June 28, 2015

Hasta Luego D.R.

Saying goodbye to my community was a tearful, stressful, and fun affair. My departure from the Dominican Republic had been built up by my neighbors for months. I was constantly asked why I was leaving and if I would please stay just one more year. Luckily, once they realized they couldn't convince me to stay, my neighbors decided to channel their energy into throwing two big good-bye parties.

There is no such thing as a full vehicle in the D.R.
The first party was a trip to the beach. My neighbors rented un safari (a flatbed truck with benches and a roof typically used to shuttle tourists on excursion tours) and we jammed out to dembow and bachata all the way to the beach. Once at the beach I was treated to all the spaghetti and fried chicken I could eat - Dominican beach staples. The highlight of the trip was watching a pair of pre-teen boys from my community play in the ocean for the first time in their lives. Their faces expressed so much joy.

My house cleaning saviors
The second good-bye party was held the following week - the night before I left the D.R. In the interim week I did some serious house cleaning, giving away and selling everything that couldn't fit in my backpack and two suitcases. Luckily some of my younger neighbors pitched in to help me organize everything I had collected over the past two years. Still, my house was a chaotic scene the last few days as up to twenty neighbors at a time perused my things. At one point one of my neighbors even took a swig out of a bottle of rum I had in my kitchen. When I called her out on it she asked, "Well, there is only a little bit left, so can I finish it?" Seeing little point in arguing I let her finish off the bottle. Most of my neighbors were not so egregious, many picked out items they could give to family members rather than for themselves. The only other fighting that occurred was over my collection of photos. Everyone wanted a picture of me, and if not me a member of my family, and if not a member of my family an American. So to all my American friends, it is possible that a picture of you is now displayed proudly in a Dominican home.

Receiving an award from the community
My good-bye party was held at the library and just like at the inauguration, so many people showed up to see me off that the crowd spilled outside. The tears started almost as soon as the event with my project partner, Clariza, begging that someone else continue with the introductions because she was about to cry. I managed to hold myself together until my host-mom sang. Words cannot express the love I hold for her, and that became very apparent as I could barley speak through my tears when I thanked her for everything she and the rest of the community did to make me feel welcomed and loved.

The following morning my host mom stopped by to say goodbye one last time. She even brought me a cup of hot chocolate. I then traveled three hours to the capital where I boarded a plane to the U.S. with both Romeo and Pato, yep, I brought my dog and cat back to America.

Enjoying couches and air conditioning in America
We have now been in America over a month and all of us have been readjusting well. Romeo loves going on walks free of the fear of street dogs attacking us, Pato enjoys lying on carpets, and I finally got my first smart phone. I keep in touch with my neighbors via social media and phone calls. Still I can't help but feel like I am missing out on so much. I miss chatting away with neighbors over coffee and reading books with the kids. However, I am confident that my community's prospects are only going to continue to grow. Just as I was leaving a new volunteer arrived to continue work in the community. I am excited to see what she and the community accomplish over the next two years. I plan on visiting within the next year so if anyone has any Spanish books they would like to donate please send them my way ;).