Lots and lots to write about this time..
First of all, I was right to be optimistic. I have learned so much spanish this last week it's ridiculous and this is only my first week. We work hard.. Really hard. My companion talks super fast and when the people talk with him they talk considerably faster too. So, hearing spanish up to speed all the time is helping me understand. They say when you serve in the DR it takes you longer to understand spanish than any other spanish speaking mission but after you get it you can understand spanish from anywhere. I'm starting to speak a lot faster too without thinking.
Elder Valdez and I work really hard here. Like considerably harder than me and Carpenter... At least it feels like it. This whole area sits on a giant hill. The city is the hill in Santiago. There are some roads that seriously have to be close to an 80 degree slope. It's ridiculous. So, although we may be doing just a little more work it feels like a ton more because of the exercise we're doing here. It wreaks havoc on the ole quads.
The area has tons of little streets that connect to bigger streets that lead to the main road here at the bottom of the road. It's so easy to get lost. My comp keeps saying that I need to learn the area in case there is an emergency transfer but it's hard learning by pure memorization. There are no street names (like you said), no indications of where you are, no order to how the streets are laid out, just a maze of bancas (places that sell lottery tickets), colmados and hair salons.
This area is really tough. When my comp said it was duro last week, it was an understatement. They haven't had a baptism here for a year. He and his last companion contacted this whole city just about in their time together and they said that had doors slammed in their face. That DOES NOT happen here in the DR. Even if people do not care one bit about your message they will have you in. This area is SUPER catholic. There is a giant cross on top of the hill that we can see from the front patio of our apartment. It's sometimes illuminated. It's glare seems to say "You WILL NOT HAVE BAPTISMS HERE."
My companion is finishing his mission at the same time as Carpenter. I may be with him in the end of his mission, and if so I hope he doesn't die. It happens to so many missionaries, american and dominican alike. They get to the end and they start realizing that there is life at the end of the mission. It's that realization that kills them. The whole mission is like a dream, and psychologically speaking it's impossible to actually die in a dream, and so it is with the mission. It's hard to see life outside of the mission when you've been doing it for so long. Honestly, I haven't reached that point, but by the time I start to feel like the mission will last forever it will be over.
We played softball today with the other 2 zones in santiago. It was awesome. Not as cool as golf but definitely a much needed change from the everyday missionary life.
And yeah, like you said the city life is so SO different than the campo life. It's loud, flashy, fast and overpopulated. I think ideally I would life relatively close to a city while still being in the country. the would be the ideal place to settle down I think.
I had mcdonalds today, it was just as greasy and good as I remember. I had a quarter pounder, fries and coke that was grossly overpriced but sooooo worth it. A little bit of america in my mouth.. That's what I told my comp and he enjoyed that.
Me and Elder Valdez get along really well. He's so proud of where he's from, the capital. He says people from here hate people from the capital. They talk different, they look different, they act different, everything. It's sort of ridiculous to me because it's the same country. But, then again that same thing happens in the states. Honestly, I haven't thought it was abnormal until coming here. I learn things all the time here, both the expected spiritual things, as well as things that I wouldn't have expected to learn.
Now for 2 good stories from this week. I'll tell you the serious one before the funny one. My companion is district leader so we went to interview a baptismal candidate in the city next to ours. The man who was being interviewed got a phone call and randomly handed me the phone. A really friendly voice started to talk to me on the line IN ENGLISH! she explained that her boyfriend was the one getting baptized and she lives in New York. She said she'd been waiting for that moment for a long time. For 8 years she said. It made me think.. How many prayers had she offered before that? How many times had he rejected receiving the missionaries before finally letting them in his home? It was really special his baptism. I am sending the girlfriend pictures as soon as I can.
Now for a funny story.. Ok it's a little sad.. Anyway so imagine.. It's my first sunday in this branch. We meet in a house where half of the congregation sits inside the house and half outside (yes, it's that small). It has a fan that reaches everyone except those sitting in the back row (aka us). So we listen to a few talks from the youth and then a girl who's maybe 14 gets up to talk. She starts out her talk just fine, then about halfway through the second sentence she just breaks down. At first it sounds like she's laughing but then it became really clear that she's was crying. It took her about 5 minutes to start talking again, her brother went up and comforted her, and she finished her talk courageously, wailing throughout the whole thing but still talking. The talk, ironically, was about Jesus Christ comforting you in trials.
I love you two. I hope momma and you are found in good health. Rest assured that your favorite son is. He's happy, healthy and misses his family a bit because he's in a foreign land. Matt is doing just fine...
No but seriously. It'll be a blast to see you all again. You realize what you wrote right? 1 year and 7 1/2 months. I only have 1 year and 5 1/2 months left. hahaha I'll make the most of it if you promise that my mission won't have to be extended another 2 months.
Till next week, from la yaguita, not a second wasted,
Elder C. Rufus Sweeney