Monday, June 30, 2008

Future Missionary?

Wow- I cannot believe this experience is coming to an end.  We are about to start my last two week outreach.  I really do not want to leave.  I feel like I am finally getting really connected with people.  For example, Dave and I found some Dominicans who play volleyball every day at four.  So last Friday, we went to play and got back at 6:05. Guess what time the banquet started? Oh, 6. Oops. We plan on going as much as we can these last few weeks.  I just wish I would have found this stuff out 8 weeks ago.  It was cool too because the guy who invited us, Dioni, asked if I could do a volleyball practice for the girls in the community.  I was like... OF COURSE!!!   The guys have really gotten into playing basketball with some guys in the community too.  So at least twice a week, we go and watch them play.  I feel like there are so many opportunites to connect to people here through sports especially.

I do not want to get my hopes too high, but I may have a future job opportunity here.  Some ideas are being thrown around about me coming back as a site leader for an additional sports site.  There are very little opportunities for girls to play sports here.  So the idea would be that I would work with Raul (the baseball site leader) for a while and build relationships with people in the community.  Eventually, we would set up another site where I could coach volleyball.  So yeah I would get to play sports all day in the Dominican Republic. How fun would that be!?! But like I said, this is still in the beginning stages.  I am going to be talking through more of the logistics with Nate and Lowell this week... but yeah.  Please pray for guidance.  I would obviously finish this last year of school but then after that, (as soon as I could raise enough support) I would come back an be a real live missionary!!!!  I am super pumped!  Every time I pray about it, I get more and more excited.  I feel as if so many of my life experiences have led up to this.  For example, playing softball growing up has helped me to get connected at the baseball site.  Volleyball is pretty much the second most popular site here after baseball.  Other missions trips have shown me my passion for using sports as missions.  Even more, I will be assistant coaching for Bethel which will give me valuable tools to coaching here on my own.  We will see.  Sorry I don't have any fun pics today.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

Experiencing Poverty

One of my goals in coming here this summer was to try gain a better understanding of poverty. I had hoped by being closer to poor people, I could somehow experience what they experience. However, the longer I am here, I realize how far I am from actually experiencing poverty. There is one specific instance that I can't seem to get out of my head. This past weekend, Hosea and Vanessa took us on a trip to visit Santo Domingo, the capital. At one point we were driving back to our hostel. It was nighttime and it was raining pretty hard. A woman stood outside our van. Her clothes were torn and she seemed to just be withering away in the rain. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did. No matter how hard I try to be immersed in this culture, I cannot even come close to experiencing poverty. Yes, I could still give up all I have and try to live on the streets , but it still would not be the same. I would always have my family to lean on. Because of my education and background, I will always be able to get a job and support myself. Yet, there are definitely people who are do not have this privilege. There are many that no matter how smart they are or how many good decisions they make, they cannot escape a life of poverty. So what now? I know I have a responsibility to live a frugal life and give to the poor. I just feel that can only go so far. So really, I feel like I have not come to any great conclusions and revelations. However, these have just been some things I have been reflecting on lately.

Anyways.... Like I mentioned before, we took a trip to Santo Domingo during our last weekend off. Hosea grew up in Santo Domingo, so he was able to show us around the city. Below is a picture of all of us interns. We had such a blast. I also had my first experience staying in a hostel in the city. We all crammed into one room and shared two bathrooms with the rest of the guests. Fun times.

The picture below is of part of the group that I took into town. We ate at Pico Pollo, a classic food of the Dominican Republic: Fried chicken and fried plantains. Yum! The one who is trying to look tough in the picture is Ryan. He says the funniest things. Probably the highlight of my week was when we were practicing for the volleyball outreach. As we were playing this game I invented he shouts out, "This is the most fun I've had with white people". Dave (the other intern helping with the volleyball outreach) and I just laughed so hard. High schoolers say some of the best stuff.
As far as the ministry goes, I can definitely tell I am getting tired. I love working with Amy and I love the kids at the PT site. However, some days I just feel exhausted and I do not have the patience. It's tough because I feel totally unqualified to do physical therapy and that frustrates me, a lot. But I am realizing that I do not have to be good at something for God to use me. It just gives me more of a reason to rely on God. This past group has been high schoolers, which has definitely been a change. I feel as if I am back at camp. As far as my role as an intern, I think I like having high schoolers better. Just like camp, I know that in order for them to be energetic, I have got to be SUPER energetic. If you have ever worked with high schoolers, you know what I am talking about. So I love it, but it is definitely even more draining. But that's what I am here for: To pour out, so that God can fill me back up again. God is good!
If you want to see more pics and don't have facebook... here ya go:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Leaving the Honeymoon Stage

I think I have officially left the honeymoon stage of being here and its starting to become life. I do not think I will become fully settled because I still know I am leaving. However, the "newness" of it all has definitely diminished. I have found that there are certain habits that I am developing. These habits are being developed not necessarily out of good practice, but because of immediate need.

New Habit #1: Cleaning Promptly
We have a kitchen and living room area that all of us interns share. If I leave behind even a crumb on the counter, within 20 minutes it be swarmed with ants. Because it is so hot and humid here, my clothes must be washed at least once a week. Also, because the plumbing system is poor here, we have to put our toilet paper in a trash. Thus, the whole packing trash cans to they are full (like I did at home) just does not fly here. ***Get it? "Fly here" haha.

New Habit #2: Self Defense Skills
As Sissy accurately put it the other day, PT stands for Physical Torture. The kids at Genesis School are so loving and affectionate. However, it's a good day when I only get in the face once or twice. God is definitely developing my patience. The other day, we were working with this boy Dani. He had managed to bend down and start drinking water from a muddy puddle. I lifted him just in time for him to turn and spit it right in my face. It was awesome. I do not share this story, but to give people a small glimpse of what these teachers have to deal with on a daily basis. I have grown to develop such an admiration and respect for people who work with special needs students. In addition, my reflex skills have dramatically quickened over the past few weeks. Although, sometimes the kids whip out moves that deem me defenseless. Below is a picture of Henny during our "field day". The school had a day where they made puppet horse heads and attached them to sticks. They had races around the school on their horses. It was so cute, all the kids dressed up for the occasion as well!
The 4 new interns have now joined us. It has been an fun transition. Brianne is my new roomie and we get along great. Thankfully, one of us farted the very first night (I wont say who), it totally broke the ice, and we have been great friends since. The other interns are awesome as well. Travis Gerig has joined me at the school and it has been fun to have another friend there. He has been working with one of the toughest kids at the school. During his spare time, he takes care of kids who get hurt. Below is a picture of Arhennis, the gatekeeper.
I have found my new favorite catch partner- Dave Adams. I don't know what my deal here is... but I cannot throw a baseball here for the life of me. Anyways, Dave is real tall and he used to play first base. So for the first time here is the DR, catch is somewhat enjoyable because I am not making the other person chase after my horrific throws. Also, the movie Nacho Libre holds a special part of my heart. Tyler and I are obsessed with this movie have tried to convince the rest of the world to feel the same way. It's the beeest! I looove it! All the interns have been such an encouragment to me. Their enthusiasm and desire to serve is such an inspiration. The only downfall of having such awesome interns, is that we all seem to stay up later now to play games. Oh and thanks to my amazing mom and sister's birthday package, I now have Settlers!For those of you who know me pretty well, you know I have a "sensitive" stomach. Well, here it is seriously taking a beating. Actually, the reason I have time to type this right now is because I was up all night with diarrhea. Sorry, if that grosses you out. But because it is so common here, I have become extremely comfortable with talking about bowel movements. :) Pray for the rest of the staff as well, a pretty bad stomach flu has been going around. I am not sure if I have what they have had. But within the past week, 7/8 interns have been sick with something (diarrhea or throwing up).

On a less "sensitive" note, I have had a blast here. I have completed over half of my time here and it has re-emphasized my desire to go into missions. I would love to come back and work with Students International. But I am still not certain that is what God's will is for me. I have fallen in love with the Spanish language and if I went to a Spanish-speaking country, I think I would want to go to language school and broaden my knowledge. I have been practicing a lot, but I still have so far to go. I want to go deeper with people and it is difficult when ability to carry conversation is limited. We get one day off per outreach and I have used it to go to the sports site. It is probably one of my favorite parts of the week. I absolutely love using sports to connect with people. So I am hoping God will open some opportunity to serve Him through sports. We'll see!!!! :) Below are some more pictures from this past outreach. The first is me at a house helping Miguelina (one of the teachers from the school) helping to make mangu. Mangu is basically smashed plantains, mixed with butter and other special Dominican ingredients.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Becoming Asian

Over these past few two weeks, I have experienced a lot of "firsts". So here they are in no specific order of importance.
First #1: Swimming Pool

Because of a national holiday, the school decided we were going to take the kids to the swimming pool. At first, this sound like a relaxing activity. However, it was definitely an adventure. Trying to keep 20 kids from drowning all at the same time is exciting. It was funny too because before we left, we all joked about who would get Henny. It is hard for me to descibe the entire being of Henny. She is one strong girl. She is very strong and just runs around like a monster. Anyways, I volunteered to swim with her first because I wanted the challenge. About two minutes into it, Amy warned me, "Jess, make sure she doesn't drink too much water or she will puke." Sweet. Luckily, her teacher was playing with her when she hit that limit. My respect and admiration for her teacher went to an all time high when Henny started to puke. Rather than push Henny away (the natural instinct), she held her close and caught most of the puke in her hand. Daily, I am blown away by the commitment and patience that these teachers have for the students.

First #2: Becoming Asian

One of the schools that came with this past outreach was Boston University. Many of them were Asian and I had the priviledge of hanging out with them this past week. Anya and Allison were two of them that were at my physical therapy site. And through much practice and training, by the end of the week, they concluded that I had become 1/4 Chinese and 1/4 Korean. The BU group added so much excitedment to the week. This included intense ping pong games, the dart game inhanced with the moose roll, rock/paper/scissor competitions to determine dishes for the at least 6 people. (which i dominated YJ multiple times). I had a blast with these guys and they gave me the priviledge of taking an "Asian" picture with them at the end of the week.

First #3: Repelling
All eight of us interns went repelling. We hiked along the Jiminoa river. We repelled down two walls, (one about 80 feet the second 100 feet). The second one was intense because it was right beside of a waterfall. Fun day!

First #4: Dominican driving
Now that we have the other four interns here, we sometimes have to take two cars. In other words, when Tyler isn't here, someone else needs to drive. So, yesterday I had my first experience driving in the Dominican. Driving here is interesting. Red lights serve more as yield signs, unmarked one way streets, and motorcycles that pass on the left hand side of you when you are turning left. Needless to say, it's quite an adventure.

Here is another pic of one of the girls from thes school. I love her smile especially.