¡Hola familia y amigos!
Siete Oop is how my Nicaraguan friend pronounces 7Up. (In Spanish the letter "U" is the "oo" sound.) I believe I mentioned this in a previous email, but Pizza = Pixa and Pepsi = Pexi as well, haha.
Other random Spanish fact: there are two forms to express the word "you"--Usted (the formal version), and Tu (informal/personal). Here, they use a different version, the "vos" form. It's pretty much just like tu but maybe even a little bit more personal. I didn't pick up on it until recently, but now I hear it all of the time. Not allowed to use it (missionaries, ya know . . gotta use the more formal form), but there ya go.
So there was a huge earthquake two nights ago at 3 am. I'm a fairly light sleeper, and so at the start of the first few vibrations/tremors, I was awake. But then my bed started rocking back and forth and the fan fell down and I yelled out at Hna. G to wake up, because she sleeps like the dead. I don't know what my thoughts were. Not panic. Just kind of . . . "Well, we live on the 3rd floor of this poorly built apartment building. Do we just stay here? Run outside? Jump out of the window and scream?" Just as I was considering bolting for the door, the earthquake stopped. And then all of the dogs in Leon went crazy and everyone's lights came on and we got a bunch of text messages asking if we were okay. Which we were. Hna. G fell asleep five minutes after, in fact, and didn't wake up for the second round of earthquake at 4 am, haha. I had a hard time falling asleep after everything went down, just because we're in Central America and happen to live between several very active volcanoes, which an earthquake could easily set off. But, nothing happened, and my alarm went off at 5:30 and it was time to get up and study (our mission Pres. changed our schedule to 5:30 temporarily until every companionship in the Zone finds a new family to bring to church. It's not too bad, I'm just always tired.).
Also, and I have now idea how, but the pigeons have someone found a way to sneak into our house. It was a weird moment this morning. Stumble out of my room on the way to the bathroom, notice the pigeon that is casually perching on my desk, just chillin' . . . process the fact that there is actually a pigeon sitting on my desk . . . pause, stare it down, and it flies away somewhere in the ceiling. Still serious about the Nerf gun. Someone send me one.
Not phased by cockroaches anymore. Or the gecko that lives in the hole under our light switch. Or the colony of termites in my pencil case or ants on my bed. My life is kind of like the scene in the movie "Enchanted" when Amy Adams sings and all of the pigeons and cockroaches and mice flock to her house and help her clean..except mine don't sing, they just pester my life. Maybe I'll try singing to them.
Two main things I want to write about in this email: an artist and a doctor.
First, the artist. His name is Silvio, and he is one of my favorite people that I've had the privilege of meeting here. How to describe him.. He's probably in his 50s but his hair is jet black and he has an Italian-Mario-style mustache and dark, wide set eyes, which never seem to quite be focused on anything and give him the appearance that he's always staring off into space, even when he's listening intently. He has a thin, wiry build and a delicately shaped face and pointed chin, and is almost never wearing a shirt. He makes papier-mache for a living, and his house/workshop consists of shelves upon shelves filled with mini Gigatonas (little Spanish dolls) he's made, masks with various expressions and shapes (men, women, zebras, you name it) ranging from life-size to small enough to fit into the palm of my hand. His table is littered with newspaper scraps and paint brushes and Gerber baby food jars filled with different paint colors, and bowls brimming with various glues and adhesives and models covered in plastic bags to use for the masks he makes. Everything about him is just . . .free. He's a free spirit who loves what he does for a living. Everything he makes is made with meticulous care, and he knows the history behind every new design he creates. He's never set foot in a Church in his life but he reads the Bible frequently and prays daily. He studied theater in Cuba for 3 years, which is always apparent from his theatrical renditions of the scriptures we have him read. He likes theology and philosophy and is really smart, and likes to speculate about things and discuss and dissect them in detail. He writes and sings his own songs, too, and has randomly broken out in song for us a few times. I've never taught or met anyone like him. He's interested in learning about the Church, but the approach of teaching is completely different that anyone other lesson I've taught. He's the type of person who seems to just know who you are by looking at you.
After meeting with him a few time, he told me that I have "ojos clinicas," or perceiving/clinical eyes, and that when I look at someone, I can actually see them for them, see beneath the surface and understand them more. He asked me what I see in him . . . and afterwards told me that he normally doesn't invite people into his home whom he doesn't know, especially "religious" people on the prowl to indoctrinate anyone who will listen. But that's not why we're here, and he can see that. He told me that the eyes are the windows of the soul, the hardest part for him to paint as well as his favorite part, and that mine have a "brilla" or a glow/sparkle. It was one of those moments when two people connect on a level beyond the superficial. I don't know, I can't describe it. I just feel like Silvio was put into my path for a reason.
Now, as to the doctor. Javier is Nady's husband (Nady being the lovely girl who read the Book of Mormon in two weeks), and we had an experience with him that was one of the most powerful on my mission. I've told you that he's brilliant, and he is. But he's not closed off or conceited or "too smart" for God. He and is wife are just . . .ready. It's Roger all over again, but this time in the form of a family. So, we stopped by to talk with Javier and Nady Saturday, and walking into the door, I really had no idea what we should teach. We had a few things prepared, but in the moment, none of them felt right to share. It was cool to see the Spirit take over and teach for us. We had less than a set "lesson," I think we mostly ended up talking about the power of prayer and the things we need to do in this life to be able to stay with our families for eternity, but it was a lesson I will never forget. I didn't premeditate, I just opened my mouth. We had been talking about prayer and family and other things, when I felt the prompting come into my mind, "Ask him to obey the Word of Wisdom." It was one of those, "Well..that would be completely random and off-subject, but sure!" moments. And I was so struck by the results. I asked him, "Javier, what would you do to be able to keep Nady for all of eternity?" He made some joke about designing some mechanical contraption to keep them together. "And if Jesus Christ was in this room, and he asked you to something to be able to do that, you would do it, right?" "Yes. Anything." And then I asked him if he would give up smoking. We had only talked briefly with Nady over Javier's smoking habit, and she says she hates it, but understands why he does it. The man works constantly and never sleeps, and nicotine is often the only thing that keeps him going. That or coffee. (For those who are unfamiliar with the Word of Wisdom, we don't smoke or drink alcohol, tea, or coffee.) Giving up two at once would be a sacrifice. But the commandment stands as it is, and I felt that I should ask him to live it. There were a few cigarette butts on the floor, and everyone went silent. He was quiet for a moment, and then told Nady to go get his box of cigarettes. He took the box from her, looked at it for a second, and then smashed it together in his hands, crushing the contents of the box. He tossed it to the ground. "I have been blessed with a really strong will-power, and I don't have any addictions. I will never smoke every again." And that was that. That simple, uncompromising act of faith meant the world to me. I almost cried, as silly as that is. I just know that they will be baptized. I just know.
I have been so incredibly blessed to find people to teach who can and will be leaders in the Church, who have been prepared to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Roger is now the President of Institute, passes the sacrament every week, and is planning on serving a mission. Adalberto has been inviting his friends to Church. Luis goes on splits with the Elders all of the time, and Hugo and his family were at Church this Sunday. We have five people in Church this Sunday, actually, for the first time in weeks. Maybe I'm not baptizing quite as much as other missionaries, but I would rather baptize people who are truly converted than a ton of people who will eventually fall away. There's a balance, I suppose, but those are my thoughts on the matter.
Anyway. I know that I have been put here in Leon, Nicaragua for a reason, and I love this opportunity. I completed 6 months in the mission today, unbelievably. Aahhh . . . what is happening to the time??
Les quiero mucho!
<3 Hermana Behan