Monday, June 18, 2012

CCLF SHYG+YWAM+PCV=Too Many Acronyms

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 the construction.

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 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 tropical island?

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