Summers for me are always the highlight of my year. Each summer my sisters and I pack up our belongings and head out to The Dominican Republic, anxious to hit all the latest clubs, resorts, water parks, and restaurants. For some reason I knew this summer wasn’t going to be like every other summer. This summer was going to change my perspective on life, forever.
My parents had explained to us that instead of our regular yearly routine, we’d stay at my Aunt Nercidas House in Higuey, an impoverished little village in Dominican Republic. I didn’t understand why we’d have to stay in such a poor town when we usually stayed in Punta Cana, a well known tourist area. The plane ride was an emotional roller coaster. A billion thoughts swarmed through my head, both positive and negative, but mainly negative. As my mind raced like the speed of light, I was overwhelmed with worries. Was my mother trying to punish me for something I’d done? Was this all a big joke? I bet the minute I walk out the plane they’ll all be there with a camera screaming “Gotcha!”. Unfortunately they weren’t.
Managing to drag myself off the plane, I saw my aunt Nercida with opened arms and a smile that reached each side of her eyelids. She almost seemed eager to show us her small, cramped, one bedroom house. With five of us and one mattress, I was clueless in how we’d all be sleeping that night. As we arrived she pulled out two wooden boards and a few dingy quilts. I was certain that it would be one night I would not be sleeping through. The leaky roof made it that much more uncomfortable for me to get any shut eye. But through all the discomfort, I still couldn’t understand the way my Aunt was so contempt with her life style. As morning dragged in, I gathered up energy to walk to the chicken coup to make me a decent breakfast. I’m not used to making my own breakfast from scratch so I must admit that breakfast wasn’t the most tasty.
I often took walks along the roads to explore and see the rest of this mysterious village that I had never come across. Higuey was like nothing I’d ever seen. I’d been to this country dozens of times, yet this small town was completely foreign to me. I couldn’t fathom how many children roamed the dirt roads, without a clue as to where their next destination would be. I even noticed a boy walking without any shoes on. The dirt grazed into his cheeks and fingernails and his shirt had more holes than Swiss cheese. He could tell I wasn’t from around there and walked up to me asking for my name. After I did, he told me his name was Vladamir and had been walking around trying to find food for his family. As I took notice to the blisters on his feet, he told me he’d been walking for hours. Listening to his story I reached into my pocket and pulled out three hundred pesos. His eyes began to water and he thanked me repeatedly. I was surprised at how joyful one can become with such little money.
I was truly taken back by the people here. They are so poor yet so friendly, happy, and extremely appreciative. I did not realize how blessed I truly was until my trip to Higuey. I’ve learned to humble myself and realize that although you may think your life is not the best, others do have it worse. A lesson learned.
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