes now, because I´m nearing the end, and that´s apparently the cue for life to get harder, sometimes in a way that´s so horrible, it´s, well, funny.

First of all, let´s start out with how one day this past week, I made the very foolish decision to get an early morning drink of water without shoes on. I enter the kitchen, turn on the light, and my foot comes in contact with something that proceeds to fly across the room. And what should it be but one of my least favorite creature of all time, the cockroach. it was all curled up into itself, almost dead, and hideous to behold. I don´t freak out often, but I feel like the screaming and dancing of horror that accompanied my encounter would qualify. And if that wasn´t enough, a couple of little ones managed to enter my bed. I don´t know how I´m supposed to sleep for the next six weeks- apparently with one eye open, shoes at the ready, and Raid in hand.

Another thing you would think, in theory, should be horrible/embarrassing/unspeakable would be going to see a psychologist- especially on the mission. Who wants to admit that every now and then we need HELP from somebody, HELP (not just anybody). So, once again, with Hna. Bryant´s permission, I relate our adventure to the capital last Monday to talk it out, figure it out. Actually, she was flabbergasted that I didn´t write about all this earlier. After all, it´s SO juicy, you could make a smoothie, don´t you know. So, Hna. Bryant had had a tricky last transfer. It´s surprising how many difficult people you have to deal with on the mission, and sometimes, it´s just nice to have the chance to discuss solutions with someone who a). Isn´t constantly at your side and already knows most of the details and b). who has a degree and might know a thing or two, or even a few. So this is the advice that was given to her that I found most useful for all of us:

 Many times, difficult people just say really obnoxious, rude things. The psychologist´s example was that you could be walking down the street with such a person, and they might point to some trees up ahead and inform you that, "those trees, they´re really stupid." How do you respond to such a profound observation? Well, often times, all you have to do is repeat back to the person what they said. "So... you think those trees are stupid, huh?" Followed by "I guess I´ve never thought about it like that before." And with this brilliant explanation, I officially found the quote for this transfer, and quite possibly for my life. I might not even repeat back what someone actually says; even if it´s "I don´t like those brownies you baked," I feel like my only response from here on out will be, "so... you think those trees are stupid, eh?" Such is the wisdom the mission has taught me. And I intend to use it fully and wisely upon my return.

But besides dealing with the dregs of everyday life, well, there´s always plenty of spice to flavor it up. Such is the case in Lava Pie. Having a change of scenery has really helped me to keep up my enthusiasm for getting up, getting out, and getting it done. And as usual, I never lack for colorful characters. One such person is Cacucha. She designs dolls, magnets, etc. that she makes from some sort of flour dough mixture. As service, Hna. Bryant and I help her to make them. It´s pretty fascinating, because this lady was a real life apprentice. She started off helping a lady who made these dolls, just by cleaning up the messes and such. Then, step by step, she was slowly taught all about the process that goes into making these things. And they´re pretty cool. And there are so many styles. I´m no expert and there´s certain parts she won´t let us do, (making the arms, for example), but I get to feel artsy and she gets the work done faster, so it´s just all good all around. And Cacucha herself is a real trip; for Día de los Reyes (Jan. 6), the day the Maggi come and bring the children here toys and games, she said she wanted a big stuffed animal. When we inquired as to why, she informed us that if she couldn´t have a man to snuggle with, well, she should at least have something. Touche, Cacucha, Touche.

As for members, the one we take out the most to help us is named Alexander. He´s a 16-year old smart alec with a big heart and an equally big mouth. He can talk circles around me that leave me spinning. We´ve talked about everything from cars to waffles on the way to visit the investigators he helps us teach, but I´m pretty sure he passed himself with this winner of a conversation stopper:

"So you know how some white people are racist?" he asks.
"Well, yeah," we respond, "most races are racist against someone."
"Well, when white people who are racist go to a country with all black people... they don´t come back."
I´m not quite sure how I held in the torrent of laughter threatening to come out. Instead, I managed to say, "Oh really? Wow, Alexander, that sounds like a threat."
"No," he assured us, "it´s just true."
Well, perhaps, perhaps. I just always thought it was once you GO black, you don´t come back. But you know, it´s pretty popular to put spins on beloved classics now-adays. The witch from The Wizard of Oz is really a good guy, the Joker is just a misunderstood anarchist... you get the drift. I just have to not be racist for five more weeks and I´m good. 

And now, as time ticks on, I will quickly manage to insert two other enjoyable encounters:

1). The first was with a man named William, who we encountered on our way up a beautiful, rocky, and steep hill. He lives at the bottom, and was very curious as to why we hadn´t visited him in awhile. Hna. Bryant told him that the deal was he needed to go to church. His comment- priceless. "I´m pretty sure Jesus didn´t say go to church or I won´t visit you." Yeah, that quote didn´t make it´s way into either the Bible or Book of Mormon. "Yeah, but he also said "go to church," countered Hna. Bryant. Yup, it was going down. A lot of people think we´re miracle workers without realizing God gave us the gift to use our brains and make decisions for ourselves. William wants us to convince his wife to come to church with him, without realizing that if he sets the example, it would be much easier for her to want to follow him there. So we once again invited him to church (well, me for the first time. I´d never met him before this). He said, "uh, I don´t know about this Sunday..." When probed further, he admitted, "I think I´ll be fishing." While trying to not let my "are you serious?" face ruin the moment, I said, "you can´t do that another time?" And then, before I could even stop it, the words exploded out of my mouth, "well, you´re not going to catch anything." He looked at me for a moment, and then said, "I think I´m gonna go to church." Now, before you think I´m crazy, I don´t go around prophesying crap. I´ve heard of it being done and I´ve seen it done once, but it´s not like it should be done (nor can it be done) just to do it. It´s called being moved upon by the spirit, o sea, he directs, you just act as he dictates. And that´s what I felt to say. But you have to be careful; you don´t want people running around thinking you´re a witch or something. I can´t heal your warty toe. However, William failed to show up at church. I´m intrigued to see what happened. But we did manage to visit with his wife, who seemed really interested. And oddly enough, the Jonas Brothers were at her house, so we taught them too. They may or may not sorta look like them, at least, according to Hna. Bryant. I think they were just friends/neighbors visiting for the holidays. They also listened attentively and asked good, thoughtful questions. That´s what it´s all about. That´s why I´m here. Besides the fact that the oldest one, who looks a little like Kevin Jonas (not that I noticed) tried to give me a big bear hug and a kiss. Wait your turn, pal. I haven´t taken off the badge yet.
2). We also got to visit with a recent convert man named Danilo, who was baptized by an Hermana who went home due to bad migraines a few months ago. But she was obviously an excellent missionary (I lived with her up until she left, so I already knew), because this Danilo character is fantastic. Besides the fact that he´s always giving us bags of mangos and free avocados, he´s just so sweet, and his little grandson, who also was recently baptized, enjoys spending our visits staring up at us in awe and asking shy, timid questions. I love this place. But sadly, Danilo had a badly broken leg, so he hasn´t been able to come to church for a few weeks. But his cast was way too white for it´s own good, so we decorated it all up with stickers and drawings, and now it´s fierce and fabulous (I may have written those exact words next to the tiger sticker we placed at the top of the cast). So there you have it: the life of putting a little wonder into the lives of wonderful people. And I do love a good cast party.
Almost makes you jealous your leg isn't broken, doesn't it?

Well, those are all the quotes and gloats I have for the moment. Try not to think too hard about the fact that this blog is nearing the end of it´s Dominican chapter. I know I´m not... Never give up, never say die! And with that being said, I head for the exit.

Onward, ever onward,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (for a limited time only)

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