I’ve recently come to the realization that I have less than four weeks left here. Coming with that idea is a grand mix of excitement and mourning, but I’m trying not to think about it too much because I don’t want to take away from what time I have left here. There have been three sunny days this week, which is apparently a miracle here. For some reason, we’ve had a really cloudy fall here; everyone who lives here is saying that it’s not common to have this much rain and so many cloudy days. It just makes me more grateful for the days that we do have sun; it’s so encouraging to feel the sun on my face.
Something that has given me great joy while being here has been teaching my Dominican mom, Denise how to say certain phrases in English. My sister, Katherine, is almost finished with her yearlong English class, so Denise always asks Kara and I how to tell Katherine to do things in English. She always wants to be reminded how to say “wash the dishes”, which ends up sounding like “wach da diches”. My personal favorite is when she says “Katherine, pay attention to me”. She always points with one finger and squints her eyes to look really mean, but she says “Kafreene, pen ten ten chu me”. I have spent so many nights laughing with her about her attempts to speak English, and we have plans for this Sunday to make videos of her English. I’ve tried to get her to let me record her before, but she refuses to do it until her hair is done, and she has makeup on and nice clothes. Love her J
I have had to keep myself in check this week about thinking about leaving. I’m realizing that something that I do when I know that relationships are going to come to an end is that i begin to pull away before I leave to make leaving easier and less painful. That is such an awful way to end such a beautiful semester. I have been reminding myself to be intentional with my family, with spending time with them and enjoying them while I can. I think that my pulling away is a defense mechanism that makes things hurt less when I have to leave, but it’s so unfair to my family and friends that I have made here. It has become a daily decision to spend time with people and keep making sure that I’m pouring into my relationships here as much as I can.
For a long weekend this weekend there are a group of Bethel and Taylor University professors here to check out what the program down here looks like for the semester students. Last night we had dinner with one of them at Paula’s house. It’s interesting to see the way that the teachers interact with Dominicans, because life and customs here have become so comfortable to us. It’s also interesting to see how they have interacted with our families as many of them don’t speak Spanish. It’s such a different experience because they can’t communicate and speak in order to build relationships, which is such a huge part of Dominican culture.
Last week I was able to find time with two of the teenage girls in my English class, Annerys and Patricia, to just talk to them about themselves. It was such a great time! Because we’re always in class and working on projects, I feel that we don’t get that much time to just sit and talk to each other. I was able to ask them about their families, school and their dreams. Annerys wants to be a singer/actress/model and Patricia wants to be an actress. It’s so sweet to hear about their dreams and how they plan on getting there. It was so nice to be able to talk to them without an agenda or a lesson behind it, just talking like friends.
Something that I’ve been thinking about as we’re preparing for Christmas parties in El Callejon next week is the idea of giving gifts. I’m only talking about it specifically in this context, because I think it’s a really different scenario. It’s hard to give gifts that the people know are from Americans, because there is such a stereotype that all Americans are rich, so I think the gifts are more expected than they are appreciated. We talked a lot before we came here about we, as Americans and part of their stereotype, need to be careful of how we give to people and the ways that we use our money in front of people who don’t have much. All of the gifts that we are giving to the 100 plus women and girls that come to class every week are the result of donations from America throughout the year, which is incredible. On Friday Caroline and I put together so many gift bags with toothbrushes, toothpaste and then a bunch of smaller age-appropriate gifts. It’s been a hard stereotype for me, as well as the long-term missionaries to overcome that we all have money, though it’s cool that people are starting to understand that we’re not here to give them material things, but rather to build relationships with them and spend time with them. Those are the kinds of gifts that we have brought to give; I am giving myself to these beautiful women, not just things bought on clearance in a store in the states.
Kind of following that, we read a book before we came here about how a lot of short term missions can actually be harmful to people rather than helpful. When a group of people go to a poor community for a week or two weeks, they do some good, but sometimes it can teach people learned helplessness, that if they let things go long enough, that eventually someone will come in and do it for them. Something that we have talked about a lot here with our ministry is that we should never do something for an individual that he or she could do for themselves. Think about that. We shouldn’t hand out money to someone who is able-bodied and capable of finding a job and providing for himself. That’s a hard thing for me to reconcile with when I see dirty children and clothes little better than rags. A much more valuable and lasting way to live is to pour into relationships with people, “teaching a man to fish”. This goes back to my idea that there is a poverty here of spirit that is much more pressing than a material poverty. There are deeper roots to material poverty, and throwing money or materials at people does not solve the problem over the long-term. Sorry if none of this makes sense, just some thoughts I’m having about whether or not I’m actually making any impact here.
On a closing note, if any of you were wondering, I have absolutely no regrets about climbing El Mogote last week, and I’m so glad that I pushed myself so hard to do something that i never thought would be physically possible for me. Now that the soreness is gone, I can really appreciate this view and look back at what an incredible experience it was: