There have been so many changes in the weddings in El Callejon in the past week. As of right now, none of the three couples are legally married and a new date for the wedding celebrations is yet to be determined. I probably won’t be able to be at the weddings, and I am so disappointed about that. For any of you who want to read the next few paragraphs, I’ll let you know about the messed up governmental system here and the reasons why each of these three couples are having so much trouble getting married. A little bit of information, each couple needs a valid birth certificate and their “cedula” which is an identification card. When they go to sign their marriage license, they need two witnesses to be present to sign with them.
Tona and Cencio are a couple who have been living together as a couple for 18 years. They have four kids and have lived in El Callejon for a long time. To marry them, we needed to get valid birth certificates for each of them, because they can expire. We got Tona’s last week in Santiago, it only cost 6 dollars. Cencio’s birth certificate does not exist, his parents apparently did not register him with the government when he was an infant. We have visited at least 6 different government centers looking for a way to get his birth certificate and we finally found out on Friday that the only way to get a birth certificate for him would be to go to Santo Domingo and have them make him one for the first time. That’s where it stands with them right now.
Kathy and her boyfriend are a young couple who recently moved in together. Kathy is the daughter of Tona and Cencio and she is only seventeen years old. Because she is only 17, she doesn’t yet have her identification card, and she sent away to get one. However, doing this will take 2 months unless she goes to Santo Domingo to get her ID number before they send it to her. Another thing that she will have to do when she has her ID is that she will have to go with Cencio, her father, to Santiago to have him sign a document, approving her marriage as a minor. Kathy is waiting right now and that is where it stands with her and her boyfriend.
The third couple is an older couple named Sila and Jose. They have two grown sons together and have been living as a married couple for over 30 years. They are the couple that is the closest to actually being married. They have all of their paperwork and have done their interview with the lawyer. They went to sign their marriage license on Thursday but their witnesses couldn’t make it so they had others come and the lawyer would not let them sign for the marriage.
This whole experience with these weddings has been so exciting from the start, but there have also been so many let downs and disappointments in the midst of it. I am so excited that there are three couples from the community of El Callejon that desire to follow God’s will and be legally married. Daisy told me recently that two more couples have come to her recently and told her that they are interested in getting married as well. The work that we are doing with these weddings matters and it is making an impact on many people’s lives. We had a talk with one of the leaders at the base today and he encouraged Daisy and Caroline in the work that they are doing in El Callejon and the work with these weddings. It would be so easy for them to get so discouraged because nothing seems to be working out correctly. I think that it is important to remember that we are trying to change a cultural custom, and change that big does not come easily. These couples are living together without being married because that’s what their paretns did before them and it’s also what all of the other couples in the community are doing as well. Many of Dominicans do not understand why it is important to be legally married, and I also understand so well now that many of them don’t want to go through the hassle of getting married. The government here is obviously not interested in helping people be married. It costs 2,500 pesos to get married and only 300 to be divorced. I feel like I have learned so much from this wedding experience, about patience, about perseverance, and about disappointment.
Last night we celebrated my sister Katherine’s wedding. One wedding I was planning on having actually worked out! It was so incredible. It was white and a dark red, the decorations were all so gorgeous. Some of the ladies made fresh wildflower arrangements for each of the tables outside, and they made walls out of palm fronds. It was actually really tropical. While Katherine was walking down the aisle in the church at the ceremony, she had a microphone and seven or eight girls in front of her. As she was talking, she sent each girl to Julio, her husband, with a gift for their marriage. She sent things like love, happiness and her purity to Julio through the girls that walked down the aisle. It was such a beautiful visual of their hopes for marriage. I have so many beautiful pictures of the couple and the decorations, but no time to post them, so ask me if you want to see them J
It was so weird to say goodbye to my family and my friend Amy’s family while at the wedding. There were so many people there and not enough space. It was chaos. We missed out on having dinner and cake, but we were able to visit with a lot of people too. I was kind of glad that our last day was spent doing something, because it would have been awful to have just sat around the house all day waiting to say goodbye. It was difficult saying goodbye knowing that there is a good chance that I will never see those people again, but I also know that I have learned so much from them and have had such an incredible experience with them.
Our last week here will be full of team exercises and debriefing. We are going to stay at an all-inclusive resort on the north side of the island. Going to somewhere really nice where they treat us as tourists is part of letting go of our time here and to help us start thinking about American culture again. I am so excited for our excursion today, we are going to a place called 27 waterfalls, where we will hike and do a number of cliff jumps during the morning. I am looking forward to spending a lot of time with the group this week and just thinking about finishing up this experience well.
It is so difficult coming to the realization that this trip is 4 days from being over. I have been looking forward to it for so long, planning for it, saving for it and now experiencing it. There will be a huge hole in my heart after finishing out this experience. It has been incredible and I have learned so much. I have been so blessed by my time here, I’ve loved every minute of it, well almost every minute. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything and I would do it again if I had another chance. Being here makes me think about my future. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up doing something like this long term..