Week 9 in the Dominican Republic and I'm still not black. I was hoping maybe I would be able to blend in a little better once I got a nice tan, but even with my relatively dark skin I'm still at gringo status. Most of the people here actually think that I'm Chinese. Maybe I should work on my accent more...
After months of delaying her baptism we finally baptized Yudelka. She failed her first interview but passed the second and was baptized shortly thereafter by my companion. After the baptism we usually continue to check up on our investigators to make sure they still endure to the end. Yudelka lives in a house the constantly smells like smoke which has us worried, but she understand the word of wisdom and appears to be living it. Oscar has recently begun to wear earrings which we had to explain to him were actually against the commandments. We had to do a little convincing to get him to believe us and take them off, but eventually he removed them and instead donned a corn-row style hairdo. We let him keep that one.
Our next prospective baptism is Santa, no relation to the Claus family. We have been working with Santa since we first contacted her at the beginning of my mission and her desire to be baptized is unparallelled compared to any of our past and current investigators. She has four children, three of which are eligible for baptism, and lives in a small apartment with her "husband". That's where we met a stumbling block, the man she lives with. They are not actually married, but once we explained to Santa about the Law of Chastity and how they would either have to get married or separate, she didn't hesitate to choose "divorce". She then recounted to us how this man is a drunkard and will waste all of their money on beer without saving any to feed the kids. He has often become violent with both her and the kids and when Santa expressed her desire for him to leave the house, he refused. At this time he is still living in the house against the will of his wife. Santa has attended church consistently since we met her, expresses an unprecedented amount of faith despite her situation, and has followed through on every commitment we leave with her. She can't read, has had 3 illegitimate husbands in the past, and has never been educated, but has greater faith than many people in better circumstances do and wishes she could restart her life and have an eternal, happy family. At the moment we can't do anything to amend her situation except wait for a miracle, but with her I don't think we will have to wait very long.
Last week I passed through my first Thanksgiving in the field. While they obviously don't celebrate it here, we weren't going to let a little distance stop us from celebrating this very American holiday. We decided to make pizza and brownies in keeping with the American spirit. The pizza turned out fantastic; the brownies were a disaster. Still, it was a nice little holiday away from home and a wonderful day to reflect on our marvelous opportunity to be missionaries. For dinner we bought cookies and milk, sat on the roof of our apartment building, and gazed out over the city of Santo Domingo under the starry night sky.
At the moment, we are struggling to find investigators who will progress far enough to attend church. The main problem is that during the Christmas season Dominicans are infamous for getting drunk on a daily basis. Very often we will call up our investigators and hear that they couldn't attend due to a "headache". That doesn't mean there aren't people out there to teach though. We have found one girl named Paula who is almost too good to be true and a man named Amilio who is very interested in our church. One of our previous investigators named Angie was progressing quickly and then suddenly dropped us, saying that she hated church and didn't want the lessons anymore. No amount of ice cream could cure that stab to the heart.
I'm four months into my mission and going strong. The adrenaline that I had from the initial culture and schedule shock has worn out, but I'm getting adjusted to the area and my Spanish is improving daily. At this rate I should be a genuine Dominican in no time. This weeks goals: speak fluent Spanish, get a deep, dark tan, and baptize the world.