Trepidation Turns Terrific (Triple T's.....).
My visit to the Dominican Republic started with trepidation.
trep·i·da·tion (ˌtrepəˈdāSH(ə)n/) noun
1.a feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen (or may not happen)
Synonyms: apprehension, dread, fearfulness, fright, agitation, anxiety, worry, nervousness, tension, misgivings,
I was apprehensive about speaking Spanish, I dreaded having to find a taxi to take us from the airport to the bus station, I was fearful that we would miss the bus or get the wrong one, I was agitated about having to exchange money using a credit card whose PIN number I did not know, I was anxious about spending four days with Chad and Stasie, worried that we were putting them out, I was nervous about reuniting with missionaries that I did not know, I was tense about having to be social and I had misgivings about leaving my two teenagers at home. (Two teens, a car, and a credit card, home alone for 10 days….What could go wrong?)
On the ground in Santo Domingo, after having to re-purchase tourist visas because the official would not accept the electronic copy I had on my phone (“We must have a printed copy,” ), we were whisked into a taxi and found ourselves on the way to Caribe Tours where I managed to purchase two tickets to Puerto Plata. A four hour bus ride took us to a bus stop where Chad met us. Obstacle one cleared. Safely in Chad’s care, I relaxed a bit. Actually, after pulling an all-nighter in the Atlanta airport and spending the entire day either on a plane or in a bus, I relaxed a lot. Being horizontal in a real bed was wonderful.
Chad and Stasie Koford (and their recently married—5 months—daughter Ashton and her husband Quinn) were wonderful as well. Seriously wonderful. Having not hung out with them before I feared that we would be an imposition but I feared being on my own in the D.R. more so I imposed. Turns out both fears were groundless. I probably could have navigated the country on my own (though I am SO glad I did not have too…) and Chad and Stasie were absolutely delightful. Gracious. Generous. GREAT, GREAT people.
Chad and Stasie are great people and they showed us a great time. We rode a tram to the top of Isabel de Torres, a mountain named after Queen Isabel of Spain that hosts a huge stature of Christ and incredible botanical gardens. We visited a beach where we snorkeled with schools of fish, held sea urchins, and ate conch. We hiked up another mountain and slid/jumped down it.
The adventure, called “27 Waterfalls” was incredible. We hiked 30 minutes or so (our guide, Agosto, said it was “five Dominican minutes….only five Dominican minutes”) to s spot in the stream where we jumped into a warm aquamarine pool from a large log that was wedged in the rocks. From our initial pool hop we followed the river downstream as it gently wound through slot canyons and over rock ledges. We swam the slot canyons, slid down natural water chutes, and jumped off the top of waterfalls. Incredible. Idyllic. Awesome.
As great as the mountain, ocean, and waterfalls were, the best part was the Puerto Plata adventure was association with the people. Chad and Stasie were beyond-description wonderful. I selfishly wish we were neighbors so I could hang out with them more consistently.
I would also love to be neighbors with Lucia and Edward Reynoso…and not just because they live in Puerto Plata. Lucia (Hermana Eve) was a Dominican missionary with me. She married Edward and they have five absolutely delightful children, four of whom we met. (The fifth is serving a mission in Mexico City.) What an incredible family they are! So clearly filled with love and faith. Hanging out with them every night added a priceless richness to our stay. Lucia was so good to draw me into the conversation. Their youngest, Carlito (13) gave us a hug every night, as did Samuel (15). Carlito and I played basketball (a tiny bit—he dominated). Samuel and Lance played chess (ended in a tie). Their oldest daughter, Carolina, said to Lance and I “I love you two as a couple” and she listened raptly to our stories. Of course we love her!!!
The associations and interactions with the people were the best part of our Puerto Plata trip. The same is true for the mission reunion itself, held Friday and Saturday in Santo Domingo. Connecting and reconnecting with former missionaries and their spouses, Dominican members and their children, and with Sorensens and with Carole (Romney) Noel was the best part.
I came to the D.R. nervous about reuniting with missionaries that I did not know. It is difficult to re-connect with people with whom you have never connected in the first place; I have not kept track of the missionaries with whom I served and I have almost no memories of names or faces of anyone, missionary or member, in the D.R. I anticipated lots of awkwardness and isolation.
The reunion was fabulous, though it would be better titled “union” than “reunion” as I did much more uniting than re-uniting. The members and missionaries of the Dominican Republic are truly fabulous people and I had a truly fabulous time getting to know them. Hanging out with people of such high caliber is a rare and precious privilege.
One of the games played at the reunion was “Papa, Papa, Papa,…..Caliente!” (potato, potato, potato….HOT!). A potato was passed from person to person while someone on stage said “Papa, papa, papa…..” When the caller said “Caliente” the person caught with the potato had to go on stage and perform—song, dance, poem, whatever.
The first three “Caliente” calls landed on Dominicans who have no reservations about dancing publically. The fourth landed in front of me. SHEER PANIC. I had a complete deer-in-the-headlights moment. Mind blank and heart racing, I pushed to potato to Lance.
“It landed in front of you,” I said.
“No it did not,” he replied.
“YES, it did,” I stated, my voice heavy with determination, dread, and desperation.
“Yep,” Lance replied as he got up and began walking to the stage, “I guess it did”.
Bless his heart. I totally threw him under the bus….and he took it. He does not speak Spanish (the entire program was conducted in Spanish), he knew only a handful of people in the room, it was NOT his mission reunion and still he took it. Not only did he take it, but he was brilliant. He did an on-the-spot, without-props magic show that ended with a flourish.
Hermano Sanchez, “Chito”, asked everyone if anyone knew Hermana Geddes who had been responsible for his baptism. Eventually his question reached Carole who connected him with me; I had roomed with Diane in Ogden when we were both single. With tears in his eyes, Chito expressed his desire to reconnect with “Hermana Geddes”. “I lost all my papers and photos in the hurricane years ago and since then I have asked every missionary that I meet that is from Utah if they know Hermana Geddes.” Every missionary from UT? He must have asked hundreds. He wants Diane to know that he has been sealed in the temple to his wife, they have four beautiful children, and that he is strong and faithful in the gospel. And he wants to thank her. What a privilege it is to be a part of their reconnection.
A word about the Dominican Republic….
Wonderful to be back in the country I loved. We ate an avocado that was the size of my head, fresh pineapple every day, and three “morir sonandos”, which lived up to the translation of their name. [Its name means “to die dreaming”, literally translated, and it could not have a more appropriate name. The silky combination of milk and the refreshing orange taste is what dreams are made of. The perfect drink to refresh and nourish. https://www.dominicancooking.com/976-morir-sonando-milk-and-orange-juice.html]
Traffic has not changed. It is wild and crazy, three lanes of cars driving aggressively on roads barely wide enough for two…with 30 or more motorcycles weaving randomly between and beside cars at any given moment. Horns are used as frequently as brakes and stop signs are randomly accepted suggestions. Lance kept his eyes closed most of the first day that we drove in the capital. He understands my driving much better now—I have been known to use Dominican driving tactics in the USA—and he has even pulled some Dominican maneuvers of his own since we have been home.
A word about Lance…..
The trip was really good for us, as “us”. “I forgot how fun you are,” he said at one point. We both had fun and we had fun together too.
A word about Carole….
Though she is married to my brother, I seldom get to see or interact with Carole (Romney) Noel. I think so highly of her and rarely get to spend time with her. At family events one or both of us are either occupied or pre-occupied with the concerns of the day which makes real connection difficult. At the tail end of the reunion we got to hang with her for several hours and it was a trip highlight. We’d forgotten how fun she is!
A word about the missionaries…..
Truly top quality people. Sister Sorensen graciously invited me to sit next to her at dinner the first reunion night, completely enveloping me in her love and effectively banishing my trepidation. (There’s that word again!) I love (adore) the entire Sorensen family. Shad and Lance discussed thorium, Sheila and Shalyse’s interest in us was genuine and authentic. President Sorensen, never happier than when he is changing lives, was truly in his element as he testified of Christ and challenged us to become greater instruments in His hands. Bev (Boren) and Rob Dow, both DR missionaries, included us in their post-reunion plans, saving us from a lonely night at the hotel, and, in so doing, won my heart forever. Alan Synder, the man in charge of the reunion, touched me to tears when he insisted on giving us a ride from church meetings on Sunday to our hotel. I am used to being the care taker; being taken care of was a tender experience.
Tender experience…..the phrase could be used to describe the entire trip. It was a truly touching, terrific, and tender experience. Once again I share a journal entry.
“…the cycle repeats itself again. I was so concerned about this trip—so much to do to get ready and so many uncertainties about the trip itself…and they all worked out. And they all worked out better than I could have dreamed possible. Getting to know Chad and Stasie was such a blessing—and Lucia and Edward too. Getting to connect with new and re-connect with former friends at the reunion was so amazing. Hanging out with people of that caliber is a rare privilege and opportunity….As I ponder the trip I am overwhelmed by how blessed we are to have had this experience. Seriously.”
It was wonderful to get home too. Grace and Miles missed us while we were gone and were pleased to have us back. The house was still standing, the animals were still alive, the cars are undamaged and the credit card was almost used.
Trepidation truly turned terrific! (Quadruple t's!!)