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La Cuidad Corazon February 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 9:49 pm

Santiago, the heart city. It’s earned that name because of it’s location in the heart of El Cibao. It’s also the second largest city in the Dominican Republic.

Sounds pretty huge, huh? For this country, it is. In American standards, I’d compare it to Wilmington, Delaware. A pretty big city, but no New York. The buildings aren’t very tall but they’re one hundred times prettier than Wilmington. The history in Santiago goes all the way back to 1495 when it was founded & it shows. I loved it.

Elissa, Kristin, & I went this past weekend in honor of Elissa’s birthday. Elissa & I took the bus from Jarabacoa to La Vega & then we took a connecting bus to Santiago. The bus system is super confusing & I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to navigate it on my own! But thankfully, Elissa was there so we didn’t get too mixed up. The bus ride from La Vega to Santiago was  interesting for sure. It wasn’t too packed & thank the Lord, it was air conditioned, but it certainly had some interesting passengers. There was this Haitian man who sat closer to us so he could awkwardly stare & the guy next to me was interesting for sure. He had all these sunglasses with him & even though I had a pair of my own, he kept trying to talk me into buying another pair! I guess he didn’t get the point when I turned my back & didn’t respond to his broken English attempts at a conversation.

We finally got there & hailed a cab. Cabs here have taken me a while to get used to. No one wears seat belts & they cram as many people in the car as possible. Safety isn’t even considered. We were in a tiny five passenger car with five full grown adults already in it! It was super crazy! But thankfully, we survived. One of our first stops was McDonald’s. I don’t even really eat McDonald’s in the states but it was such a small piece of home that I had to partake of it. I got an Oreo McFlurry & it was like heaven. It made me laugh the way they made it though; they just put in the ice cream & dumped cookie bits on top. I had to mix it up myself. But I didn’t even care. I was so happy. I suppose all good things must come to an end.

Next, we went out shopping. The had the cutest little shops. It’s funny how they sell clothes here. Aeropostale, American Eagle, Hollister, & Abercrombie are all very popular brands; they are symbols of wealth. Clothing from the aforementioned places is pretty expensive. Occasionally, you’ll find shirts cheaper than ones in the states but for the most part they’re more expensive or the same price as back home. & they’ll only have one size. You just kinda have to hope that it’s YOUR size. Haha. It definitely makes shopping an adventure though! Thankfully, Elissa found this super cute brown dress that she was able to wear on the second day of our trip!

After Elissa & I finished up our shopping, we got another cab & went to the movie theater. It was in a mall & reminded me so much of home, very similar to Christiana Mall pre-renovation. It also makes me laugh because movies that are already on DVD in America aren’t even in theaters yet here. Charlie St. Cloud for example. That was released on DVD before I left & it’s due to hit theaters soon in this country. So Elissa & I saw Love & Other Drugs with Anne Hathaway. It was super cute, well, what I saw of it. I have this problem where movies put me to sleep. I can go see one in the middle of the day & I fall asleep every time without fail. It’s super frustrating. But I really tried to stay awake for this one.

After our movie, Kristin & Luiz met up with us so he could take us to his house for the night. Luiz goes to Templo Bautista, the church I attend in Jarabacoa & he was very generous to allow us to stay in his beautiful house for the night. & it really was a gorgeous home. My jaw literally dropped when I entered the door. It was like a picture out of a magazine. I’m sad I didn’t get a picture of the inside of it. But thankfully, I did get a picture of the exterior.

After a great night’s sleep in a super comfy bed, we all headed to church that morning. & as we were getting ready, we got to meet Luiz’s dog. He was the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. No joke. Like H U G E. When he was standing, he was half my height & when he was on his hind legs he was like two feet above my head! Massive. But so sweet. I really wanted to take him home.

Church was great. They were so welcoming & kind. I even met a family from Dover, Delaware! Small world. It was kinda neat too cause the sermon was in Spanish but they had headsets with translators so you could listen to the sermon in English, Creole, or French. I thought that was a really neat feature. I opted to listen to it in Spanish though. Even though I don’t understand much of what was being said, I think it helps me to listen. I’m starting to be able to understand the gist of some sentences. Whenever I am able to figure something like that out on my own, it’s so exciting.

After church, Kristin & Elissa & I went to Chili’s! It was just like an American Chili’s – SO good! I was so happy. & then we had them sing happy birthday to Elissa, Dominican style. It was great! Such a great cultural experience.

After some more shopping, we headed back up the mountain to Jarabacoa, totally exhausted from such a long, fun day.

Santiago was great. It’s such a beautiful city, full of things to see & do. I’m glad that’s one more thing I can check off my “Things to do in the DR” list.

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It’s been a while, I know. February 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 12:00 am

I’m so terrible at this whole blogging thing. I love it, I just forget to do it. Most of the time. Anyways, I figured I should let you guys know how I’m doing, what’s going on, new stuff, etc… This is going to be super random (just like me!) so watch out!

Nothing too eventful has happened since my last post, which is pretty good I think. I’ve been here almost three weeks & my attitude transformation is miraculous. When I first got here, I wanted nothing more than to hop on the next plane to America. I may have put on a good face but no, I hated it. Now that I’ve gotten into a schedule & I’m starting to make friends, I love it. LOVE it here.

When I first got here, I didn’t know anyone. That was a lot harder than anticipated. Back home, I’m constantly surrounded by friends & family & if I’m not with them, I’m texting them. Not having that was MAJOR culture shock. Here, I have a Dominican phone but it’s super expensive to contact the states, so I don’t really use it too much. Facebook & Skype have been life savers. I probably would be home right now if it wasn’t for the miracle of technology.

My schedule looks a little something like this: Monday – Friday, I’m at school from 7:30-5 or 5:30. I usually come home, take a nap, eat dinner, then talk to people from home. I’m pretty drained at the end of the day. Preschoolers are exhausting! I’m about to start helping teach English on Thursday nights so that’ll be fun. On the weeknights that I DON’T feel like staying home, I’ll go hang out with friends, the same as I would in America. It’s weird not having a car though. Back home, I just hop in my car & go wherever. Here, I have to either call a concho (motorcycle taxi) or walk. Walking is my favorite. I’m only a little bit scared to walk at night so I try to avoid it. Honestly though, most of my friends have motos, so they give me rides home. Fun & free! The weekends have been pretty random so far. Definitely full. I do a lot on Saturday & Sunday. I usually go to the pool to keep my tan fresh & then do fun random things afterwards.

Example: this weekend I’m going to Santiago for a friend’s birthday. I’m super excited. We’re leaving Saturday & coming back Sunday. I’m really excited because they have a Chili’s there! Yay for American food! I had Domino’s last weekend & thought I was going to cry. I didn’t think I’d get so emotional over pizza! But really it was SO good. Dominican pizza just isn’t the same. It tastes a little bit like they use sugary ketchup instead of pizza sauce. Yuck. But I’ve gotten used to it, so thats good.

Aside from tasting a little funky, the food here is pretty tasty. I’ve liked most of the stuff I’ve been served. Something that I REALLY dislike: they put a mayo/ketchup sauce on EVERYTHING! Tacos, burritos, sandwiches, everything. Considering that I don’t like mayo OR ketchup, especially together, this is a little bit of a dilemma. But so far, I’ve managed to not die or anything dramatic like that. Something that I love: the fresh fruit. It’s to die for. No, really. You don’t even understand. Not only is it cheap, it’s FRESH! No preservatives, just all natural fruit. I love it. The pineapple is hands-down my favorite.

Something else I love, my friend Alicia’s hubby is the best hairdresser in town! I went & got highlights last night & he did a great job! I’m super happy I brought some of my own money for spending on little things like that. For about thirty US dollars, I got a whole new do, complete with a free hair cut! It was great. I ended up spending the whole night at the salon just sitting there listening to all the interesting people. I can definitely see myself hanging out there a couple nights a week. You meet so many people that way!

Spanish, that’s going to be my last random topic of the day. I don’t speak Spanish. That definitely makes life a little tricky & frustrating. But it’s ok. Just sitting & listening to other peoples’ conversations, even if I don’t know what they’re saying, is really good. Like last night at the salon. I just sat & listened. Sometimes I could even get the gist of what they were saying. People here try to talk to me in Spanish & that’s always funny. Even if they know I only speak English, they try to talk to me in Spanish as if I’ll suddenly understand it. Typically if I just smile & nod, the conversation goes smoothly. It’s kinda funny though because sometimes I can’t tell when people are speaking Spanish or English, it all sounds the same when you have a thick accent! Oh well. I’m sure I’ll pick it all up soon.

That’s pretty much all that’s going on right now. I promise I’ll try to be better about the whole blog thing. xoxo.

 

 

Near Death Experience Numero Uno February 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 1:04 am

So, I just had to tell you about my night tonight, before I forget it.

There was this new teacher at school today. Her name’s Ariana, she’s 20 & from Michigan, blah blah blah. Anyways, we really hit it off & she’s kinda in the same boat as me; she got to the DR like a week ago, is super homesick, & doesn’t really speak Spanish at all. Naturally, we decided to go shopping.

We walked into town from school with Katherine this afternoon & after a few minutes of browsing through our first store, Katherine realized she forgot she had to tutor. So, we walked ALL the way to our house to drop her off, it’s like a 30 minute walk.

Once we got there, me & Ariana realized we still wanted to shop. But we would have to venture out on our own & she wanted to change her shoes, so we tried to walk to her house…& we ended up getting lost.

Two, non-Spanish speaking, American girls lost in a strange country.

We were getting so scared…or at least I was.

We were on this dirt road with NO street lights & it’s pitch dark out. Oh my gosh. I didn’t have any idea how black the night is when there’s no light around. It’s like you can barely-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark.

After some time of wandering around, trying to decide which road to turn down, Ariana called her host family. They don’t really speak English so after 10ish minutes of something I’m assuming was some form of Spanglish, she got the message across that we were lost.

Miraculously, her host family’s dad, this cute old guy named Pedro, found us. & he was on his old, old, tiny moto. I was sure that the three of us wouldn’t fit but he was sure that we would. Thankfully, he was right & I was wrong.

After bouncing up & down huge dirt road hills, we finally arrived at the house. The whole family was so sweet & kind. The mom was especially gracious. She made us food within MINUTES of arriving in the driveway. Literally, like two minutes. She didn’t even know I was coming! It was insane. After offering food & us politely declining, she made us each these grilled cheese lookin’ things. Four of them – two per person. THEN, she tried to give us Froot Loops on top of that! SO much food.

Mind you, I haven’t really been eating since I’ve been here & my stomach’s kinda shrunk. So, I wasn’t even that hungry to begin with. But I knew it would be rude to refuse & I had to at least TRY to eat it. I got down most of one grilled cheese thing but couldn’t manage the rest. I felt like I was being so impolite, but I really couldn’t eat all that food even if my life depended on it.

To make up for that, I stayed for a few minutes & tried to be polite & converse with the family. I’m sure I sounded like SUCH an idiot, trying to mix what little Spanish I know with English. But I really wanted to get across to them how grateful I was.

When it came time for me to go home, I was a little nervous. Because I don’t speak Spanish, I couldn’t call a concho, taxi, because I couldn’t tell them where I lived. So, I decided to walk. I knew it was dumb but what other option did I have? I refused to call my host family because at some point I have to become somewhat self-sufficient & then was as good a time as any.

God knew how awfully terrified I was because as I was walking out the door, Pedro offered to drive me. I didn’t even protest. I took him up on that offer right away. He was so sweet, he even offered me his helmet!Thankfully, I live near this landmark, the Hotel California, so I was able to direct him to the house without a problem. I hopped off the moto & gave him two of the biggest hugs ever. I even kissed him on the cheek, I was so happy! & as I walked into the house, I heard him say, “See you later!”, in English! It was so cute. My heart turned to mush a little bit.

That may not sound like a crazy, fun, scary night to you, but trust me, it definitely made my top ten on my “Situations-I’m-So-Glad-Turned-Out-Well-Because-I-Could-Have-Died-Or-Gotten-Raped” list.

I’m sure there will be many more moments like this & I’ll be sure to blog them all!

PS – Sorry this post is so poorly written, I just wanted to get it all out before I forgot it! I love you for reading it!

 

I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore. January 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 11:11 pm

So I’m gonna tell you all about my first day. I cried the whole plane ride but realized I had to pull it together once we landed. There was only one terminal in the WHOLE airport so it wasn’t hard to not get lost. I went & got all my luggage & stuff & then went right out the doors to all the waiting people.

I didn’t see anyone with a “Rachel” sign. I kinda freaked out. Guys were hissing at me & offering to drive me & I was getting really scared. So, I called Karen & her hubby Dan answered the phone & said to look for the only Americans.

There were no Americans. Only Dominicans. You can imagine how much I was freaking out.

Then, out of the crowd, emerges two young, blonde girls holding a “Rachel” sign. I almost cried I was so happy.

We got in the taxi together & drove about 45 minutes til we got to our house. I found out that I’m staying with the two teachers who met me at the airport, Melissa & Jessica, for the weekend until my host family is ready. So, while these girls are fun, it kinda sucks having to live out of a suitcase, ya know?

I took a shower & went right to bed. I slept pretty well.

Today, we went into the town of Jarabacoa & did a little grocery shopping & had lunch. I had this shrimp wrap. Yum. I’m definitely expanding my food palate. Also, I had fresh pineapple & papaya for breakfast. Literally heaven. I think heaven will be full of fresh pineapple & papaya. I think that’s all I’m gonna eat the whole time I’m here.

Town was cool. I loved it. I feel like I’m in a movie or something. You know in Disney how they have the different countries? It’s in Epcot, I think. Well, I feel like I’m in the Mexico one.

Guys are rude here. They cat call, whistle, hiss, & serenade you as you walk through the streets. Also, they stare & don’t stop. It makes me feel super uncomfortable. Lol. They just love Americans, I guess.

Then, we went back to the house & changed into bathing suits & walked down to the pool. It’s in this hotel which is considered high class for Jarabacoa but it’s really only like $50 a night. And we get to swim for free because we work for the school. Yay! It’s gorgeous & has SUCH a nice pool. I’m very excited to go there after school & stuff.

Funny story. When we all walked back from the pool, we got back to our house & there was this horse standing in front of the gate! Just a random white horse. Nobody knew who owned it or anything. We just tiptoed around it & went into the gate. I thought to myself, “what did I get myself into?!”

Also, nobody speaks English here. LITERALLY NO ONE. And when I tell them I don’t speak Spanish, they all laugh at me 😦 Oh well. I’ll pick it up soon enough. I can already hear myself saying English words differently.

 

I made it! January 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 10:20 pm

I made it.

I got on the plane.

To be perfectly honest, I almost turned around. It was so hard for me to say goodbye to my family. It didn’t hit me until right at the end. But I did it. I cried the whole time I was in the airport & the whole time I was on the plane. But I did it.

And now I’m in the beautiful country of the Dominican Republic & I love it. LOVE it. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase but I’m ok with that. This place is so different & I don’t want to forget anything about it.

So, I’m going to blog it all. Well, not all of it. But most of it. So you guys get to hear about it too 🙂

 

5 days. 127 hours. 7620 minutes. January 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 2:06 pm

January 28th.

3:46 PM.

My plane will be leaving from JFK to go to the Dominican Republic.

I’m getting SO excited. Butterflies kind of excited.

I thought I’d be a lot more scared at this point but God’s given me so much peace about the whole thing. Everything’s coming together. All my support came in. I’m finding supplies – shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. – at super cheap prices. I just have to get a few more things then all that’s left is to stuff everything in a suitcase.

I’m really leaving. Sometimes I don’t want to let myself believe that I’m really going. Part of me still feels like something is going to go wrong at the last minute and I’ll be stuck here. F O R E V E R. But at the same time, God’s been so unbelievably faithful throughout this whole process, I hardly think He’d leave me hanging like that.

My friend Laura always reminded me that God would restore the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). I feel like this is God restoring those months after my dad left. Not just because he was gone and my family had to adjust to a new normal, but because my best friend became seriously ill and I was going to a terribly legalistic high school where the focus was on the rules rather than sharing the love of Christ with the students. They were some trying times and I’m not gonna lie, it was hard for me to see Jesus. But now I’ve gotten this incredible opportunity to serve Him. I get to meet some great new people and tell kids about Jesus. I couldn’t think of anything MORE exciting.

So, in 5 more days, 127 more hours, and 7,620 minutes, I’ll be boarding a plane. Thank you, God, for keeping Your promise.

 

Blood’s thicker than water? Not always. January 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Isaiah 6:8 Journey @ 3:42 am

So, with me leaving for the DR in 26 days, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Thinking about friends, family, God, politics, and everything in between. This has included evaluating my relationships with the people around me.

They say blood’s thicker than water & I beg to differ.

This trip to the DR has really shown who my true supporters really are. When you’re just living your normal, mundane, everyday, safe life, everybody’s got your back. Everybody is 100% okay with what you’re doing. It’s not until you put yourself out there to do something out of the ordinary and a little dangerous, that you see who’s actually there for you.

When the news got out that I was moving to another country by myself for half a year, I got one of two reactions; people were either radically against it or they were ecstatic for me.

The people opposed to me going are typically very hurtful & rude about it. It’s not that I dislike when people give their opinions – it’s actually quite the opposite – I just want them to give it kindly & respectfully. I feel like that’s not too much to ask.

Unfortunately, most of the people in the “We Don’t Want You To Go” group are my extended family. I have a few unsupportive friends as well, but the bulk of the group is my family. I know the main reason they disapprove is because they think it’s dangerous & just want me to be safe, I just wish they were nicer about it. Their negative opinion isn’t going to stop me from going. And, call me crazy, but being told I’m going to be abducted & sold into sex slavery just isn’t all that encouraging. Not only does it make me really sad, but it puts a lot of unnecessary fear in my heart. It’s not like I’m going away to party with foreigners. I’m moving over there to do what little I can to help kids who have nothing.

Surprisingly, the bulk of the “Yay, We’re So Excited For You” group has been my more recent friends & immediate family. They realize what an unbelievable, once in a lifetime opportunity this is & are so supportive. Let me illustrate what I’m talking about.

My mom and siblings have been my number one fans. They’ve been behind me every step of the way and there’s no way I could ever put into words how much it’s meant to me. My mom’s worked her butt off finding cheap flights and making sure I get all the legal stuff out of the way. My little brothers, especially my sisters, always ask questions; it’s adorable.

My best friend’s family is like my second family. I love each & every one of them to death. My best friend, S, has devoted countless hours to helping me with everything from support letters to selling cookies door-to-door. Her dad in particular was very instrumental in helping me get this trip off the ground. I couldn’t have done it without him. And every time I see him, he asks me how I’m doing with my support. I know that if I ever had a question or needed help with anything, he’d be there for me without even blinking an eye.

My cousin’s girlfriend’s family is another super supportive bunch of people. I was at their house for New Years & my cousin’s girlfriend’s mom was so excited, she was telling all of her husband’s family about the trip! I just wanted to cry because I was so overwhelmed by how much she really cared. And my cousin’s girlfriend’s sister is always asking me how things are going in the trip planning process. I talk to her about everything DR related – my worries, concerns, etc. Whenever I get frustrated with the haters, I go to her and she just offers me the best encouragement I could ask for.

As I was mentally sorting my friends & family members into these two groups today, I wished I could change it. I wish my family, immediate & extended, were the ones in the “Yay, We’re So Excited For You” group. Blood’s supposed to be thicker than water. I want their support & encouragement more than anything. I guess this is what it means when they say that you can’t please everyone.

All that being said, I’m incredibly thankful & forever indebted to my supportive friends & family. I couldn’t do this without them.