Hey family! :D
It's so great to hear from you all! I love reading about the same week from 3 different perspectives.
MUM: Yes, I'm feeling much better and have eaten all of my biscuits, which were amazing!!!! I have also waterproofed both of my shoes, and as far as I can tell by splashing them in the bathroom sink, it's working well and I'm so relieved! I glad to hear that your RS lesson went well - and if anyone wants to know how I'm doing, you could always give them the address for my blog. I'm relieved to hear that you were all safe when that car spun off the road! I know that Heavenly Father was watching out for you, I pray for your safety every day. And yes, please let me know how the search for a place for Lori to live is going. I also think that she would enjoy having a roommate.
P.S. You're not a baby. I <3 U.
P.P.S. There is an Elder in my district who loves to quote Elf and it always makes me think of you.
JESSICA: Wow, time really does fly by fast. I can't believe that you have only 2 weeks left at SPG. Congratulations on all the responsibility there - going out with a bang :) I hope your towels and short get approved - it would be so cool to have something you designed in the stores! I told my roommates and they were all very impressed - they would also like to know what your giant painting is of. I'd also love you to send me one of the t-shirts if everything works out. I sorry I missed dinner at Chuck O Rama, I think I'll try that brownie thing some time... And about the toys for the kids, I think they would love them (especially the bouncy balls and the jumpy frogs)! Just hold off on sending anything for a bit: the temple is closed until I leave for the field in 2 weeks, so there won't be a lot of people around. I'll let you know when I get to my first area :)
DAD: The game at Rio Tinto stadium sounds fun - I haven't heard much about soccer here, people really only talk about baseball. And my Sundays? Pretty relaxed: no classes, sacrament meeting is in Spanish, but Sunday school and RS aren't. We also watch devotionals and have personal study for the rest of the day. Everyone's favorite part is Sunday Sundaes before we go to bed.
P.S. Tell President Castillo thank you for the letter. It was very thoughtful.
We went contacting at the university again this week. Hermana Nodal and I were more excited this time because we knew what to expect, or at least we thought that we did - but our experience this week was entirely different from the last. Last week we talked to many people for relatively short periods of time. It was an exhilarating feeling to flow continuously between people and groups and watch our bags gradually empty of their pamphlets. We left the university that day feeling quite accomplished. This week, however, we only talked to 4 people. We talked with two separate individuals for about 15-20 minutes each, and then we talked to a couple for nearly 40 minutes. As we got to know the people, I was struck by the sincerity and kindness of practically everyone we have talked with. They are all so willing - excited even - to talk with about anything and everything (from Jesus Christ to our favorite Dominican food).
This change of pace was not a goal we had when setting out, that was just the way it turned out. I'm not sure if it was because our conversation skills are improving or because the Lord placed these individuals in our path as an opportunity for us to learn and teach on a deeper level. Perhaps both. All I can say for sure is that, even though we finished with the majority of our pamphlets left, we felt just as accomplished and edified - maybe even more so.
Language progress is slow but sure, I think. A lot of our learning in self-directed now and the teachers are just here to clarify or expound upon a certain topic if we need them. Hermana Nodal and I are continuing to teach several "investigators," and we're still aiming to use less notes and include more scriptures and more questions to foster discussion. I suppose the biggest change, however, is in my personal study because I have started reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish... and it is going surprisingly well. With my newly formed - and growing - bank of gospel vocabulary and the help of contextual reasoning, I have found that I understand most everything (at least on a general level). I still have a long way to go, but I know that fluency doesn't happen overnight. I just have to remember the 4 P's: practice, perseverance, patience, and prayer. (And a note to myself for the times I feel frustrated: perfection is not on the list).
In other news, technically (and I say technically because it's not as impressive as it sounds), since I've arrived in the Dominican Republic, we've already experienced a hurricane and an earthquake. The hurricane, named Chantelle (sp?), happened last week and lost a lot of force before hitting Santo Domingo, so it was really just tumultuous skies, a LOT of rain, and some strong wind. We lost power on and off throughout the day and there was some minor flooding in some parts of the city, but that's about it. The Elders in my district were admittedly disappointed and have begun referring to it as Hurricane Bummer. The earthquake happened on Monday while we were sitting in class. It was a very low magnitude, not even enough to shake the clock hanging on the wall, and lasted less than a minute. Hermana Nodal turned to me and asked, "Do you feel that?" I nodded. Our teacher told us not to worry about it and that it was normal... then just kept teaching. So we shrugged and kept listening until the shaking stopped. Later that night - in an event that we've unanimously agreed was more exciting than the 2 natural [not-so] disasters: they served lasagna for dinner. It was the most American, least mysterious we’ve had in 4 weeks and people literally cheered.
I'd like to end with something that I realized recently. Before leaving on my mission, I thought I might find it difficult to go without many of the staples of modern life (TV/movies, internet, "normal" books/music). However, I only realized a few days ago that I hadn't been doing any of those things for a month - like I'd forgotten about them. And I don't feel like I've been missing out on anything. I think part of the reason is we're so busy all the time, and the other part is that we can have a lot of fun in other ways: we play a lot of games, tell stories, and I draw quite a bit. Mostly, however, those gaps in my daily life have been filled with spiritual learning. This lifestyle is completely different from what we are all used to, but it does not feel like it is missing anything. On the contrary, I feel like those who have never known the lifestyle of a missionary - in all its transcendent fullness - are the ones truly missing out.
All my love <3,