Last Saturday, after our Thanksgiving weekend together I went with some friends to Santiago (a big city about an hour away) to just get away and hang out. It was so nice to be with some different people, because even though I love my group so much, I have been with the same 20 or so people for the past three months, so it was nice to have a change. We went to a mall, and it was so strange to be inside a place that felt so American. It wasn’t bad or uncomfortable; it just felt weird to be in a place where everything cost so much money. We went and saw a movie and went bowling, we did so much! It was fun to experience the Dominican with a different, smaller group of people and just be able to do what we wanted, not to follow a schedule or to get home by a certain time. Freedom, I miss that J
Last night, our group had a Christmas party together. Some of my family members will be glad to hear that I watched Holiday Inn and Elf and am planning on watching White Christmas this afternoon at a friend’s hose. I have successfully watched three of my favorite Christmas movies; I just have a couple to go when I get home. We made and decorated sugar cookies, listened to Christmas music, and had Pica Pollo for dinner (which isn’t Christmas-y at all, but it was delicious). I am getting so excited to come home and celebrate Christmas with my family. I can’t wait to get home and smell a Christmas tree, or see the snow (I’ll probably regret that comment really quickly). There is a “Christmas feeling” and I’m starting to have it. I’m also so excited that Christmas will provide a great way for me to see a lot of my family all at once. I’m praying that it won’t be difficult to have to make decisions about which families I have time to see, that’s the hardest thing about the holidays for me. I hope that it works out that everything is spread out enough that I can do it all. We’ll see I guess.
All of last week we worked on getting things ready for the weddings next week. There have been some difficulties that have come up with getting everything together with the marriage licenses. Each individual needs two things to get a marriage license: a birth certificate and their ID card. Some of the couples don’t possess both of these items, because they really have no use for them. We had to go to Santiago one day last week to get two people’s birth certificates because they didn’t have them for themselves. For another couple, the woman is under 18 so she needed to get special permission to get married, and it also cost more money. There have been a lot of legal complications with the couples, and I now have a better understanding of why people don’t get legally married here. It is difficult and expensive. They don’t believe that it is necessary anyways, so I understand why many people don’t bother. By Friday though, many of the problems started fixing themselves, with much work done by Daisy, and it looks like we should be able to have the weddings on schedule next week on Wednesday. I hope that they’re beautiful and that the couples have a wonderful time.
I have been making so much progress on the policy book that I am putting together for the social work center. I don’t remember how much I’ve written about it before, but Caroline and I are working on a resource book that topically gives some ideas and Bible verses about common problems in El Callejon. Some of our topics are adultery, gossip and parenting. The book isn’t meant to be something that a person can hand out to another as “self-help”, but it’s meant to be a resource to start a conversation and build a relationship. The book itself is almost 85 pages long and it should be an incredible tool for people working at the social work site to have. I will format it before I leave, but in the future, Caroline will also translate all of our work into Spanish so that Daisy and other Spanish speakers can use the resource as well.
I think that one of my biggest fears about leaving here is that I will look back and it will feel like it was all a dream. I want to look back on this experience with clarity, remembering lots of the small details and the little things that made me fall in love with this place. I hope that writing blogs every week and keeping a journal will help me to this end, but I know that it will be different. Because Dominican culture is so far removed from American culture, it’s so different that it will be hard to remember what it feels like to live here. I don’t know what kinds of things that I can do to remember with clarity my time here, but I’m hoping and praying that I will be able to. I don’t want this to be a trip I took once, but an experience that changes me forever, a turning point. I hope that it is.
The next time I write, I will have said goodbye to my family for the last time. I am kind of terrified of this, because it will probably be goodbye forever. I hate goodbyes more than anything, and it will be so much harder knowing that it’s so final. There’s a lot of anxiety for me about leaving too because my family has started to put the pressure on about staying in contact. Katherine and Denise have started asking me about how much I’m going to call them on the phone when I get back, and this week I am going to have to sit down with them and be realistic about the fact that it will not be very often, if at all. The hard thing is that my family had a student live with them last year, and they still talk to that student probably once a month. First of all, I don’t know if I will remember any Spanish by then, and I also can’t afford to call down here. It’s ridiculously expensive to call here. It’s not that I don’t want to stay in touch with my family; I just don’t know if it’s possible. There aren’t really good alternatives to calling either, there is no mail system and they can only get internet at an internet café or something like that. This is just a frustrating thing that I will have to deal with as it comes up, but I am not looking forward to having that conversation.
At this point, with one real week left here, I feel at peace about coming home. I feel like I’m ready and I’ve accomplished all that I felt that I needed to here. We have about 5 days of team time and debriefing here after we move out of our host homes and it will be so hard to say goodbye to everyone in our group. 7 of the 15 people from our group are from other schools, so I know that I won’t be able to see them very much, which is so hard. It’s so strange to think about something like this coming to an end, because it will never be the same again. There will never be the same group of people in the same place ever again in this life, that’s so sad to think about. I’m starting to mourn the fact that this trip is almost over, because I know that I can never truly revisit this experience.
However, I am so excited to come home for other reasons. I finally have all of my Christmas presents ready to bring back to the states. Graham, you were the tricky one, as always. Talking with friends and family and being able to start making plans for when I get home is so exciting. I think that being away for this long and on this type of trip has really strengthened some of my relationships, or at least made me value them so much more. One of the things I have really missed being here is just being able to be with friends who know me well; who I am completely comfortable with. I am looking forward to just being comfortable with the people around me, that and having carpeting under my feet J
This week ahead will be a lot of “last times” for me, but I am looking forward to coming home and reconnecting with everyone. Less than two weeks everyone, prepare yourselves!