Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Week in the Field Done!

(Email to Friends)
It´s been a crazy week.  Way hard, but totally worth it.  Still working on getting used to it out here.  We´ll see how it goes this next week.  I only expect it to get better though!

First off I'll finish up on MTC stuff.  Elder Monque is a way sick kid I met there.  You might see pictures of him I sent home.  I enjoyed Peanut Butter in my oatmeal there.  It´s fantastic.  DC 100 verse 1 really helped me through the week. 

I also had a fast this week to help me understand more of the language.  When I got here I understood nada.  I'm in a house with 3 other Latinos.  That's not a good thing.  I fasted to be able to understand more and the fruits of that have really hit me.  I've been able to understand around 60 percent now.  I at least almost always know the gist of what's going on.  I'm SO happy about that.  Helps a ton.  I'm glad the Lord is there to help me through this.  I couldn't do it on my own!

First off, new foods · Mangu (mashed plantains, like mashed potatoes), zapotes - a weird fruit, fried plantains.  I expect more to come in the next couple of weeks too.  Wish me luck.

Lots of disobedient missionaries here from what I´ve heard.  It´s going to make it rough to make it feel like an actual mission.   I´ll just keep plugging along though.  

My companion is Elder Moncada from Honduras.  Way chill dude.  He knows enough English we can understand each other enough. I´m his 4th trainee, he´s a former zone leader and just knows his stuff.  I´m in good hands.  He says freak a lot too which I find hilarious.  We´re also opening up a new area.  His fourth.  This means we don´t have any previous investigators.  Completely straight off of contacting.

Also in our house is Elder Ventura, from Guatemala and Elder Vasquez from El Salvador.  Both seem cool.  I generally don't know exactly what they're saying though haha.  

One day it just started pouring.  We got stranded on a guy’s porch and he took our umbrella and chased after a flip flop with it.  The Dominican people are crazy.  It´s going to be a fun two years.  

We already had a contact come to church!  Way cool.  After, we went and visited her and asked her if she had any questions.  She asked "What do I need to do to be baptized" AHHH!  So awesome.  She was definitely prepared by the Lord.  Elder Moncada is pretty confident she will be baptized.  We just have to wait three weeks and teach her all the lessons.  I look forward to it!

Love and miss you all a ton!  Keep it up.  I think school is starting pretty soon so good luck with that!  
Love, E. Potokar.

(Emailed to Family)
Ahh.  I miss you guys so much.  I can't even explain it.  If I thought the first week of the MTC was hard this week was like a million times harder it seems like!  

First off I'm having a major struggle with the language.  It's hard living in a house full of three Latinos to let out my personality when I don't know what's going on.  I feel really alone a lot of the time.  I pray a lot.  I'm starting to understand more and more which is slowly helping more and more.  It makes me jealous of Wade and Marcos who don't have to learn a new language.  I'll get through this though.  It'll be nice to learn Spanish I suppose haha.  The fast I had this week helped a TON.

Hey do you know that huge house we visited?  Some girl in the MTC knew them.  Weird connections everywhere.  And I sent home a few pictures with a Latino kid at the MTC.  That's Elder Monque.  He's a stud.  Amazing all around guy and great at soccer.  Apparently could've been a pro dancer but went on a mission instead.

Elder Fusselman's dad is doing well.  From what I heard he got to keep all his fingers which is definitely a blessing.  It's actually August and September from what I heard. (hottest months in the DR)  So I hit right in the hottest times!  My room does have AC though (what a blessing!!) so I usually wake up cold haha.  We crank that thing up a lot.  

I try to live each day one at a time.  It's so hard though.  I figured if I was only here for a day I'd live it up. That mindset seems to help.  Sometimes.  Other times it's just a struggle instead.  

President Freestone also said I need to get a vision of who the Lord wants me to be post mission.  Not just be a composite of my companions.  That's something I plan to work on in weeks to come.  Way too much on my mind (home like 24/7) now.  

While in the temple this last time I received what I believe to be revelation.  I was praying, and felt that the Lord was really listening.  That's been a comfort to me this week.  It also mentions that testimony multiple times in my patriarchal blessing.  Also that I'll "be able to testify that the Lord hears and answers prayers while on my mission."  Something along those lines.  I thought that was really cool.  

My mission  belt and bag combo are causing problems!  The way my bag sits causes my shirt to rub on my belt. It stains it and I can't get it out.   I jimmy rigged a makeshift belt and bought a new bag today.  We'll see how well it works though.  

Also, some more bad news.  I can't find my iPod anywhere.  Not sure if it got stolen or left at the MTC or what happened to it.  I still have the speaker which was packed right next to it so I don't know! I'm also missing one of my Norwex towels.  So some gift ideas would be: a music player with music of some sort, one of those towels, some protein bars, a backpack (I'll get to that later), and maybe a calculator?  I have to pay 90 pesos for each pound of a package I receive.  That's about $2.25. (If you send him a package please don't make it heavy. This fee comes out of his food allowance.) I get around 4000 pesos every 15 days.  

I've thought many times what I would give to have an hour to talk to you face to face.  So much.  I could really use some love and a shoulder to lean on for a while here.  I thought a few times that I wished I went to the Provo MTC so I could've seen you guys in the airport again! And remember how you said homesickness was the only thing I had to overcome?  It's killing me.  It's gotten a little better each day though.  I'd add the language to that list too.  

The language is a struggle.  I see all the normal habits and joking in it like it's English.  Like these people are so comfortable speaking it.  It makes things hard.  I want to be that comfortable in it.  Speaking to anyone in English at this point is a joy.  I can't get enough of it.

President Corbitt with the new missionaries going out into the field and their companions.

I've been thinking of little ways I'd train a little better. I'd love to help someone else through this homesickness.  I had my district write in my notebook and a few of them mentioned I helped them through that.  I don't know if Elder Moncada is used to someone being this homesick haha.  Lots of tears have been shed. 

Elder Moncada is whiter than I am as well which makes me feel like a native haha.  Not really though. Elder Moncada has trained 3 others, but they all spoke Spanish.  I'm more or less on my own with that.  All the guys in the house already speak Spanish too.  I'm slowly coming to grips with that.  I've just got to really focus and work on that. It's hard to be involved and be myself in the house.  They'll all be joking around, but I struggle to know what about and contribute if I do.  I’m slowly getting myself used to messing around with them though.  Elder Ventura is really funny when I understand him.
Mom, I miss your food. A ton.  I really wish I would've learned more cooking from you.  Our kitchen has just about everything we had at home.   All our food here is generally repeats, although now that we've gone shopping it's gotten better.  I bought yogurt and cornflakes to have a taste of home, as well as stuff for grilled cheese. I also uploaded a picture of a HUGE mango we got.  So cool.  Fruit is very good here.  Excellent. Luckily my comp and Elder Ventura know how to cook fairly well.  I plan on learning as much as I can from them.  

Also I'm going to ask a favor for in your email for next week.  I'd like some kind of a workout schedule.  Something core wise.  Elder Moncada isn't a runner so something I could do in the house.  If you could that'd be excellent.  Also maybe a list of easy recipes I could cook?   The first couple of days here food wise were rough.  We didn't have much food so it was all pretty rough.  We've gone shopping since.  I realize I don't know how to cook much though.  It makes me wish I had had Mom teach me more.  I also realized I'm all on my own.  It's totally up to me to be obedient.  That kind of freaks me out.  Sometimes I think I should've gone to college first so I wouldn't have all these huge choices and concepts to figure out!

Church this week was crazy hard.  It's cool how the church is the same everywhere, but makes it such a reminder of home.  A little girl sat in front of me in sacrament and reminded me exactly of Lydia.  I cried a lot of that sacrament.  Also a boy whose family we ate with the other day (We should not have, it's against the rules), reminded me of Garrett.  It's hard.  All the families here tend to remind me of an experience I had at home too.  Makes it super hard. Please pray for me.  I need all the help I can get.  I'm sure you have been though!

The church has a whole different outlook to me now too.  It always seemed like part of life before, like school or soccer or anything else.  Now I realize it's another church or religion.  I'm preaching about God out there.  That's weird to me.

This mission has a major disobedience problem.  I've heard stories of parties, missionaries with girlfriends, and all sorts of stuff.  I guess the former mission pres let it get out of hand, but President Corbitt is fixing things.  That's why he has former ZL's working with the greenies.  He knows the ZL's are super obedient. It also makes it hard to know how strict I need to be with the rules and what's actually a rule or not.  All the Latinos in my house are super lax.  I'm trying to be more stalwart though.  

I don't get why you'd come and be that disobedient! Just go home!  Quit making a bad name for the church here.  Drives me nuts.  I was talking to our DL, Elder Kirk from Logan, and he said his trainer never even left the house.  They just sat around all day.  That was with the old president. 

We're in northern Santo Domingo.  Hard to explain actually where.  Maybe some of my pics will have a GPS tag on them hopefully. Me and my comp sleep on the floor.  Not a biggie.  We're just new in the house so that's what we get. Also the mornings are the hardest thing here.  Waking up in somewhere not familiar without family nearby is a shocking realization every morning.  I hate it.  The days generally improve from that point on though.   I'm tall compared to like everyone here.  Tall and white. Our district is us four, and two others.  One of which is from Utah, Elder Kirk.  I enjoy speaking English to him.  It's incredible.  I'm SO glad he's here.

The chapel is pretty nice.  Two sides to it.  It's like separate buildings.  One is a chapel or capilla and the other is all the classrooms. I think you'd love the houses here.  So colorful and pretty, but very dense and close together though.  Everyone's house has a little porch behind the gate like things like in my picture.  Lots of people are sitting out on them.  We just go and talk to them.   Or Elder Moncada does and I try to listen.  I have a few times though.  At least talked a little bit. It's kind of like tracting. Not many discussions yet, just mostly just asking if they know us and if we can come back another time to talk.  People are way nice.  We've only been turned down like maybe 3 times by strict Catholics.  It's not hard to teach people, but then you have to be careful if they just want to be friends. Pretty much everyone here is catholic too.  Or evangelical.  Those people are kind of crazy. People are very open which is a blessing. A few other people have bore testimony to us too, and it sounds like it's real.  But they won't do anything about it yet.  Only the first week though.

The homesickness has gotten better since the first day too.  When we're tracking now I can generally focus on that and not home.  And in lessons trying to focus on the Spanish and understanding helps a lot too.

We eat out occasionally.  Some of the local places are cheap.  Pizza Hut today was like 5 bucks.  We got like 2 slices, a few breadsticks and a coke for just over 200 pesos.  Pretty pricey.  A solid plate of nachos at a local place the other day was a 100 and empandas are 50. We've had Domino's too and I've seen a McDonald's. We usually buy water from those little shops.  A Dasani is like 15 pesos.  No point of carrying a water bottle cuz there's nowhere to fill them up.

Lots of little shops everywhere.  The street we have to cross to get to our area (we don't actually live in our area) is filthy.  I don't know if it's an island problem.  The natives like don't have garbages.  I swear they just throw it out the windows.  From where I am emailing, it's a little room with a few computers.  Super dirty.  Everything here is dirty.  The culture is just to throw all your trash on the street.  It's REALLY gross.

Also this morning for P-day we got to go to a market type thing!  It was cool.  The streets reminded me of a mix of that street fair we went to I think in California and gateway.  It was way nice.  I got a new bag there.  I think it's pretty sweet. You'd love the cool shop I got my bag at today too. It was 400 pesos.  So like 10 bucks.  Not bad.  I heard that was the only one. I carry my scriptures, pamphlets, a small Spanish hymnbook and a mini BOFM in English just in case.

Also got a few things for you and Lydia that I'll be sending home in an envelope hopefully.  We also visited the house of Christopher Columbus.  I think it was the building with the arches.  I thought we were just going shopping so I forgot my camera!  I used some other peoples cameras, and I'm hoping we can go back in 4 or so weeks, so I'm sure I'll get some pictures to ya of it sometime.

The other building I think it's some sort of grave site for some generals.  Lots of Spanish in there so not really sure. 

The driving is sketchy.  Most cars here wouldn't pass inspection and the driving is INSANE.  (To give you a little glimpse of the road conditions look here. This blog is from Sister Becky Douglas. Her husband is the mission president in the DR Santiago Mission. I can guarantee you will chuckle a little if you read it! ) The metro is really nice though, and pretty cheap.  I think like 20 pesos for a go through. Idk.  Haha I'm getting way too detailed about this already!  

We're not supposed to use home money (debit card) much cuz it could make the natives and companions who don't have much feel left out and like budgeting isn't necessary.  I can definitely use it for souvenirs though.  There was tons of stuff I could've bought today, but I held back some. We'll go back in a couple of weeks when I have a cooler head. 

We go out in the mornings after studies around 11 (personal, comp and trainer study), came back around 1 for lunch and language study, and go back out around 3.  Then we come back at nine, have dinner, plan and that's the day.

This week has been cool though.  TONS of contacting cuz we opened a new area.  Lots of just talking to people.  Only a few lessons about the restoration.  That one lady, Magdelina, was like a golden investigator though.  We talked to her Saturday, she came to church, and now she's committed to baptism.  I needed that to see that I was actually doing something out here.  The houses round these parts are bigger, probably close to the size of one of our floors at home.  Maybe a little bigger.  Supposedly a poorer part of the country still.  Very peaceful most the time though.  Lots of music playing.  The streets seem relatively safe though.  It's cool.  

Emailing today has been hard on me. I'm doing my best to forget myself, but it's hard.  I'm sure it'll get easier as the weeks start flying by. I'll probably be writing around this time every week too btw.  Just to keep you informed.  Let me know how school starting this week goes and how all the children do in their new schools.  I wonder if my homesickness is just because I haven't emailed for so long.  I don't know.  We'll see if this next week is easier.  I only pray, hope and expect it will be.  

Right now I wish I would've spent a lot more time with you guys.  I miss you guys a ton.  I thumbwrestled a little kid and it made me realize I should've done that with Lydia when she didn't know what to play!  Tons of little regrets like that.  Also remember how I didn't like staying home for a night?  Ahh!  What I would give for a night like that now.  I'd give so much.  But what can you do?  Just count down the weeks one by one and not think about it.  I've started making a list of stuff to do like that when I get back.  It's helped some.
I like the daily thing better.  Maybe I'll do a paragraph on that in my journal or something along those lines. It would be cool to have a separate account of all the good things daily that happened though. I'll put some thought into this. (Easton had thought of writing something down that he liked every week. Shawn told him to write down something he liked every day.)

Thank you for all that advice.  I plan on printing that and using it to boost me through the week to come.  Weeks to come.  I've needed to talk/email someone who could give me advice like that all week.  (Shawn and Easton were able to email back and forth a few times. You could tell it lifted his spirits.)

That's all I got on my list!  Let me know if you want some more questions answered. I'm doing all I can out here.  I'll continue to work hard.  Wish me luck and be praying for me. I'll continue praying a lot.  It's one thing that I know does help a lot.

Love and Miss you TONS.  Think about the family constantly. Hope to talk/email to you this much next week again.  This has really helped put me at ease.

Love you siempre and mucho:) E. Potokar

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