I had a nice treat last week: a group of high school students from my
family church back home came to build houses here in the DR. When I was
in high school, I did two mission trips with the same group and the
same pastor: one to Mexico and one to Costa Rica. They were awesome
experiences and part of what motivated me to join the Peace Corps.
Apparently, when they were planning trips this summer, they didn't pay
any attention to the fact that I was here, but still ended up coming to
work only about 20 minutes away from me!
Best of all, they brought my brother and some other friends from church.
Obviously, most of their time had to be spent with the group working on
the houses they came to build, but I was able to pull out my brother to
visit my site all day Wednesday, and my friend Sabrina was able to
visit for a few hours on Friday. I spent Thursday with them finishing up
My parents visited in February and spent a day getting to know my
community, but I think my brother Jason had a more complete experience
than anyone. We rode with the church group into the city and got off in
front of the cathedral where I go to church. Then we walked through the
city (as I do every week) and caught a public bus up to my site. We
spent a little bit of time meeting almost everybody, and even made it
across the street to see some friends in the other batey. Jason has
studied enough Spanish to be able to interact with people directly. He
especially connected with one of the local schoolteachers who has been
studying English; her English was about as good as his Spanish, so they
could communicate pretty comfortably between the two languages, and it
was really encouraging to both.
Giving Sabrina the tour had a funny twist. I've told people in my site
that I don't have a girlfriend, but they didn't seem to believe that
when they saw me walking around with a pretty American girl. And unlike
other American women who have visited, I couldn't explain Sabrina away
as another volunteer; she was either a 'friend' or 'the aunt of my
godchildren' (which I think was interpreted as 'a particularly close
friend'). My landlady even mentioned that she had a spare bed
available...you know, depending on what the plans were for her visit. I
clarified that the plans were to meet a few people and then to rejoin
the group from church, and we behaved ourselves and followed the plan,
however countercultural that may have been. It does provide an
interesting look at Dominican male-female relationships. Apparently
there's only really one kind.
Sabrina only met a few families, but I made sure they were fun families,
and (as I knew would happen) she connected really well with some of the
kids. But the time we were checking out the school, she had a young
friend under each arm. I wish there were someone like her to mentor some
of these young girls, because lots of them follow the culture and are
mothers by 15. I do what I can, but that's limited by the fact that I'm
not a woman. But it's late, and I digress.
The visits were fun, the group built three houses, and the trip was
considered a great success, which is awesome for me, because that means
they're planning to come back next year. Si Dios quiere, I'll end my
service in 11 months, go home for a month, and then come right back with
the church to visit again for a few days. This may even turn into a
regular trip for several years. I know the transition back to the US
will be difficult for me, but this could make the shift a little easier.
And really, if the group has an alumn who's fluent in Dominican Spanish
and eager to participate, why wouldn't they keep coming down to this