It’s so strange to know that I am writing this on my last day here. I can’t believe this semester flew by so fast. This was one of the best experiences of my life and it’s hard to take in the fact that it’s over. We spent two days this weekend at an all-inclusive resort on the north side of the island. The way that our leaders talked about it made me think that I was going to hate it and have a really bad attitude about the other people staying there and the resort itself. I think because I was expecting to feel that way, I didn’t. I wouldn’t want to stay at a resort like that for a vacation, but I have a feeling that it will be the only down time I will have for a while, so I took it in anyways. People said we might struggle with things like the idea of wasted food, living in excess and general rudeness of people, but I think I expected that so it didn’t get to me when it actually happened. I hope that my attitude will be that good when I get back to the US.
Yesterday night we had some time where we were able to say goodbye to the other members of our team. Before we did it, I thought it was so weird to be saying goodbye to people that I would still be with for two days and people that I hope to see all the time at school next semester. After having that time though, I see the purpose. After having such an incredible experience with a group of people, I think it is important to be intentional about telling them the things you have enjoyed about them or the ways that they have impacted you. I am terrible at goodbyes and I hate them more than anything, but I think having that time will provide a good feeling of closure for me on this part of my experience. It was so great to have a space where I was able to tell people what I love about them and how they’ve affected me. I wasn’t sad about that yet, though I’m sure that time will absolutely come.
Yesterday night we had some time to say goodbye to the other people on our team. At first I thought it would be really weird to say goodbye to everyone two days before we actually left, but it ended up being so good. I think that I was intentional with people in a way that I wouldn’t have been had we not had specific time for it. One of the hardest parts for me about realizing that this experience is over is that I know that I will never be the same again. I will never return to this place and be with the same group of people again ever in my life. I feel so sad about that. I feel like there is going to be a avoid in me when I leave this place because I have been looking forward to this trip for so long, and I have been living it for the past four months. There will be such loss when this is all over.
One of my opinions that has changed dramatically since coming here is my view on poverty. I know I’ve blogged about this before, but I still feel that it has been so important in my experience here. I feel that since I’ve worked in an impoverished neighborhood, and by some standards, lived in poverty myself, that my opinion about poverty was bound to change. Instead of pitying people who live lives with less money, I’ve exchanged that for feelings of compassion. Pity requires an attitude of superiority or judgment and having lived and worked with people in that life has shown me that they are not lacking in so many ways. They still eat, sleep and work just like we do. They have incredible relationships and other things that they experience so much more richly than we do in American culture. The people that I’ve known here who live on much less seem so much happier than a lot of people I know who make significantly more money. There is something so profound in that.
The community of El Callejon has taught me so much about community as well. I’ve realized that we don’t have community in the states like they have here. People here would drop anything to help a friend out. If someone doesn’t get paid until Friday but needs dinner on Wednesday, people open their homes and kitchens to one another. Granted there are some negatives to this kind of community, like everyone knowing your dirt, I still think there is so much to be learned from this community style of living. I hope that when I come home I will incorporate some of these ideas into my friendships and the community that I have at school.
One last thing that I have been thinking a lot about lately especially in light of the fact that I’m going home right before Christmas, is the difference between need and want. I’ve learned a lot about what I actually need to live on while being here, and it is so much less than what we would call “comfortable” in the US. I only actually need two pairs of jeans, or a few pairs of shoes. We are so accustomed to living in excess in the US, even with things like food, electricity and water. Just something to think about..
It’s hard to finish up a blog about an experience as large and influential in my life as this one. I think this will be my last blog on here, at least until I take my next grand adventure. This experience has been one of the best that I have ever experienced in my life. I have learned so much about myself, my family, poverty, community and God. I hope that when I look back, I can see that this was a turning point in my life, that I was forever changed by this experience.
Peace and love from the Dominican Republic for the last time.