Thursday, October 10, 2013

Angels

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. 


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