colonial zone tour / hair day

Written Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Sunday we met up in the Zona Colonial in the center part of Santo Domingo. The guagua left not even a minute before I got to the stop, and didn’t come again for another 45 minutes. Nice. But we got to our group in time, so no worries. Peace Corps staff arranged a walking tour with Lynne Guitar, an American historian, who’s lived in the DR for years and years. It was pretty nice. Have a look at the video/pictures:

When I got home, everyone was getting their hair done! I was really excited to be sharing in this experience with my host family. Hair is such a big deal for many women of all races/ethnicities. For those of us who have especially kinky/curly hair that takes a lot of time, effort and care, having someone do your hair often provides the opportunity to bond with that person. Maite, Marcel and cousin Fatima (yeah, same name as my sister! :)) were all getting their hair done. So just being around made me feel like I was a part of the bonding experience. Before I left the house for the tour, Fatima was in curlers and Maite had just gotten her hair washed and was starting to get it rolled up into curlers. When I got back, Fatima’s hair was out and bumped at the ends and Marcel was in the hot seat getting her hair blown out. Then Marcel got her hair flat ironed and curled with a curling iron, and Maite got her hair blown out. Fatima got her hair blown once more.

After the girls were all set, we walked to the abuela’s (grandmother’s) house about 15 minutes away. When we got into the neighborhood, I immediately noticed that the abuelo/a lived a little better than we did. She had a house (unlike our apartment) with at least three bedrooms, a microwave, I believe constant running water and a larger refrigerator. In fact, it was weird because I think the size of the fridge was the normal one that they have in the States, but I kept looking at it thinking, “Man, that’s a big fridge. Is that a normal-sized fridge, or bigger than what we have in the States?” I’m still not 100% sure, but I think it’s a normal sized one. The one we have at my doña’s is pretty slender.

The abuela was very fond of me. It took her a while to figure me out. She was asking, “De quién es ella?” [whose is she?]. Doña Mari’s sister told her I was living with Mari, and she said, “But you look like her family!” “Where are you from?” “I’m from North Carolina.” “Oh! You’re the volunteer?? But you look like her family!” By the time we left she asked me where I was from about three times. I think she wasn’t fully convinced that I was from the US. A lot of people expect American women to have blond hair, blue eyes, porcelain skin and a slender shape; not brown skin, brown eyes, kinky hair and a curvy figure.

The kids wanted to play dominoes, and insisted that I join in. So I played three rounds with the kids (two of which I won), and then retired early while I was ahead. I think maybe I’m still a little sensitive about being at the “kids table.”

After that, I went to sit with the adults and we talked about the Japan earthquake, which I was still really just finding out about. We talked about the earthquake and the sunami, and pulled about some newspapers that had photos and information. God be with them. Then we started talking about the Haiti earthquake, and everyone shared where they were when it happened, and whether or not they could feel it from where they were. Then my doña shared that she heard that the US had a device by which they could create and stop earthquakes, and that some Haitian preacher said that the US caused the Haiti earthquake. “No es posible,” I said. Then Doña Mari’s sister said that God sent the earthquake because of all the voodoo that the Haitians practice. “Sí,” my doña agreed. “They’re not Christians.” “And now he sent them cholera,” another said, and they all agreed. “But cholera is now in here,” I thought. When this transitioned into some jokes I got uncomfortable, but was unable to say anything. I was clearly outnumbered, by at least a factor of ten, and my Dominican Spanish was not sufficient enough to hold my ground on a sensitive topic like this. I just went for a glass of water.

It’s only human nature to try to make sense of calamity. And when we have an antagonist (especially one with whom we have an extensive history of conflict), it fits within our paradigm that bad things befalling them would be God’s punishment or vengeance. But specially speaking, there are Christians in Haiti, and there are also really bad things that have happened to believers (for an OT example, check out Job; for a modern day example, check out the brothers and sisters in the faith who are persecuted and killed daily for their faith in Jesus Christ). So I’m not sure that it’s ours to say why God allows such devastation; it is ours to ask ourselves where we will stand when the pain is at our door. Will we be faithful to the call? Will we still believe on the solid rock of Jesus Christ? The fact is there aren’t many things that are secure in this life (in relationships, in assets, in fair weather, etc.), but we will each experience hard times at some point or another. So can I be faithful in my faith when it’s raining on me? Or do I only seek God’s hand of blessings? Am I only interested in a God that serves my interests and makes my life easier? Regardless of whether we think God sends things like that or allows them to happen, we each have to answer for ourselves where we will stand in relation to our Creator.

When we got home, we watched a Christian video called Santito. The message was great, but the movie was awful! LOL The acting was so bad, as well as the direction. Even though the movie put me to sleep (literally) I enjoyed compartir-ing with the family in that way. This was a very good weekend.

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