Saturday, March 26, 2016

Livin' the Life -- March 2, 2016

(a handwritten letter to the Kommandant)

Dearest Kommandant, (that's me, his mammy)

Life's pretty chill around here. Me 'n' Elder Hafer are working hard. Due to the touristy nature of Punta Cana, everything is far apart and the cheapest guaguas run at 30 (!!!!!) pesos a pop. That adds up. If we want to take a guagua to a part of our area called Villa Playbol, for instance, we have to catch one to El Cruce, hop out, get on anotherun, and from thence to Villa Playbol. Two more to get back and we just had to shell out 120 pesos. No thanks. So, we walk a lot. From here on out, I'm gonna use place names as if they meant something to you. So's ya know. 

Elder Hafer and I were walking in Villa Europa, going around and trying to get to know people. Unfortunately, of all the people we tried to visit, the only one who was even home was a persnickety lady who just complained that she didn't feel good because she had a baby growing in her belly and for us to come back in two months when she no longer had a baby growing in her belly. Well, we left her to give birth and trudged through the street ready to write the afternoon off as a failure and start the 45 minute walk back.

And then, a miracle. The dirtiest little boy I'd seen all day came running up. "Hey, Mormons! My aunt wants to talk to you!" Alright. Sounds groovy to me. So we followed him. turns out that his aunt was a charming lady named Victoria about 50 years of age. She was baptized in 1991 and was a firm member until 1998. She moved out here, went inactive, (the Church didn't open a branch until 2011 out here.
Not a perfect excuse, but 13 years [particularly since her husband is not a member] are significant) sort of just moved on with her life. Then, just a little while ago, she commented to her sister that she wanted to go back to church. Her sister was a dry member (active but unbaptized) for five years. She loved the church but couldn't be baptized because the father of her children viewed marriage as a social construct and refused to marry her. In time, she realized her man was a goober and a video game addict, so she packed up her two kids and peaced out. That was six years ago. She'd still not gotten baptized or gone to Church in those years because of an unfortunate occurrence, but now, she too felt a desire to return.

In short, God showed us a miracle in which we found a less-active who wants to come back and five new investigators (husband, daughter, sister, and 2 nephews of Victoria) who could be baptized. What a beautiful experience.

But not all experiences are beautiful. The other day, Elder Hafer and I were out contacting houses along a highway divided into three roads, each road being divided from the others by a swath of grass. This place is Friusa Called. It's called Friusa. Well, we contacted for a while until it was time to visit a less-active member named Victor. He had brought his nonmember girlfriend to church the Sunday before and so we figured it was time to reactivate this Kit-Kat. We took his dats and put the cita. Cita is appointment. Sorry. Spanglish.

Now, Victor is a volunteer firefighter, so he lives at the fire station. He told us it was on the highway just outside Friusa. So we started walking. And walking. And walking. Aaaaaand walking. Eventually, the sun set, and we were still walking. Every time we passed a rest stop or gas station or random restaurant, we'd stop and ask, "Hey, do y'all know where the fire station is?" They invariably pointed down the highway and said some amount of time in between 15 minutes to 5 hours. Cheery. So we kept right on walking.

Finally, we saw a charming little puke-green over-described cinderblock building with the words CUERPO DE BOMBEROS emblazoned on the roof. Hallelujah!!! We triumphantly flounced in and were like, "Hey, is Victor here?" And they were like, "No."


It was just as well, really, because it was past 8:30. We had to get home. And this time, we'd just catch a guagua. Easy, right? Wrong. See, since some genius decided to put the fire department on a remote highway miles from anywhere, all traffic goes whipping past and in the dark, no one could see us in time to stop. Four guaguas passed us and we started to get desperate. And then, God decided to get us home in time.

Around the corner turned a gargantuan tourist bus. We didn't even bother trying to flag it down because these behemoths don't stop for anyone. They fill up at the hotels and then go thundering down the highway. Nonstop. We weren't going anywhere with this one. And then. To our eternal surprise. It flashed us with its brights. And it stopped. The door hissed open and the driver looked down at us. "Are you guys Mormons?" We nodded. He looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, "I don't know much about your church, but my son is a Mormon missionary. Y'all want a ride?"

And this has been the story of how we got a catered ride home on a bus that was nicer than the plane I flew in on. For free. God's out there. And He's watching.

Anyway, it's time to go to district meeting. Give everyone my love!

Love, Dallin

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Stick it to the Sockets -- March 21, 2016

Hello! It's been a very adventurous week out here in Punta Cana! We've worked, we've played, and I am going to officially have eighteen months this week. It's crazy to have to think about the future and I'm kind of kicking myself for some silly decisions I made back in high school. My mother informs me that my AP account's security question is, "What is your oldest sibling's middle name?" My oldest sibling is Maren. And she has no middle name. Yup. On to the week.....

We went to this fancy mall called Palma Real for P-Day. It was beautiful! We wandered around and were very well attended to because everyone thought we had money. We just smiled, tried everything, and bought nothing, because, well, we had no money. The climax of this enchanting tango of modern shopperhood was a lovely lunch at Papa John's pizza, which in this country is actually a very nice sit-down restaurant. After this delightful journey of Ameritalian ingurgitation, there was only one place left to go- the restroom. We found it well enough and went on in. I immediately pulled out my bathroom copy of the Liahona and started taking care of business while Elder Hafer washed his hands. I was about halfway through a wonderful article by Elder Bednar about being disciples of Christ when I heard the water stop and Elder Hafer's voice echoed over the top of the stall. "Dude. There's something weird about this bathroom. Wait..... Where the heck are all the urinals?!?" A cold chill shot down my spine. No. Nononononono. And then. Entering the bathroom. I heard a sharp clack of shoes. Very high-heeled shoes. And then a woman's voice, "Hola." CRUD! I choked behind the stall door, bright red even though I knew she couldn't see me. We. Had walked into the girls' bathroom. What an adrenaline filled moment. My heart was pumping, I was breathing heavy, I could hardly think straight. All the data entering my brain was muffled behind the red mist of the fact that I WAS USING THE GIRL'S BATHROOM!!!!!
I gave a sort of breathless laugh. And then I sort of choked. I nearly cried. And then I calmed down. Because. Well. There was no fighting it now. So I finished what I was doing. Walked out. And washed my hands. Next to a nice lady fixing her makeup. Who was staring at me like I was a rotting slug. And then I left. Haha such is life.

Anyhow, we had an adventure on Friday night. My fan has a long cord, but Elder Hafer's is a short cord. So, it's been attached to an extension thingamajobber, but the extension's not strictly speaking.... normal? I mean, it's functional and all, it just has no plastic casing and the slightest nudge causes loud pops and blinding showers of sparks. So I was sitting on my bed, calmly reading my Spanish vocab book, when Elder Hafer walked in and just sorta started kicking the cord and watching the sparks. It was cool and all for about, oh, three seconds, until there was a giant flash and electrical backfire fried every socket in the room. Apart from the overall shortedoutness of our bedroom, it shut my fan off. And I don't like having my fan shut off. Not one bit. See, as much as I like sleeping in a pool of my own sweaty filth, I'm not about that life, so we ran another extension cord to the other room and plugged our fans back in. This solved the problem.

For about two seconds until we realized that Elder Hafer still hadn't disconnected his fan from the original extension (which was still in fry-everything-it-touches mode), he'd just reconnected that garbage to a not-burned-out power source. With that power flow reestablished, the cord started smoking and then melting and then, to our deluded horror, flaming.
This unfortunate turn of events made it somewhat difficult to just grab it and pull it out of the wall. Luckily, Elder Hafer managed to hook the cord in the spiral binding of his planner and saved the day. The fire was quenched, and we learned a very important lesson. Best of all, our third and final extension cord was able to reach both our fans from the bathroom socket. We breathed a deep breath and the peasants rejoiced.

But anyway! Life's great out here! Apart from all that, we just preached the gospel and got invited to eat a pot of rice about the size of a Jeep tire and a dinner of ribs. We may not be the wisest sages in the brush but we sure love being missionaries. Keep it real and have a grand week!

With love,
Elder Johnson

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Rather Garrulous Windbag -- March 14, 2016

Hello, everybody! Sorry, time is short, and it's possible that at this rate, no one is going to read these things anymore, but! Life's great. We have two couples who have marriage/baptismal dates and six other investigators who have commited to be baptized besides. The Lord is showering us with blessings and it's awesome in the dictionary sense of awesome.

Anyway, I love you all and know that God loves you way more than I do, but that's just because he's God! Also, mi hijo amado, Elder Leiter, who's not my companion anymore but is in my district, informs me that there's a new Harry Potter book coming out. Um. Uh. Can anyone confirm or deny these reports??????????????

Make an inherently good week great,

P.S. I don't know if people actually dressed like Hilario in the 70s, but Hilario told me that that's how people dressed in the 70s. (Take a look at the pictures and guess which one is Hilario. I'll give you a hint: He's not my dear old ex-comp Elder Cuadra, a ridiculously handsome gringo, or a flaming pile of trash. Good luck.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Kaleidoscope of Miracles -- March 7, 2016

Happy Monday, everyone! Temperatures are hovering in the

mid-90's and I am getting quite the tan. Good thing that by the time that tan is even useful, I'll have gotten back to my pasty white complexion. Such is the life of a missionary who got transferred to the beach capital of the country just ever so too early. But no complaints here!

The other day, Elder Hafer and I were yondering on up to catch a guagua when off to the side, we saw a girl walking. I remember very distinctly thinking to myself, "Huh. I don't think we know her," and then Elder Hafer nudged me and was like, "Bro, look! It's María Teresa." He gave an ear-piercing whistle and shouted, "HEY! MARÍA TERESA!!" The girl turned and looked at us. And. Well. She wasn't María Teresa. Elder Hafer's face turned as red as his nose and he just sort of awkwardly mumbled, "Uh, lo siento," and hurried past. Bahahaha.

Some days, it's a good day to die. Other
days, it's a good day to eat a burger
that's bigger than your face.
My inner uneducated writer says that by all rules of flow, this paragraph needs something before it. But. Well. I myself said I was an uneducated writer, didn't I? So anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about miracles.

The word "miracle" evokes big things. Mountains moving. Sick people healing. The dead rising. Miracles are a happening that is unexplainable by reason or the laws that apparently govern our universe, and they occur typically because of divine intervention. Or something like that. A miracle is supposed to be a pretty huge deal. This is what I thought when I entered the mission field. Heck, this is what I thought when I entered this transfer.

Now, my perspective on miracles is somewhat different. Don't get me wrong, I believe in those large miracles. They're factual truths. But the fact of the matter is that the giant miracles are not nearly as important as the tiny ones that constitute our, you know, lives. An example.

I was chatting with my good friend Elder Walters a couple of
Our yard
months ago and I was ragging (I sometimes rag on things like this all the time) on this thing that God's children sometimes do when they say something like, "If I hadn't decided to pick up Steve's phone when he dropped it, I never would have met his sister who became my wife. It was a miracle." See, the thing is that there are so many tiny things that alter our path like that that it seemed ridiculous to term it a miracle. I said to my good pal Elder Walters, "Elder Walters, you and I are good friends. We're planning on rooming together at college. Both of our lives have had their courses altered to some degree because we're friends. But you know what? If we hadn't happened to go to the same mission at the same time, we would probably not be friends like we are now. 

"But wait! I would never have come out when I did if not for the influence of a girl who I happened to meet at Sonic, so if I had never worked at Sonic, we wouldn't be friends right now.

"But wait! I only came to work at Sonic because my buddy Jake worked at Sonic and their area supervisor (I think his name was Dave. I can't remember. I'm gonna call him Dave) had an incentive where if someone who you referred to work there turned out good, you'd get a ten-buck bonus. Jake referred me in order to get the bonus.  So, if Dave had never put that ten-dollar bonus, we wouldn't be friends right now.

"But wait! Dave got his in to Sonic some time after college because he got caught in the economic recession, was laid off, and in desperation, accepted a position at Sonic. So if the country hadn't gone into an economic recession, we wouldn't be friends right now."

"Think about it. Those are only a few of the general factors from my life, and they don't even include the influences in every else's life who was involved. See? If any one of those is a miracle, then they're all miracles."

This. Is an international airport. Seriously.
Now, my friendship with Elder Walters is just one itty bitty facet of my life, and though it is very important to me, it's not even one of the biggest defining factors of my existence. And you can do this same thing with everything in your life. Everything that happens plays into everything else. Some people (possibly philosophers, I don't actually remember hearing it anywhere except in a particularly funny XKCD comic, but it's certainly a philosophical idea) call this the butterfly effect, and that breezy night in Consuelo, I used it to try to curb stomp all this miracle-calling.

But I was wrong. Partially. See, you CAN find thousands or million or billions of these things everywhere. But the truth is that they ARE miracles. Tiny, sometimes infinitesimal things that we may or may not even notice lead us down the larger roads that shape our lives and even our eternities. And until we begin to notice and appreciate the little happinesses that are even in the simple, mundane things of life, I don't think we can ever begin to experience true joy. And personally, I think that here lies one of the grand miracles of our existence.

In the midst so many interlocking and complicated pieces that have been operating since time immemorial, God takes them and uses them to drive the course of all humanity. Even in our mistakes and pigheaded errors, God finds a way to bring about something good for someone, somewhere. You can call it threads in a tapestry, bricks in the wall, or drops in the ocean. But the little moments are the building blocks of our lives. And when we notice them, life ceases to be a long, empty road or a vast meadow or whatever else that's big and boring and becomes a swirling kaleidescope that we never get tired of watching. And since a life is much more real than a metaphor, we actually get to live it. And it's pretty dang awesome.

Anyway, that's sort of been the definition of my time here in Punta Cana. Beautiful physically. But. More than that. Much more.

Have a great week,
Elder Dallin Johnson

The picture is some folks playing bitilla, which is sort of like baseball played with a broomstick and a bottle cap. Yup.

This. Is an international airport. Seriously.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Beach Warfare -- February 29, 2016

Hello! Sorry I've been out for so long! I'm alive and happy and well, it's just hard to think of what to write sometimes and, well, I've been trying to respond a little better (though still not perfectly) to personal emails. But life's grand out here in the sandy beaches of Punta Cana! Where to begin?

So after leaving Comfort (Consuelo) I arrived in Cane Point (Punta Cana) and discovered that although I'd arrived in quite a bit of comfort, there was just one problem. Wasps. Many, many wasps. Wasps in the windows, and therefore wasps in the bedroom. There's a wee gap under the windows, y'see. It was all fine and dandy for Elder Hafer, who has a mosquito net. Me? I got a bedsheet and a beanie. Not quite bulletproof, if you know what I mean. There was only one way to solve this problem. It'd been a long time since I took the bees on back in ol' Los Solares, but the amount of time mattered little to a grizzled veteran such as myself. We had our target. Their primary base was a large hive directly outside the window by Elder Hafer's bed. So we went to the drawing board.

We started with basic weapons. Machete. Flip-flops. It was a great idea, except every time we started to swing at the hive, they'd get annoyed for some reason and swarm us. This was problematic, since the machete is not quite as useful in close quarters against bugs the size of very large garbanzo beans. We were forced to shriek like little girls and take cover in the other room until we could sneak back under cover of darkness, shut the window, and pick off the wasps that'd gotten in one by one with the flip-flops.

We then decided to use air-soft pistols. This worked almost as well as the first, except we're immature barely post-adolescent boys and apart from one or two wasps we picked off from the other window, we mostly just shot each other.

At last, we quit playing around and broke out a high-power can of industrial strength wasp fogger. Apart from a vicious sting delivered to Elder Hafer's left arm, we came out victorious and injury-free. Elder Hafer did the honors of chopping off the nest with the 200 peso Machete of Destiny. The hive fell twenty feet to the ground and the peasants rejoiced.

I was going to write more. But. Time has run out. Blast. I promise to write more next week. I love you all! Appreciate the small miracles in life and work hard! God loves you!

Con mucho amor,
Élder Johnson
I just realized I haven't sent a picture of Elder Hafer home yet.
Here's a particularly flattering shot of him asleep in a lesson.