Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What happened down there? Days 1 and 2

I left Spokane at 6:30pm on Friday April 26th. I can't believe it's been over a month. My flight to Santo Domingo was not a great route. Had I been the one who made the travel arrangements I never would have set things up the way they were but that, along with the rest of the trip really, was out of my hands so I just prepared myself for a long day and the fatigue I knew would follow me for a few days once I got to The DR. I traveled from Spokane to Salt Lake City where I had an almost six hour layover.

The layover started out pleasant enough. I found a bar and ordered a Polygamy Porter which was actually quite tasty and visited with a guy named Michael from Lisbon. There was no baseball on TV which was a bit annoying but the conversation with Michael was sufficient to pass the time. Unfortunately for both of us, the bartender called last call at 9:30pm. Evidently, all the bars (and everything else in the airport except McDonalds) closed at 9:30 until the Monday following the Friday I was there when the bar we were in was going to start staying open until midnight. Michael’s flight to New York was at midnight and my flight to Atlanta was at 1:00am so we wandered aimlessly for a while and then he decided he wanted to sit down for a while and I wanted to keep walking (I ended up doing three full laps of the entire airport) so we went separate ways. Thankfully, a friend decided to give me some Spanish lessons over text for a while and the time actually passed quickly.

I managed to sleep the whole flight to ATL thanks to some Melatonin from TF and met up with the rest of the team when I got there. I’m not sure how long they had been in ATL but they were all sleeping in the gate area when I arrived so of course I woke them up. I was ready to start the party! (Sorry guys)


We wandered in ATL and got some breakfast (Yay for Caribou Coffee!!) and then took the relatively quick flight to Santo Domingo.

The first hint of baseball in The Dominican Republic came from the air

Good news!  The net for the batting cage made it! Ben was clearly very happy about this development.  We got some weird looks for this one.



Loading the bus

When we landed we were greeted by Juanchy, our amazing guide and one of three interpreters for the week. We loaded the bus and drove another four hours to Barahona with a stop in Santo Domingo for the first of many delicious Dominican meals with rice and beans and fried bananas.


Our Fearless Leader Juanchy!
Once we got to Barahona we went directly to Casa Bethesda and settled in. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to stay. The compound had a main house with a few bedrooms and a kitchen and behind the house was a guest house with dormitory style living where I stayed. It can hold approximately thirty people. The grounds had a pool which we utilized every day as well as little shaded gazebos with rocking chairs we used throughout our time there to escape the heat of the day.

Settling into the girls room

Main House - there is a large addition being put on the left of the house with more rooms, a bigger kitchen (I don't know how the ladies did what they did with the kitchen that is currently in existence) and a large dinning room which is much needed.



Thank goodness for the pool


Guest house where I stayed

That night we basically ate dinner and went to bed. I had left for the airport at 4:30pm and arrived at Casa Bethesda at 3:15pm the next day.  Before going to sleep I took my first of many cold showers but woke Sunday morning feeling rested and not dealing with any jet-lag. That was a huge blessing.

On Sunday we all went to church together in Barahona. It was one of the loudest, most joy filled church services I’ve ever been in. If you want to hear a snippet of the music check it out here: Barahona Worship

Juanchy translated the sermon for us that lasted almost two hours. He was as dynamic as the preacher and while I can’t remember the point of the sermon (it was hot and I was still taking in all of the sights and sounds around me) the time flew by and I was amazed by the joy displayed by all of the people around us. At one point Joel leaned over to me and whispered, “They have nothing but have such joy. It’s amazing.” and he was right. From the very beginning to the very end of my time there that was the most powerful thing we saw and we saw it consistently.



After church we did a little sightseeing. We drove up the coast to a picturesque view of the ocean. It was the Labor Day holiday weekend for them so the beaches were packed but we were able to find a little quieter beach and go for a swim. It was the first time I had ever been in the Caribbean Ocean. The beach was not sand but smooth flat stones. There were a lot of large rocks in the water that were covered with vegetation that made it a little nerve-wracking to stand on but at least they weren’t sharp! The weather was hot but not uncomfortable.



The FPCB portion of the team

The first beach where we stopped had waterfalls that flowed into the ocean. People were hanging out in the falls and it was a big party scene with food vendors, including ones that were selling whole grilled Lobsters for an equivalent of about ten American dollars.





On the way home I requested ice cream. Since going to Singapore in high school that’s been a thing for me. I like to try ice cream in each country I visit. The Dominican Republic did not disappoint and we returned to Bon Ice Cream about three more times throughout our time there. The first time there I had Tres Leches Ice Cream (yummmm) but I also tried Dolche de Leches and strawberry through the week. There wasn’t one I didn’t love.

The boy in this picture was a mentally ill street boy.  COTN has helped him in the past with medical conditions and we gave him ice cream each time we stopped but his situation was heartbreaking.  It lead to some heart to heart discussions about God's goodness and why God allows suffering.  Each one of us wished we could do more for him in our own way.
I hadn't expected the island to be so mountainous.  The tallest mountain actually gets snow on occasion.  Everywhere we went I was blown away by how beautiful the island was.  However, the thing that struck me the most about the island the first two days was the amount of garbage that littered the sides of the roads. Here was this incredibly beautiful country and everywhere you looked there was garbage. It is clear disposal of waste is a large problem for society here – from garbage to sewage. We couldn’t drink the water but on occasion I would forget and get water in my mouth in the shower or while brushing my teeth and I never had a problem. The people were so warm and hospitable and I fell in love with each of them immediately.

I didn’t have the frustration of not being able to communicate during the first few days that would become a huge part of my brain space in days to come so I just enjoyed listening to another language being spoken around me.

I never felt out of place as one of 12 white people basically anywhere we went but I did notice we stood out. The Dominican people are not only warm but they are gorgeous. Both the men and women are very attractive people as a whole. People tend to sit outside their houses a lot so I was able to do a lot of people watching as we drove around. Sitting together around their houses was part of their culture I actually really liked. They spent time talking to each other or selling things on the side of the road. It probably isn’t the best thing to have admired about the culture because it really means they aren’t working and it is part of what leads to such poverty, but there was something about the community that existed because of it that drew me in.





That night Raphael, a local man, came into the Casa Bethesda grounds and sold us Larimer jewelry. I bought some for my mom for Mother’s Day and some coconut jewelry for my nephew for taking care of my dog for a day when my parents couldn’t. Larimer is a stone that is only found in The Dominican Republic and it is beautiful – in fact I have some on today that one of the translators gave me. Anytime I look at the pieces I have I am instantly back in Casa Bethesda “negotiating” with Raphael (at Ben and other team member’s insistence) over an amount that was nothing to me but was probably enough to feed his family for a month. It was fun for all of us and recalling Raphael’s laughter as we went through the process brings a smile to my face still a month later.

In my journal I made note of the fact that I seemed to get my Malaria pills worked out by Sunday. That was mostly true. After throwing up after taking them at home before leaving I did find a way to keep them down but there was more than one afternoon where I spent the time feeling really ill and pushing through. When I go back in October I’m going to try a different type. I didn’t have any funky dreams like I did with the Typhoid pills but the nausea was really annoying.

I also made note that the food was good. We had chicken and rice and rice and beans and a lot of fresh fruit – pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. Any of you who know me outside of the internet will be amazed to hear I also drank a lot of Coke while I was there. They use real cane sugar in their Coke and it really was delicious. Wait a minute, maybe that’s what caused my upset stomach instead of the Malaria pills. :)

Sunday night was our first night of Bucket of Nouns. Oh boy, the fun that was had.

I love how nervous I am in this picture - and it's before Larry has even started!!!

Ben is laughing at me - rude. :)  That probably wasn't the first time and definitely wasn't the last time during the trip.  Darn Ben.

The whole team in our evening debrief/game gazebo 
And these are just days one and two.  We haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet!!!

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