I can’t believe it has already been a month since I arrived in the Dominican Republic! Honestly, time has flown by since I got here and I really have only had one solid day that I was really missing home. The only reason for that being that someone here made a comment about how her friends at home were not that great compared to here, but that just stemmed me to truly appreciate my friends at home and how much they really mean to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being home, but there is that comfort knowing that I will come back. Somehow leaving is really hard in the first plunge, but I know I will get back and start new memories and people won’t even notice I’m gone this semester. Everyone is having adventures and I’m really glad I will get to share mine and hear theirs when I get back.
We had our one month check-in with the program today to evaluate a lot about ourselves. This has probably been one of my favorite days here so far. I learned a lot about myself and the other people in my program. It was very much a self-reflection and coming to terms with the fact that I really am capable of making a difference, even if I feel like a three-year-old in a foreign country where I can’t figure out how to turn on the stove, I can’t cross the street by myself, and my “parents” make all my meals and do my laundry. I don’t think that someone telling me that would have helped me because I needed to figure it out for myself. A lot of times in my life, I have just felt like I was inadequate to do something even though I wanted to. For example, I wouldn’t speak Spanish because I knew I wasn’t very good, when really the only way to learn is by tripping over your words until you don’t anymore. This feeling of inadequacy was very evident in a good many areas of my life, but letting go of that feels really good.
Going into today’s meeting, I felt like I really hadn’t improved at all from day one. All I could think of was, “Wow, I have been here a month and I’m still struggling with Spanish. I should be a lot better than I am right now.” I honestly felt like this all day, despite many other great realizations. When I got home, I came to find out my house had flooded! Don’t worry, nothing was damaged, but we spent some major time mopping up which was great bonding with my host parents! I then went on a run around the monument before dinner with some of my gringo friends. I think we are all starting to understand how incredibly awesome the food here is but thinking about how quickly we are clogging our arteries. (Though I came back to a dinner of fried cheese, bread, and pasta….healthy, huh?) When I arrived back at my house, one of my host parents’ friends was over! He was the same friend that literally on the first day I arrived.
I was really excited to see him! He was so nice and just a wonderful welcoming face, but day one I was butchering Spanish like I had never seen the word “gato” in my life. I’m seriously not even kidding. I think I was a bit disoriented with all of the Spanish going on right after getting off the plane and couldn’t even remember what my favorite baseball team in the States was…seriously it was embarrassing. What was so encouraging, though, was that tonight was the first time I have talked to him since day one, and I could carry on a conversation no problem. Sure, I’ve carried on conversations, but I didn’t truly realize how much I had actually improved until I saw him again.
Last night I watched an entire movie completely in Spanish without subtitles with my host mom and understood what was going on. Sure, there are always those words you aren’t so sure about, but my mind has switched gears to be able to hear Spanish and not constantly try to translate what is being said. Sometimes it just makes more sense to me to say something in Spanish than in English.
I am really blessed to be where I am, but the more I learn the more I know how much more there is to learn. Working in Cien Fuegos is such an incredible experience and I have already learned so much just chit chatting with the youth in the program. A girl taught me several slang phrases, and probably a few bad words. It is such a bonding experience and I think I have learned a good majority there than anywhere else in Santiago. She asked me why I said, “que pasa?” everytime I saw her and I mean…it is because I like it. You know..what’s up? So she taught me the phrase, “Que pasa calabasa?” Which I’m pretty sure is the equivalent of, “What’s cooking, good looking?” in English. Haha so I tried this phrase out on one of the other youth as I was walking into the recreation area. He looked at me and was in stitches it tickled him so! He said, “No, no, no, just que pasa….y después…NADA.”
For being here one month I think I have finally figured out the rhythm of life here. Some of the things that were the scariest for me or the hardest for me at first now seem second nature. I certainly don’t have it all together, but I feel capable. I feel like even with my lack of Spanish, I am really going to be able to help the youth program at NCUE. I think it may even be an asset to getting it to be a sustainable program without me there. If you had asked me one month ago, or maybe even a week ago, I don’t think I would have been able to say that.
For your learning pleasure (and for those who are coming to visit me in March/April!), here are some phrases I have learned here that may or may not be the best ones to know:
Vaina: literally the equivalent of saying “thing” …but here it is used everywhere! Definitely important to know.
Gajo: it’s a Clementine! A great fruit to check out here! (and very different from grajo…which is a phrase for bad BO)
Moscas: flies. They are everywhere in the verdadero (dump) which is right where NCUE is!
Loma: I didn’t know the word for this before helping some kids with their homework, but it is just a really big mountain, like Pico Duarte.
Bolche: when you talk bad about someone
Babosa: this is a phrase for someone who talks a lot about nothing…someone who says a lot of bull.
Mierda, conchale, and mierquina: NOT the best words to use!
This one is probably one of the most important is knowing how to say you are full and literally cannot eat anymore even if you wanted to: “estoy jarta/llena/satisfecha”
I’ve learned a great deal in just a short month and I had no idea it was happening. I am really excited to see where the rest of this semester takes me and encounter all the many more discoveries that await!