Having actually lived in New York, I feel that I am someone who can legitimately wear the I heart NY t-shirt. I love New York so much that as I caught my first glimpse of the city I almost cried. I'm not sure why, exactly. There are so many different feelings and memories attached to that place. I was fortunate enough to serve in the best mission in the world. Other people might tell you there's was the best, but seriously, what can out do New York City?
I drove down to Philadelphia and caught the bus into New York. I was kind of hoping I'd be able to find someone to go with me, but who wants to go to NYC only to visit Harlem and the Bronx and spend time chatting with a bunch of Spanish people? No one living in PA really crosses my mind. So I was brave and headed in all by myself. The only part I was nervous about was actually getting into the city. I think the only intimidating thing about being in the actual city was being the only white person when I went up to Harlem and the Bronx. When you're a missionary with a companion it doesn't bother you that much, but when you're the only white girl on the entire bus or subway car you can feel people looking at you funny. I was just used to being looked at funny anywhere I went with the missionary tag.
It was so crazy to be in the city again, especially not as a missionary! I looked down at myself on the subway and realized I'd never worn jeans or been by myself the entire time I was in New York. I kept feeling like I should contact people. I would look around to see who I would have tried to contact.It was surprising to me the difference between being a missionary and being a "normal" person. For one thing, everything seemed dirtier than I even remembered. I think I must have just become desensitized. There seemed to be more graffiti and trash and just general filth in the Bronx than before. I found myself feeling very grateful for the blessed life I have. Seeing teenagers made me feel this way especially, because really, what kind of chance do they have at life when the grow up in that kind of environment? I also forgot just how hot it gets!
Ok, on to more interesting things like pictures. I could ramble on and on forever about the mission and my feelings being back in New York, but I will try to spare you, especially since I can't find an adequate way to put all my thoughts and emotions into words. I have to confess that I didn't take many pictures because I was slightly nervous about busting out my camera in the ghetto.
The first thing I did in New York was meet up with one of my greenies for lunch. It was really fun to see her again. She was my last companion and an amazing missionary. In some ways I feel like I was just with her, and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago. She only has 4 months left on her mission! Time goes by so fast.
After the sisters had shared a "message" with me I headed up to Harlem. I didn't have time to visit anyone there (hopefully I can do that on another trip), but I really just wanted to see the area again. A few things had changed, but it was mostly just how I remembered it. It was so weird to be walking the same streets as I had before, especially because I think of it so much. There were some days I thought I couldn't go on (from hunger, heat, fatigue, discouragement etc.) so it was kind of neat being there and realizing I had made it through and I've lived to tell the tale. I also got free coco helado (coconut ice cream) from a vendor we had kind of made friends with. I'm not sure if she remembered me specifically or just figured I must be one of the old sisters since I was white and spoke Spanish.
I took a bus ride through Harlem and headed over to the Bronx where I met up with Ruben, my last convert in the Bronx (technically he got baptized a week after I left). He was kind enough to escort me around the Bronx so I didn't have to do it alone. I probably would have been fine, but I think people were less likely to mess with me with him there (although we probably looked funny since he's Mexican and a good 6 inches shorter than me).
We headed over to the Ramirez family, who are my favorite family from the mission. They were amazing! Even though they're not active now, for various reasons, they still love me and my old companion. It was really nice to see them. Hermana Ramirez cooked me my favorite Dominican food.
They are the kindest, most generous people. I love them with all my heart and hope they find their way back to church.
My last stop was Fernando. He was an awesome convert who called for a Book of Mormon. His family loved us, but he was the only one who joined the church. He's a Dominican giant (most Hispanics are short, but not Fernando). He's a very sweet man.
He would always give us McDonald's chicken nuggets and a vanilla milkshake and yesterday was no exception. It started out kind of as a joke- they teased us about how Dominican's have all this great food and Americans have McDondalds. I was stuffed from the Ramirez's but I ate it anyway. It made me feel like a true missionary. It's a miracle I didn't gain more weight as a missionary! People were constantly giving us food.
The trip went really smoothly. I never got lost, mugged or hit on! The only hitch was my bus home was an hour late (at least I didn't miss it!) I didn't get home until 2 am though! Luckily church didn't start until 1. Oh, and I survived my first time teaching primary.
I feel so blessed that I was able to serve a mission. It was the best experience of my life. It was definitely hard, but infinitely worth it. I miss it all the time. I am so lucky that I got to go back and visit.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Some of my weekend plans ended up falling through so at the last minute I decided to take a trip down to Gettysburg. It ended up being about a 45 minute drive from my hotel, not too bad really. I have to admit that I didn't really know much about why Gettysburg was so famous so it made for a good learning experience. It was quite a sobering experience to really think about how much people sacrificed to unite our country. I am really grateful to those brave people and I take it for granted way too often.
I've decided that I'm not a huge museum person. I tried to be, but after half an hour or so, I get kind of bored. So I mostly watched the movies they had playing about the 3 different days of battle and the aftermath. I had never really considered the toll that battle had on the residence of Gettysburg. After the battle was over and the soldiers had moved on, the town was full of dead bodies, horses, damaged property etc. They said it took generations for it to return to normal.
After I saw the movies and went through the museum, I went on the driving tour that takes you around to the different sites of the battle. I'm not much of a picture taker, but in honor of my blog I snapped a couple of shots.
This is the actual town of Gettysburg. You can't tell from this picture, but the most distinct feature to me was a church steeple, which I thought was kind of appropriate.
This was an observation tower you could climb. It was really hot and humid, which made me not want to go up all those stairs, but the view was worth it.
All the states that fought in the battle have their own little monuments and then Pennsylvania's is HUGE (of course).
I had to get one picture to prove that I was actually there (even if it isn't a very flattering one).
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
So I wouldn't say I'm the artistic type, but I'm actually pretty pleased with how this mug I painted turned out. I've been to Color-Me-Mine several times before and always have had the problem of my piece not turning out quite the way I envisioned it in my mind. This time, to avoid that disappointment, I didn't envision the finished product at all and just kind of went with it. I should do that more often. In fact, maybe that's a good philosophy in life. I mean, how often does anyone's life turn out the way they envision?
You have to pardon my photography skills. The inside and bottom of the mug are the coolest part, and also the most difficult to capture.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
So my bravery paid off and the YSA trip to Kirtland was great. John Bytheway was the speaker which was entertaining, of course. I also went to my first real dance since being home from my mission (it's only been 9 months). The best part of the trip though was Sunday. Sunday we got to have sacrament meeting INSIDE the Kirtland temple in the very room where Christ, Moses, Elias etc. all appeared. It was so cool to be in the actual room looking at the very spot Jesus was. It really confirmed my testimony, because sitting there I didn't have any doubt that it really happened. Later that day we took a tour of the Newell K. Whitney store. It's actually a really neat place and a lot happened there. Joseph and Emma lived upstairs and the school of the prophets was in this small room up there (I couldn't imagine fitting all those men in it). Christ appeared there too. The store still has the original doorway, which is the same door where Joseph Smith walked in and said "Newell K. Whitney, thou art the man. You have prayed me here, what do you want with me," (or something like that).
I also became good friends with a girl named Brillante (said Bree-YAWN-teh, it's Spanish). She just got back from her mission a month ago so we had a lot in common. I feel bad for the people in the car with us because we were those annoying people who talk about their mission all the time. It was really fun to find someone I could totally connect with and relate to and who wouldn't get annoyed by talking about the mission. She's the one in the pictures with me.