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.