Sunday, May 29, 2016

Transfer Time

I imagine that, with the recent transfer calls, all of you will be saying goodbye to an area or a companion. You've been on my mind a lot this week. I'm wishing you all the best and anxious to know where you are and who you're with. So don't forget to tell me... I have no other way of knowing. ;) (real life probs)
The boring/life stuff this week was a trip to the DMV on my mom's birthday (Lame but necessary), a minor moving violation (18 months out of practice didn't help my already awful driving skills), and the set up for an interview at a law office on Tuesday (wish me luck in a "grown-up" job... most likely filing).

You're all in Spain so you probably didn't notice, but tomorrow (Monday) is Memorial day. It's a day most people have off of work, one  of the few national holidays we have (Spain has bastante). I came up to Utah for my cousin's homecoming (he served in Peru) and (because 90% of all El Faro missionaries seem to live in Utah) took advantage of the shortened distance to see some missionary friends.

On Friday I met with Hermanas Eyring, Bastidas, and Fenn. We talked about Spain, about the mission, about life, and got into a really long and detailed dating story (you can guess that it WASN'T mine). The mission has helped me make life-long friends.
Saturday I met up with an old roommate, watched my first movie in a theater since I left, and VISITED THE PACES.
They send their love to the mission and it's missionaries. They are still the sweetest/most Christlike people out there and seeing President Pace with his grandkids was enough to melt my heart! It was a long time coming, but that "Welcome home" hug was well worth it all. He showed me their mission reports for the years that I was there with them, and I got a peek at the old noticias (seeing my name or miracle) and then he shared with me a his notes from their last concilio- when every Sister Training Leader and Zone Leader stood and bore their testimony. That June day (almost a year ago now) I said something like "The gospel is more than just 'interesting.' (you know how people say that in the streets "interestante" in response to our testimony). The Restoration is the most important truth that this world has ever known."
I knew that was true then. I know that it's true now. What other truth can rival it? It's the beginning of hope for our day and the pathway to our future. It's a life and eternity changing. And it's worth every effort to share. Always remember that.

This Sunday night I was able to talk with my trainer, Hermana Manwill (now Vanessa Dayes), for the first time in, well... forever. I've been home a month now, so... around 16-17 months. It was so nice to catch up.

The friendships you make there will be a benefit and blessing to you for the rest of your lives. So keep meeting new people, share your special quirks and talents, and remember that YOU can make a difference.
I'll wrap up this weekly pep talk with a couple of pictures and just want you to know that I'm thinking of and praying for you all!

Alayna Een.

The last one is a chess set my cousin Michael brought back. Spaniard royalty vs. Peruvians. History says I win! ;)

Monday, May 23, 2016

More Stuff

I'm getting REALLY creative with my titles...

Hello Hermanas. 
Fun week!
We made a girls trip and went to three California temples/beaches (but spent WAY more time at the temples than the beaches #RMprobs #stillwhite #fairestofthemall), a broadway show (the Newsies), and an incredible homemade icecream sandwich place (definitely worth mentioning). So your names and the names of my various past investigators/converts are scattered around different parts of Southern California. It was fun to be in a place that was partially settled by/discovered by Spanish conquistadors! We stopped of at a lighthouse (El Faro forever!) didn't have ANY car problems (a straight up MIRACLE for my family, with our track record), stayed in military hotel (connections are cool), and watched the Incredibles (YES. it's as good as I remember it. YES I know it mostly by heart and my excessive quoting of it #sorrynotsorry was mostly accurate). 
It was a fun little escape and then we came back to family life, work stuff (for the first time in a year and a half, I smell like chlorine again), and the like. 
I bit the bullet and went to the YSA ward today. It was... I mean... fine. Except for the fact that there were so many disgusting COUPLES everywhere. I thought that the Singles ward was a sad place for the lost and lonely not a crazy dating machine. And due to my recently self-diagnosed "Post-mission romantic gag-reflex" (it's a real thing!) I didn't quite enjoy it. But then I was asked last-minute to talk in the mission prep class and the teacher cited part of my "What the Lord has Taught me" which I had emailed him after my report to the high council. People REALLY listen to RMs. 
I've been home almost a month now. There are some things I've done well. There are some ways I've fallen short (I haven't written in my journal ONCE!). I'll continue to do and be better and invite you to do the same.

Food for thought:
In the lighthouse there was a quote that I really liked, said by George Bernard Shaw (who is somehow famous)
"I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve."

Cute, right? And as missionaries, that's true of you as well. You've left it all behind and rebuilt yourselves as servants of the Lord. You're there to help others. You teach, lead, and guide lost souls. You are the self-less saviors of those Spaniards! 
Let the lower lights be burning.
You are in my heart and prayers. Have an incredible week!
Con amor,
Hermana Alayna Een

Monday, May 16, 2016

Return and Report

Return: Go back to previously inhabited place or time
Report: give updates

A little bit of info on the week, and tips for those of you still in the field.
This week I've watched a lot of Marvel movies, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. Tip for the future: You don't have to catch up with two years of cinema in a week. Or... ever. Disney movies, however, deserve to be caught up on.
We watched Star Wars:The Force Awakens which was quickly followed by the unfilmed but inevitable sequal, "The Alayna asleepens."
Working on the work situation and other boring life stuff.
Talking with the Relief Society was really neat. They had a sister preparing to serve speak, the current missionaries speak, me, and then Skyped in a missionary who had gone home from our ward with health challenges. It was really interesting to see the different levels of spiritual power that accompanied them all. I've decided that the RMs have an Avengers-worthy super power. You give me a word, ANY word, and I will SHOW you how the root of that word... can be related to a true principle of the gospel, of which I will then testify, give a scripture reference, show you a mormon message for, and refer you to the local missionaries for more information. BAM. Power. 

I gave my homecoming talk this weekend. It was funny to reflect on my Farewell as I gave my Homecoming and see the things that have and haven't changed.
1) Talking style- In my Farewell, I spent a full day writing a concise and perfectly scripted one-page talk, stood up and gave that talk.
In my Homecoming, I basically re-gave my "Lo que el Señor me ha enseñado" with mission experiences tossed in for flavor and the most "preparation" I did for the talk was spending the past 18 months as a missionary (which, to be fair, is quite a bit of prep!).  
2) Follow-up speakers: In my Farewell Sister Ballard spoke after me (and was a bit shocked I didn't talk longer). In my Homecoming, Bishop Ballard (her husband) spoke after me (and had a rather short talk). 
3) The color orange: That was a given. Everyone in my family wore it. Even Bishop Ballard went home after a meeting to change into an orange tie for the occasion. 
4) Photos with a Spanish Flag: We took them with people before I left, we took them with people today. My hair is longer and my face is a little thinner but everyone else seems to look about the same. 
5) Paella and Spanish food: Of course, for my farewell party we didn't actually know what paella was supposed to be like so it was nowhere NEAR authentic. Yesterday I slaved over tortilla de patata to varying degrees of success and my mom bought out the "taste of Spain" special in Smiths. 
6) Family musical numbers: We make the Sound of Music seem lame. Last time EFY medley, this time our good old mission song.

Anyway, it went a lot better than I thought it would, thanks to the spirit, and there were many improvements. 
I've communicated with some recent converts and investigators and members from Spain. I had a missed call from Manuela (CR, best recent convert on this side of the veil) and she said it was really important so I freaked out all night until she woke me up with a phone call the next morning just to say..."Thank you for teaching me, thank you for loving me, I love the gospel and I have a testimony. Have a nice day." It was really sweet. Almost gave me a heart-attack at first, but really sweet in the end.

No boys to report on other than the freakishly tall one I call my brother. I haven't made it to the singles ward yet but I'll get there eventually. I went to do baptisms and things with my family the other day and saw more baptisms in 30 minutes than I did in my entire mission. What a funny thing missionary work is. What a pleasure it is to do it in whatever form.

Food for thought:
You can only teach the teachable, but you can testify to everyone.
The best measure of success at the end of a day is if you can sing "Have I Done any Good in the World Today" from the top of your lungs and with all of your heart. (Preference to the Alex Boye one)
The gospel is a gospel of constant progression. There are always ways you can improve, repent, and be better. Find one.

We'll be doing a girls temple trip in California this week (trying to hit as many temples as we do beaches), so I've got that to look forward to.
Love and prayers being sent your way! Hope you have a great week!
-Hermana Alayna Een
A random non-member sent me flowers, so that's nice...?

Monday, May 2, 2016

After the (Spanish) Sky

Sky: A thing that airplanes fly through
Spain: An incredible European country, with half of my heart scattered around in it.
First sighting on the escalator by the lady who had also come from Barcelona--and choreographed "High School Musical"
 Understandably, a lot has happened in this last week y pico. I spent my last time in my area and with my companion. I did my last intercambio. We had our Talent show which turned out better than expected. Saturday night was transfer calls, and although it didn't really matter to me (I already know where I'm going) it was an exciting experience. As a missionary leader, and even more so as a member of El Faro, one of the greatest responsibilities as you end missionary service is metaphorically "passing the torch." Sometimes it's more literal. My companion, Hermana Arauco was called to be (and sort-of replace me as) a Sister Training Leader. I also found out that Hermana Manotas (mi hija) was called to the same position and also to train the new missionary. It was a great way to see the legacy continue with the the people that I love.
Last intercambio with Hermana Martinez

I had my exit interview with President Dayton (which included a longer talk on marriage and dating than I was banking for) and then was free to visit my old area of Barcelona. And so I did. I was able to visit with Willy, who was wandering a bit on that straight and narrow path we'd shown him. I went with sweet Norma (Best Spanish member ever) and shared Alma 5:26, and now he's dedicated to start again.

Willy and his family, in my Barcelona visit.
Dear sweet Norma. She's a missionary, just without the chapa. And so in an unplanned moment... I gave her mine. 

I also met with sweet Edy, ate gelato, reminisced, and caught up. On the last day I was able to stay with Hermana Manotas and O'Neill (a good friend going home with me) and catch up with whatever missionaries wandered through the Barce Sans Train Station.

Barcelona, Valencia, Lleida. Hermanas Een, Manotas, and O'Neill

And then I came home. I wasn't alone on the flights because of two facts

1) Missionaries contact people: I talked with the sweet lady sitting next to me on my long flight.
2) Members contact missionaries: Almost the moment we sat down by our gate, different groups of member came and talked to us- congratulating us on our service and asking about our return, and one of them stayed with me through my connecting flights and on into Las Vegas.
The Daytons on my last night
A last goodbye to Hermana Arauco
A last goodbye to Hermana Randall

Farewell at the mission home, which felt like mine

Saying goodbye at the gate, homeward bound!

The Barcelona sidewalk, my holy ground
It was quite the trip, and I was blessed along the way with understanding customs officers, perfectly timed flights, and so on.

The little brother that grew . . . and note the broken shoe strap.

And so I came home. It was a sweet reunion. I was released as a missionary. It was a little sad and a little strange, but it was also time.

Meeting with President Gutierrez to be released.

I've spent time with my new niece who is now old enough to waddle around and say words. I've gone to the temple, a wedding reception, a swim meet, a YSA devotional, church in English, and I've watched my first movie (Cinderella).

First temple trip as an RM

At David's swim meet, he cut 10 seconds of his backstroke and qualified for regionals, also bettered his time on the IM.
 Although I miss being a missionary and still slip in silly little ways while I'm continuing to adjust (I still call everyone "Hermana" and have to awkwardly translate little phrases to Spanish, and let's not talk about how many times I've almost awkwardly besoed someone or had to tell myself it's ok to hug guys), it really is good to be home.
The best way to describe this feeling, a heart torn between two good worlds, is said by a dear friend, Jack (from the musical, Into the Woods).

"When you're way up high, and you look below
At the world you've left and the things you know,
Little more than a glance is enough to show
You just how small you are.
When you're way up high
And you're on your own
In a world like none
That you've ever known,
Where the sky is lead
And the earth is stone,
You're free, to do
Whatever pleases you, (ok, not exactly, whitehandbook. Conversely, agency.)
Exploring things you'd never dare..." (Going to Spain, the mission, the untold adventures that follow)
(Then someday you go home and...)
"The roof, the house, and your Mother at the door.
The roof, the house and the world you never thought to explore.
And you think of all of the things you've seen,
And you wish that you could live in between,
And you're back again,
Only different than before,
After the sky."

Thanks for coming along on the journey,
Love you all!
(No-longer-Hermana) Alayna Een


Oh ye who labor planting seeds... in the month since I've come home.