Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Week Gone By! A smidge bit faster even!

(Emailed to Friends)
Wow. Another weeks gone by!  At some times I thought I'd never make it to P-day, and others just flew by!  Lots more happened this week, and I'm noticing more "interesting" parts of their culture every day.

First off, I've got to relate a terrible language story.  We were trying to commit this girl, Lisa, to a baptism date.  She's fifteen.  My comp kept telling me in English to do it.  I thought I should say something about baptism first before bluntly asking her, and I kept thinking I needed to ask.  I asked him in English if I should (which made it even more awkward), but he obviously didn't understand and just kept saying "baptism, baptism" I was like I know! But how!  Haha.  So thinking her mother was a member (she's not), I asked her if she remembers her Mom's baptism.  She obviously didn't because her Mom's never been baptized haha.  Super Awk. Eventually I got it out though and she's set to be baptized on the 18th of October.  This actually happened the week before, but I just barely remembered how ridiculous it was haha.

I met a guy who lived in Ogden for 3 years!  He played for the Raptors and is now playing down here. I only got to talk to him for like 30 seconds though.

One day, I decided it was about time I crack down on my studies.  I studied more diligently than usual, and that day the language just clicked.  It was awesome.  The end return of prays, fasts, and obedience are ridiculously quick on a mission.  It's absolutely amazing.

I got to try playing dominoes this week with the 3 other guys in my house.  It's pretty fun.  Not hard to play and you can finish a game pretty quick.  The Dominicans are crazy about it and tons of them are playing it everywhere in the street.

I got to try sugar cane this week too!  You bite it, chew it for a bit, and then spit it out.  It's super sweet, and super cheap.  I felt like I was chewing white, sweet, tobacco haha.  I'm sure that's just the image I'm supposed to portray as a missionary.

We also tried teaching Darlen (12) this week.  He really struggled to remember much throughout the lessons. He's going to take a lot of work, but does want to be baptized.  We need to figure out some kind of game or visual way to teach him.  Be more creative.

We have people bear their testimonies during our lessons A LOT.  It's really cool to see how their testimony becomes firmer week to week.

I got to try "bananas verdes" this week.  They were pretty good.  Like a different kind of bananas.

I also tried to make some chocolate cake this week, emphasis on the "try."  I did well with everything, but our oven doesn't have an exact temperature control (only a dial), so I had to guess where to set it at.  Unfortunately I guessed too high, and it was ridiculously dry haha.  It'll be better next week.  I think we'll make it something we do every Sunday.  Also tried waffles today, but we don't have nonstick spray.  Didn't work too well either.

We have fruit trees in our yard!  Mango, plantain, and green bananas.  Pretty spectacular.

I tried "rice con leche" or rice with milk this week.  Ahh.  It's to die for.  It's sweet, and warm and just absolutely lovely.  It's on my bucket list to learn how to make.  Wonderful.

The distribution of technology and quality of living here is strange.  Tons of smartphones like galaxies, iPhones, etc, but then they'll live in these ramshackle houses.  Or they'll have a really nice car.  I don't get how that works out.

We also taught a lady named "Marta Ojeda" this week.  She's another one who's been prepared to receive the gospel.  She's traveled all over the world and knows a ton.  As we taught her she kept making comments and stating her beliefs that were right in line with church doctrine.  Stuff about how addictive stuff is bad for you, asking questions like "where did we come from, what's our purpose here and where are we going?" and simply stating she's simply not happy right now.  So amazing.  She was sick as well.  I thought a day or two before, "I need to start carrying my oil around" and totally spaced it.  Elder Moncada said the same thing happened to him.  So we weren't able to give her a priesthood blessing.  I only pray that doesn't change anything in how her conversion is going to end up.

Also tried some fresh avocadoes this week.  Yumm.  Lots of new foods this week!  All super cheap too.  Usually under a dollar in US money.

Our investigator who's going to be baptized on September 20th, Magdelena, bore her testimony in sacrament meeting this week!  Definitely a highlight.  It's cool to think we helped her get to that point.

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day.  Right before it rained, the humidity was super low and it was decently cool.  Still probably like 75 80, if not higher, but it felt amazing.

Coke is super cheap here.  15 pesos (less than 50 cents) for half a liter 30 for 1.25 liters.  Cheaper than water haha.

There's also guys here who walk around with little coolers and sell otter pops.  I have yet to try one, but it's definitely on my bucket list.

I also had the thought this week, "Although I may not be all that happy (I'm just not enjoying myself yet.  Gotta give it more time to get used to it), the time I spend here will make me a hundredfold more happy after this life."  Just got to keep plugging along!

Love you all tons! Enjoy your weeks and school! E. Potokar.

(Emailed to Family)
I am doing better.  Still rocky all week, but slowly getting better.  I thought it was a good idea to look at some pictures and that just about killed me one day.  Sometimes I don't pray as much and those days are always harder.  I need to remember to pray lots even when I'm doing good. I wouldn't say I'm happy as of yet - that still comes and goes, although not coming as frequently as I'd like, but a little better.  Once again the ends of the weeks are hard.  Sunday was hard this week.  Church gives me a lot of thinking time, and no one was home after.  We just walked for like 6 hours.  It was rough. It's crazy.  Time seems to fly, yet crawl by at the same time.  Such a weird sensation.

That's weird to hear Nate's going through the same things. Not weird, but kind of comforting.  Makes me feel like I'm not doing any worse than anyone else.  I'm going to shoot him an email today. (Easton has a friend that went into the mission field on the same day as Easton and is also dealing with home sickness and culture shock.)

Did you get a letter from me this week?  I sent one with some gifts in it for your and Lydia's birthday.

Could you tell Steve thanks for the missionary comic book he gave me?  I've been reading it this week and it's hilarious!  What little of it Elder Moncada understands too, he finds funny.

I love the love for 6.  That's sweet. (Easton always had #6 on his uniforms. Ashley and Garrett both choose #6 for their number on their uniforms this year. Lydia wanted #6, because she is 6 and Easton likes #6, but they did not have it in her size so she had to get #5.)

Ahh,  I so wish I could play some soccer with Lydia and help her out!  I'm glad she was able to get into it.  She's so funny with those things sometimes.  I can just see her giggling when she hit that girl in the head.  And from the looks of that picture that's that morning hike I did with Erin!  It's really pretty.  I love it.

I heard total eclipse of the heart playing in the street and couldn't help but think of that parody we listened to like a jillion times.  It made me smile.  Sometimes memories make me really sad and sometimes they make me smile.  It's kind of a hit or miss type of thing.

The language kind of clicked a bit for me I believe it was on Tuesday.  That day I studied a bit harder.  I found myself speaking a little more complex sentences.  Still a LONG way to go though. Some days I'm more diligent in my studies than others.  This week has been better. Sunday I did take a nap through it though, because the cake took up a lot of it.  I figure it's good to get some rest some days, but not sure if that's actually correct or not.

On to the week.  Once again, please tell me if you have any questions I missed or anything like that.

Any idea how to grease a waffle iron without non-stick spray?  I tried it without it this morning and it just flopped.  Same thing goes for a cake pan. Haha I tried the oil thing with the paper towel this morning, but it was hard in a waffle iron.  They just stuck really bad.  A pic is being uploaded of it. I'm going to look into getting spray oil.  I think it'd be worth it.

An Elder in our apartment found tortillas somewhere.  Definitely on my bucket list.  Lots of foods.  We've kind of gotten into a routine of 6 or 7ish meals we rotate between.  I want to try to mix it up though.  We definitely need more breakfast foods.  How hard is French toast to cook? Any ideas on how to shred some cheese without a cheese shredder?  Or am I just going to have to buy one?

I tried to cook a cake this week. It was rough.  Definitely didn't work too well.  I attached pictures of my burnt masterpiece.  Also I just used some oil and dabbed it with a paper towel to grease the pan.  Elder Moncada also tried to cook jello yesterday and it was rough.  Ended up as a slushy haha.  I'm going to probably give it a go tomorrow.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm already enjoying cooking more.  I don't mind it by any means, except when I'm doing an unfair share of it.

Tortillas are on my list to look for this week.  They do not have refried beans, but we tend to make our own. So instead of refried their just fried I suppose.  An Elder bought some tortilla chips and snacks on them.  That's on the bucket list too.  I have yet to try any salsa either.

I haven't tried hash browns yet.  We had some frozen fries a couple of weeks ago.  I'll look into trying to make the hash browns.  That’s a great idea.  We can buy potatoes cheap too.  Skillet would be a great changeup.  I almost always cook breakfast too, cuz Moncada takes like an hour in the bathrooms if not more....

Yesterday we bought some pizza from a pizza store.  It was straight up cardboard pizza haha.  It was about the price of Little Caesars and there was a ton so no big deal though. I tried a Dasani Water called Toronja Bliss.  It was glorious.  Like a less bitter lemonade.  I wonder what a normal Toronja would taste like.  I really recommend looking up rice con leche or rice with milk.  It was incredible.  It would be a great dessert at a potluck or anytime.  I loved it.

I tried one of those picapollo places with Chinese people and the whole getup!   It was great.  Cracked me up haha.

Another thought.  Would you want to go back to your mission after I get home?  We could all go visit Missouri instead of the DR.  It'd be cheaper and I'm sure you'd love to go back.  Just a thought.

Sometimes it really stresses me out that I only get one shot at a mission.  I really don't want to screw it up!  I've go to keep the big picture though and realize I have a full 2 years, the little things I mess up on won't matter as much in the long run.

How many companions did you have on your mission?  How often did you have zone conferences? We have them weekly, although sometimes it's just district, but we're all in the same building.  Did you ever do zone activities on P-day?  Our P-days are being redone.  More of President Corbett's changes.  Not enough actual prep is being done on them.  He banned zone activities for now. I'm sure more changes are to come. I tried to do all my laundry today and we committed not to go shopping during the week.

Another crazy culture thing.  I guess it's OK to pee anywhere.  I've seen a couple guys just turn and take a pee while on the sidewalk still.  I don't really like that culture thing haha.

There's about 100 active in our ward. We met together for Priesthood this last week and he just argued the whole time.  No idea about what, but it was crazy.

Testimony meetings are exactly the same.  With kids giving testimonies and all.  Except there are less stories and more testimony.  I think it's cuz most people are recent converts so they know better what should be shared. The chapel is way nice.

Oh and it has rained quite a bit again this week.  I've put my umbrella to good use. Probably fifty percent of the time, and always towards the end of a week which stinks cuz we have some investigators who can't come to church when it rains...

This week we goofed off a little with some of the kids.  There's one house where this grandma aged woman takes care of all these neighborhood kids.  It's crazy there.  And there's like 3 dogs, a couple roosters, a hen and some chicklets and like 6 kids.  It's crazy.  I love going there because the kids crack me up.  So cute. They have a little girl who's probably over a year old who just waddles around and murmurs things. So cute.

There's tons of crazy little kids.  And not that I could think of.  Candies maybe?  (We asked if there was anything American we could send him to give the kids.) I was planning on buying some for myself, maybe I'll buy some for them too.  It'd be fun to just be giving candies to little kids haha.

We have 3 investigators come this week to church.  This week was Magdelena, Lisa and some lady who just showed up.  We had a couple people who were sick who were supposed to come too, and Peter didn’t' show either.  We'll have to change his baptism date from Sept 20 to Oct 18, I think.  Moncada said with some of his other comps and areas they had anywhere from 5 to 10 weekly usually.

Also finished Jesus the Christ this week!  Really amazing book.  I only read it during free time (mostly) and not study time so I feel better about it. Also found a perfect article about perfectionism and attached some pictures of it.  And an article about President Corbett.  Pretty cool stuff.


And I asked Elder Moncada  if we could plan parts for lessons beforehand.  I think that'll help.  I struggle in the small talk situations cuz I don't have much in common to talk about with these people it feels like!

Also splits didn't happen this week.  I believe I'll have splits with Kirk tomorrow so that'll help. We'll see how it goes! Transfers are in two weeks too, but I'm in training for another transfer.  My roommates may change though. President Corbitt is trying to crack down on how big groups of missionaries can be together.  I don't think we'll be able to meet as often as a zone anymore.  We still have zone/district reunion every Thursday.

We're going to the temple on Friday!  Woo!  We get to go twice a year, the month before General Conferences.

Yes! Turketo is in my zone. (He is from New Zealand.) He's way quiet.  Him, me and Kirk are the only guys who speak fluent English in our zone.  And there are two sisters and Moncada that are pretty good at it.  I heard you were emailing Kirk's mom too which is awesome.  Elder Kirk did call me and said if I need anything to just give him a call, even if it's just to hear some English.  I was really grateful for that.  Really good kid.

The pictures of the houses are by that baseball field I was telling you about.  Very humble.  Definitely the worst of our area.  The crazy thing is on the other side of the street are those huge nearly US sized houses.  The grassy picture is somewhere by those humble houses I took pictures at.  We were kind of exploring some and found that.  I wish I could send you some pictures of the more packed places, cuz that's the majority of my area.  It's a lot different from that pretty grass area.  I really do have the best of both worlds in this area. Both rich and poor.  Both fieldsy and city.

I'm going to print a map today and think I'll find a way to put it into my daily planner. I don't think I've ever felt gravely in danger.  Maybe because I'm too naive, but I don't know.  It does get sketchy when it gets dark.  It gets dark around 7 or 730ish so we have around an hour in the dark.

I also exercised a bit last night and this morning.  It felt great.  I really should've started doing that sooner.  It's going to definitely be a daily thing now. I weighed myself and I am back down to 165 today.  I went from about 160 to 175 in the MTC and 165 now.  I hope to hover around this weight, maybe a little lower, cuz this is about my weight when I'm active.  Hopefully I don't lose too much more. I believe I am in decent shape. I'm staying healthy.  I eat more than any of the Latinos haha.

Also we went shopping again today.  We went to a nutrition specialist for a free consultation.  Super weird, and most the stuff she said I thought was common sense.  But she took a pamphlet and sounded interested haha.  We also went to Payless for shoes. (WOW! It was his 1st time there, so he is not sure if it always looks like that.)

I really wish I had brought my old Nike indoor shoes.  Or that Adidas pair (brand new!) I have in my room.  They would be perfect to replace the ones with holes.  I'm going to watch out for some down here for cheap, cuz they play soccer a ton and I'd like some better shoes for it.  Oh well.  Another thing I can't find down here is key rings.  Not the kind with keys, but the kind you might use for like index cards or studying.  If you could slip some the next package whenever that's coming or an envelope that'd be great.  I need something to hold my Spanish flashcards together. Not a biggy if not though.

I haven't bought any towels as of yet.  I found an old t-shirt though and tried to use that.  I also bought a tile cleaner (closest thing to a multipurpose cleaner I could find), but it's just too caked on.  It's probably been there for YEARS.  I did defrost the freezer some and cleaned the counter and some stuff in the bathroom.  I need to find some towels and multipurpose cleaner though.  Any suggestions for getting the caked on stuff off?  There's also often little fly/gnat things flying around cuz of all the fruit.  Any suggestions for getting rid of those?  It's really gross.

Another really cool gift I may or may not be able to buy down here is a pan for baking cookies.  Elder Moncada said an Elder had it in another house and it was awesome.  I think they just bought the store bought dough and cooked it.  That'd be REALLY good. Protein powder is another thought, but not really necessary.

I also got to try some dates again!  It brought back our trip to California, I believe it was.  Super good. Also what did you put in shakes when we used to have them at home?  We have tons of smoothies, but I thought a chocolate shake of sorts would be really good.

Thanks for the super long email, I love those.  Thanks for keeping the blog updated too. I'm glad to hear you're all doing well. Think of you often.  Keep praying that I'll get the gift of tongues as well, because I could use it!

Love and miss you SO much, E. Potokar.

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