Monday, October 26, 2015

A Week of Shooting Sports Business - October 26, 2015

Forgive me, all. But just some quick week highlights. The DR doesn't celebrate Halloween. Luckily, I do. 

And so, my district does :) We set about making us some jack-o-lanterns. Since pumpkins weren't available, we had to improvise. In case anyone was wondering, no, pineapples are not easy to carve out. 

"Pumpkin" guts
So. We made a mess carving papayas and pineapples and got juice everywhere, but it was super fun and we still brought it to a spiritual finish. 

Also, we set a baptismal date with a girl that we hope to turn into baptismal dates with her entire family. 

Um. We got charged by a goat. 

Did some yardwork with machetes. 

And we picked guavas from a tree by throwing rocks at them. I'm told that guava picking is a shooting sport here in the DR. 

Oh, and the intermediate hymn yesterday in sacrament meeting was Angels We Have Heard On High. Yup.

Sorry for the lazy writing and all, but. Well. That's my rap.


P.S. As it turns out, my house actually does have oven racks. For some silly reason, I hadn't checked on the roof.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Cows of Consuelo - October 19, 2015

¡Buenas! Un amigo me comentó que no he escrito casi nada en español en mis cartas. Bueno. Es cierto. Así que, para que sepan, SI. Soy capáz de escribir en español. Tal vez mi ortografía no sea perfecta, pero ¡sean tranquilos todos! Mi español se entiende y más que nada, ha sido una buena semana :) Lo siento a todos que no entiendan el español. Les prometo que no lo haré así otra vez. Props to whoever doesn't need google translate for that.

Greetings! A friend told me that I have written almost nothing in Spanish in my letters. Okay. It is true. Just, so you know, yes. I can write in Spanish . Maybe my spelling is not perfect, but no complaints! My Spanish is understood and above all, it has been a good week :) Sorry to all who do not understand Spanish . I promise I will not do so again. Props to whoever does not need google translate for that.

So Monday night (two weeks ago) I was busily packing my bags to transfer out when all of a sudden, my eye started to hurt. So I figured, well, what the heck. I'll just go to bed now and finish packing tomorrow. So I did. Now. There's a very important thing you need to know. My eyes are brown. Both of them. And when I went to bed, they were definitely both brown. This is a detail that will become very important in about fifteen seconds. Fast forward to the next morning. I woke up, and I made the startling discovery that I couldn't open my right eye. This caused me to worry some, but it's well-known that I'm no doctor. So I solicited the help of Elder Vasquez. Who also is no doctor, but whatever. It went more or less like this (by the by, the word "que" means "what"):

"Elder Vasquez!!!!!!"
"I can't open my eye!!!!"
"Come here! I'll open it!!" *peels it open*
"Your eye!!!!"
"It's green!!!!!!"

And so it was. Let me tell you something about me. I usually don't mind when like spiders or colds or other things get involved in my life because, well, all things gotta live, you know what I'm saying?

But the second you get my eyes involved, shiz gets real. By the time the clock struck noon, I had the biggest, baddest eye infection killing meds I could find going ham like SEAL Team 6 on that garbage. Not to mention I was rockin' the ruggedest patch that was missionary permissible. I actually requested a full on black strap Nick Fury-style eye patch but got denied. Alas. I made it look rugged anyway.

Anyway, after that whole fracas, I finally arrived in Consuelo, and I absolutely LOVE the campo. Gone are the huelgas and incessant noise of the big city. Gone are the giant guaguas that weave through traffic like motorcycles. Gone are silly luxuries like "electricity" and "running water" and toilets that flush both types of regular waste that exit all humans and it's perfectly normal so much so in fact if it doesn't happen you should probably see a doctor and MOM YOU CAN'T EDIT THIS SENTENCE. 

See? Even the strays are cows
I will grant that there is also no glass bottle Coke, the Christian raves are without equal, and the majority of the area smells of cow dung. But then, I'm from Cache Valley, the Land of 72,000 Cows. I'm right at home :)

Also, my new companion, Elder Polanco, is very fresh, with only three months in the field. He's Dominican, from the northern part of the country, and he's a little firecracker. Love him to death. 

So I'm a district leader now. Every Thursday, we have district meeting, and this was gonna be my first full district meeting. With six sisters. So I figured I'd be the coolest district leader ever and make homemade cookies from a prepackaged mix for my district, right? Right. So the problems started about the second I tried to do anything. Missionary ovens as a rule go largely unused (not in Espaillat- we used it to store our garbage bags) and as such are occasionally missiong some relatively important parts, such as the burners, the floor, or the dial thingie that turns it on. Ours is actually pretty nice in that it's only missing the top burners and unlike some ovens *coughLosSolarescough* it doesn't blow up and burn half your arm hair off when you light it (all mission ovens are gas and have to be lit by hand. With a match. It can get. Exhilarating.) but it was missing the rack. Now, I'm no baker, but I reckoned that roasting cookie dough over an open flame, while perhaps cool at campouts and Occupy Wall Street, probably wasn't very conducive to, you know, making cookies. With no rack available, I clearly had to make one. 

This. Is not as simple as it sounds. I'd heard that Elder Thacker once made an oven rack with a fan guard, but both of our fans were made of plastic. I hunted through the house for perhaps fifteen minutes when finally, my eyes settled upon a slat of ceramic tile. Bingo! However, I quickly discovered that it was too wide. It didn't fit in the oven. I was just about to give up all hope when suddenly, I had one of those capital-A-Awesome Dallin Ideas. All I'd have to do was take it out back and punch it in half! Brilliantbrilliantbrilliant!! So I did. And. Well. Yeah. I sliced my right hand wide open. Blood was pouring down my hand. I was dumbfounded. Where had my brilliant plan gone wrong?? Well, I figured I had better put a bandaid on it or something, but then I recalled that fortunately, I didn't have any bandaids. In fact, I had zero bandage-like things. But I had to do something!

I was just about to rip up a shirt when Phase Two of my capital-A-Awesome Dallin Idea took shape. I didn't have any bandages, but I did have a tube of super glue! I grabbed it and shakily tried to screw the cap on, but, well, I didn't do it so well (I'm not at my best in the presence of things like blood or needles or knives or other things that. Uh. Uh. Uhhhh. Can't even write about it....) and I didn't open the neck of the tube properly. I pulled it away from my bleeding right hand and examined the tube. A little off-center but it didn't look too bad. I gave it one more experimental squeeze, at which point it exploded, sending a flood of Industrial Strength All-Purpose Super Glue streaming down my left hand. Sealing it shut.

And then the phone rang. It was two of the sisters in my district. I had to answer it. But with what?? I had zero hands!!! I sat there, quietly thrashing around and muttering curses as I tried to figure out what to do. Finally, I hit the answer button with my elbow, sending it spinning to the edge and just slammed my head down on the counter, pinning it there. "Hermana Pichardo!" I said, projecting as much of a smile into my voice as I could. "Hello! It's so wonderful to hear your voice!" She talked for about five seconds when mercifully, the phone fell to the ground and exploded. I looked at it. Looked at my hands. And decided that the sisters could survive one night just fine. 
I staunched the bleeding, unstuck my left index finger and thumb, fixed together two of the broken pieces of tile with a coat hanger, and although I didn't finish baking until almost midnight and took nearly an hour more to get the glue off of my consarn hand, my district had a flippin' plate of peanut butter chocolate cookies. And they ate every. Single. One.

In other news, our hero of the week is a member named Ana. First, you need to understand a cultural aspect of Consuelo. There's a definite culture difference between the capital, which has about four million citizens, and Consuelo, which has less than forty thousand. That's about the difference in size between Logan proper and Dallas. The biggest difference religiously is that here, it's much more likely that people will let you in to listen to you BUT it's much less likely that they'll actually listen to you. See, one of the ingrained philosophies of Dominican culture in general but the campos in particular is that when someone who talks about God comes around, you should listen to what they have to say, regardless of what church they're from. However, whereas in the city people are more willing to change different in their perspectives, in the campo, a person's religious background is usually very deeply ingrained in them. This is perhaps the biggest challenge that faces the mission work.

Enter Ana. She is perhaps the best member missionary I've ever met. We went out and visited with her and her brother, and she was absolutely fearless. She would march right up to the house of any neighbor or friend and she would tell it to them straight. In two weeks of our efforts, we had found maybe six new investigators. In just one day with this courageous sister, we found nearly a dozen new investigators who not only listened with their ears, but listened with the hearts. This is not a person who has ever been a full-time missionary. She never learned how to speak eloquently and she never had the kind of education that many of us were privileged to receive. But she spoke with the strength and power of the Holy Ghost, and she was able to touch the hearts of many. May we all follow her example.

That's it for now! Have a grand week, and keep being awesome.

Paz y buena voluntad, "Peace and goodwill"
Dallin Johnson

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pday Party in San Pedro - October 12, 2015

We were down in San Pedro today, (if you wanna look up a map of the DR, I'm in Consuelo, a town some 40 km [I think] to the north of San Pedro) and we only just got back. LONG P-Day. But super good.

Eh hem....

And yes. My eye. Well. It's okay now. But I thought it was gonna be lost. BUT! It's okay for now. Really. More next week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I'M GONNA BE A..... relief society president? -- October 5, 2015

Saludos amigos! It's a brief Monday because, welp, I've gotta pack :)

Enjoying conference. :)
Transfer calls are in! I'm peacing out of the capital and it's off to the campo! I'm going to a place called Consuelo in the zone San Pedro. After the Plots of Dirt (Los Solares) and the Dudes with Hot Bods (Los Mameyes), it's nice to finally go to a place that's called "Comfort." President Corbitt actually called me on Saturday night after conference and said, "Elder Johnson, I'm sending you to San Pedro, and I'd like you to be a district leader. Are you willing to act in that capacity?" And I was like pfft. PFFT! Claro!! Yes, yes, the final deadbeat of my group has an assignment! But then he just sort of mentioned in an offhand way, "Oh, and Elder Johnson, your district consists of you, your companion.... and six sisters. Have a nice transfer." *click* . . . Six si- Six sist- Si- P-P-Pres- Uh. Uh. Uh. NNNOOOOOOOOOFLBTHBTHBTHX!!!!!!!! 

It's not the sisters. They're nice people, really. It's just. Sisters are like lepers. They're genuinely good people and they haven't done anything wrong, but you just sort of smile furtively at them and hurry past, making sure to never EVER touch, because there's that voice inside telling you that you don't know what you're gonna catch, but you're unquestionably gonna walk away with SOMETHING that's gonna make your skin fall off. And so for the most part, you just let them sit in their corner and do...... whatever it is that sisters do. I haven't been in a district with sisters my whole mission and, well, I'm sorta starting to realize why "awkward missionaries" are a thing. Blast.

P.S. The above thing about sisters is NOT misogynistic. It's primal fear.

Thuggin'...Sort of.
Naw, I'm excited to go! It's always a weird feeling when you leave an area. Espaillat was like leaving my soulmate, La Isabelita was just a week-long fling, and Los Solares was sort of like a dysfunctional girlfriend who I wrote an offensive breakup poem to but really loved anyway. (A note: Those of you who read the above-mentioned poem on the blog got a Janell Johnson censored version that cut out implied profanity, all direct references to bodily fluids, and the phrase "tight-loined [edited for content]) Los Mameyes... 

Los Mameyes taught me a couple of very important lessons. See, let me walk you through a typical day of mine from the last three months. 6:30-10:00- Wake up. Flip off the alarm. Pray. Eat some cornflakes. Put on a shirt and tie. Study. Highlight everything that Paul said that was "totally rad." Stare out the window for a while. Daydream about being a fantastic pianist or a Pokemon master or something. Put on some pants. Walk out the door. 10:00- Go out and offer people the opportunity to live with God in a state of peace and rest for all eternity. Listen to people spend thirty seconds to half an hour explaining why they're just too busy or too hot or too occupied dicing delicious tropical fruits for a waste of time like eternal life. Frantically explain that please please if we have to come back another day that's fine but for the love of everything holy don't trade eternity for a mango. Get an appointment to return. Upon returning, the door is shut and the house is empty. 9:00 pm- Go home. Plan. Write in your journal. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

Every. Day. At first, it was easy. I'm doing the Lord's work, right? I know that soon, we'll see the fruits of our labors. Just have to keep working. Well, I kept working. But the fruits never came. And then, little by little, it stopped being a privilege and became a chore. Before long, it became a trial. I handled it well. And then I started to resent it. And then it got personal. Why can no one recognize a good thing clearly presented in front of them? Why are they all so lazy and hard-hearted? And who are all these people anyway? Why are they all so stupid? Why are they always shouting at me and trying to hawk me garbage that I can't use and don't want and do they just have no respect or what? Were their parents even trying when they taught them how to be decent human beings? And my gosh, all of these people are so aimless and in my way and good heck, could you just slow down long enough for me to cross the freaking street? Why is everyone in my way?

If this sounds irrational and stupid to you, well, it is. But odds are, you do it too. See, we all are the own little centers of our respective universes. I have the experiences of Dallin Johnson, and when someone does something, they're not just doing it, they're doing it to ME. We get dragged down in the humdrum routine of life and before long, everything gets personal. And as soon as it gets personal other persons cease to matter. This is why it's so important to have an open, Christlike perspective. You see, these people aren't doing anything out of malice against me. They have pains and struggles that they're trying to overcome too. What if the guy hawking me a fake watch is just trying to bridge the rift between him and his wife because they have to argue about finances every day? Maybe all of the aimless people are people who are desperately hunting for work but can't find it in the wreckage of this economy. Maybe that guy who cut me off is rushing his child sick with dengue to the hospital and contrary to what I seem to think, I am in HIS way. Why do I have to be a judgemental jerk to people who are just living life the best they know how?

These things are all things that we would realize if we just took a second to empathize. To pull ourselves out of our own depressing, self-created shell and see the world with some clarity. Although people do unkind or insensitive things to one another sometimes, and though we may consciously acknowledge it, our actuions prove that we often forget that this is not a battle against one another. We're not here to beat one another. We're here to help one another. And in order to be able to do that, we must follow the greatest example of pure love that ever lived- Jesus Christ. We must live as he lived so that we can love as he loved.

The crappy reality that our entire world must suffer no matter where, when, and under what conditions we live is sometimes difficult to comprehend, but it is important that we comprehend it, because with this comprehension comes a great blessing. That is that our pains and sufferings and trials are not unique. In the case of me and Los Mameyes, there have been literally thousands of missionaries who have suffered through the exact same thing. Regardless of how new and unknown a certain type of trial or pain may appear to us, remember that our scope of existence is very small and there is ALWAYS someone who has had that same thing just as bad, and almost always someone who's had it much, much worse. None of us are special. None of us are unique. And this is good. You see, once we realize that our pain is not some random curse from the heavens and that suffering is actually sort of what defines life and there are a slew of other people who have felt that same thing, it finally hits home that we as people are not so different. And when we understand that, we will never have to suffer alone. There will always be someone who can help us. And when we're done, we can help someone else. Los Mameyes taught me that. I never saw the fruits, but hopefully, the seeds I sowed will bear fruit and make the experience of a future elder that much easier to bear.

So for now, it's off to the campo, and though it feels like I'm leaving very little behind, unsown dirt is and will always be just that- dirt. I didn't see it take root, but I cast some fracking seeds. Can't call it a failure for that.