dr musings: june 6, 2003


Friday evening, June 6, 2003


So, today I was out running, in what I have decided to call my “running ministry”…I run through the communities, on a dirt road that is “under construction” (the President is building a house in the community where I worked three years ago, Los Corrales. His term is over in a year, and it is customary for the current president to accumulate everything he needs to be comfortable for the rest of his life, prior to leaving office. Anyway, magically, the roads full of ollos (oy-yos, holes) are being repaired.) which means that there are piles of dirt and gravel on an already narrow dirt road, making sharing it with trucks, motors, and the nice SUVs going to the “rich” people’s homes a bit of a challenge. As I run, I wave to the people who are sitting out on their porches or walking or riding motors (mopeds) past me on the road. It is amazing when you smile and say “hola” how they smile back and wave. (It is sort of like being in New Jersey—people seem so sour when you are in line at the market or Target or wherever, until you stop and smile and say hello and look at them, and then they light up—at least most of the time!) Anyway, I am sure that as I am passing by these people and waving they are thinking, “Crazy American, out running!” I do have to say that the summer I lived in New Jersey, if it were 85+ degrees out and 90+ percent humidity (as it is here most days), I would have thought someone running outside waving and smiling was crazy too!

Anyway, today as I was running, a bunch of kids were coming home from school. They all have to wear uniforms, so they were in their blue shirts and khaki pants and skirts, walking down the dirt road. When they saw me, they started running along with me, about 15 of them. They asked where I was going and I told them that I was running to Santo Domingo (that is the capital, and is about two and a half hours drive to the south east from where we are in Jarabacoa. By the way, if you want to look on a map of the DR, we are about in the center of the island, and the nearest “big” city is Santiago.) and then on to Puerto Rico. I asked them where we should go next, and they said Miami and then New York. (For Dominicans, pretty much the whole US is New York. I am not sure if it is still true, but when I was here three years ago one of the statistics that I learned was that there were actually more Dominicans living in New York than in the DR!) Anyway, we were running along and I was thinking to myself how cute the whole picture was, and too bad there was no one around with a video camera to catch this touching moment on tape—it would be great footage for a Sally Struthers commercial to help the poor children in other countries… the picturesque green hills, the brilliant blue skies, cows grazing in the fields, and these children running beside me, the missionary, on the dirt road, for a moment free from all cares of the world… As I was basking in this romantic vision, I looked over at one of the young boys and saw that he had apparently picked up an American hand gesture and was testing it out on me…apparently he thought I was number one!

I had another ride on a motor yesterday, with Daniel, into town. It is so fun to sit on the back of the motor, wind blowing through your hair…holding on for dear life as large trucks past much too close! Motors are really the backbone of transportation here, from carrying entire families (children sitting on the handle bars or on the laps of their parents), to carrying propane tanks, refrigerators (yes, it is true!)…last week I even saw one with someone dragging a long piece of pvc pipe behind on the ground, and another pulling a little trailer full of cases of “Presidente,” the local brew.

Another thing I have been thinking about this week is how the work that Students International does here in the DR does not necessarily fit the “mission trip” stereotype. Perhaps you don’t have a stereotype of what a mission trip would be, but I think the typical stereotype is that you sleep on the floor, don’t eat much or eat gross food, work manual labor all day long until you are exhausted, hold vacation Bible Schools for the children, don’t shower regularly, and perhaps even get sick. Those are definitely all aspects of mission trips that I have been on, but I think what has struck me this past week as I have been thinking about it is that that is not the only example of what it means to do mission work.

It is definitely not “posh” living here, but although simple, I think it is pretty nice. For example, I think I am going to come back from my month here having gained ten pounds because the food here is so good! Plus, we even have a microwave here. (Erica and I went through this past year without a microwave, which people could not believe…but between the toaster oven and the stove we could heat up anything we needed to and we decided it would be good for us to “simplify”…granted, the VCR, DVD player, cell phones, etc. were not all that “simple” but…) Also, although I go through most of the day grimy because we don’t have time to shower in the mornings and because it is so hot and humid here, typically by the end of the day, after my afternoon run, I do get a fairly warm shower—unless, of course, the electric is out (the water is heated through electricity) but even then we have a “planta” (generator) which we can use until the electric comes back on.


I guess I should explain a bit about what SI does in the DR… The staff here are here year-round, working in various communities. Throughout the year they bring groups from the US (high school and college students, as well as groups of just adults or families) down for two week trips, called outreaches. SI currently is working in nine different sites. The Americans who come down choose one of the sites and work there for the two weeks in the DR.

The site that I am leading (which is just for this first two weeks I am here) is the Media Site. It is our job to “tell the story” of the work that everyone else is doing—a dream job, if you ask me! We are taking digital photos to hopefully update the Students International website (there are pictures on the website that I took three years ago, that are a bit out of date!) and to use for brochures, shooting video for use to recruit new American staff and to show prospective teams who will come on an outreach, and taking film pictures to add to the existing scrapbook that tells of the history of the ministry here. It is fun for me, and it is needed here, because someone needs to tell the story of the work and ministry that is being done here, and pictures are a great way to do that.

The other sites are:

*Sports (Jose works with the local boys, playing baseball and mentoring them. I volunteered to show them some of my football and basketball moves, but for some reason they don’t seem too interested!)

*Dentistry (Vanessa is a dentist, and she is on staff with SI—the students that work with her get to pull teeth, clean them, and even drill cavities!)

*Special Education (Elisa, one of my roommates from the last trip, is the principal of the new special education school that SI has started)

*Social Work (Janette works in El Callajon with the women there to help build their self-esteem and teach them various skills—Erica, it reminds me of the sewing circus in “I Wish I Had a Red Dress!”)

*Agriculture and Church Planting (Kim works up in a mountain community, helping the people with various agricultural projects and also holding Bible studies in the community.)

*Education (Yocasta and Anyely (Ann-gel-ee) both work in Education in two different communities. The schools rarely can take the time to give students the individual attention that they need.)

*Appropriate Technology (Alberto works in various projects in various communities—right now they are

*Art (Francisco, who used to be a local pastor in the community, is working to develop an art studio where there would be pottery and painting, among other things. He hopes that he will be able to involve people in the community, and that they will be able to then sell what they make.)

*Healthcare (This is a new site that SI hopes to develop if they could get a nurse or someone with healthcare experience to come on staff. For this outreach Daniel is leading it and they are working in the public hospital in the mornings and a public school in the afternoons. We were supposed to be able to see a c-section on Friday, but we got there too late and it had already been done. We did get to see the baby a few hours after it was born, and the mother, who was only 15.)

I realize that this has already gotten quite long, so I should probably stop for now—plus, dinner is ready! But I did want to describe a bit of the work that SI is doing here, and what I am doing here, so you can get an idea of it. I am taking lots of pictures, and hope to have them up on my website when I get back to the States at the end of June.

Hasta Luego!


P.S. Just because an email from me would not be complete without a weather report…we had a really great storm the other night—loud thunder, lightning, pouring rain—it woke me up. As I was lying in my bed, in a casita with a tin roof, I started thinking, I wonder what one does in a hurricane…in an earthquake I know to get in a doorway and stay away from the windows, but a hurricane? I started calculating the closest building with a cement roof, and whether or not it would be safe to run outside in order to secure a spot in the cement roofed building. The storm kept growing in intensity as I sat there pondering. Somewhere along the way I did seem to remember that hurricane season doesn’t start, typically, until later in the summer and so I was able to get back to sleep…

As for a daily weather report, pretty much every day starts off “cool” (about 75, and I wear a sweatshirt!!) and then gets quite hot and humid. I have a nifty (yes, I did just use the word nifty!) little travel thermometer on my backpack which I looked at in my room today…it felt very cool and pleasant, so I wondered what the temperature was, there inside, in the shade…it was 85 degrees!! Growing up in Southern California I always loved being outside and in the sun and doing active things…living in this heat all the time would definitely change that! Too bad I can’t store some of it up and take it with me to Scotland, where I am sure I will be wanting it in a few months!

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