After checking up on Ellery and Kelly’s blogs, I realized how badly I’ve been slacking on mine. I’ve been too caught up on trying to think of something profound to write about; when in reality I have about 20 followers (okay, that’s being generous) who just want to know what the heck I’m doing over here.
This past month has been an overload of new things. This country is crazy and wonderful. A lot of times I feel completely lost, while others I sit back without a doubt that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. Above all, I am so grateful that I have wonderful people to share this experience with. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Ryan and Virginia to laugh about how incredibly different life is here. Ryan is here for his second year as an Extension DR volunteer and has been honorably declared a Dominicano by the locals. Virginia was a surprise addition to our group. Originally, I thought I was coming down here with 2 Stonehill boys as my side-kicks, but here I am with an Auburn grad that says “ya’ll” and a gringuito that is constantly rapping; and I couldn’t be happier.
Ryan has done a great job of showing us around La Romana and introducing us to life here. It’s nice to know some of the insider tips that may have taken us months to learn. Everyone here has been incredibly welcoming, whether at work or at the club where we live. One of the best feelings for me was walking into the preschool class where I spent most of my week over my spring break. I cried leaving them, when they made me a book of their handprints, and hoped that I would one day be able to return. Walking into their classroom months later to 42 hugs, kisses and shouts of “amiguita” (their nickname for me) was amazing.
Outside of work, we’ve kept pretty busy. We’ve met many of Ryan’s friends from last year, most importantly Alex C. and Alex P., who have pretty much been friends with all of the volunteers proceeding us. It’s been really nice to just have instant friends who you know you can trust. Also, Diane arrived about a week after us. She was a volunteer for the Extension Program 2 years ago and has returned as a full-time employee at the Hogar, working in the Nivel Inicial (preschool) as well as teaching English classes to older students. I am so lucky to have her here.
In the past month, we’ve made many trips to la playa. The beaches here are gorgeous, exactly what you would expect from the Caribbean: crystal clear warm water, palm trees, fine sand. I often cannot believe that I live here. It’s paradise. This past Saturday, we went on our first “boat trip” with the teachers from the local English school, who are from Great Britain and Ireland. We boarded a boat armed with Brugal and Presidente and set off for Isla Catalina, one of two off of the coast of La Romana. There was swimming, dancing and a great time had by all!
Along with very warm weather, we’ve also experienced a huracán. The buildup for Hurricane Isaac was almost comical. It’s all anyone talked about for a week, as they boarded up the windows. Work was cancelled on Friday, or so I thought, until I woke up to a beautiful sunny day and a phone call from my boss saying “gracias a Dios” I could go into work today. Needless to say I was not happy. Although the storm didn’t really hit us, we certainly got some of the wind and rain.
This first month has already brought about some unexpected changes, and at times I wonder if I’m crazy for doing this. I’m a broke college graduate who has a family, friends, job opportunities, a life in Massachusetts; yet I’ve packed up and moved to a third world country to volunteer for a year. My experience reminds me of a quote from a book I read a few years ago, Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert says, “I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.” As I sat at a bar the other night watching American football with a bunch of Brits, I couldn’t help but laugh. Never in a million years would I have placed myself in that moment, but I sipped my Presidente with certainty and comfort that I was right where I was supposed to be.