Sunday, April 3, 2005

Dominican Republic Trip: Day 4

It was Frank’s 15th birthday Sunday, so I made him a birthday card and Rosie and I signed it. Birthdays aren’t made too much of here. He got one of the Scofield Bibles we brought, but I don’t know if he got any other present, and he said there weren’t any special plans or special food planned for him.

Tati made oatmeal for breakfast. It was absolutely the best oatmeal I had ever eaten or imagined. I thought it was flan at first. Then I thought it was some kind of custard or pudding. I had to ask to assure myself it was oatmeal. Nobody else liked it. I don’t think they were used to eating oatmeal. Pastor José said afterward, “This was a poor meal.”

The reason we had oatmeal was because of me. The night before, Tati called me into the kitchen and asked if there was anything special I wanted to eat in the morning. I said, “No, the breakfasts we’ve been having have been great. It’s nice to have something new for a change, because we always eat oatmeal.” Evidently, she took that as a hint. Rule: Don’t drop things in passing if you don’t want them taken for a request.

The church service at Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Luz y Vida was very good. I could understand most of it, which was exciting, and everybody seemed very sincere. 

My song went all right, except I made a mistake in the middle and I didn’t do a very good job of keeping the microphone in the right place. I didn’t really hear how anyone liked it, because we left before the service was over. We had to eat and get to the bus station by 2:00.

Lunch was delicious! Their flavors here are so pleasant to the tongue! Not too spicy and not too weak. However, I’m abandoning keeping track of the meals, because Rosie wrote them all down, and I figured, “Why duplicate what is already getting recorded by one of us?”

Transportation on the bus from Santo Domingo to San Juan de la Maguana cost us $150 pesos each. The bus was plush, air conditioned, and more comfortable than a plane. For the little streets we were on, the bus was huge. We felt incredibly high up and we did NOT envy the driver.

As the bus left the city and we began to see the countryside for the first time, we passed by an extremely poor area of huts built in conditions almost beyond belief. They were all built on flat spaces cut into a hillside that was almost all dirt and very steep, reinforced here and there with a little wall of stones and concrete. The houses were built of the most rustic materials, pieces of corrugated metal propped up against sticks of wood.

Then we got into the countryside. I couldn’t take a nap or write in my journal or do anything that would tear my eyes away from the window. I took a lot of pictures that didn’t turn out, because I would have a beautiful mountain view and by the time the camera focused and took the picture, a tree had passed in front of it.

All the riverbeds were very dry. A few had a little trickle of water in them and the rest were completely dry. They did have better grass in them though, so usually there would be a few horses and/or cows grazing (never very many, just 5 or 6). In one river that had water in it I saw a whole family going swimming. They looked like they were laughing and having the best time in the world. We passed by a lot of different crops—bananas, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, cantaloupe, peanuts, rice, and other things I didn’t know.

There were beautiful mountains along the way, and when we passed a city called Bani, we could see the sea, too. Everything looked so green and lush and fresh. The sun was shining and everything was beautiful.

At one point in the trip, three things in a row made me go, “Whoa.” First was when the bus passed a huge dump truck, both of us going at tremendous speeds, with scarcely any room to spare. Then I saw the most enormous black pig I think I have ever seen in somebody’s yard. Then I saw a person taking a bath in the gutter right in plain view of the street.

Every so often we would come upon a string of houses along the road, usually with stands to sell things in front. The houses are small, and few have electrical wires running to them. They usually have trees shading them and a dirt yard. Most are made of concrete blocks painted bright colors, but the poorer ones have siding made of palm wood, also painted brightly. These do not withstand the hurricanes as well.

Speaking of house colors, paint advertisements are so popular here. You see billboards everywhere saying how this or that paint “comes in every color for all your needs.” Things like: “Pinturas Tropical: para tu gusto hicimos todos los colores.

When we got to the bus stop in San Juan, we got out and got a taxi that took us to Pastor José’s sister, Eulalia’s house. This was the nicest house we stayed in, though not necessarily the biggest. It was clean, bright, and cheerful. There are two bathrooms, and the toilet also flushes for the first time, and water actually comes out of the shower heads. This was also the first house with glass in the windows—but just the front two, and they also have bars.

Eulalia gave Rosie and me her bed. It’s in the room with Eunice (Pastor José’s daughter), so we’ve had fun talking together (in English!). Eulalia is an amazing person! She is not only a wonderful, sweet Christian, she is the only person from San Juan, Azua, and another city very far from here who does what she does. She is some kind of microbiologist in diagnosing bacteria, and she has a lot of cases because so many people need this service and come from so far away to have her do it. Besides this, she works with CEF, teaches a Bible study at her church, hosts students from Goshen College in Indiana who come here to teach English, and is about to graduate from some level of higher education she is pursuing. And she has time for everybody and never looks busy but always keeps a peaceful, unstressed demeanor. What a lady!

Speaking of wonderful ladies, WE LOVE TATI! Sometimes our communication is comical, because she doesn’t speak or understand English, but it just makes her all the more loveable. She is also one of the most beautiful women among the “beautiful-in-general” people in this country, and such a hard worker. There is no washing machine here, so she stands for hours outside in the hot afternoon, scrubbing clothes in a laundry sink in the backyard. She is an exceptional cook, working in the kitchen making three meals a day, and then protesting when we try to do the dishes. She is the first one up in the morning and often the last one to go to bed, and she doesn’t even take a siesta! There’s just something irrestably lovable about her, and I’m going to miss her.

We had a large, delicious dinner prepared by Eulalia for us. Then I went to bed rather early, because I was tired without my nap. I slept much better, because San Juan is much quieter than Santo Domingo was. 

Keep Reading: Dominican Republic Trip, Day 5
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