Saturday, June 30, 2007

we are family...

i've got all my sisters with me.
we are family.
get up everybody and sing.

The last day that the Westlake women's group was at the house, was the day that two of my sisters arrived. Yes, my family came down to visit me and it was so great! Thursday afternoon after our day at the beach with the kids, I went to the airport to pick up Rachel and Meredith. It was so good to see them. We went back to the house, and the next day they came to the villages with me.

Since the group had left, we tagged along with Alexia and helped her and Holly (one of the interns) with English camp. We first went to Chichigua, where we spent our time playing with the kids that weren't in class and helping out the adults put together phrases in English. The village was pretty calm the day we went, but it was great to show them where I taught and a few of my students that come to class.

We continued on to Pancho Mateo in the afternoon after eating lunch at a parada, which is kind of like a rest stop. Ask Meredith about the tostones because she was obsessed. Pancho Mateo is a lot bigger than Chichigua, so we spent all of our time playing with kids so that they would not be a distraction during English camp. After giving them the tour, we went to the basketball court (otherwise known as la cancha) and had relay races, played games like "duck duck goose" and "ring around the rosy" (all in Spanish or course!), they even got coerced into having their hair braided by the little girls. I think that they really enjoyed seeing everything, even though they weren't used to all the heat. Rachel and I laughed at how often Meredith took naps!

The next afternoon (Saturday) my mom, step dad, and youngest sister Evelyn arrived. We took a cable car up the mountain that is behind our house and spent some time walking around the mountain, exploring the different pathways as well as the cool weather.

The next day we drove to Jarabacoa and went white water rafting, the rapids were really good and our two guides were great. We also saw a couple different waterfalls in the city; the size and power was so incredible to see. After staying a night, we continued on to Santo Domingo (the capital), where we saw some sights and did a little shopping. Our hotel was a 16th century building renovated into a tranquil bed and breakfast, located right in the middle of the colonial zone. Very cool.

For the next 3 days, we stayed at a resort on the east coast of the island. It was a complete change from everyday life, but so good to rest on the beach and by the pool and hang out with family. We had the opportunity to go snorkeling, and saw some really cool things. I held a sea urchin and it suctioned itself to my hand, touched a sea slug, and saw a lot of beautiful coral and fish.

After spending a long 8 hours driving back to Puerto Plata on Friday, Saturday morning I was able to show them a glimpse of Chichigua and Tamarindo before heading to the airport. On a funny note, we all got to know our driver Juan really well during the week, that when they left he gave everyone in my family and hug and a kiss and we got a group picture! It was so good to get to see them, and for them to see a lot of the country.

Friday, June 29, 2007

jump ropes and beach balls

So, I realize that it has been a ridiculously long time since I have posted on the blog. If you recall my last entry where I spent time with a woman named Miriam in Tamarindo (the area where we are building the school house), well many things have happened since then. Over several entries I will try to update you on everything that has been going on this month, so bare with me.

We had a women's group come the first week in June, three mothers and four daughters. They brought art supplies to the villages the first couple of days to make bracelets and sponge paintings, and nail polish to paint fingernails, as well as jump ropes and kickballs, which the kids loved! We spent time in Chichigua and Tamarindo (our first organized activity there). It was a success. Then, on the third day, we took the kids from Chichigua to the beach and spent a good chunk of time there. We brought a giant parachute that the kids played with in the sand, and had fun times tossing balls back and forth in the water. There were two high school volunteers that came down for that week, Christy and Blake, who were great with the kids as well. We all had a really good time, and learned a lot as it was the first group once having the interns in country.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


On Monday I was able to return to the land where the educational center is being built, the neighborhood is called Tamarindo so I am going to start calling it that (even though somehow it got designated as "el boss" by summer staff). Anyway, while in Tamarindo (or el boss) I saw Miriam sitting on a foam pad outside across from her house sorting through books and papers that had been damaged in the flood. If you don't know who Miriam is read "lots and lots of mud."

I walked over and sat with her to see what she was doing. I began to help her peel apart the notebooks, but most everything had to be thrown out. Behind her though she had laid out some birth certificates and other important documents to dry. She started going through some books she used when she went to the university. She was studying to be a nurse, but quit 2 and a half years in for financial reasons. While she was flipping through the pages, she began to teach me the information she had learned and then threw the books out to be thrown away. Then she just started weeping.

As she wept, she told me that her parents were dead, her husband had left her, and that her family consisted of her kids, some of her neighbors, and God. As I listened to her talk, I wept with her. It was so amazing that an older woman with four kids would be so vulnerable before someone she didn't even know all that well and who wasn't even in that stage of life. It was very humbling for me.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

fist pump

Today Yoslena gave a powerful fist pump when I looked her direction when she discovered that she could come to the adult English camp and would receive a notebook to do the work. It was very enthusiastic.

(read 'another humorous incident' if you don't know who Yoslena is).

Friday, June 01, 2007

lots and lots of mud

Yesterday was a day like no other. Constance and I were driving Drew to the land to work with Miguel where we are building the school house, when the car died. After some funny moments and success in car fixing, we made our way into Montellano. We got to the land and walked around some while waiting for Miguel to come. I'm glad that we did because I wouldn't have seen the land and everything that happened there.

The night before had rained so much that the river rose and flooded all the houses for several blocks, as high as 4 or 5 feet inside the homes. There was so much mud everywhere that I wished I had big rain boots, but my sandals had to do. A woman said that in the 17 years living there, she had never seen a flood so terrible. Miguel was even surprised that the river had risen up to where our land was.

We walked to another street where the houses backed up to the river. Families were surveying the damage and sweeping mud out of their homes (to the extent that that is possible). Miguel, Chris, Drew, Constance, and I each went to a different house to help in whatever way we could. The home I went into belonged to Miriam and her children. It was a three room house made of sheets of tin and plywood. She gave me a broom and I began to push the slushy mud out of her home, mud so deep that just like walking outside, your foot gets stuck like a suction cup and you can't get it out. Pictured above is her home once we removed most of the furniture.

We decided to take everything out of the house so that we could get all the mud out. I helped some of her little boys carry out the little Dominican stove and washer they had, along with a table and some chairs. We filled containers with mussy clothes, sheets, a nd things that had literally become unidentifiable. I stood there gathering up the clothing, wanting to mourn with this woman over the things she had lost.

Our house in Houston flooded a few years back during Tropical Storm Alison, and we were out of our house for 6 months. It was a hard, and sad, and expensive time, now we are doing just fine, but this family does not have the resources that we did.

There was a package of salami partly still in its wrapper that I picked up off the floor in the bedroom. I sat it down on a pile of other things, but one of the boys took it to his mom and they all proceeded to eat it because it was what they had. I couldn't believe it.

The song Turn! Turn! Turn! (to everything there is a season) came into my head, and I thought of Ecclesiastes chapter 3. "There is an appointed time for everything..." I wanted to cry in that moment.

We stayed there all through the day not stopping until after 3pm. I made friends with the kids, particularly with one little girl named Ariana who asked me twice if I would be her mother (no joke). Miguel wanted to do something for them, and decided we should at least get some food for them so they could have a meal today. While we continued working, he went to the store with Constance and bought enough chicken, rice, beans, tomatoes, and oil for about 15 families.

After English camp today, we were able to drive by the area and a lot of the land had dried up, which was great.