I’m sitting here in seat 31C, reflecting on the past week in a tired body, stinking clothing and skin in desperate need of exfoliation… but with an internal fuel tank that has been “topped off” by the good work that we did in the mission field and the love that was shown to us by everyone we helped.
Next trip, I am going to remember to bring more things for us to use in interacting with the kids… toy gliders, baseballs, tennis balls, balloons, bubbles, stickers, crayons and coloring books will be on my shopping and donation lists starting right away.
As I’m sure you can imagine, these trips are not all peaches and cream. I try to be realistic in my writing so people can understand the highs and lows of this kind of travel. For instance, while I’m scribbling the draft of this entry in my notebook, my American sensibilities are being assaulted by the gentleman across the aisle from me and his noisy sinus issues.
Also, there have been some minor incidents of people trying to take advantage of some of us by not giving us correct change…specifically, last night after our beautiful dinner in a Santo Domingo restaurant. I think it can be very easy for others to believe that a group of Americans (1) won’t pay attention to their bill and the amount of change they are given (2) won’t raise a fuss and/or ask for the correct change because it isn’t worth it or (3) are unable to do the correct math to convert pesos to dollars and back.
Unfortunately, both the restaurant staff and the cigar vendor tried their tricks with us in the same evening. They obviously didn’t know who they were dealing with! On the other hand, the nice taxi driver only charged us $10 to take 4 people about 20 minutes through the city. He came back at a later time and waited an hour (we didn’t know he was waiting for us) so that he could take us back to our hotel himself. Faith restored. Good people are everywhere.
I heard a story this week, and made a discovery that I want to share… as a warning to others traveling to other countries. On a past trip with students, it seems the Dominican security agents (females) were pulling the female students’ hair straighteners from their carry-ons and telling them they were not allowed to be taken through security and onto the plane. When Robin, the group leader, noticed this… she approached a male security agent who told her straighteners WERE allowed. Beware of security agents that may want items for themselves!
Also, when you see art or oil paintings in the resorts, in markets or in other local areas… be very skeptical about whether it was actually created by the person claiming to be the artist, wood carver or bracelet weaver. We were very disillusioned to learn this lesson the hard way this week when we saw the exact same oil painting that the students purchased from an artist in San Juan, available for sale in the airport, but signed by another artist.
On a more positive note, I wore my beautiful copper and leather travel bracelets 24/7 this week. While they were oxidizing they turned my skin green and I really wanted to take them off. I won’t, until we get home though – because we’ve had a safe trip so far and I don’t want to change our good fortune!
Despite my lack of time with my borrowed Rosetta Stone set, I found myself able to function in most situations with my limited Spanish vocabulary. I have to thank my 9th and 10th grade Spanish teacher, Senorita Chiaramonte (HHS in Medina, OH) for instilling the basics of the language and a half-way decent accent. Gracias!
At our debriefing this morning, we all shared the moments that touched each of us during this one week experience. Many of us had been here at least one time before, so we had different perspectives than the first-timers. Some of us shared about the graciousness of the Dominican people and how generous they were with their limited resources… bringing us beans and rice or a bag of mangos in the barrio clinics, or offering us their chairs during home visits to their critically ill family members. Others shared about Christianity and the power of prayer.
What struck me the most on this trip, as on past trips, was the very simple fact that we went to the D.R. to help others… to give them medicine, medical treatment, shoes, vitamins, attention and love. To VALIDATE them… and then something amazing happened. We realized (again) that THEY gave us more than WE gave them.
They taught us lessons about living in the very depths of poverty. They taught us that it is possible to be happy with what you have. They taught us about the importance of taking care of your belongings and using every resource to the max. They taught us about how valuable a sincere smile and a hug can really be.
They filled US up with love. They VALIDATED us. What a gift we have been given.