Abandoning your way of life in order to truly see how others live is always a learning experience. This was only one of my observations made after spending a month in the Dominican Republic. When I was first told that my family was going to visit and work with some missionaries in the D.R., I honestly had no idea what to expect. I have to admit that after arriving to the international airport in the bustling city of Santo Domingo I was a bit surprised to be loaded onto a guagua or bus only to travel another two and a half hours west into el campo, the country. Bachata music blaring in the background, and listening to the driver sing along in Spanish, I gazed out of the window watching the giant green mountains and palm trees zoom past as I was carried farther and farther into the unknown. The more distance covered, the more meager the housing and uneven the road.
It’s amazing how breathtaking nature is, even when surrounded by abject poverty. This was my second observation. After an exhausting week, I was rewarded with a day at the local beach. My vision seemed to intensify. I can’t ever recall seeing a sky so blue or an ocean so clear with vivid tropical mountains looming in the background. However as I looked around this picturesque beach I couldn’t help but to notice the shacks nearby, some leaning and some where you could literally see through cracks in the wall constructed from flimsy materials plagued with dust and mud. The roofs were composed of the remnants of old tin coffee cans. Not to far away in what seemed to look like a small body of water there were children bathing and an old woman washing clothes. The lack of available clean water (no one had access to running water) was appalling. But no matter how depressing these scenes were, happiness among the inhabitants was not uncommon.
This leads me to my third observation: Some things are universal. Despite my limited Spanish skills, I made countless friends, most were children. After all, everyone could speak the language of video games. Yes, somehow the Game Boy had made its way into the hands of some very fortunate kids. In addition to video games, there was hide-and-go-seek and stickball. At night during one of countless power outages no language could communicate how spectacular and bright the stars looked, how refreshing a cold drink was on a sweltering day or how powerful a smile is. Sitting outside due to the lack of air conditioning sucking on limoncillos, a lime-like local fruit; walking down the dusty, gravel street to the tune of Caribbean music simultaneously playing from the inside of every house; going to the colmado, a local store each morning to gather the day’s food supplies were all distinctly foreign to me. Nonetheless I made memories that will stay with me forever.
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