Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Don´t Cry for Me, Dominican Republic

But the truth is, I will leave you- These have been my wild days, and it´s been a mad existence. But I´ve kept my promise, now keep your distance. Ha! Sorta kidding. But it's rather confounding that I´m officially writing my last blog from this country. Well, I guess like Justin Bieber, I should never say never, or the world "last," for that matter. But I´m just assumin´...

Anyway, I will do a best for this week´s entry, cuz, well, that´s the best way to do it on a time-crunch budget.

Best of Tourism- I got to see the castle built for Trujillo, the famous dictator of this country from 1931-1961. He was a pretty disgusting human being. But his house was cool. Of course, he didn´t think so, so the guy that designed it for him had to flee to Canada to avoid execution. Canada or death? Ha! Kidding again. But seriously, it was a neat little trip, even though it sits on top of a very large hill and was quite the hike to reach, and even though after Trujillo rejected the house, it was turned into a torture chamber for all that opposed the dictatorship. Jeez. I think the coolest feature about the place though, is its design. Trujillo liked boats so it was actually built to be shaped like one. As SNL´s Andy Samberg would say, "I´M ON A BOAT!"

Best of Boches (scoldings)- We were at the house of the family Geronimo-Reyes, and their son was being a little rowdy during the lesson. So the father sends the son to his room and then calls him back. "Do you believe in Jesus?" he asked him. "Do you believe he has all power? Then you sit down and listen to these girls talk about the Word, or he will come in the night and give you nightmares." Hna. Bryant and I were, well speechless, either because what he said was so funny or because it was the first time we´ve really seen a good ol´ fashioned dose of discipline. Either way it was fantastic. I hope the kid slept ok that night.

Best of disappointments- I am, however, a bit disillusioned by the lack of promises kept by, well, everyone. People always say they´ll be home, come to church, play George Michael music, and then it never happens. Ok, a little bit of explanation on that last one. Essentially, we live above a colmado, much like we did in Azua. And all colmados play music; I´m pretty sure it´s the law. But if we´re gonna be forced to listen to music, well, then, at least we should have some say in it. So Hna. Bryant asked the colmado owner if he had any English music. He mentioned the names of Michael Jackson and George Michael. I don´t know why the latter option sounded so appealing, but it did. "Yeah, George it up," we responded enthusiastically. "Alright, I´ll play it soon," he promised. Nope. Nothing. A couple days later, we asked him, "so whatever happened to ol´ George?"

"This guy playing right now is George," he told us, pointing to his computer screen. "No," I told him, "I wasn´t born yesterday. That´s Zacharias Ferreras." So he could only give the smirk of the embarrassed and condemned. He kept telling us from that moment forth that he would play some George Michael. Never happened. One day, while buying from him, we complained how you just can´t trust in anyone these days. "You can trust in me," he assured us. "Um, I´m pretty sure you´ve lied to us about 7 times about putting on the music our hero and personal friend George Michael. You are off the trust list." Sometimes, if you want something done right, you´ve gotta play "Careless Whisper" yourself. Someday, when I have access to such things...

Best of Last Minute Plans- It seems like this Saturday, Quelito will be getting baptized. I hope all the details work out, but I don´t want to get my hopes up. It´s been a few months in the making, so this Saturday (my last), seems like as good a day as any.

Best of English Class- To celebrate the end of the transfer, we celebrated in style with a party, of course. Hna. Bryant dressed up by putting her Johnny Depp "Pirates of the Caribbean" blanket over her head, and I borrowed her crazy red, prom-dress looking thing she had made here, and went as a very scary Marilyn Monroe. And we taught about how to accept being yelled at by angry Americans over the phone with tolerance and grace. And then we ate crackers, sodas and tiny cupcakes. What more could you ask for?

Best of the Best- Getting to visit my old areas. I went to LA YUCA, and it was pretty much everything I could have hoped for. All the boys I used to teach have at least doubled in size. And the female members I went to visit gasped and got all giddy. And people remembered my name! Are these shallow things to care about? Absolutely! But I was happy to see them, and they seemed happy to see me. In some ways, it doesn´t seem like over a year since I´ve been there. Except for the fact that a lot of people have moved and the ward is so big, it´s about to divide in two, and some of the stores I used to visit have closed down, and the house I used to live in has Elders in it now... everything changes. But some things don´t, or I guess, the things that seem to matter. Seeing that you´ve even made a small difference in someone´s life is pretty much enough to erase all the hellfire you experience.

I also visited Quisqueya, but I´ve been gone a whole 5 weeks, so I´m pretty sure the Calle Defillo is still the Calle Defillo and the crazies are still crazies. As long as they don´t close my favorite bakery, I won´t have to make any heads roll. And actually, as I had to witness so many people end and die in Quisqueya, now it´s someone´s turn to watch me. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! There is justice in the world.

Well, who knows what my next tale will tell? Stay tuned for when the name tag comes off and the carriage turns back into a pumpkin. It´s gonna be one. big. surprise. And fin. Hna. Sweeney out.

Nostalgically yours, (for the last time)

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

D.R. It Stands for "Diligence Rewarded"

Hey, for anyone listening out there, there, there...it´s your good points that define you and your flaws that refine you. But is it not true? I´m not sure I made up this little piece of inspiration; I´m sure there has been something similar or the same already said. But the idea remains. How much easier is it to notice the insultable details, or at least to focus on them? Who cares if her butt looks twice it´s size in those horizontally-striped pants or if his Cologne smells more like sewage than sexy? A+ for effort, people. The best type of compliment is the sincere one said so others can hear. The best sort of helpful, corrective advice is given respectfully, so only the person for whom it is intended can hear. But here´s to enjoying both fabulous feature and faux paus flaws.

And speaking of giving compliments, should I just go ahead and gift one to myself? Why, don´t mind if I do! I´ve made it, people. I´ve reached the top. Or as my good friends Queen would say, "I´ve taken my bows- time after time. I´ve done my sentence (but committed no crime). And bad mistakes- I´ve made a few... I consider it a challenge before the human race, and I´VE COME THROUGH!" That´s right- I am the champion, my friend. Because, I have now come to the end. Bum bum bum. Yesterday was my 18 month mark. I officially made it my year-an-a-half. No matter what anyone wants to say about me, I kicked my butts, took my names, did my work, I don´t play games. I won´t lie, I do feel the weight of the accomplishment. If any missionary says there was never a time that they thought about quitting, throwing in the towel, and turning tail towards home, guess what? They´d be LYING. But it´s always so much easier to look back and think, "hey, yeah, that was good, that sucked, that was good, a few more sucky parts, but a little more good..." and thus it is with life in general. But I feel like I can´t get nostalgic just yet. It´s still too soon.

And it seems as though, obviously, the question that is most on peoples´minds is what are the future plans I have for myself, and am I nervous to come home, etc. etc. Well, the only answer is- of course. Just as all missionaries have thought about going home before their time, all of them also worry about what to do when the actual time comes. I´ve just comforted myself with a little ditty that I actually CAN take complete credit for inventing. The Dominican Republic, o sea, the D.R., has come to mean a lot of things to me- for good or for crazy. But now as I´m leaving it, the thing I hope it stands for the most is "diligence rewarded." Most of us like to believe that since we put in our time, did a good deed, that life should all be sunshine and roses from henceforth. Well, that would be the beautiful dream, but real life seems to based in, well, reality, which always comes with a check. But from what I´ve heard from many other missionaries who served, suffered, and smiled here, life seems to be pretty good. So I´m hoping for some of that same karma to be coming my way. Only time will tell.

As for a week in the life of me, well, you know, more of this, more of that. I´m vitamin D deficient, we found out, from various tests I´ve taken. How someone who spends the day after day after day in the hot, humid, horrific sun can end up with a vitamin D deficiency is way more than beyond me. We´ll chalk it up to one of life´s little mysteries. But what I lack in D, I make up for in B- if B stands for bold, that is. I´ve come to appreciate that what happened to Hna. Lund is now happening to me. I don´t know if it´s a sense of urgency or just a knowledge that I don´t have to be here to deal with the results, but I´m being a lot more forward with my invitations. As missionaries, we invite, the investigators (hopefully) do, and we follow up. Well, I´ve gone from, "if you do this, you´ll receive such and such blessing, answer, etc. Will you...?" to "So... come to church. It´s good for you. And if you want God´s blessings, you should keep his commandments. So let´s get this party started." Ok, a little less informal, and definitely in Spanish, but you get the idea. I´m tired of half commitments and feigned interest. Either do it or don´t seems to be my new philosophy. I´ll like you either way, but I can´t act for you. Only you can do the things required to gain YOUR testimony. And fin. I ramble no more.

I am still loving English class. Our students are fabulous. This week, we taught high school culture and the cliques that make it oh-so-segregated and fabulous. Then we divided up the students and let them choose which group they wanted to be from. I choose to be a preppy valley girl, and one of the guys in my group decided to be a skater, the other, a loser. As the preppy, I asked them if they were like, so stoked to go to Prom (which doesn´t exist here, btw). The skater said he´d probably be at the skate park, rippin´some made shreds with his bros (I taught him that one, and it may or may not make sense). The "loser" informed me that no, he´d probably be in his house with the shades down and the lights off, chatting online. And he came up with that one on his own. A hundred points to the loser. And this coming week, we´re gonna have our end-of-transfer party, Hollywood-themed, and we´re gonna teach call center terminology. The two best English speakers in the class either work at a call center or are trying to get a job at one, so they need the practice. I get to yell at two Dominicans as though they were personally responsible for my non-existent malfunctioning cell phone woes. Can´t wait.

So yeah... a pretty weird week, but a good one nonetheless. There are a couple people we are teaching that are keeping me from dying, and surprisingly, they´ve changed. There´s a young girl named Samantha. We were originally teaching her mother, but since she´s promised us every week she´ll go to church and never does, our interest in teaching her also waned. However, Samantha is a star. We walk by and pick her up, and she comes, every week this month, so far. She is usually the one who reminds US to pick her up at 8:30 a.m. sharp. And she is the one who told us she wants to be baptized. We want to take it slow and make sure she´s learning all she needs to learn and is in it for the right reasons. But her enthusiasm is inspiring.

Also, this last Thursday, Hna. Bryant and I were about to enter our house when a man approaches us, head down, hat covering face, hand extended. We were trying to explain how we just didn´t have money and we were sorry, but he just kept his hand in our face. When we apologized, he then came even closer, and was sorta putting his arm around my wait and trying to pat Hna. Bryant on the arm, and I was feeling bad and creeped out all at once... and then the guy raises his head and has a good chuckle. "Ha, you guys don´t even remember me, do you?" he asked. I didn´t, but it turns out it was Ramon from the mountain, some guy we had taught a few weeks back but hadn´t seen since. He wanted to know when we´d be back. We set the date for Saturday. His family is pretty nice, and they own like, three brightly colored shacks, so it´s good times for all. However, when we did visit, his family was pretty quiet and Ramon mostly wanted to make sure that we knew that Americans are super good looking, and that all of them are white. We tried explaining otherwise, but he just wasn´t having it. He also wanted to be sure that we didn´t think we were better than they were because of our looks. Upon assuring him that we do not, he contently sat back in the baby car seat he was sitting in and said no more. It´s moments like these that even sandpaper won´t remove from my brain, long after I´ve left this place.

And just so you all know, the experiment of the week was a complete success. It turns out grape soda with cake-flavored ice cream is all the rage. Well, at least with Hna. Bryant and me. Hna. Bryant and Nieve, the mother of Samantha, invented it, I just happily participated. And may all your experiments this week be so inspirational.

Triumphantly yours,

Hna. Sweeney "The Fearless" (except on Sundays)