An unwelcome intruder upon my sleep rang out repeatedly. I shut my alarm off with a sight, and lay beneath the covers enjoying their warmth before casting myself out into the cold early morning. As we traveled along the sleepy highways of New York, coffee clutched closely to my chest radiating its heat and uplifting scent, my mind began to wander beyond the frosted beds made from comforters of snow and sheets of ice. The airport was already bustling with people. My group began moving quickly as I wrestled with my over-sized luggage. It had wheels, but I still believe that bag had a personal vendetta against me. It was a relief to leave it with the airport employees.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Safely on board our flight, my mind began to wander once again, only to be interrupted by the occasional stewardess offering snacks.
My eyes traced the artistically crafted wings of our plane, making their way to the surrounding sky. Wispy clouds outlined the setting sun. Amber and fiery tones gradually gave way to the twinkling lights of anonymous homes below.
Internally I weighed the questions upon my heart, asking myself, “Will she remember me?” Just a year earlier I had made the same journey to the tiny Haitian Villages within the Dominican Republic. As a missionary group with MGM (Meeting God in Missions) we had fed and prayed with countless individuals, yet one stood out in my mind. I desperately hoped that she was safe, and that I would find her.
Between the thoughts running through my head, I would doze periodically, listening to the constant hum of the plane. It was a strange feeling, one of traveling between two different worlds and homes, never sure to which I fully belonged.
I was roused by the nudge of a fellow group member as we flew over the outskirts of the Dominican Republic. I forced myself to take in every beautiful detail possible. Moments later our plane was landing in Hayto Mayor.
The airport itself was completely different from those which I had just arrived from. Speech was quick and beautiful. Meanwhile everything operated in a steady, controlled form of chaos.
Upon exiting the doors of the airport, the true difference between my two homes became apparent! Wonderfully strange scents permeated the air, and the humidity began arranging my hair into curls.
We arrived at the compound very early in the morning. Countless bags were unloaded from the back of a cattle cart, swarmed by impoverished Dominican children looking for work. Finally we began to settle into our bunks for rest, but a rooster had a different idea, keeping many of us awake. It felt right eating chicken the next evening.
Daytime revealed the lush landscape and unripe mangoes, as well as the heat. We set out on our journey, packing around twenty missionaries into each cattle car. Stop signs were only suggestions, and horn honking determined “right-of-way” on the roads. We spent our days giving out food, playing with the children, or providing medical, dental, and optical care to the villages. Instead of homes, they lived in one-room shacks made of old metal or wood, offering little protection.
Suddenly I was face to face with the girl from my last trip, and she remembered me. In what little Spanish I knew, I told her before parting ways, “Dear Clara, you will always be part of my family.”
Some say a picture is worth a thousand words but in 600 words or fewer, a friendship was made rising above distances, cultures, races, society, and languages. In 600 words or fewer, lives change.
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