March 13, 2015
MOSQUITO BITE COUNT:
Don’t worry; the collection does indeed keep growing. Some of them have even started to swell and bruise. I also got a two for 1 deal on my right knee, which has made it slightly hard to bend … but I didn’t care.
SHORT LONG STORY:
I don’t know if I can make this short. In fact, I really can’t. This is your chance to turn back if you don’t think you can handle a long, emotional story. I’m overflowing with so much joy and gratitude that I need to just let it out. Besides, I think it’d be best to give you, my amazing supporters, the scoop on the happenings over the last few days. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to be completely transparent, okay?
You may have noticed by my last few posts or lack of them that I was having a really hard time. In fact, I was worn ragged, very overwhelmed, struggled with the verge of a breakdown on a few occasions, and yes – the thought of leaving early did march through my mind.
Why? What’s happened? you ask. Well, many things have happened, in fact. And I suppose most of these things were unexpected so it’s been really difficult. For starters, travelling to a foreign land alone has been a challenge because I have nobody to navigate and explore with. I get excited just visiting Jose Luis because I know how to get there and back with ease. On the other hand, trying to figure out how to visit my aunt and uncle who will be in Puerto Plata for two weeks has been really stressful. The most direct, but very expensive option would be a taxi for $25 USD each way. There is also public transportation which entails two buses or one bus and something that looks like a taxi but is called a bus. Public transportation would cost about 80 pesos or $2 USD. There are also motorcycle taxis that can be dangerous. The cost for these is possibly your life (said with some sarcasm). Then there’s walking, which is free but would probably mean I’d get there the next day. I had considered walking but perhaps I can share that story with you some other time.
So, you’re probably all just thinking, “well why not just take public transportation?” I thought the same thing many times over. I asked a few people which buses to take, where to take them, how much it cost, etc. I suppose the one thing that locals don’t realize here is that to a foreigner, this is more complicated than they think. These are the instructions I received: take a 3 minute walk from home to the main road, cross the street, wait on the other side (maybe after the lights since they won’t stop for you before the lights), take bus C to 4 traffic lights ahead, get off and find the bus garage, ask for the bus that goes to Maimon.
What are the bus schedules? Where are the pickup stops? Do I need to flag them down or will they know I’m at a stop? Are there designated drop off points? What do these buses look like? Do I ring a bell to get off? Yes, yes, all very valid questions, friends. The answer to all the above is “no”. Huh? No schedules (you just have to wait around), no designated pickup stops, automatic drop off points, buses can be white or look like a black taxi, no bell ringing. The return trip is slightly more complicated but simple. I’d need to exit the resort, cross to the other side of the highway, wait there for who knows how long, and look for a black car with an orange sign on top that says “Javilla Tours”. This car/bus/taxi/horse would drop me off at the hospital and then I’d need to walk the rest of the way for about 15 minutes.
So, back to me. You can only imagine my joy (and secret plotting) when I discovered on Thursday that we were scheduled to pick up some volunteers on Friday from a resort that was adjacent to the one my aunt and uncle were staying at.
When I got home on Thursday evening I really was on the verge of a breakdown. Brad, who I’ll forever be grateful for, was so encouraging and just ready to listen to what I had to say. Probably in a desperate attempt to calm me down his words of encouragement were many. But the magic words were, “Quest, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that your aunt and uncle are in the same region of the Dominican Republic while you are there. And I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the driver will be going to their area not once but twice on Friday. God knew what sort of state you’d be in and this has all been planned out for you.” So true isn’t it?
In addition to setting out on my own here, the kids have been hard to level with. I’ve also quickly realized that my Spanish isn’t where I want or need it to be to get around or implement reward and discipline with the kids. There isn’t the sort of support for long-term volunteers that I was hoping for. Learning about the culture, value systems, and day-to-day ways has been haphazard. It’s kind of just learn as you go I suppose, which I’m okay with but when coupled with everything else it can be overwhelming. I really needed a break.
So on Thursday evening, I asked Liz, the founder of Dove, if I could excuse myself for the day to spend time with family. I also mentioned it to Martina and both seemed to be okay with it. It was very difficult for me to sleep on Thursday. Like a bug-eyed child waiting for midnight to strike on Christmas eve, I could barely contain my excitement.
The driver had a hard time getting through security, but once we cleared that and approached the lobby of Riu Bachata my heart began to race. I finally got out of the van and tried to nonchalantly look around. And there right in front of me was my uncle’s little face just looking at me and grinning from ear to ear. We rushed to embrace each other and were so overjoyed to see one another that we both started crying. My aunt, who was waiting up the road just in case I arrived there, made her way towards us. We were also quick to embrace and both of us allowed tears to stream down our faces. There’s nothing like the familiarity of “home” and knowing that you’re around people who love and respect you unconditionally. In fact, just writing about this makes my eyes tear up.
And we set out for a day of feasting, story telling, swimming, laughing, and family timing ☺. To my surprise, when we got into the resort, I saw that there were 4 others there consisting of extended family and family friends. Throughout the day, all 6 of them shared pieces of wisdom and thought-provoking ideas. I felt so loved, supported, and at peace that in my joy I almost forgot I wasn’t in the DR on vacation. The most poignant part of the day was hearing my family say that no matter what I decided on, they would be proud of me, love me, and support me … no matter what!
Being around people who I really cherish meant the world to me. It didn’t matter that it was raining, or that water came out of the apple juice dispenser, or that only the corners of the banana bread were left, or that the washroom smelled funny, or that the swim was a bit cold and painful because I had just shaved earlier in the morning (girls you know what I’m talking about). I could have been bit 10 times over by mosquitoes or in the dead of a hurricane and it still wouldn’t have mattered. Because for those 10 or so hours, I felt support and love with no bounds; I felt home.
Given all of the love and wisdom I was showered with, I hope that the stories and thoughts I shared has, in turn, given the people I was surrounded by a feeling of hope and encouragement.
•The never-ending mosquito bites. They don’t care about the bug repellant and they even bite through my clothes (yes, socks too)
•My dry cough, which started to infringe on my evening. It brought me back to reality after such a heavenly day. This cough seems to be never-ending as well.
•Getting past security at the Riu’s. I was just thinking, “Get me to my tios already!!”
THINGS I LEARNED TODAY:
•Even some Dominican taxi drivers refuse to drive motorcycles because of safety concerns
•There are two Riu Merengues
•Carlos is a swift fellow. That orange shirt was fabulous!
•Navigating the main highway at night when it’s raining can be difficult for me. I almost asked the taxi driver to turn down the wrong street.
WHAT I’M GRATEFUL FOR:
•Brad’s never ending support and patience with me. He’s a great example of what it is to be a good human being and doesn’t even know it. He inspires me to be better all the time
•Being dropped off at the lobby by Mr. Pollo for free
•My aunt and uncle’s love. There are no conditions for it. It can’t be categorized or even described.
•The grey “strap” given to me and the jokes that became of it
•My aunt and uncle who insisted on me taking a taxi all the way home. They made sure it came to the lobby of the hotel. My aunt stuck her head in the car and with her best Spanish asked the driver to ensure that he took care of me. She probably gave him the death stare too. And to boot, she insisted that I take $27 USD to pay for the cab ride.
•A ziplock bag full of throat lozenges given to me, of course, by my aunt and uncle
•My aunt and uncle who gave me the option to stay the night if I wanted to. They even had pj’s ready for me. How sweet is that!!!
•The family ‘gang’ that made sure that I had my fill of food, towels, shirts, shoes, watches, sun, laughter, and love. And after being treated like a queen I was sent off with money … the real Portuguese way!
•Liz and Martina who were gracious enough to excuse me from a busy workday so that I could spend time with my family
Lord, please bless those who have invested so much in me. The people I’m surrounded with that are examples of your never-ending love. I pray that they may also experience the same kind of love and blessing that I’ve felt. I ask that you fulfill all of their needs and make them successful in all ways.
•When using a GoPro under water what’s the best way to get high quality pictures? Does the water need to be clear?