The last couple of days have been a whirlwind. I returned home from the dominican republic late Friday night and then have spent the last few days enjoying much needed time with friends and family.
It has been a busy quarter at school...I know I've mentioned it before in previous blog posts. I think one of the reasons I was on the trip was to relax and rest outside of my everyday life. Something about island time...there is no definite schedule, no real agenda, things get done when they get done...it is refreshing not feeling pressure, deadlines, or the need to perform or acheive. The emphasis is on relationships - doing things that bring people together and encourage one another. The team had a lot of time to relax, but also had time to play and love the kids. I can't really say that we accomplished much as a team in our few days of being with the kids, but I know that we participated in a small part of what COTN is trying to do - raise children in the knowledge of Christ who can then lead in their communities and country.
I was looking back on my journal that I kept while I was there (I really don't journal much, usually only when I am on vacation or if something serious is going on, which isn't that often). I wrote and wrote...so much...so random. What didn't I journal about while I was there. It's a lot to unpack and think about, so we'll see what comes out in this post.
Realization #1 (this one is more of a confirmation) - I am not going back to teach next year. I am no longer going to live in the comfort and safety of doing something I'm okay at, but I am going to get back to my dream of doing something in medicine...where so much of my compassion and passion lies (can you use those two words together like that?). My hope is that I'm not just okay, but excel at it because of my unrelenting interest in disease and physiology.
Realization #2 - I need someone to take care of me. I have always prided myself on being independent, strong, confident, resourceful, able. However, it is tiring keeping up this attitude at all times in all situations. I am realizing the consequences of looking out for and taking care of everyone else and in the process neglecting yourself. Things got pretty hectic at the airport when our flight was delayed out of Texas. As a result of the delay we missed our connection Puerto Rico and the group was then separated onto 3 separate flights (one of which was delayed later). Anyway, there was a lot of waiting at airports and me making sure everything was running smoothly as possible. I was with the first group into Santo Domingo...we paid for our tourist card, went through customs, picked up our bags, exchanged some money...however in all of this I was so distracted making sure the students got everything they needed that I grabbed the wrong bag...a bag I had packed (not with my own clothes, but with carnival supplies). Normally, I would double check everything, but no, not this time when all my students were asking questions and needing help. So here I am in the airport for 5 more hours waiting for the rest of my students to fly in and I have no idea my bag with all my clothes is on the other side of the wall in customs. When the last flight finally arrived one of my students said he couldn't find the bag he had checked (duh...the one I grabbed). So I went back with David and we tried to track it down to no avail. So thinking we are only missing party supplies I give the go ahead to get on the bus and go...10 minutes later everything cliques into place and I realize my bag, with all my clothes is sitting in the airport...not party supplies. I ask David if we can turn around and he says no, we can just go back tomorrow. great...thinking 2 days in the same clothes after travelling for over 24 hours straight...great. I was so frustrated with myself...so stupid, so easily avoidable, but I was so focused on everyone else, I didn't look out for myself and no one else there was supposed to. I'm the leader...I'm supposed to have it all together, right? So the next day - 6 hour van ride and $140 later I have my bag in hand and quickly change (without a shower) for church, what becomes a 3 hour long production...sick. However, I can't complain, it was my fault and you deal with the consequences of your stupidity...at least I didn't have to borrow underwear from my students.
I'm starting to like the idea of having someone around who looks out for me and cares for me...that I can rely and depend on. I don't have it all together...and never will, no matter how hard I try.
Realization #3 - Human touch is powerful. If you know me, you know I have never been a touchy-feely person. (That's not all true, my mom attests I was different as a child). I don't say hello or goodbye with a hug...usually just a smile. I don't know why, but I'm not a huge initiator of physical touch. However, in my time in the dominican republic, touch was a way to communicate love and concern, to show a child you were interested in them, cared for them and their well being. Immediately a child grabs you by the hand or arm when you walk of the bus, they want to be held, want a piggy back ride, want to play with your hair or play a game clapping hands. (They also want your sunglasses and camera). They crave this simple human interaction and feel loved as a result. This trip I found rest and joy and simplicity in holding the younger children. I was drawn to the small and the sick. The ones who were too tired to run and play, who just needed to be held. Twice, I held children fast asleep in my arms, breathing steadily, resting on my chest. It was so peaceful to simply sit and rest with them listening to each breath and to be able to show my love through this simple act of touch. I want to feel more. I want to open up to experiencing love and compassion through the power of touch.
Realization #4 - Without hope, life is meaningless. I read The Stranger, by Camus on the bus ride home. I was thinking about life and where meaning comes from...where do people find meaning, does everyone need meaning? What is the meaning and hope for a child living in the dominican republic versus an educated 25 year old woman in the wealthy united states? Can our hope be the same...I have to believe so. I hope in eternity, that I was created for a purpose, that I am loved unconditionally by a God that has a plan for my life, and that these beliefs will allow me to live life with meaning -live life to be made more in the image of my God and to pour out my life into others to be a blessing and to spread hope into a world of suffering and injustice.
Realization #5 - I love sun. I love the way it feels as it warms my skin and thaws out my chilled bones from our cold washington winter. I love how it tans my skin. I love the colors as it rises and sets. I love sun.