Before we left I was so, SO scared. The pit in stomach felt bigger than Pittsburgh. Seriously. There were so many, MANY things that could go wrong. Will my family melt down on the way? Or kill each other? Will the driver show up to take us to Puerto Plata? WIll I be able to speak Spanish? Will our activity plans with the kids be anywhere near on target? Will I wreck Snyder’s 4 Runner? [Jay Snyder offered to loan us a car.] Will my family wish they had more beach time? Will my phone work? Will we exceed the weight limit on the luggage? Will we be able to access money? How will I pay the DR entrance and exit taxes? So many concerns. So many fears. I was so scared.
We made it to the DR.
After spending the day working with the Hatian children I could not sleep. I read a bit, thought some, and prayed LOTS. My prayers were full of thanks. I knew I should be asking the Lord for something--my children need lots of blessings---but all I could do was utter thanks. Over and over and over again I thanked Him. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this great experience, I said. I was filled to overflowing with joy and gratitude. “Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU,” I said over and over and over again.
Thank you indeed. It was a fabulous experience...and we have the stories to prove it. The Hatian children were the best part--as you will see from the list of highlights--but most of the amusing stories were not about the kids…
Here are some stories…..
One eveningTanah went to the house to take a shower. Soon we heard a LOUD yell. “There is a Humphrey in the shower!” she hollered. “Humphrey” is her name for fist-sized spiders. She thinks that calling them “Humprey” makes them less scary. How can something named Humphrey be scary?
A spider by any other name is still a spider and she was still plenty scared. Jerry, our Haitian friend, amicably trotted into the house and killed the Humphrey for her.
A few moments later we again heard her again. This time she chose four letter words. There was another Humphrey in the shower stall. This time, however, she was on the toilet. Trapped with her pants around her ankles, she could not kill the spider nor did she want Jerry to come to her rescue. Spider eradication duty fell to me this time.
A word about Humphreys...they are lightening fast. Their size is kind of alarming---a spider the size of one’s open palm certainly catches one’s attention---but it is their speed that is truly, truly terrifying. They move at what seems the speed of light. YIKES! Fortuitously, they generally move away from people, so in theory one should be appreciative of their quick exit but rational thought rarely accompanies large spider sightings. Gasps and screams are the more common reaction.
Grace taught the children how to play the Black/White Knight game: Knight and night sound the same in English but have very different meanings. The Spanish words for knight (caballero) and night (noche) are very different. Caitlin was translating for Grace and, for the first 5 minutes of the game, translated the instructions as “white night” and “black night”. It made so much more sense when she realized what she had done and changed her translation to white knight and black knight.
While we were playing in the ocean one evening Tanah noticed something suspicious. It was black and seemed to go wherever I went, staying about 3 feet behind me. “Something is following Mom,” she told Grace with concern. Grace looked. And laughed. “Those are her feet,” she told Tanah. The black-soled Chacos I was wearing on my feet were indeed following me. Thank heavens!!
On our last day in the DR we played tourist and went to 27 Waterfalls, a natural series of waterfalls down which one can slide. We were with about 15 other people from various local resorts. A (REALLY) beautiful teen caught Miles’ eye. When we got to the 4 Runner he asked me for a pen. I had none so he raced (RAN FAST) to an office where he was given a pen and paper. He came back with a huge grin….and a phone number. The rest of his trip was enhanced by text messages sent back and forth with Celeste. (She is from NYC.)
We took a Christmas package to the DR to deliver to my niece who is serving a mission there. We found the mission home surrounded by a tall, wrought iron fence. We stood on the street, ringing the bell, and waiting. No one. What to do? We had a plane to catch in Punta Cana; we really could not come back. We could not leave it on the porch ...or could we?.
Jose, our driver, recommended against climbing the fence as the neighborhood was heavily patrolled by police. Just then a police car approached. Jose flagged it down and explained the situation. He asked, and received, permission for MIles to scale the fence and leave the package in their carport, next to the door. The police car pulled to the side of the road and two officers watched as Miles climbed the fence.
Too soon the trip was over. When we got home the house was still standing, the sheep were still bleating, the bird was still scolding, and the dog still howled at sirens. And my family was still talking to each other.
I was no longer afraid. :)
And I am SO GLAD we went. Thank you God for giving us the inspiration to go and for providing the ways and means to make it happen. Thank you and thank you.
NOTE: Project Esperanza primarily (but by no means exclusively) serves the Haitian refugee and immigrant population of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in the areas of education, social aid, and community development. Volunteers work on a range of projects that are rooted in the communities served. To learn more visit http://esperanzameanshope.org/ You will be glad you did.
- THE KIDS!!!
- Seeing the DR as a participant, not as a tourist
- Playing Bunthead with the family in the evenings
- Seeing that kids are kids in every language. "Jeff and I played several games and pranks on each other without having to worry about a translator."
- The food
- Noticing that something was following Mom (her feet…)
- Teaching through an interpreter
- Teaching the 1-2-3-4 steps of stage fighting
- THE KIDS
- Getting cornrows in my hair (They are my favorite souvenir.)
- Finishing reading every book of scriptures in 2019 with four hours to spare..
- Jumping in the pool at 27 Waterfalls without hesitation even though I was scared
- The kindness of the people in the DR
- Finding sea glass
- Fresh squeezed OJ
- Not taking a shower the entire time (The shower water came through a pipe from a tank on the roof. It was not warm.)
- Matching on the Mutual dating app with 5 Dominicans
- THE KIDS
- The Hawaiian style birthday shirt [Miles turned 16 in the DR.]
- The soccer game [He played soccer for 2 hours with Hatian teens...and held his own.]
- Lucy (the dog)
- Playing Bunthead with Jerry and the family
- The food
- Finding sea glass
- Seeing the driving in the DR (It’s truly crazy.)
- White Knight/Black Night game
- Celeste’s phone number
- THE KIDS
- Swimming through tight canyons in 27 Waterfalls
- The food
- The leather bracelet I made
- THE KIDS
- Bringing the electronics that my students donated (over 30 cell phones and tablets)
- Jumping without hesitation at 27 Waterfalls. (I am afraid of heights.)
- The relief I felt from my back pain when I floated in the ocean
- Seeing all the motorcycles driving in the DR
- Seeing the moto taxis and their varied loads (2,3,4 people, propane tanks, parrots,etc….)
- How fast the spiders move
- The skinny pigs
- Fried cheese
- THE KIDS
- Understanding Bishop Reynoso’s lesson in Spanish
- Seeing Hermana Eve (Lucia Eve Reynoso)
- Talking to Caitlin [Caitlin is the author and energy of Project Esperanza. She is an absolutely amazing lady who makes it all happen.]
- Teaching in Spanish
- Driving in the DR
- Playing the science vocab word matching game with the Hatian children
- Playing games as a family in the evening
- Exploring the beach and finding the sea glass
- Caitlin’s comment “You are a lot like Wright.”
TENDER MERCIES of a LOVING GOD
- Finding Chick’s wallet [It was lost for 3 days]
- $40 in Chick’s wallet [Needed to pay Jose, our driver]
- Police passing the mission home at exactly the right time so we could leave the package
- Finding Tanah’s lost shoes [They were her only shoes. She left them on the beach and discovered they were missing after we returned to the house where we were staying.]
- The missing luggage arriving in time for the last day [Only 3 of our 4 bags of donations arrived with us,]
- Synder loaning us the 4 Runner [I did not wreck it!!!]
- There were 3 LDS chapels in Puerto Plata and we went to the one where Bishop Reynoso presides
- It rained only at night and on the day we were not in Puerto Plata. It did not rain the days we were teaching kids.
- Grace bought a pair of red shoes (that she loves!!).
- I was in charge of 4 sets of keys ...and I did not lose any of them!!
- All of us stayed healthy.
- Grace’s mosquito bites did not hurt.
- Tanah’s lost filling did not cause her pain. [The first day in the DR one of the fillings in Tanah’s tooth popped out.]
- Three chapels in Puerto Plata and we went to the correct one
- Finding Grace’s passport in the recycling bin before it was hauled away
- Bringing blankets [We used them in the airport, on the airplane, and under the mosquito nets.]
- The day before we flew out we noticed that only we were only booked to check 3 bags. We had 4 bags. We caught the error in time to correct it.
- Leaving the sheets in the dryer at home. [We did not need sheets.]
- Realizing socks were not on the packing list before we left the USA [We did need socks.]
- Not having to pay DR entrance or exit tax
- Jose the dependable, on-time driver who drove us from Punta Cana to Puerto Plata on Christmas Day and back again on New Year’s Eve.
- There was nothing critical to our success in the bag that arrived late
- Being prompted to say a prayer before buying the airline tickets to Punta Cana so that everytime I panicked that was the wrong decision I was reassured that I had indeed prayed about it and it would work out
- It all worked out.