Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tune Tuesday: moxie's favorite song

My dog and I regularly have dance parties.  Well, really I just often dance around in my house.  I can't help it.  I have joy in my heart and it comes out through my feet.  Moxie has discovered these dance parties are a lot of fun for her as well and she'll often put her feet on me and dance right along.  Or she stands back and wags her tails and barks.  She's a goof.

I have recently gotten "insongnia" for the song Stay the Night by Zed.  We've listened to it probably a dozen times in the last week.  Moxie really only likes it (read as - I think it's funny when) I change the lyrics to "Moxie please stay the night.  I'm sorry but we're joined for life.  Oh oh oh so you're going to stay the night".

Sorry folks - we don't do audiences.  I'd be heartbroken too if I were you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The wonder of Club A

I brag about my five closest girlfriends fairly regularly on here but I was praying for them this morning and felt like I needed to really make a point about how amazing my friend Club A is.  She and her husband are making some pretty incredible decisions right now.  They are life changing for them and for others and I think they are amazing for doing it.  She is caring and gracious.  Beautiful inside and out.  Hard working and committed.  Sacrificial and selfless.  She is a wonderful friend, daughter, aunt, in-law and child of God.  I am in awe of her and am so blessed to call her my best friend.

Love you girl.  Keep up the good work.  You guys are in my prayers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tune Tuesday - Piano Guys

I discovered The Piano Guys a few weeks ago on a search for Christmas music and I have fallen in love.  Their entire Christmas album is wonderful.  It is just the kind of music you need for opening gifts, hanging out around the tree and celebrating the season.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Barahona Breakdown - October 2013

This last trip down to The DR was broken into two segments.  The first week I spent in Santo Domingo taking part in some Spanish immersion classes.  It was a very difficult week, full of hot days, bad food (weird), hard work and difficulties getting around.  I had time to document that week as I went along so I won't go into more detail about it.  You can read about it in previous posts if you are curious and haven't done so already.

On Saturday I got on a bus and traveled the four hours west back to Barahona.  The bus was ridiculously inexpensive so I didn't really know what to expect.  One of my coworkers told me he expected to see pictures of me riding in an open air truck bed with goats and chickens.  Thankfully, it wasn't that way at all.  The buses were modern and very clean.  I had read a review that said they keep the buses very cool and that was accurate.  I was glad I read the review because I had a sweatshirt handy.  After a week of never having any break from the heat except in Jonathan's cab I was thankful for the respite but a sweatshirt was still needed.

It was a very early bus but I wanted to make the most of the time I had in Barahona.  There was a rainstorm that came through on our way out of Santo Domingo and a double rainbow showed up right over the Dominican flag in one of their memorials on the main road out of town.  It was a very beautiful reminder of God's promise as I set out to the town I feel has become part of my life's purpose.

When I arrived in Barahona I was met at the train station by David and Renzo who took me to Casa Betesda.  I was greeted there by the best meal I had in a week and a wonderful cup of coffee.  I was so thankful to be in Barahona after such a difficult time in the capital - it felt like I had stepped into a piece of heaven.

When I was there in the spring we ate in a room on the second floor of the dormitory area.  An expansion of the kitchen and the creation of a large dining room was underway.  This time they were finished.  The kitchen is wonderful and became familiar like my own while I was there and with big groups the dining room area is going to be a wonderful addition.  This time I was there with just one other person so the dining area wasn't really needed but we did hold a meeting with the graduates of the COTN Wash Program (a water/health education project) in the space on the last day we were there and the space came in very handy.

I spent the rest of the morning enjoying Casa Betesda and getting ready for what I needed to accomplish with my week.  About midmorning Luis, one of the security guards asked if I wanted a coconut.  I love coconut so I said sure.  He disappeared for a bit and I figured he had gone into the kitchen but instead he came back with a long pole and cut one out of the tree for me.  I love the tropics.

Luis also became my Domino buddy and we played Dominos most days during the heat of the day.  I loved it and surprised him by beating him more than half the time.  Poor guy didn't know I had a Great Grandfather who taught me to play Dominos.  I never yelled out "Domino by Ned" like Grandpa used to but in my mind each time I laid down that last domino I was yelling victorious.

That afternoon I was met by an interpreter and a driver and we went out to Los Robles.  My visit this time had a two fold purpose. The first was to get updates on all of the water filtration systems which have been put into the COTN schools by various organizations because my Rotary is partnering with the Silverdale Rotary club to finish installing systems in the schools.  Los Robles has a Rotary installed system but there has been some pushback from the community because they complain about the taste.  When I got there I found out from the Principal that the system was completely nonfunctioning.  This was frustrating because someone should have known there was an issue with the system and it should have been working.

I'm very glad that I was able to go down and check up on things.  There is still a lot of work to be done and just getting information on the systems is going to be a big help to the project.  The Los Robles system is a typical World Water Relief system and it should work and the taste shouldn't be an issue for the community if it is kept up appropriately.  Hopefully by the time I am down there in June all will be moving along appropriately.

While I was in Los Robles I was of course going to see Nicol.  I brought her a bag of goodies with a Teddy Bear, some candy, a Bible, a coloring book, nail polish and Mariners T-shirt and some other things.  She told me no other Madrina (God Mother) had ever come to visit her and she was so happy to see me again.  We went out to the field where I played baseball in the spring and flew the kite she had built.  I met her sister and her grandmother and she read to me from the Bible I gave her.  It was so wonderful to see her and to see her face light up while I was around.

After Los Robles we stopped at Alta Gracia where I saw their system.  Theirs has been fully embraced by the community and was in good working order.  It isn't the same system as in Los Robles but it works fine and is kept up by the community and an organization other than Rotary.  It is a more complicated system and one we don't plan on using but I'm glad it works and the kids and community have clean water to drink for a reduced (or free) price.

We ran into a little bit of traffic on the way home.  No big deal though.

On Sunday I took a much needed day of rest.  I barely moved from the rocking chairs under the gazebo at Casa Betesda.  I was exhausted and the day off definitely made it possible to have a fast forward rest of the week there.

On Monday I got to see the ILB boys.  My entourage and I went to practice first thing (Dominican first thing) in the morning.  The boys all introduced themselves to me again, many of them saying they remembered me from the spring, and then I got the chance to watch practice and visit with Andry, Carlos and Dionny.  I brought them gifts as well - new cleats, some clothes for practice (which they all had on the next day), Bibles, flashlights, candy, etc.  I could tell they were all happy I was there and I was so glad to see them.  I had a few minutes with each of them individually and they visited with me about their families and school.

Except Andry.  He was emphatic that he had to talk to me with the interpreter so I could understand what he was telling me and I was a little concerned at first about what he might have to say.  I try to always keep my cool around the boys because I don't want to seem like I have the broken heart for them that I do and I worried that Andry might tell me something that would make me a puddle - and he did.  He told me he had a dream the night before that I came to visit him.  I was with a group of Americans and I was standing with them and being introduced.  He mimicked how I was standing in his dream and it was exactly how I would have been standing if it had been real (it's scary the things people remember) and when it came to me we made eye contact and I recognized him and he recognized me.  In the dream he said he started crying and walked over to me and hugged me and he couldn't stop crying.  So he told me when he saw me at practice he thought he must have still been having his dream and he was so happy to see me.  He then went on to tell me how much what I do for him, which frankly is not enough in my opinion, means to him and that he prays that someday he will be able to be that person for someone else who needs the help.  He hugged me for a long time.

You know, I go down there to try to be a blessing to those kids but frankly they bless me far more than I ever could them.

That afternoon I saw systems in Don Bosco (working great but needs a roof and floor around the school's sink) and Algadon (also in good working condition except the water gets really hot in the holding tank).  I was glad to see two WWR systems which are clearly working well and getting a ton of use.

School was in session while I was at these schools and that was the first time I had gotten to experience that.  When I was there in the spring we were at the schools on a holiday.  This time the schools were loud as I would hope a grade school would be.  The kids were healthy, happy and respectful.  If you take out my time with my own kiddos this would have been a highlight.

The next day I went to ILB's intersquad scrimmage.  At one point Dionny was catching, Carlos was batting and Andry was pitching.  I could hear rumbling about it but I couldn't understand the specifics until I heard Carlos tell a man watching in the crowd that I was the Madrina of all three of the boys.  Then even the crowd got loud about it.  It happened twice.  It was great.

The boys let me sit in the dugout with them during the game.  I brought a pound of Double Bubble and told them about the pranks the guys play on each other in the majors by blowing bubbles and putting them on one another's hats.  That kept those of us in the dugout occupied for a lot of the time and led to a lot of good natured laughter.

Dionny is a stud.  And plays catcher.  My favorite.  He's so shy and just walked around grinning at me all the time.  It is crazy to think of him as the same age as my niece. 

Carlos turns out to be the jokester of the group.  We have wise beyond his years Andry, sweetheart Dionny and heckler Carlos.  He sat a lot of the game behind the dugout heckling everyone.  Unfortunately, I didn't know how to say "peanut gallery" in Spanish so I just kept giggling with him and he kept it up.  He has a million dollar smile and when I was leaving after the game and telling the boys I had to leave the next day but would be back in June he told me he would pray the time between then and June would go fast and the time I was there in June would go slow.  If only I could always be there.  If only they weren't a world away.

At the end of the game the boys prayed together and they put me in the middle of the huddle.  They prayed for me and thanked God for my time there.  I was moved beyond words and once again was reminded that even though my intent is nothing more but to bless them, they continue to bless me beyond measure.

Before I left I made the boys get a group picture with me and unlike what happened the day before I made sure they were each smiling.  It's so funny because when the camera is away they are ALL smiles, but when you bring out the camera the ILB boys instantly get serious.  I don't know what causes that but Edmund captured their smiles for me in what has become my very favorite picture from this trip. 

After the game I went to the final community of Pueblo Nuevo and worked with them on their nonexistent system.  I won't bore you with details but this is potentially a very large project that we will be undertaking in the next year.  It is exciting to think about what could possibly be done with the money that could be made selling water to the community at Pueblo Nuevo (at half price from the companies that sell water now).  The tech-school could be reopened, the bakery could function and more.  I got pretty excited talking to the Principal there. 

I'm putting myself through a tough week in Santo Domingo again two months from yesterday (not that I'm counting).  I won't get to see my kids this time which is tough to think about but I will hopefully continue to make headway with my Spanish.  I've been working really hard on my own and have hired a tutor so I'm getting better but it's a slow process.  This trip I will be staying in the apartment near campus so I won't have to deal with the transportation or family issues I had last time.  Also, February should be significantly cooler than it was in October.  I am hopeful for a less taxing ten days.

Don't forget I'm still putting together the team for June.  Who knows what your story might end up looking like.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Expanding the neighborhood

Who do you consider your neighbor? Do you confine the title to those people who live near you? Are they a street away? Two streets away? A world away? One of the definitions of the word neighbor is Fellow Man. When I started thinking about who my neighbors were a few weeks ago I startled myself with the conclusion that really, anyone around me in my life could be considered my neighbor. Then I started to think about the charge that is given in the Bible from Jesus to "Love your neighbor as yourself". Really? All of my neighbors? Like the whole world?

I was convicted that I need to keep in mind the importance of caring for all of the human beings around in my life and those I haven't met yet. It can be overwhelming at times. Am I doing enough? Do I love enough? What is enough? My time in The DR has greatly expanded my scope of the world. Suddenly, my personal life and emotional connection includes the multiple people I have come to love in a country more than 3,500 miles away. It is staggering but yet it is life giving.

So this is me, challenging you. Who are your neighbors? What are you doing to love them? Is it enough? My life has changed from my experience of giving of myself to the people of Barahona. My neighborhood has expanded. I selfishly give an awful lot to myself. I guess that means I should be giving even more to those around me.

Specifically, I'm offering you an opportunity. I am taking a group of people to The Dominican Republic for a week in the middle of June. It will be a trip similar to the one I took in the spring. There will be a lot of relationship creation. There will be some tough stuff to see. There will be moments that will take your breath away and moments you wish you could relive over and over again. The trip is appropriate for adults, young and old, and also for kids or young people.

If you want more information please let me know and I'm happy to give you what I can. You can come from any part of the country on this trip as part of the team. I will help you with fundraising if finances are an issue. Don't let fear get in the way of doing something that could change your life and the lives of those who we will be reaching out to. We can't do it without you.

Come with me on an adventure of a lifetime. Expand your neighborhood.

I'm so glad to count Nicol as my Neighbor

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Adios Santo Domingo. Hola Barahona

On my last night in Santo Domingo I was completely on my own because my schoolmates all jumped on a bus for a weekend in Sosua at the beach. There was part of me, for about ten minutes, that wished I had been able to join them but my heart was being pulled very strongly to Barahona and I knew it was time to head southwest.

I finished with school about 4:00 and was given my certificate of completion and warm hugs from teachers and administrators and then I went on my way back to Zona Colonial where I dropped my backpack at home and decided to take advantage of my only afternoon to wander around the old part of town. 

I started at the Plaza of Montesinos which is a statue about 150 feet high of Fray Anton de Montesinos, the priest who protested Spanish treatment of the slaves. It is quite impressive from afar so I thought I would check it out and see what it was like up close. Unfortunately, it really didn't have anything other than a military policeman peeing in a corner. I should have enjoyed it from afar but with my curiosity satisfied I headed toward the center of things. 

It didn't take long for me to find the area of the city where we had toured in the spring with the first cathedral and fun but touristy shopping and the statue of Chrisopher Columbus. I was thankful that the fiesta Luis, Bruna and I attended on Sunday was in that area because I knew I could walk there pretty easily. I found a shop with Larimar jewelry which I was tempted by and then I went to the square outside Columbus' house. I loved the square when we were there in the spring and I wanted a few moments to just sit and soak in the fact that I was there again. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a year ago that I would be in The DR more than once ever in my life. My life has changed beyond significantly in the last year and to just have a minute to sit and think about that was really important to me. 

From there I walked through town, stopping to watch a game of dominos for a while and peeked into the cathedral quickly as they were closing because we weren't able to do so when I was there before due to a baptism.

I decided to take advantage of the time and stop into a grocery store to buy some coffee. I figured it was probably cheaper in Barahona but to just get it done was worth paying a little extra. 

While I was there I stopped to look at the spices because I have tried to copy the rice and beans at home but haven't had luck with the flavors. I figure it is because they have a spice here we don't have readily available in the states. 

While I was looking at the spices a youngish Dominican man who worked in the store came up to me and started talking to me. His English was pretty good and he was sweet but it became clear he really only wanted to hit on me and wasn't being at all helpful. It is funny because in the states men are so passive. It's a complaint all of my single girlfriends and I have. The Latino population however is not that way. The first few days in The DR I find it a bit amusing but now, with over a week under my belt, the novelty has worn off a bit and I'm starting to tire of hearing "linda" and "bonita". I ended up leaving the grocery store with only my coffee. 

After that I walked back down by the water, checked out the sunset, saw a dead body and decided it was time to turn in for the evening. 

You know, a normal evening in Santo Domingo. 

On to Barahona. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

La escuela

I have just finished my week of school in Santo Domingo and have made my way by three hour very nicely air conditioned bus to Barahona. Before I let Santo Dimingo get too far behind me I wanted to give some information about the school I attended. I did a horrible job taking pictures and really wish I had some to share of my teachers but honestly I never even thought about taking any.

Mily, my teacher in the morning was about the sweetest person I've ever met. She is absolutely stunningly beautiful inside and out. She comes from a realitively wealthy family, her mother a doctor and her father a professor, and is well educated as well. I would guess she is about 23 years old but with the incredible Dominican skin it's hard to tell. She might have been 50. 

My afternoon professor was Victoria. I got to know Victoria a bit better than Mily because her English was a little stronger so I was able to gather more accurate information about her as time went on. She too is gorgeous and was a darling person. I would bet she is around my age and when I told her I wanted to learn baseball terms in Spanish she got 100% on board. We laughed a lot during our classes and I honestly felt like the sessions with her were the most worthwhile. She is also far more "Dominican" than Mily. She moves slowly and speaks quickly. She worked hard when she was there but as soon as the time for the session ended she was out the door. Part of that is that she had two children at home to get back to but also for most Dominicans hard work isn't really part of what they do. 

I signed up for the intensive class which meant group classes in the morning and one on one in the afternoon but because I was the only brandnew Spanish speaker I ended up having both classes as one on one. It was intense and by the end of each day I felt as though my brain was literally downloading information. 

The school I attended was a private commercial school across the street from the main university. I believe there are times there are many students enrolled but during the week I was there a total of only seven students were enrolled. They work closely with the German school at the university so many of the staff and students spoke German. People were always amazed when I could understand what was going on when they were speaking in German. It's weird that I have had more experience listening to and speaking German than I have Spanish - well up to now anyway. 

The week was very beneficial as far as my Spanish skills. The biggest issue at this point is just that my vocabulary is so limited and that just takes learning over time. My goal is to not waste the groundwork I've laid. Eventually, I should get braver and be less afraid to speak. As of now my comprehension is pretty good for the most part - as long as you use words a 3 year old would know. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013


am convinced that God regularly sends angels my way to keep me safe during various times in my life where maybe I've chosen to do something a little risky. My awareness of them began the summer after I graduated from college when three of my girlfriends and I decided to go to a Dave Mathews Band concert at the gorge. It wasn't really all that big of a deal but we camped at the amphitheater and my mom was very nervous about us being there. To make a long story short she prayed for our protection and I fully believe God sent us a Rottweiler. This dog followed us around the camp from the moment we were done with the concert, sleeping outside our tent and only disappearing at first light the next day. 

Since then I have been aware of the protectors God has continued to send to me. In Copenhagen it was the drunk guy at 8:00am on the subway. (That was a weird one) The first time in The DR it was Angel, Francis, Willy, Yuerty, Juanchy and Rambo. 

This time it has been Luis. 

Where I'm living this week is nice but it is quite a ways from school. If I could do it over (and maybe I should say when I do it again) I would choose to stay at the apartment the school has. It is where I have spent most of my time anyway because the schoolmates who have become my closest friends live there (and there is a third room so it would have been perfect!!! Ugh) but it is also right around the corner from the school whereas my house is a fifteen minute drive. 

Zona Colonial, where I live, is considered a more prestigious area of town and I'm certain that's why the homestays are in the area but frankly, other than the first night when Luis, Bruna and I went to fiesta in Zona Colonial I really haven't had opportunity to take advantage of being here. 

The other important thing to know about Santo Domingo as I'm sure you would guess, is public transportation is sketchy at best. You basically have three options. 

The first is a taxi publico which is a car, usually barely held together, that goes up and down the same streets in one direction on a set route. Usually there are four people plus the driver in each car. You get in, pay 25 pesos, about US $.50, and when they get to where you want to get off you say a magic word and they stop. The magic word is some Dominican slang word that I hear Luis mumble but have yet to learn. You can't beat the price but even Andy, a 6 foot 5 inch 20 year old Swiss man said he didn't feel comfortable in them after dark, and he speaks the language. 

Another option are the gua-guas.  They are these packed vans that go every which way and men stand outside them and ask if you want to ride. Again, this was a difficult option for me because it is hard to tell them where I need to go. Luis talked me through it three or four times and showed me the vans with the 12 route on them which goes past the school but I have frankly been too afraid/uncomfortable to try them. 

The third option and the one I've been using exclusively when on my own is the private taxi. This has proved to be the only way that I feel ok getting around. When I first arrived I was met at the airport by an incredibly attractive Dominican man named Jonathan which the school basically uses as their go to private taxi driver. He has been a life saver and for sure another angel. He has picked me up each morning with the exception of today when I didn't have morning class because Professor Mily had a presentation to give and then I elected to go with Andy, Bruna and Irma to the beach at Boca Chica this afternoon instead of having my class with Professor Victoria. Tomorrow he will pick me up again and will likely take me home. I hope to have him take me to the bus station on Saturday morning and maybe even pick me up from the station on Wednesday for the ride to the airport. He doesn't speak English but he tries everyday with me and I stumble through with him as best I can. He doesn't overcharge which many private taxis do and he's pleasant to spend the fifteen minutes with because he's easy on the eyes and hasn't once hit on me. He charges 150 pesos to get me to school (about US $3.50) a price well worth paying. 

With all of that said you can see my transportation around town has been a bit of an issue. When I needed to get something from home yesterday I just logistically couldn't do it. As a youngish female traveling alone, which in The DR draws a ton of attention on its own, but then also being white with blue eyes, dressing like an American and with no Spanish speaking ability I'm a walking sideshow. The only way it would be worse would be if I had blond hair. It's a recipe for potential disaster.

So God put the wheels in motion and first put Bruna in the picture. Jonathan had taken her to the aquarium on the way to get me at the airport and she ended up being done sooner than expected so she called him as we were driving to Zona Colonial asking to be picked up. He happily did so as she is Brazilian but can speak Spanish having been at the school for two weeks and English because she works for an American company so she and I could communicate and she helped me get on my feet that first afternoon. She mentioned she and a guy who worked for the school named Luis were thinking about going to fiesta on Sunday night and asked if I would like to join. Of course I had nothing else to do so I said I would love to. 

Enter Luis. 

Luis is from a town to the west of Santo Domingo and is working for the school I attend as a type of administrator while he finishes his degree in psychology. A really nice guy, he and I hit it off right away. When he found I was a willing participant on the dance floor he was extatic. He speaks very little English and decent German which doesn't help me at all but it is hilarious to hear him slip between Spanish and German on occasion.(Seriously everyone around me speaks at least two languages. The US is really behind in that arena.) Sunday night he put Bruna in a private taxi to the apartment, after negotiating the price in a way only a Domincian can, and then walked me home. Monday he offered to help me learn how to use the taxi publico and then ended up getting suckered into ice cream with me and watching the sunset over the Carribean Ocean at a park by my house before I had to go home to do homework. That was by far my favorite night. The struggles with communicating with Luis aside, which frankly is a big hairy terrible, gut wrenching, frustrating monster, to sit in a park on the edge of the ocean in this country that I have come to love so much with an interesting and compassionate person with whom I had an immediate connection and watch a beautiful sunset and see some of the biggest fish I've ever seen jump out of the water and laugh and notice the small things like ships coming in and out and feeling hot in the 90 degree humid air, was picture perfect. I sort of wish it had happened at the end of my week instead of the beginning. 

Tuesday Andy, Bruna, Kat, Luis and I went out to dinner and again he got everyone on their way and then walked me home. It was this night that I realized after he dropped me it took him over two hours to get home. This means most nights he was getting home about 1 or 2 in the morning and then gets up to be at work the next morning. I don't know if that is normal for him or not but I sure recognized the sacrifice. When I talked to him about it and told him I didn't realize it was so far he made it clear he didn't mind but still, what he has done for me this week has not been insignificant. 

Last night Bruna, Andy, Luis and I hung out at the apartment and again, with no hesitation, he got me home. 

I lose him tomorrow evening as he and some of the others from school will head to Sousa for the weekend and I head to Barahona and my heart is pretty heavy about it. Without him here this trip so far would have been a mighty disaster. 

God puts people in our lives for a reason and I know without a doubt that Luis was given to me for this week to make it safe and successful. I'm beyond thankful for my most recent angel, or my Superman, as he dubbed himself last night.

Even if he says Obama is better than Bush just because he's black. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Mi Casa

While in Santo Domingo this week I am staying with a very nice Dominican woman, her brother and a younger man who I haven't been introduced to and have seen only once as he left the shower in a towel. He seemed Nice enough. haha Sonja and I can't really communicate as she doesn't speak a word of English and my Spanish has been slow coming but we manage to muddle along. Last night I was able to communicate that I didn't need dinner because some of my schoolmates and I went out for a meal. I was very proud of that minor accomplishment.

Her cooking isn't good by Casa Bethesda standards which is disappointing because I really do love Dominican food. That, coupled with the heat, I'm sure I've already lost ten pounds. 

The house we live in is very nice. She has plants everywhere and a nice assortment of different decorations ranging from formal paintings to various pieces of Christmas decor. I feel right at home. 

Casa Bethesda will be welcome in a few days for the air conditioning, pool and delicious food but my home in Santon Domingo has been all I needed it to be.