Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Road Goes Ever On -- September 28, 2015

Holy mackerel! Yeah, so not that anyone would remember (except for my parents. Parents are quite awesome, I've decided) but I left for the DR on September 24, 2014. In other words, I've officially been a missionary for OVER A YEAR. The mission is more than fifty percent gone. I will never see another September in the mission field. My. Great. Lozzy.

Seated Sashaying (on the way to BK)
To celebrate this venerable and salient occasion, the entire house went for broke on fanciness and after district meeting, we sashayed off to Burger King to enjoy some nuggets and sauce. This then led to us enjoying a sandwich. Or two. And some fries. And a drink. And then a shake. And by the time we'd finished, we were exceedingly full. 

Later that night (like three hours later) we had a dinner appointment. It was super good, but the lady of the house kept dishing out more and more against our helpless protests, cackling, "No, no, lads, I won't let you leave until it's all gone!" When we finally got out, we were full to the rafters. And to make things even better, we'd double-booked dinner appointments that night. Our lessons have a tendency to fall, you see. But in accordance with the Mameic Law of "Screw Vasquez and Johnson", we got the green light on both. And we couldn't flake out, either, because the second appointment was with Yefri, our best investigator with a baptismal date. Normally the prospect of supping with Yefri would be very cheery, but then, my stomach isn't normally about to explode into bloody confetti. Yefri's grandma is an excellent cook and the food was all exquisite, but we left feeling 103% dead anyway. We waddled home, planned, and slept on our backs.

So here we are, a year later, and what more appropriate thing could have happened this last week than a LANGUAGE GAFFE OF THE WEEK!!! Yes, it's true. Haha a full year of speaking this thrice-baked everloving language and I'm still saying embarrassing things. I'll spare you the details. Just let it be known that in front of a crowd of thirty to forty members and investigators, I informed my companion that Americans put a lot of "preservativos" in their food. Contrary to all appearances, "preservativo" does not mean "preservative." It means. Goll. It means. Ugh. Diache. Agh. Fiddlesticks. Fine. Itmeanscondomokayisaidit. One year. One yeeeaar.....

I had yet another moment where the bishop called me over in the middle of church and was like, "Hey, can you give a talk? I need someone to give a talk." And I was like, "Uh." And then he stood up and announced, "Hey everyone, Elder Johnson's gonna give a talk." It was. Well. Bad. Blast.

The ocean is still a wonder to me. I may have some time in the mission (did I mention I've finished a year?) but I also have nineteen years living in Northern Utah, and as breathtaking as First Dam is, it ain't quite the Carribean. Anyway, I was walking along the shoreline on the way home one day, when. Hold on. Here. Kids under the age of 13 and crab-lovers everywhere, please just skip the next paragraph for your own mental health. I witnessed a crab commit suicide. There I was. Calmly walking along the rocky shore. All of a sudden, a crab just popped up out of a hole, skittered off to the side, and threw himself off a cliff. Wha- Holy. Well. Alright then. Just dash yourself to pieces before my innocent eyes. No, really, it's fine. I wanted to have a chat with my therapist anyway.

Anyhow, to cut to the chase, IT'S MY MISSION BIRTHDAY!!! One year! Pop a cork! Drinks all around! Wow. I never, ever thought I would live to see this day. I remember that first day in the MTC when we had yuca for the first time and Spanish was like a foreign language to us. The year mark was such a distant dream. Now? Here we are. It's gone so fast. It's flown.

It may not be obvious, but this throne
has no bottom to sit upon
And yet it hasn't. It's not so much that I feel like I left an eternity ago as I feel like it was an entirely different person whose memories I happen to share that boarded that plane all those months ago. It's crazy how unreal that old life feels to me. Like. The things I did and people I knew were something I saw in a movie. I fully recognize that there are many nice people who email me and write me letters and send me packages and do all sorts of things that make my days absolutely light up and I honestly love and appreciate every one of them for it. But there's this unshakable feeling of unreality about it all. Like it's someone else's mom and friends writing me from some other dimension. I don't know any better. All my friends in this dimension are missionaries or Dominicans. Then, just to mess with me, we have wackos like Elder Barlow who I knew as missionaries but are writing me from that same other dimension where you can "kiss girls" and "buy Panda Express." And then I have to accept the fact that most of you must also experience Dallin Johnson with some degree of unreality as well! It's quite disconcerting.

Nevertheless! I'm more grateful for the year I've had than I can express. Life changes, but that's nothing to be afraid of. We can change too. It's been a good Year One.

Here's to the Two.

Ciao for now,
Elder Dallin Johnson
Saw this out a window and about messed my pants
until I realized it wasn't real

Monday, September 14, 2015

Stolen Pants and Strange Vegetation -- September 14, 2015

Hello! Today is a Monday and this transfer is half over. We're drinking too much Coke and eating too many empanadas, but at the end of the day, we're walking up too many stairs and it all evens out. It's a lovely September.

On Tuesday, we went to visit a member named Salome. Yeah, that would be Salome as in Salome, the dancer who wiggled and woggled and bought John the Baptist's head. Unlike that Salome, this Salome is not a twisted floozy (pardon my French) and is actually quite awesome, but her husband, Miguel, has misplaced one or two marbles over the years. He took us on a tour around their house and showed us all of the weeds and random bushes and stuff that were growing in their yard. He then explained to us how birds carry seeds from place to place and for that reason he was now cultivating a huge patch of marijuana. Haha but the funny part was that when he showed it to us, it wasn't even marijuana, it was just some random weed growing out of a crack in his house.

So this week, Elder Vasquez and I contacted this couple. The
wife was in the kitchen cooking while her husband lounged on the couch, so we sat down and started chewing the fat with him. His wife yelled out, "Y'all want some juice?" Ha! That's like asking me if I know Pancho Villa. Vasquez looked into the kitchen and was like, "Hey, I think that's pear-pineapple juice." Sweet! I love pera-piña! Our lucky day!! The lady brought it out and handed us our glasses. I looked into the cup and klaxons immediately started sounding in my head. I didn't know what that brackish yellow liquid was, but it sure as heck wasn't pera-piña. "What kind of juice is this?" I asked. "Jagua!" she replied brightly. The word pierced me to my very core. Just the name sounds like someone about to puke. In all fairness, I'd never had it before, but I'd heard stories from Elders Barlow and Brockbank. Well flip. The lady was just standing there, smiling at us, and well, I didn't think it would be polite to offend this poor smiling woman, so I took a sip. And I smiled back. I'd never had jagua before. I didn't know what it tasted like. Welp. I do now. It's a delicate flavor, sort of like pineapple juice mixed with gasoline and vomit. Definitely an acquired taste. When the lady came back out five minutes later, I was just starting to regain my will to live and my cup was still full. "Oh, don't you like it?" she inquired worryingly. I smiled painfully at her. "No! It's not that at all!" I protested. "We're just savoring it because it's so good." And to prove it, I downed the rest in one long draught. And there she was again, smiling as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse went charging through my intestines. "Oh good!" she gushed, "Here- give me that glass. Don't worry. There's plenty more where that came from!"

At the church later that night, some little kids were playing soccer in the parking lot. One of them passed the ball to Elder Vasquez, who is very good at soccer, and he danced expertly around it as the kids followed him, vainly trying to steal it back and laughing all the while. He passed it to me, and I expertly fell on my face. From me, the ball rolled over to one of the counselors of the bishopric. He just stopped and looked down at the tattered ball, sneering like it was a dead slug. Then he turned around and kicked it over the fence into the street where it got demolished by a passing guagua. Killjoy.

I got to do a baptism on Saturday! It wasn't my baptism. It was a lass from La Isabelita who I visited literally one time and said about five words to, but when the elders there asked her who she wanted to baptize her, she said, "You guys know that big gringo who was here for like a week? Yeah, I want him to baptize me." So I baptized her. It was a beautiful happening. Unfortunately, afterward, I put the bag with my pants down outside and left it and when I came back, someone had stolen it. Alas.

The hero of the week this week is a member here named Aquino. See, the mission has a rule that we can't visit women alone in their homes unless we have with us a member of our own gender. All week, we've been forced to contact for hours every day because we had to drop or push back appointments that we didn't have men for. Some of these appointments have been with super promising investigators, but could only stop by to tell them that. Well. We couldn't stop by. We'd been trying all week to find members to go out with us, but ALL OF THEM were too busy whenever we asked. And then, yesterday, Aquino randomly came up to us in church and was like, "Do you guys have important appointments today? I want to come visiting people with you." And he did. In order to do so, he spent the time in which he would've eaten lunch tending to his little son. His boss called him and offered him an extra work shift (which he needed) and Aquino declined, saying he trusted the Lord would provide. He went out visiting with us for six hours on a bad leg he messed up during the week. As a result of his efforts, we were able to put a baptismal date, find two less-actives who committed to come back to church, give two priesthood blessings, and teach multiple lessons besides. It was a sacrifice with many fruits and we were extremely grateful for it.

It's the weirdest thing. All week, everything was falling through. We could not pay people to be at home when they said they would be. We were forced to go out, knocking on doors sometimes for four or five hours at a time without getting in anywhere. Someone threw a banana peel at me and my freaking pants got stolen. Our week should have sucked. But it didn't. I'm tired. I am happy.

Love always,
Dallin Johnson

I'm not certain of the significance of this photo

Monday, September 7, 2015

Poppin' Pastries -- September 7, 2015

Let me tell you something about September in the Carribean- It's hot. Oh my great lozzy is it hot. It is hotter than two goats in a pepper patch. The chickens here are laying hard-boiled eggs. But it's yet one more thing I'm learning to appreciate about Utah. I never thought I would miss that sick moment when you realize it's warmer in your fridge than it is on your porch, but there you have it. But sun, shade, or tropical storm, the road goes ever on and here we are, preaching the gospel and livin' large. It's a beautiful life. :)

An Oreo with Nutella on it
This didn't happen this week, but I figure I oughtta mention that two weeks ago or so, I turned 20. Hoh. Lee. Cow. Where did the time go?? How can I not be a teenager anymore? I swear it was just yesterday that I was being a big bad shameless adolescent rebel and holding girls' hands and sneaking out behind the dumpsters with my friends to drink Mountain Dew and such. In any case, on the evening of August 21, Brockbank and Lopez had already crossed that teenage line way before, and they weren't quite feeling as emotional about it as me. But for heaven's sake, it was the end of my numerical childhood! I figured I had to do SOMETHING in my final hours as a teenager. So, I did up my conservative headband and doorbell ditched the neighbors.

Ideally, I would've also found a girl to awkwardly kiss, but, well, Hell, so I settled for calling Elders Walters and Froude and telling them a story about awkwardly kissing a girl.

This week, Elder Vasquez broke out a new card game called Monopoly Deal. It's fun, fast, and with the amount of hateful thoughts, dirty looks, and death threats that get laid down, the whole repentance section of the nightly conversation with Papá Dios gets a lot longer. 

Also, Elder Mejia is colorblind, which gets super funny when he's like, "Um. I think I can win. But. Hey. Elder Lopez. Can you tell me if this card is red, purple, or brown? Brown, right? PURPLE?!! GOSHDANGIT!!!" Yes, yes, this is going to be a thing.

So the other day, it was nighttime and Elder Vasquez and I were feeling rather peckish. To combat this, we stopped at a bakery that was selling exactly two types of bread- fruity turnovers and questionable salami turnovers. Elder Vasquez snagged a couple of the fruity ones right off the bat, but choosing between worms and amoebas isn't quite as straightforward for me. I was contemplating the integrity of our house's plumbing when all of a sudden, the street outside was rocked with an explosion.

Something you've gotta know about Santo Domingo is that a lotta folks steal electricity. It's sort of just a social norm here, but what it means is that to keep costs down, the power companies just kind of shut the power off several times a day for hours at a time. This is accepted and normal, but once in a while, when the power's out for too long, some of the people here do a thing called "huelga." A huelga here is basically a very assertive way of saying, "Turn the lights back on, please," in which people go out and burn tires and throw 

molotov cocktails and occasionally get together in groups and talk about where they're going to go to chop things up with their machetes. The power companies are usually nice enough to turn it back on so that no one accidentally gets chopped up with a machete, but every now and again, they keep it out for a day and half or longer just to keep things fun. That particular night, someone had gone the extra mile and found a car to blow up outside of the bakery we were in. Needless to say, the whole old fruit versus old meat debate was quickly settled. The car exploded, I jumped out of my pants, and I left that bakery with neither worms nor amoebas. Of course, I also left that bakery without my pants, and some poor cashier is gonna have to explain how a man-sized hole got punched through the solid cinderblock ceiling. Oops.

Anyway, the other day, I heard about a pretty awesome guy. This guy's got it all. He's tall, dark, cut, and has a jawline that could have been sculpted by Michaelangelo. When he's not signing billion dollar deals to add to his already considerable fortune, he's hitting the town and throwing extravagant parties spending it. In his free time, this guy (who has unbreakable morals to go with his unbreakable abs) goes around taking out criminal organizations, saving puppies, and helping old ladies cross the street. Yes, he's a pretty awesome fellow.

Now. I want you all to take a full minute or so. Stop reading this. Close your eyes. Think of all the people who have touched your life or changed you in some way. One minute.
Waiting. Waiting. Waaaiiittiiinnggg....... Okay, stop.

The first guy, as you may have guessed, is Batman. Batman is a superhero. He's sometimes dark and surly, but he always pulls through in the end and he always chooses the right. He's also not real. And he's also not one of the people you thought about in that minute. You see, the heroes in our lives- the real ones- are not perfect people. Perfect people don't exist. Though we may love their stories and daydream about their powers, the superheroes we read in fiction comic books are just that- fiction. No, the heroes in our lives are the ones who share with us their love, their time, or their effort, and in so doing make a positive difference. Now, heroes like Superman or Thor or Batman already have plenty of attention from everyone. Movies, multimillion dollar enterprises, theme park rides, all that jazz. That may be a lot more glamorous than a couple of paragraphs on an esoterically read no-name Mormon missionary's blog, but from this week until the end of my mission, I'm going to try to do a Hero of the Week in each email. This week is the first, and the more I thought about it, there was only one appropriate way to start this.

Bruce Wayne, enter Lyle Johnson. Lyle Johnson is my pappy. Now, let's just get the disclaimers out of the way. My dad's Batmobile is a stickshift Chevy. He's a wiry 6' 2" with a majestic shock of hair that is now more salt than pepper. His Wayne Enterprises consists of a second-floor half cubicle in which he writes owner's manuals. My dad's favorite Kurt Vonnegut joke cannot be shared in this email and to my knowledge, he has never dangled a mafia boss by his ankles over a second story balcony, although he has surprised me before. No, my dad is probably not the first guy you think of when you think of a hero. But he is the first guy I think of.

You see, my dad has always been an example to me. He's one of the hardest workers you'll ever meet. He's the kind of maniac who takes a day off and then goes in to work anyway, albeit a little late. He cares about what he does and always tries to do it right the first time. But even for all the effort he put in as a breadwinner, what I admire far more about my dad is just the kind of guy and father he is. He can work miracles with a pen and paper, whether drawing
Saturday morning cartoons 
(yes, he did that) or doodling 
Thomas the Tank Engine 
for his kids in sacrament meeting. 

When I was eleven years old, I needed a picture of a hydra for my social studies class. Other dads might have just googled something. My dad sat down, and he drew me a stinkin' awesome hydra. I thought that thing was gonna jump off the page and bite my head off. I had nightmares for weeks. It was fantastic. 

If someone wanted to go kayaking or take a hike, he was the first in line. He survived being the husband of a pregnant woman FIVE TIMES. !!!!!!!!!!!!. He was the kind of positive who when he slashed his thigh open with an X-Acto knife, he named the gash Nick (as he opened and shut the gash's mouth, "Hi! My name is Nick!") (buh dum TCH!) and put on a funny puppet show until they stitched it shut because, ya know, he'd slashed his leg open.

But above all, he always stood firm in his faith. When Lyle Johnson knew something was true, I could always count on him to stand for that truth regardless of who was in the room. That's something I will never forget and will always aspire to. It's what separated the hero from the rest, and so I pray that someday I might be the kind of father to my kids that my dad's been to me.

So hey. Remember the heroes in your life. Fight the good fight. And have a great week.

I'll drink to that (root beer, of course),
Dallin Lyle Johnson

P.S: I did actually make it out of the bakery with my pants. In case anyone was wondering.
Temple Day