Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Will Use Love to Overcome this Dark World.

How do I even describe all of the things that happened this week? We spent a week travelling the island a little bit. We spent three nights in Santo Domingo, the capital, in a hostel in the colonial district. We visited a lot of museums and important historical sights while we were there. It was incredible to see and visit buildings that were 500 years old. Santo Domingo was an important place in the voyages of Christopher Columbus, and is home to the first Catholic cathedral in the “New World”. Although I wouldn’t call myself a history buff, it was really interesting to visit all of these places that were so full of history. Unlike a lot of American museums and historical sites, we were allowed to enter into most of the homes, forts and the cathedral. The history of the city was very accessible to the public, whereas in America I feel that museums are much more guarded.

We also visited a number of caves. We are studying a people group called “Los Tainos”, which were the indigenous people of Hispaniola before Columbus landed and colonies were established. Within about 25 years, the population of Tainos went from 400,000 to roughly 2,500. The caves that we visited were important because all of them had cave paintings from the Tainos. Most of the paintings were about 2,500 years old, and were very basic and crude. We questioned the authenticity of some of the paintings, because some of the lines were very dark or bold where others around them weren’t. It was interesting to think of us entering into another era and place where people had lived so long ago.

After we spent three days in Santo Domingo, we went to the northeast side of the island to a resort near Los Haitises, a national park. The resort that we stayed in was so gorgeous, probably the nicest and most interesting place I have ever stayed. They redirected a nearby river so that it feel through a series of pools on either side of the resort. The cool thing was that the pools were specifically shaped to be used as swimming pools with steps in and out of them and places to sit. The bottoms of the pools were kept clean and the crystal clear chilly water felt wonderful after the unbearably hot days. The first day we were there we took a 4km hike through the park and were able to climb through a cave. We had a guide who told us a lot about the history of the park and the wildlife that live there. We were able to taste coffee beans off the tree and the fruit that cocoa is made from. It was a really fun hike, and we were able to learn a lot as well. When we reached the end of our hike, a boat from the resort was waiting for us and drove us through the Bay of Samanรก to a place in walking distance from our hotel. The water was gorgeous! The next day when we were in the bay we saw a pod of dolphins swimming and we were able to kayak into the bay further.

We returned for the last night of our trip to Santo Domingo again where we went to a few more museums before leaving to come back to the base on Friday. It has been so good to be able to spend time and build relationships with more people that I am here with. We stayed awake a lot of nights learning ridiculous group games and doing life together. I learned to play the greatest game called silent football, and it can be counted on that I will bring it back to the states with me. So if you want to play and learn, just let me know. Building this fellowship and community never really happened until this past week because we spent all of our time together in class over the past 5 weeks. It has been incredible to build relationships with different people that I haven’t been able to in the past. There are so many good memories and funny jokes to remember for a long time.

Something that I thought was really fun about being in Santo Domingo was bartering. If I didn’t like the price of something I could just name a different price, and eventually we would land on some kind of agreement. I bought a hammock this week, though I don’t exactly know where I’m going to put it, and I was able to reduce the price of it by 200 pesos, which is about six dollars. It’s kind of fun to see that the girls in our group often got better deals on the same items, as well as the prices that different types of personalities were able to negotiate. Because Dominicans can tell from looking at me that I am an American, they would double or triple the price of something before selling it to me. Each time before I would buy something, I would “research” it at different vendors before buying it for a good price.

Dominicans assume that I am an American tourist with a lot of money to blow on cheap souvenirs. It was interesting to watch their reactions when they saw that I knew what it was talking about. Many people were also surprised that we spoke Spanish at all. All of this just makes me think that there are a large number of tourists who come to the Dominican Republic with no or little knowledge of its culture or customs. I feel good knowing that I am not one of those people who enter into life here ignorantly.

During this next week, we will stay at the base. A professor named Kent Eby is here for this week to teach us our ministry class. For the next couple of days we will have class for five or six hours each day to get some class time in for the semester. Later in the week we will go to Santiago to visit a museum about the Maribal sisters, and we will also visit a coffee factory. Something that I find interesting about Dominican history is that it is all very recent. From 1930 – 1961 there was a terrible dictator here named Trujillo. Although he brought economic stability to the country, he was also the cause of the deaths of many people who disagreed with him. This was a very turbulent time in Dominican history. It is interesting to me because this history is very recent for them. There are many people who are alive now that experienced the pain of Trujillo’s rule. We are going to a museum about the Maribal sisters (“In the Time of Butterflies” is a movie about their lives if anyone wants to watch it) next week. Our trip leaders told us that the fourth Maribal sister is still living and she spends a lot of her time at the museum, and there is a chance that we will be able to meet her. It is so different from the US because a lot of our very important history is far in the past for many of us, but here it is very recent.

One of the things that was very different while we were in Santo Domingo and Los Haitises is the way that we were identified and treated as Americans. While we are in Jarabacoa, we stick out as a minority, but we are treated as a novelty. People want to talk to us and get to know us. While we were in the capital, people saw us and assumed that we were Americans, but they simply viewed us as a huge dollar sign. People wanted to sell us stuff, and they wanted to make a lot of money. It was a very different experience to be treated as a tourist rather than a new person to get to know, it was kind of awful actually.

Something that I have been learning about a lot is strength. I think that because of certain things in my life growing up, there are certain parts of my life where I have become ultra-independent. An example of this is the way that I hate asking for help, I hate it more than anything. However, I have been reading in my Bible in II Samuel. The end of chapter 2 verse 9 says, “it is not by strength that one prevails.” This is just an interesting encouragement to me to stop trying to go it alone, or to be too independent, or prideful at times, to ask for help. There is such beauty in building community and relationships, I cause myself to miss out on this beauty when I tell myself that I can do it alone. It is a humbling and vulnerable thing to ask for help at times, and I think that is good for me. Vulnerability is difficult because I have been hurt a lot of times. I think a lot of people can relate to that, but my response to it has been to stop being vulnerable with anyone.

I am also learning about the way that my family growing up has shaped me into the person that I am. I have struggled a lot through my life with different emotions with my parent’s divorce and growing up in blended families. I can see now that I could have ended up very bitter and angry, but I think that my story has turned into something beautiful. I am so thankful that I have had my faith and a wonderful group of people to surround me as I grew up.

These are only two of the things that I am learning about myself while I’m here, and trust me, there’s a lot more. There is a song that has been really speaking to me through all of these changes. It’s called Hallow Eyes and it’s by a band called Take It Back!:

And now I realize
That all of this means nothing without action
I will not just sing
I refuse to just sing songs about how hard life can be
While others lead lives that are more difficult than I can imagine
I will be a source of light in this dark world
A catalyst in this stagnant generation
I will use love to overcome this world

Reading and listening to lyrics like this validate for me the reason why I am here. i will be honest in saying that one of the reasons that I am here is for self-transformation, but more importantly I am here to reach out. I want to impact or make a difference in someone’s life. Like the lyrics of this song, I don’t just want to talk about the injustices or tragedies that I see in this world, I want to go and do something to make a difference in the lives of those people. I don’t expect to end poverty or war, but I do plan to bring joy and light to people’s lives. Oh that I would make a difference..


  1. This blog, just got me so emotional. It was just so full of heart and joy, which reminded me why I love you so much.

    p.s. I want to learn how to play silent football when you get back.

  2. coffee factory?! awesome.
    3rd to last paragraph about your family is awesome. you're one of the most beautiful people i know.