November 5, 2015, Caminante Office, Boca Chica
Good morning from Boca Chica!
There’s a certain joy to be found in knowing that you are appreciated for whom you are without having to put on a brave face becoming someone you are not. I feel loved at Caminante Education Project because Sister Denisse and the other staff let me know that I am valued and needed. Here at Caminante, the long-term employees and volunteers give encouragement to the newer staff and volunteers in ways that are contagious. Whether it be through a smile, helpful and hilarious critiques, or a simple greeting each day, team members are there for you.
I am now in my second year as an intern. My job roles include preparing for group visits from the United States, teaching English to kids at our community college called La Casona (The big house) and supporting our programs with the street kids. In addition, I am a photographer for Caminante. I travel around to Caminante sites and document the happenings of the community. I work with our educators out in the field spreading the news that all children have the right to an education, guaranteed under Dominican law.
Some personal notes regarding my state of mind and body here in November of my second year:
My Spanish is better than I ever imagined it would get and I am learning more everyday. I learned the language without a tutor due to problems with scheduling but that did not end up being an issue. I do not consider myself fluent yet; however my vocabulary is now extensive, and when I am relaxed, I can carry on at a conversational pace. Comprehension-wise, I can understand 95% of spoken Spanish and am learning to read written Spanish as well.
The day to day life is not easy- the water I bathe in, while appearing clean, is neither filtered nor heated. I buy giant jugs of fresh water and keep fresh portions in plastic containers in my refrigerator. Power outages are frequent to the extent of every two or three days for sometimes hours at a time. One learns to charge your appliances whenever you can and to be prepared for future outages by exploring other locations to charge your appliances. Find a friend in the large hotel industry nearby or even travel around to the next town over to seek out power. Candles are good buys for the apartment!
I would not change any of those experiences for the world. I chose this job because I wanted to experience life in a developing country and place myself in a situation outside of my comfort zone. That is exactly what I received initially in my first three months. I went through a period early on where I was sick every few days with either diarrhea or fever or colds or chills. I learned to eat a steady diet and my body adjusted accordingly. I stopped buying everything and began cooking pasta. My roommate, Julito, a fellow staff member at Caminante who is from the Dominican Republic, started doing more of the cooking. That saved both our lives!
A note on what this all means and why this journey was important to undertake:
I left my comfort zone of a law firm in Atlanta and dived into relative poverty in the Dominican Republic. I have an apartment and a Global Ministries stipend and for me that is enough. It certainly felt like I was diving into absolute poverty before I realized how lucky I am compared to my Dominican colleagues and the kids I help.
Was I really heading into poverty then? Or was I discovering what it means to be rich of the soul?
I have tried new foods, gone cliff diving, swum in crystal clear lagoons, and walked Boca Chica’s beach at night looking at thousands of stars I never imagined existed. I have come to meet or know Dominicans and Haitians from every level of society and have been welcomed unconditionally into their homes and sacred places. On my route to collect food for the boys’ lunch, I greet my afternoon girls class as they return home from school. They shout my name and exude joy.
Through it all, I have learned that none of this has been for me. I gained skills through living in a foreign country and spending time with Dominicans yes; but the real purpose of my presence here has been twofold: Firstly, I am here because the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ believe in this organization and therefore desire a continued relationship with Caminante here in Boca Chica; Secondly, I am here to accompany Caminante and Señora Denisse in sharing the love of God and offering hope to all we encounter in our mission.
Thank you all for walking this path with me!
Until next time,