Hello world! These past few days have been so full and so incredible. I am still in awe of the fact that I live her e and I have a life here. I have been making so many more relationships with the people who live in El Callejon, there are always women greeting me by name and wanting to talk to me as I walk through town every day. It’s such an incredible feeling to be a part of something in this way and to be recognized by name, not just as the American who works with Daisy.
Next week is my last week of regular classes with the women at the social work site. I am excited to tackle next week and then have four days of Christmas parties with all of the classes. After that we’ll have two weeks to prepare for the weddings in El Callejon, which I am so excited about. Daisy and Caroline have been meeting with a number of couples about their interest in becoming legally married. It’s such a privilege for me to be able to see all of these different times at the social work center. I get to see their regular classes and be a part of their normal routine, but I also get to contribute to something really special in their community. I feel like it’s such an honor that I get to be here during this time.
For some reason, all of our classes this week were really crazy. I don’t know if the women are realizing that we’re getting close to the end of the year, but they were nuts! We started a new project with the women, a Christmas decorative pillow, and I think that all of the other classes might be kind of jealous of it, which is probably some of the problem. It’s so great to see the women get really excited about something that we are doing. This project is also a lot simpler than the ones that we have been working on finishing, so I am a little relieved for that.
As I think some of you know, the girl that I was working with named Rachel had to return home to the United States a few weeks early because of some medical problems. It has been such a different experience at my ministry site without her. I miss her dearly; it’s hard sometimes to know that I’m the only one there and that I don’t have another American to share my experience with. It’s been hard having her gone too, because for a lot of reasons, she was my sanity. It’s definitely been an adjustment going from expecting to be with a friend all semester to doing more things on my own. Daisy and Caroline have been so incredible with working with me and lessening the load of things that I do each week. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such incredible women who are committed into pouring into me as much as I am committed to pouring out to the women here.
Something that I’ve been thinking and praying about for when I get home is finding a church to go to. I’ve struggled for the past three or more years about finding a church that I like. I’ve been kind of disillusioned with church, church can be such a judgmental legalistic place, and I think I’ve been running from that judgment instead of honestly seeking a place where I can be comfortable. Another thought that I’ve been having is finding a way to serve my community weekly. I think that when I get back to school, I want to find a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or tutoring center where I can volunteer once a week. While I am at school, it is so easy to get caught up in my own life and my homework and grades and forget that there is a whole big world out there. It’s so easy to live in my safe little dorm room on my safe college campus and forget that I live in a community where people are hurting and don’t have places to sleep, food to eat, or parents or siblings to help them with their homework. Being in a country where there is so much need has opened my eyes to how selfish I can be when I am at school. Going to school is a great thing, don’t get me wrong. But I feel like I am called to so much more than that, and after having had this experience and living in the conditions that I have, I don’t think that I can go back to being so selfish. These are just some thoughts about changes that I think I need to make when I get back.
I’ve realized in the last few days that we really only have four full weeks left here. There are so many emotions that come with that idea. The one that hit me hard today is that I only have four weeks to finish all of the homework that I have, so that is why I’m alone at the base today, locked up in a room working hard. It’s so strange to know that this experience will come to an end, I have gotten so used to being here. The day that I have to say goodbye to this place will be a sad one, but I find joy in knowing that I will go home and be surrounded by people that love me so much. I’m so excited to see all of you!
One really fun thing that I did this week is that I climbed a mountain yesterday, literally. It is the highest peak near Jarabacoa, though I don’t know how many feet exactly. It took us 2 ½ hours to climb up and 2 ½ hours to climb down. It was muddy both ways, and I’m pretty sure I slid most of the way down instead of hiking it. I think it was the most physically demanding thing that I’ve done in a really long time, maybe because it was over such a long period of time. I climbed on Saturday, and as I write this on Sunday, most of the muscles in my body are sore. I hit my knee pretty hard on a rock so it’s a little swollen and bruised, but otherwise I made it. Overall, it was incredible! There is definitely a new meaning for me in the phrase “mountaintop experience”, because it was such hard work, but totally worth it in the end. I’ll probably have even better feelings about it when my body stops hurting every time I take a deep breath. At the top, I had another one of those moments where I couldn’t believe that I’m here and these are the kinds of things that I get to do on the weekends, I’m so blessed!