Let me forewarn you by telling you that if you want an exciting read then this is not the blog for you. This is a stream of conscious just analyzing my day because today was completely full of little wonders. Every day is different, but today I had a lot of very small victories.
If you are still reading, I’m telling you, it is about grocery stores, breakfast, and cars. It is also going to be very long.
I was blessed to wake up this morning to the meowing of a sweet little cat that has discovered where my window is. He also has figured out that if he meows loud enough and long enough I will acknowledge his presence and open the back door for him to beg more efficiently for the leftovers from the next meal. He knows how persuasive he is, and he milks if for everything its worth.
I turned on the water heater for 20 minutes for literally 15 seconds of lukewarm water and it was one of the most glorious showers I have experienced in a long time. I couldn’t help but start singing “The Sound of Sunshine” by Michael Franti and Spearhead. I started off the day with a smile before light was even outside of my window.
Little did I know, I had an audience that was laughing in the kitchen when I opened the door to go back to my room. My host mom was sipping out of her tiny coffee cup and enjoying the concert. Embarrassed but still way too happy, I laughed with her and returned to my room to get ready for the day.
Breakfast was waiting for me on the table when I emerged which was a delicious combination of thick, warm hot chocolate, the BEST coffee (have I told you the coffee here is the best I have ever had in my life?), and lechoza (a fruit). My host mom is still not very happy that I can’t eat a lot for breakfast, but it is perfect for me. Let me tell you about this fruit though. I have such a torn relationship with this particular fruit. It isn’t that it doesn’t taste good, it is just not my favorite. It is a little more bitter and leaves a bad taste in your mouth after you eat a piece. Some people really like it, but it is just not for me. Well, I keep getting presented with this fruit in many different forms. My sweet host mom made me a smoothie of lechoza and limon which was absolutely delicious. I let her know how wonderful it was and how much I liked it, but I just really liked the combination. However, now I think I am stuck with lechoza for a while, without the addition of limon. Next mission is carefully maneuvering a way to get another banana smoothie (I had it a few weeks ago and was so lost inside the moment drinking the smoothie that I was late to meet my classmates on the corner of the street to walk to school).
Very happy with the coffee and packed up with a full water bottle, I walked out the front door to meet my friends on the corner. I have tried to make an effort to meet all of my neighbors so I’m not just that new gringa that lives on their street. I don’t know if you have ever seen The Trumann Show, but if you have, you know the scene where he is walking down his street almost with a skip in his step. He is smiling so big and waving to everyone on the street to say “Good Morning” and everyone smiles and waves back at him or says some clever remark that results in both laughing. Honestly, this is how I felt my walk went this morning. My neighbors were all out watering their yards or sweeping their driveways with water and a broom. They all looked up and smiled and said good morning as I happily went through all of the greetings I could think of. (Saludos, Buenos Días, Buen Día, se vaya bien, buenas, etc)
I got to our corner a little earlier than usual and had the opportunity to talk with the director of the day care on the same corner. We had a nice conversation about all of the little kids until all of my companions showed up to walk to PUCMM together. I made it a point to talk only in Spanish for the entire walk because I really want to get better. I can’t believe all of the time that has already flown by without me knowing it. I don’t want to waste any minute being here and really want to know the culture, the language, and especially the people. Four months always sounds so long, but then you are inside of them and it goes by way too quickly. I’m taking every potentially awkward moment to talk to everyone I can. It hasn’t ended badly yet!
The professor for our first class was about 25 minutes late which made great time to just get ready for the day. We got to finish some homework in class and then Spanish class was so fun. We listened to a song by Juan Luis Guerra (who I am partial to anyway) called La Hormiguita. Definitely worth looking up if you are interested!
Afterwards we headed home ready for a delicious lunch and a wonderful conversation with my host parents. Apparently we had a power outage for the entire morning! These are pretty typical here but it was a fun bonding experience today. (If you want to hear a really funny story, ask me about the power outage in Cabarete at our hostile this weekend. It involves sickness, a big scary man, and a gun. Actually, I probably should blog about our entire Cabarete experience. It was one for the record books for sure!) I successfully snuck in a dominicanism at lunch and my host mom looked at me in disbelief and began laughing, yet again. I’ll be a Dominican yet!
After lunch, I went to meet another girl in my program who is also working at NCUE with me. Conveniently, the concho routes we have to take are our initials, K and F. We even pass a sign on the side of the street that literally reads “Kalle.” It is just a misspelling of “calle” but it definitely makes me feel a little more important. This was our first time going by ourselves out to Cien Fuegos and figuring out where to go. Conveniently, we got a driver who was looking specifically for some “americanas” to help him learn English…slash find a girlfriend. This was one of the longest rides, but he was also really nice. Usually the conchos only drop us off at La Gallera and we walk for fifteen minutes through the dirt roads. This concho decided he didn’t have anywhere to be and drove us in quite a ways. I don’t know that he will be very excited when he does not receive a call tonight. (A quick maneuver that we don’t have cell phones but he could give us his number.)
NCUE deserves a blog in itself, which is sure to come. I am completely blessed to be working here. The people are wonderful, the kids are wonderful, and I have already found at least three new hair stylists who are about 8 years old. I also loved being able to help the director try to learn English with her workbook right before the kids came. Something about her learning English makes me feel like we are in this together as I’m learning Spanish. I have a few camera shots from a high place I was standing today. These may be some of the only pictures for a while of this area! I’ll try to add some better descriptions on the pictures!
After we got off, the sweet director drove us to the main road so we didn’t have to trek alone and we tried taking an M concho home because it goes right by the university. Oh if only we knew what we were getting ourselves into when we got into that concho! Dominicans are very open about how they feel. The concho driver asked for our names and literally everything he could find out about us including where we were from, if we had a religion, and our cell numbers. All of the concho drivers also talk to each other as they drive along the streets. The driver was obviously showing off that he had us in his back seat which was sufficiently embarrassing. He even shared my name with another concho driver like we were best friends. To give you a better picture of this concho driver, let me just tell you that he stopped along the way to purchase a beer and quickly finished it off while driving before we even got to our stop. He also stopped to wait for another passenger, turned around, told me I looked like a “little doll” and pinched my leg saying I was tiny (which I was totally not okay with, luckily we got out within a block).
Somehow, even after that ride I felt so capable. It was like I could do anything and nothing would stand in my way. Even climbing the hill (which is a struggle everyday to commit to) was incredibly fun for me. I went to the bank in the city all by myself, exchanged money all by myself, and navigated the gigantic grocery store all by myself. I handled the piropos, I made friends with a guard I have passed several times, and smirked at the overly arrogant kid who followed me and a couple of my friends to the monument last night and called me “the boss” because I was not putting up with his games. (I really am sorry, but when it is the third time you have heard the same pickup line it just gets ridiculous. How dumb do they think women/American women are? Sometimes you have to get a little sassy in order to protect yourself here.) A success to say the least.
However, with every success there is always that moment you have to remember that you don’t know everything. I thought I had finally figured out how to cross the street here, but I was completely wrong. Typically, I go when the Dominicans go because they know what they are doing. As I was coming off of such a wonderful day, I went as soon as the Dominican man standing next to me left the curb to cross the street. I thought I had timed it perfectly because the car was going to pass by and I would get right through after his tail end left my walking path. Well…here there are no road rules. The car slammed on its brakes and I slammed right into the back of the car. I literally walked right into it. I only wonder what the people in the car were thinking…whoops.
It was also the birthday of one of the greatest girls in our program! She conveniently lives right down the next street over and she called me because her host family wanted to celebrate with cake. I quickly came over and it was one of the most fun nights I have had since I have arrived! All of us were talking and laughing and stumbling over words and loving what a blessing it is to have Jess in the world! I love getting to know all of the host families in the area and it is even better when our little group of friends gets to enjoy it together.
It was a quick get together because we all have a paper due tomorrow, unfortunately. Somehow this lengthy post was way more entertaining to write.
I hope I wake up tomorrow on the same side I woke up on this morning. I felt like I was drinking in life and could not get enough of it.
If you made it all the way through this post, I completely commend you! I will try to keep them a little bit shorter and with more content. The main theme of this whole blog is that life really is what you make it to be. You should not live in fear and you should not worry about embarrassment. If you think it is awkward, it is probably not. If you mess up some Spanish, you have that many more tries later, and sometimes it can make a great laugh! You can’t just wait for something to come to you, you have to go after it. Don’t live life looking through a Facebook lens. Get out and talk to the random group playing dominoes outside of a colmado or strike up a conversation with your cashier. I have always valued getting to know people, but I am truly seeing how much more I enjoy life here. You have to let go of your insecurities because yes, you don’t belong, yes, you do stick out, yes, people are looking at you and may or may not have a negative view of you before you even say a word, and yes, you have the choice of what lens to view it through and how you are going to respond.
What a promise to see the fruits of!
“I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them, and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16