This week marks the first of many lasts because we are on the other side of the mountain. I can’t believe how fast two months has gone, and I wasn’t sure that I liked it last weekend. I was getting really worried about how I’m going to say goodbye to my life here and come back into what seems like a different world. I think I overcompensated by trying so hard to be okay with the fact we are going to have to leave, that I got really upset about being here.
I was mad at this country for about 2 solid hours.
I had a meeting about my final project for the semester that helped solidify what my to-do list was and it was really helpful, but I walked home in a severely bad mood. I was late to lunch and only had 20 minutes to eat before I had to go out to my community for the afternoon and in the process of trying to enjoy the food, I cut a piece of yucca and it fell on the floor. This would have been completely fine on any other occasion, but I was mad at myself for being so clumsy.
I then walked the path for my first concho to get some breathing room, but I was upset with the piropos, the smell of the city, and all of the cars honking for absolutely no reason and being what I considered very impolite at the time. I made it to the intersection to pick up an F concho and, of course, got a driver that wanted to talk. I usually love all of my concho conversations and have them every day, but this was not one of those days. He made me sit in the front seat and kept staring at me instead of looking at the road. We almost got in several accidents and I legitimately was thinking we might die. (I also don’t think I ever went through culture shock in the first half, so now here it is!) He asked me if I had a boyfriend, to which I responded yes. He then asked me if I had a Dominican boyfriend. Apparently it is okay to have two, as long as they are not in the same country. He would not give up the argument. Along the way, he picked up his friend. While there were at least three open seats in the back, he decided to come and share the front seat with me.
I got to NCUE not in the best mood at all. I think people could tell, because I was asked if I was really fine or if I was just saying it. Regardless, I put on a happy face and walked upstairs to help the kids with homework. One little girl asked for my help on multiplication, and then I just got upset with how behind all of these kids are because they are unfairly given education that could be so much better. However, I was really glad I was able to help her and that now she understands what she didn’t understand before. She really is so smart!
I then went downstairs and talked to one of the youth about the calendar I had created for the semester. We hardly have any time to do what we want to do and we need to get on it. I pointed to April and I said, “This is the day I’m leaving for the United States. It is coming so fast.” He then asked me which day I was coming back. That really struck a chord in me. I was feeling like nothing I could do here mattered because I am only here for such a short time. I felt like my project was a waste of time because it was so fast and there is so much more I want to do with them. Just hearing that maybe even just being here for a time is doing something really humbled me. Sometimes you have to stop working incessantly on something and just be present. I needed to be reminded that it isn’t the future that matters (while it is important to get everything done by April), but instead a lot more about taking each day at a time.
I then was approached by one of the teachers who works at NCUE. We have become fairly good friends since I’ve been there, but she came up to me and said, “I want you to come over to my house. Are you free this weekend?” Oh my heart! I just have always felt a little strange about professional relationships and friends at the same time (mostly because I still feel like a little kid instead of a college student), but goodness I was honored to be asked. I couldn’t believe she wanted me to be part of her life outside of seeing me everyday at NCUE.
On the way out, I got to walk a little ways with another one of the youth on her way home. We talked about what needed to get done for a presentation to the directors coming up and I was just happy to be walking and talking feeling like I was part of this community. I said goodbye to her as a concho pulled up and I got in smiling. The concho driver asked me why I was so happy, and I told him it was Wednesday.
We had a great conversation on the way home. He told me about his family, and I was talking about my experience in the DR. We passed a sign for habichuelas con dulce and I asked him if he liked them. (Side note: habichuelas con dulce is SO delicious and probably my favorite dessert I have had here yet. They eat it during Semana Santa and while beans, batatas, milk, sugar, and raisins may sound really gross…it is beyond wonderful!) Of course he did, and we talked for at least a solid seven minutes about how to prepare them and how we like to eat them with animal crackers, etc. Before he dropped me off at my stop, he pulled over on the side of the road. A lady was selling habichuelas con dulce and he asked for a cup. He handed them to me before I could refuse…my concho driver bought me my favorite dessert on a day he had no idea how much I was struggling. He used more than what I paid for my ride in the concho to give me something I will cherish forever, even when he probably needs the money. I tried to pay him but he insisted it was a gift.
God has a way of reminding us to be thankful where we are and that He is still around even when we are feeling like the lowest of the low.
Psalm 84:5-7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka (weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.