The last few days have truly been amazing here, even though we’ve had to tearfully say goodbye to an amazing staff member, whose three weeks here flew by in the blink of an eye. But at the same time we have welcomed a new staff member into our fold, and I know that we will settle into a new groove soon.
One of my favorite experiences thus far has most definitely been a recent hike to a nearby plateau that allowed us to see for miles. It’s a decent walk away from our Batey, a few kilometers through sugarcane fields along a rocky road, but the time passes quickly when you spend it talking and laughing with those individuals you’ve come to love as family. Along the way to the plateau (which was described to us as a mountain…I’ve often found that we describe things very differently), we pass by the laguna (another excellent example, for the “natural” laguna is actually a man-made resorvoir), which we’ve walked to once before, but this time was particularly special for me. The entire walk there I was hand-in-hand with one of my new besties, Delores, a beautiful young girl of around 13 who is incredibly intelligent. For the first 15 minutes, at least, her brother insisted that she turn back, that she wasn’t allowed to accompany us. I’ve witnessed this one boy in particular being especially difficult and, well, violent with his many sisters. I’ve spent a good amount of time with one of his younger sisters, trying to stand up for her and be a consistent ally. In the same way, with Delores expressing interest in continuing with us, I helped her stand her ground. It wasn’t until we were just a few minutes’ walk from the lagauna that Delores revealed to me that she had never been before and had always wanted to see it. Her excitement slowly grew the closer and closer we got, and I will always remember the smile that lit up her face when she finally saw the laguna (reservoir). She even got over her fear of swimming (by being thrown in), and was grinning from ear to ear for hours afterwards.
We continued from there up a steep, rocky path to the top of the plateau, for breathtaking views of southwestern DR. But as much as I enjoyed this moment, taking in my surroundings, the silence, and as much as I enjoyed having my hand held like a child by my self-proclaimed security guard the entire way back down the “mountain” because I kind of slipped just one time, the memory that will stay with me the strongest is that moment I shared with Delores. This is exactly the kind of experience I came here to have, to share in the discovery of one’s own culture and history and country with ones who have never experienced it before, and to learn from all these little snippets in time, ones that slowly join together day ofter day to create an amazing panorama of true life.