back in the city

Written Monday, May 2

We finished CBT (technical training for our sector) and returned to Santo Domingo on Friday, but not before I had one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve ever in my life experienced. I have to share this on the World Wide Web, because sometimes you’re so humbled (or humiliated) that you have no other choice but to expose yourself and laugh (before others do!). So there I was (don’t all great stories begin this way?) about to leave home for our very last training class of CBT, when my host mom tells my host brother to give me a ride to the liceo (high school). “Sweet!” I think. “Bolas are good for the soul-as.” He drops me off at the corner of the street so he could continue on to his destination. It had just rained earlier that day, so there was a large mud puddle cutting the side walk in half. “Should I go around?” I ponder. “Pshhh!!” I quickly say in my head, dismissing the thought and tossing caution to the wind. “I’m in the Peace Corps! I’m here to live new experiences, to take chances, to make strides and leaps! I’m going to leap over this very mud puddle!” So I jump without further hesitation! The sun gleaming on my face! My right foot sweeps forward and extends past my left! I’m in the air! In the millisecond after I’m airborne, I pause and wonder, “Should I have gotten a running start? Naaaah, I’m good! I’m going to MAKE it. I’m going to—whah? Oh no! Nooo! I’m not going to make it! Is this really happening? My foot’s going to land in the puddle.” Now, how all of that spun through my mind in four millseconds, I have no clue, but before I knew it, not only was my right foot in the breen (brown + green), oily mud puddle (which was now my ego’s watery grave), but the impact of my body hitting the puddle caused the waters to rise up over me and land on the clothes covering my back, butt and calves. And I didn’t just slip, I fell…to the ground…I mean, I am on all fours.*SIGH!* Yes, it had indeed just happened. I picked myself up—halfway wanting to cry and halfway wanting to laugh at myself—walked past the comments and laughter from the high school students, that one would expect to hear anywhere in the world after having endured such an experience, and went into our training room. I quickly left to attempt to clean myself up and salvage what remained of my dignity, but when I realized it was hopeless, I decided to just go home and change. When I got back, I didn’t breathe a word of it to any of the other trainees. Clean clothes meant it never happened. And if any other trainees/PCVs are reading this and ask me about it, I will vehemently deny it in public. 😉 Ay, pues.

In other news, I think I drank some bad water about a week before leaving El Seibo. Without getting into all the details, I’ll just say that I made several trips to the bathroom over a short span of time. And thanks to the drug Paramox, which apparently kills all foreign bodies from parasites to amoebas, I’m feeling a lot better and um…regular. And, yeah, I prefer to not know what was inside me. So let’s just leave it at that.

So by the time we left CBT, I was quite ready for the change. I really enjoyed El Seibo, the church Unción del Santo, Doña Magalis, spending time with the PCTs in my sector, (not to mention the running water and 24-hours of electricity,) and the youth group we worked with. We had a program a few days before we left where we proudly displayed all the work we’d done with our jóvenes. Here’s the video our group created:

Back in Santo Domingo, when I got home, I found out that we moved from the third floor to the first floor. At first I didn’t like this. I was really looking forward to being in my old room in Pantoja again (and not having to deal with nearly as many bugs). Being on the first floor though, there are several bugs. But, hey, it’s home now…at least for the next few days. Tomorrow we find out where we’re going to be placed, and on Wednesday we go there for just under a week. So I’d still say that I’m very much in transition.

Santo Domingo is still very dusty, loud, congested and hyperbole. And as excited as I was to be able to hang out with all the other volunteers (from the other sectors) again, I caught a cold, so I’ve been constrained for most of the weekend. Despite all of this, there was a beautiful light peering through the darkness: the fellowship of believers. Since being in country, I’ve been trying to get up with a friend-of-the-family of my cuñado (brother-in-law). On Sunday, I finally went to her church, Iglesia Cristiana Oasis (yes, fighting yucky sickness, and all). God, it was wonderful! The music was great, and the word was rich. Just what I needed. The next day (today), I compartir-ed with Janelle and several of the other church members. We ate La Bandera (arroz y habichuela con ensalada) for lunch, went to the mall—where I felt like I was home in the States again, played dominoes and went swimming (well, they did anyway, I didn’t want to risk it since I’m still fighting off the cold).

I like hanging out with my fellow volunteers, and just building with most people in general, but it’s so wonderful to be around people who hold the same world-view that you do; people that have experienced the same thing that you have, which has transformed your life. This is the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ. Sho Baraka put it like this: “I got fam across the world who don’t look like me, but we all got that Inside Man, like Spike Lee.” I enjoy hanging out with my PCVs, because (for the most part), they get my culture in this foreign land. But I enjoy hanging out with my Dominican family in Christ, because, despite my culture, they get my mindset in the foreign land that is this world. There are some things that I may do, say or think (or not) that may come across as bizarre to other PCVs because I’ve committed to picking up a cross and pattering what I do, say and think after what Christ did. And, true, there are some things that may come across as bizarre to Dominicans Christians because my American culture is interwoven into the backdrop of what I do, say and think. Nonetheless, my deepest devotion is to the cross. So because of this the flavor of my Peace Corps experience will be seasoned a little differently than some of my counterparts, especially in this country. I can definitely say that I felt more integrated into El Seibo, probably because of the fellowship with the church. I hope this is also the case with my next community.

Last thing I want to mention is what made the headlines worldwide yesterday: the assassination of Osama bin Ladin. Not that I’m super political, or super pro- or anti-war, but this news hit me like a ton of bricks. I almost missed it, but happen to glance at the TV screen on my way to brush my teeth before bed. I could hardly believe what I was seeing: “OSAMA BIN LADIN ESTÁ MUERTO” in all caps on CNN en Español. I stood there frozen and glued to screen.  And in that moment, perhaps more than any other since being here, I felt so much like an immigrant (which, for me, I’m more aware of when I’m reminded just how far away from home I really am). This was the second time big news had happened at home, while I was away. And this was MAJOR. My first thought was shock, and then fear, specifically of retaliation, and what that could mean to country and to my family (and then I wondered if folks would now get off Obama about his birth certificate). Now, practically speaking, this probably doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of my immediate family. But I’m coming to realize that one of my fears is that the unthinkable would happen to people I love while I’m abroad. Like all fears, with this one, there’s also the irrational element of magnification of the issue. And who knows, maybe there will be some sort of retaliation? Maybe there won’t be. Maybe this will actually be good for the US Economy. All I can really do though is trust God. I imagine this is a taste of what mothers experience when they send their kids off for the first time. Only, perhaps in reverse. We hold on to people and things as if they really belonged to us. As if we know how to love and care for them better than God, who is our Creator and Father. Lord, help me to remember that everything is yours. Everything that is “mine” really belongs to God, the Creator of all things.

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