I know, I know, I have not written in a while and it's not because there is nothing new to write about - in fact, it's quite the opposite. So much has been happening that I have been focusing on just living every experience fully and being in the moment of it all. I have put writing on the back burner for many months and am now sitting down to write a reflection of my almost 3 years in this beautiful country.
I have been reflecting a lot about my experience here lately and the opportunities for growth and awe that have been inspired by the people of this country. I am thankful every day for the beautiful souls of Dominicans - their kind, always there for you ways that, when you pay attention, will restore your faith in humanity.
I have ended my service,, after 35 months of service, and want to publicly pay homage to some incredible memories, life-changing moments and people who have changed my life forever.
If my service had to have a tagline or motto it would be this: " Reconnecting with humanity". I feel that my service was shaped by my connections and relationships with people - not just host-coutnry nationals but other volunteers as well. I learned valuable lessons from everyone and it is something I will forever treasure. Yes, I gave a lot of myself, I sacrificed some amenities and comforts for a few years, I ate strange foods and co-habitated with bizarre creatures. But my focus was always on the people I met and how we could connect no matter our backgrounds or where we came from. I learned that though we all appear to be different - we really are all the same - as long as we are compassionate and open-minded enough to take the time to find the commonalities. These means, patience, flexibility and understanding.
There were many moments where I thought I couldn't do it anymore. Where I almost quit and headed home. It was hard, tough, lonely. Then I thought in the people, how resilient they are and how much love and joy they have for life despite their conditions. They love for life and apparent joy is what kept me going. Thank you for teaching me that life is about more than just your social condition and for helping me fight through the hardest of times!
My most memorable time/moment in country: the time my host mom in Consuelo walked in to my room half naked on my first night there asking me what time I usually wake up and if I would like her to put coffee on before 8. I'll never forget this moment, it was the moment I realized just how different we are and the first moment I learned that privacy and boundaries are American concepts. I may not have learned it on a conscious level but it is always what I go back to when I think about how I came to this country with "personal space".
These concepts have played a role throughout my service in how I see human to human interaction and has allowed me to develop a more "collectivist" perspective - something I am so thankful for.
As Americans, we value everything that contributes to our individualistic culture - which, I think, is what helps contribute to the success of our country in many aspects. In Dominican Republic, everyone is constantly working hard to ensure that collectivism is the focal point of interactions, This means, if I am very hungry and I buy a 6" sub I don't just eat it myself but I make sure to share it with everyone around me. I value this - a lot. When a kid gets pesos, he goes back and takes it to his mom. When someone buys a plate of food, they offer it to others first - full well knowing that those others will take some food off the plate, you are always greeting people on the street, wishing them a happy day... yup, people take care of each other here and it is something I have grown to love and rely on so much. I know that it is something I am going to miss once I leave this little island and is something I can bring to my social bubble in the US!
I don't think one is better than the other, I believe that each one has it's function and purpose.
My most memorable person in country: This is a tough one as two very strong women have shaped my service; my host mom in Consuelo,Charo, and my really good friend in Los Blancos, Jovah. They both inspire my spiritual side, which I value very much, and both have the kind innocence of a child. They have shown me what it is to be women who have to fight for their families, be women who, at times, have to hold on to their belief systems to weather the storm. They have shown me nothing but unconditional love, support and the courage it takes to be a woman in this country. They are my Rosie the Riveters.
|Charo from Consuelo|
|Jovah from Los Blancos|
Food I will most miss: EASY - my typical campo breakfast - pretty much it includes any vivere (potato, squash, yucca, sweet potato) 2 fried eggs, and sauteed onions with a splash of vinegar. And of course, having any tropical fruit, for free, at any time of the day that the craving strikes!
Craziest "i'm in the Peace Corps" moment: So many but I guess the top 3 would include going a week and a half without power/electricity or water, the time I willingly helped my friend pee in a cup while in the front row of a crowded bus that wouldn't stop for us to pee and when I learned to kill a tarantula. These moment taught me to be resourceful, have no shame/embarrassment when helping a fiend in need and the courage I have to defend my own territory.
What I have learned: Other than the close to 100 Dominicanisms that I love and will continue to use, I have learned that nature takes it's course with everything. We are not in control of the way things happen and we must place our desire to control in the belief that it's just out of our hands! I have learned to have fun with life and not take it so seriously. I have learned to love white rice. I have learned that human connection is more important than the who you are in society. It's funny, I always thought I knew these things but I learned that knowing and knowing are two different things. One is just knowing on a mental level and the other is truly living and breathing it. I learned to live and breath what I believe and that it is okay to live this way. I thank the people of this country for teaching me that. Thank you for showing me that passionately living your you is okay!
MEMORY: Though it is going to be one of the most difficult things to leave this home of mine, I know that the memories I have will carry on with me. I will forever have imprinted images of people who have influenced me, colmadones after dark, music that triggers my favorite moments and smells that will remind me of my favorite sazones and rainfalls.
I have become: A friend, a sister, a daughter, a godmother, an aunt, a fiance. So many relationships made, built and noursihed in the last three years. I have another family throughout my service and it is comprised of so many people spread across the Dominican Republic.
It has been an incredibly transformative experience and I wouldn't change it for anything. I have no regrets, made life-long friendships and would do it all over again in a heartbeat! I love the me that came out of Peace Corps - more optimistic, understanding, compassionate person and it's all because of the people and connections I made. Thank you!
I have been back for a few days now and it feels like I'm seeing my hometown for the first time. Everything is greener than ever, has more life than I remember and the smell of fresh New-England summer air is crisper than before. It is absolutely beautiful here and I am grateful to have this new perspective.
October 8th, 2015 - heading back to DR for a long weekend - no one can keep me away from that island now!
Here are some pics of my very last days in DR and my first few in USA:
|Last day at Peace Corps|
|Hammocking one last time in the Campo!|
|Hanging out with family on my last night|
|Last meal in DR - right before heading to the airport!! love!|
|Where I spent the last year - apartment in the capital!|
|midnight arrival - reunited with the best siblings one could ask for!|
|Reunited with these fun ones for a welcome home get together!|
|Fresh air. Green summer!|
ONE LAST PICTURE FOR GOOD MEASURE - THIS GIRL IS WHAT I MOST ADORE IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:
|The day I became her Godmother!|
|I tried putting her in my duffle....epic failure!|
Gracias por todo, Republica Dominicana - Adoro a toda mi gente!