Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Up We Go

Pico Duarte. It's been at the top of my bucket list since I had arrived in country. The tallest mountain in the entire Carribbean, reaching almost 4,000m at it's peak. Many volunteers have taken on the challenge, said how difficult it was, but reality sometimes cannot be understood until you face it yourself. And it was an adventure I'll never forget.
We arrived in La Cienaga the night before; me and 4 other education volunteers who I consider dear friends. We grocery shopped in Jarabacoa and made our way , packs and plastic bags all piled into the back of the pick up truck. After going up for what seemed like 2 hours, we made it to the park entrance and met our guides. We cooked dinner by fire and prepared our stuff for the following day. We met a young boy who was simply wandering around on his birthday. And he gave ME a sucker. I'll miss that unquestioned selflessness someday soon. Julie and I showered by freezing cold water from the hose and we were off to bed early on the cold, hard wooden floor of a rickety old cabin. 
A sleepless night was met by an even colder, darker morning. It was 6am and we were off; let by flashlights and a young boy (son of one of the guides) on his horse and a dog who we named Nevada because his fur was white and we knew that the cold we felt wasn't anything compared to what we were about to face in the mountains. Our mules with all our stuff would come up behind us soon.
We started to ascend pretty quickly and joked about how the climb had begun! Oh how naive we were! There were a few resting stops along the way but it was literally uphill for the next 8 hours. We sang every song that have ever existed in this world, used our walking sticks like experts, ate many snacks, walked downhill (wait, what?? We were supposed to be going UP to the top of the mountain!), got split up, and eventually arrived at site. There were cabins, a large kitchen with tons of fogóns, bathrooms with floors that we SWORE we were going to fall through, a big fire pit, and we were absolutely freezing.  How there was no snow up there, I do not know. We ate a late lunch, stretched, laughed, made dinner and hot chocolate, played cards, and shared more laughs with our new Dominican companions. Bedtime was early again but the alarm was set for even earlier. 
We woke up at 3am after not sleeping a wink with the freezing cold and the chatting pair. While waiting for the mules, we started a mini fire before leaving for the peak at 4am. We walked by flashlight and went up...and up...and up... After the guides swore it was all flat until the "last little bit." Every five minutes we shouted: "We see the top!! Not much further!!" After an hour or so, the sky started to light up, a lush, deep red lining the mountain tops in the horizon. And after 2 hours of straight uphill, we hit a rest stop that we had thought was the top. But there, in front of us, was another peak and a sign that said, "Pico Duarte-1.2km." Some of us caught energy and strength at the site of the sign, some lost it. But we kept going. The deep red turned to all the colors of the rainbow in their own banner across the sky. We had to make it to the peak before the sun broke through. The "last little bit" was indeed the hardest. Sometimes I even used my hands to pull myself up. And more of "there's the top!" And it being a lie. But as I walked most of the final peak alone, I heard two of the group screaming and cheering up ahead. They had made it. And eventually we all did; just as the sun, bright reddish pink, blinded us from the top. Pictures galore, snacking, more pictures, and complete shivering down to the bones. Not even a half an hour later, we headed back to base camp. Julie and I made it down in an hours less time than it took to make it up, running most of the way. And passing the rest of the hikers on their way up. When we made it (10am) breakfast was made by one of our guides who stayed back. We brewed coffee and waited for the rest to arrive. They trickled in and there we started our day of rest. Broken shoes, blisters, many dirty clothes, dirty bodies and all. We debated the next day-would we go to the valley for another day? Or would we go home? But despite the struggles and pain our group was in, impressively, we decided to fight on. The next day we set out, back the way we came, all uphill for the first hour or so, at 6am. We hit a high point and broke off the normal path (have I mentioned how much I will never take toilets for granted again?) and started our trek down to the valley. Believe it or not, this was the hardest day in regards to walking. All downwards, all loose rocks, and you could see your final destination but never felt like you were getting closer. We sang some more, lost breaths at the views of the mountains surrounding us, ate sunflower seeds, fell many many times (we kept track and I think Julie won with the most falls) and laughed harder than we had thus far. We ended up splitting again (it was difficult to keep a slow pace) and Julie, Brady, and I made it to the open, green field we had seen from the top. My knee decided to give out on me and I limped, hiking stick acting as my second leg, all the way to the cabin below. Almost 8 hours later. The rest arrived a few hours after that. Lunch, a trip to a gorgeous river (with the famous "whale" rock that looked more like the head of a turtle than anything else), the indigenous rock with a symbol carved out of it from the Taino people but surrounded by what seemed to be a dumping station for an outhouse, hot tea, and 2 friendly hikers who gave me a muscle relaxer and shared our s'mores and chocolate milk. Tomorrow was the final day. And it was my birthday.
And it was the best walking day yet. We walked uphill for 3 hours (1hour less than expected!) and downhill for 4. I finally rode the mule on the last downward slope because that was when my knee was at its worst. Everyone was in high spirits. Even the guide, who we struggled to like the last 3 days, stood silently after farting at a resting point. After Julie asked each of us if it was us, we all turned to him and realized he was crying with laughter because despite the language barriers, he knew exactly what we had been asking about. And he had been the culprit. We all became best friends after that. Working our way downhill, I stayed at the back with our poor girl with broken shoes. When we arrived at the main camp where it all began, a celebratory chocolate milk was already bought and ready to be opened. We had done it.  The mountain came with more of a physical, emotional, and psychological challenge than I could have imagined, and it was some of the best days of my life. We became closer as a group (even with those many trying moments) and had accomplished it together. I was exhausted, but how good I spiritually felt made it nearly impossible to feel the physical pain I knew was there.
The friends we made in the valley left 3 hours after we did. And arrived 20 minutes after we did. It was incredible. But also meant a free ride all the way home to the capital. Not without chocolate milks in the back of the pick up truck, busting at the seams having to pee, eating ribs (!!) at a restaurant, and nearly falling asleep to merengue as the capital lights reminded us of what we had left and didn't miss. 
It was perfection imbedded in all its imperfections. The best birthday a girl could ever ask for without whispering a single word to anyone about what the day actually was.
And another thing checked off my DR bucket list. I won't finish that list before leaving, but that certainly was at the top. And now I've just got more reason to keep coming back to this incredibly beautiful country. For the rest of my life.

Friday, September 11, 2015

In His Last Little Bit on Earth

7 de septiembre 2015

Let's go back in time. When he used to run up towards my house with his twin brother, stick in hand and tire rolling ahead. "Julieeeeee!!" He would yell. And if I was there, he'd come in, walk right into my bedroom and stare at himself in my mirror making faces. Or when I asked for a kiss and he would kiss me on the lips and his brother would give me his cheek. When Casilda and I took a day trip to Santiago with the two of them, both sleeping the whole way there, being crazy and playing in the lobby of the hospital, and then sleeping the whole way back. When he got blood drawn and didn't make a single whimper. Running through the white halls, saying hello to everyone, knowing exactly which room they had to go to in that maze of ugly curtains, rolly beds, and the smell of rubbing alcohol. When we read together in my gallery. When I chased them naked around their new home and they hid around every corner but their giggles gave them away. When he would ask me "¿Que es eso?" 101 times and still never repeat what I said back to me. His clear, hazel eyes that pierced your heart. His smile. And the last night there when he was hitting me over and over again, I threatened to leave and ran outside, he chased after me, sent his brother to find a belt, and together (with my help...), they tied my legs and arms up so I couldn't go anywhere. 
But just a short year ago, this little man while stealing my heart was eating a chinola. He fell and started violently throwing up. A month and 4 hospitals later, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Treatments left and right, hair loss, weight loss, no appetite, surgery, constant health issues, hospital trips, and many phone calls later, he was declared healthy. The tumor was removed, no more treatment was needed and he was home. Not a week went by and he fell ill again, his stomach swelling up as it did before despite the sunkeness of his cheeks and he was put in intensive care. They said the tumor was back. Many confusing diagnoses later, I get a phone call from a crying mother, begging me to do something. They told her, in front of him, that there was nothing more they could do here. That they just needed to love him and give him something to ease the pain. I called a friend. We searched for options outside of this country. She reached out to so many. We went to visit them one weekend, and weren't allowed to see him. But We got to see her. We cried together, got copies of his records, and made promises that although we didn't know at the time, we couldn't keep. These few weeks were long. The battle rose and fell. Some days he was better. Then he was worse. I received photos and videos of his tiny swollen body that are still haunting my sleep. There was too much waiting time...
Because on Saturday, August 29, I was in IKEA with some friends. And I received the phone call I was dreading. She was screaming. I understood nothing. Then finally, the last thing she screamed was, "Julie, tell me he's not dead." And hung up. It was too late for me to go that day-the last bus would leave in an hour and I didn't have time to get back, pack and make it to the bus stop. More waiting. But at 5am, that Sunday morning, I was on a bus, headed home, trying so hard to hold it all together, wondering what more I could have done.
By the time I had made it, I missed the funeral and I missed the burial. I had always wondered if there really was a difference in an open casket or closed at a wake. There is. Denial is a strong thing when there is no closure. I didn't get to see him at the hospital. I was told he was getting better. And then he was gone? I couldn't, I refused to believe it. I was told of the screams, the hallucinations, and that his siblings passed out during it all. And that his mother at one point was screaming out, "Julie! Julie! Your little brother is dead. Come quick."
When I got in, I dropped my stuff off at my Doña's house and saw Francheska. She collapsed in my arms, sobbing. She loved him so dearly. When I was able to make my way to Casilda's, my heart was racing. I saw nothing but what was directly in front of me. I entered the front door and into the bedroom. She was there, sitting on a bench with people sitting around the room. She screamed out when she saw me, "Julie! Look!" Holding up a little blue, long sleeved shirt of his. I collapsed to my knees and hugged her. She rocked me, sobbing, and with half of voice, "He's gone Julie. He left us. I had such hope. I had such faith. We fought so hard. Why is he gone? Why did he have to leave us?" Over and over again. Her husband had to pull us apart to get her to calm down. I left the room, searching for his siblings through the blur of tears. I hugged each and every one of them and told them how much I loved them. I helped them eat. We sat in silence. And in tears. So many people. So much is fuzzy now...
The week was spent hosting visitors, cooking, cleaning, and whatever else that needed to be done. I didn't do much. Just tried to be there. It reminded me so much of the passing of a loved one back home. The pain but also the people, the help, the noisy kids, playing games late into the night, and just being distracted. Or looking at photos.
My bosses stopped by since they were in the area. I've been so blessed throughout all of it. The constant messages, the girls who took care of me that night I was waiting to get out of the capital, my family back home answering my doubts and sending love, the mass given for the family, the flowers left on my desk, the note and candle in my apartment, the neighboring volunteers coming for the event on the last day I was there. All of them. I was never alone. There was never a moment where a thought, prayer, or hug wasn't being sent to everyone. And I'm convinced that's what held the family up. Each day got a little better. Moments came and went as expected; the burial of feelings would come to a head now and again. But the love and support was there. And a new and handsome angel with a heart of gold is now watching over all of us. We all still wish he was here, but it helps to know that his suffering has ceased and that he will, without a doubt, do amazing things from up there. 

Ángel Manuel changed my life. And although the anger comes and goes still, I will always feel blessed to have known him, loved him, and fought alongside him in the last little bit he had here on Earth.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Blessed One Indeed

24 de julio 2015.
There really is so much to be grateful for. I arrived last night from my travels at 7pm, making pasta for dinner, showering and passing out early. Not before receiving a message, however. Juan was headed this way, making a delivery and would be heading back to Mariano Cestero with an empty truck. Until, that is, he picked up the donations we were promised by the wonderful women at Save the Children. They're moving to a smaller office and because of a contact I had made long ago, we had some things waiting for us for the library. So I yet again wasn't given notice ahead of time (this has happened numerous times and have been failed attempts). I awoke and was at the office by 8am, making crazy phone calls all along the way-to Juan, Casilda, the Save the Children office and to Ann. I finally got ahold of Juan, directions for him, and permission to leave. I left at 9am, caught the metro, waited on the side of the road, and finally saw the beautiful, empty, red truck with Juan in the drivers seat. A few loops and we made it to the office. 
And loaded it up like so:

5 gorgeous tables, a printer, and copier were sent off to Mariano for the future library. More things await us but there was no room this trip around (such a good problem to have!). And a few phone calls made for a very happy library committee. I was flying high on the way back to the PC office. A working lunch, cup of coffee, 4 charlas planned, and then I received a much-awaited phone call. My grant for the library was finally approved. We will soon be receiving $5,000(U.S.) for the library. And the work will soon begin. My heart beats faster just thinking about it.
I arrived at the office at 8am and didn't leave until 6:15pm. And I didn't mind one bit. It was such a beautiful, crazy day. A blessed one indeed.

To the 3 Corners, Around the Middle, and Back Again

23 de julio 2015.
These last two months have been crazy, exhausting, and so fulfilling. It was time to visit my babies in their new sites and see how they were doing. 19 in total and then 2 more visits to 1-yearers. I started out in the campos of Elias Piña which is a province in the middle west of the country. Where luz, transportation, and cell-signal are scarce but the views are like this:
Despite the lack of amenities these girls are kickin it, loving the kids, finding their purpose, and delving into dulces, chocolate milk, and laughter.

Next was the south where the road is literally lined with the beach on the right and the mountains to the left but believe it or not, it is the poorest area in the country. Depending on your definition of poor. The views were breathtaking and inbetween singing at the top of our lungs, buying a bottle full of a stone called Larimar (this precious blue rock can ONLY be found in this country-nowhere else in the world has it-the story behind it and the reason for its name is beautiful, look it up!), Keila and I stopped every few kilometers to take pictures like this:

Where a girl has found her passion outside of the pressures from the top and is genuinely happy.

Then I headed to Samaná, northeast, where beaches are a plenty and the lushness of the land look like this:
And the girls are battling comparisons, stereotypes, and certain realities but still finding the time to open a library daily, spend time loving on the chubbiest little one year old alive, and making waves at the district level where the possibilities of change are widened.

Vacation time was spent not far from there where we caught a bola (free ride!) and celebrated the 4th of July together like a bunch of crazy Americans like this: 

Next up? Home. To Dajabón I went up in the northwest where I spent all my time visiting and just spending time with those I love. Lots of porch lying, coffee drinking, hugs, about 20 runs fetching water and singing at the tops of our lungs down the dirt road, and reminiscing.  I didn't even take the time away to take pictures believe it or not. And where those babies are already holding literacy and art classes, allowing their imaginations to run wild against all odds, playing sports, and volunteering to help working women just because.

And finally, I took a day to visit a nearby volunteer from the capital (where he fights a tough comparison but holds beautiful and fun English classes for all ages) and then up the middle north to Puerto Plata. I stayed with 3 different volunteers and saw my final 6 in their crazy reality of tourism, big pueblos, NGO partnerships, and prostitution. Their overwhelmingly big communities and struggles with the language are so real but their hearts are even bigger. They might not be able to see it quite yet but I already know who will win that battle.

It was on my bucket list to travel more throughout the country. But I'm not a huge beach person; going to the touristy areas is not what I mean by traveling (though yes, there are a few famous places I'd still like to see-like the magnetic mountain that literally pulls your car upwards when it's off and in neutral, or climb the tallest mountain in the Carribean). I had wanted to travel the campos: meet more people within this beautiful country where no luz means more meaningful moments, where long bus rides mean hearing incredible life stories, and where the many differences but oh so many similarities mean enchanting realities for all. And I did it. To 3 corners and around the middle I went and headed back again. 25 communities total in just 33 days. And the love, passion, and drive I saw from my newbies backdropped against the selflessness, generosity, and love returned I saw from their new neighbors and friends was....

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Life Between Two Worlds

June 20, 2015. 
So here I am. Sitting in my new apartment, English music playing through my window, the water just in front of me, and the city behind. A new life. A new culture. Just a girl trying to find herself in a big city. I think that's from something. I understand it now.
These past two weeks have been filled with walking, office work, diversity trainings, learning about grants, revamping our entire teacher-training initiative (in a good way, though challenging), too much English, craziness with the apartment and electricity bill, early-childhood shenanigans, free sangrias, watching way too many shows and movies, loneliness, running water, constant luz, bringing lunch to work, and planning to visit my babies in their sites for the next month and a half starting Monday. I'd like to say I'm adjusting but I think I'm still in the numb phase. I have plans. I want to paint the apartment. Meet new people. Get out of my new shell that I've put myself in. Volunteer at a home where children that live on the streets of the city are taken in. And embrace the new routine that will be my life for the next year. I'm going to do it. And I'm going to find myself here just as I've done before. But we all need that adjustment phase...right? It's just hard when I either call back home or they call me. I miss them terribly. And it keeps me stuck in a limbo between my life there and my life here. Though maybe that can be my life. In-between two worlds. One I don't want to let go of and one I can't run away from.
So for now. Here's some before and afters of my apartment (though there will be after afters once I'm able to stop struggling financially and buy paint). Thanks to Julie, an incredible new PCV and friend, I was able to nestle pretty quickly. And make it somewhat my own.

I Would Do It All Over Again

The first week of June.
It's funny how many times I've found words to be insuffient. So to share the last week in my home, with my family, I will show simply with pictures. And do my best with words. Forgive me if you're left with questions or wanting more. But at least you should know that you're not alone in that.

The river trip. My going-away party. My incredible friends and family planned it all and told me nothing. Made reservations at a beautiful private river. Invited even the "close" PCVs to join us. We piled into this truck and we're off, food, pots, pans, plateware, and a gift all at our feet.

The gift? One of those pressure cookers that cook beans way faster then normal (like hours faster). Less gas. Saves money. Believe it or not I was the original winner of said pressure cooker when we had our most recent raffle for the library. But as soon as my number was pulled out, 111, despite how much I had actually wanted it, I said no. I truly had only bought the ticket to support the library. Winning was not the reason. So it went to a wonderful, hysterical guy my age from my community. So when they handed my a big, wrapped, box at the river. I knew what it was. They had known I wanted it. And got me one anyways.

Then there was the first "clean-up" at the office. I had begged them to plan it for before I left. Just one last thing I wanted to be a part of. And we did it. I and many others made the first big, visible move in transforming this abandoned office into a library and computer center. One that I pray for nearly everyday. 

If you only knew the difference one day made. Though it may not look like it.

Then there was the day before I left. I had promised a few of my favorites (sorry) we would make rubber-band bracelets. Oh and did we. We started out just three of us but at one point I think I had 15 munchkins crammed into my little living area. It was perfection. And seeing them all day with 5 or 6 colorful bracelets on their wrists and ankles... Priceless. Thanks gram.

Then the goodbyes. The photos I gave out. Double goodbyes. Tears. And my boys stealing my camera.

It's amazing that so much love doesn't make your heart stop. Sometimes it feels like it will. But I keep waking up every morning. As if I deserve to continue receiving such blessings and so much love in return.

 Saturday morning. I finished packing. Was in a complete haze. Hardly seeing straight. My sister came by. She wanted one last photo in front of the office. I thought I had time. But while we were there, I saw the white truck go by towards my house. It was time. I ran. And when I got there, I was no help in packing it up. I'm not even sure who was. I hugged more, cried more, and spun in so many circles. Francheska was hyperventilating. I couldn't get TinTin to calm down. I was shaking uncontrollably. And when I finally got in the truck and we drove off, I realized that Baraquito had been nowhere in sight. Or had I been blinded to him? I called Yoelbi frantically. He told me he had been hiding behind the mango tree. Crying. I told him to hug him for me and tell how incredibly sorry I was for not saying goodbye. My stomach flipped. We made one last stop to see my sister's kids, the twins trying once again to wrap me up with a belt. Just as they did the night before. And then we were off. 
I didn't imagine it that way. I felt so disconnected and yet so connected in that fleeting moment. But as much as my eyes still well up and my throat clenches when I think about it, I wouldn't have had it any other way. They were my life. They were my everything in this last year and a half. I would go back and do it all over again, if not better, even if it meant hurting so much all over again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trying to Just...Be There.

Today is the first of June. 9:12am. And a wonderful breeze is seeping through my only open window. I should be out and about, visiting, telling people how much they mean to me, starting the goodbye process. But I find that I am not good at this. My heart clenches tight so that my chest pulls itself in. As if to to say, "No, not yet. Please don't go outside." It has been a long time since I have written, I know. But there's many reasons for that. I've started a few times, and then quit. Lack of time, frustrations, and an uncertainty of what I even want to say. I don't have the best memory. I know that years from now, I'm going to look back and be angry with myself for not writing more. But this has literally been a goodbye build-up since February. 
When I decided to stay, applied, did an interview, and got accepted, I didn't realize how much the end of my service was going to change. Technically, this upcoming year's job wasn't supposed to start until the current PCVL left. In June. Now. But upon my boss asking for a favor, I accepted. With the promise that I could have the entire month of May to close out my projects, help the follow-up volunteer a little, and just... be there with my friends and family here in Mariano, I agreed to leave for the entire month of April for training with the new group. I stayed with an amazing host family, met a group of 20 beautiful, smart, experienced, and motivated newbies. Training was incredible and overwhelming. Busy and fun. I reflected so much on these past two years. Cried on multiple occasions (sorry guys). And tried my best to share my experiences, good and bad. We threw a going away party to our trainer who began her journey with my group two years ago. And I was blessed to spend her last with her. We made habichuelas con dulce, empanadas of yucca, we ate too much, always had an excuse to buy a cake, saw the realities of the school systems and suffered together, celebrated our ups, shared our downs, met the national ultimate frisbee team of the DR, swam in a pool, drank chocolate milk, and went to a river. One of the craziest months of my life. And I had to learn real quick how to balance still being a volunteer but also part of the staff that had to evaluate the trainees on their progress. The last day I was supposed to rush back on the last bus possible. But my training manager needed help with the last of the evaluations. I agreed to stay one more night. She offered a hotel room and dinner. We started at 1pm and didn't finish until 5. She then took me to her home, a gorgeous apartment in the middle of the capital-furnished as if it were straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. Grand piano included. I met her two beautiful daughters, talented and smart. We spent time together laughing, showing off flexibility skills (NOT mine), and spoke in a mix of English and Spanish, waiting for their father to get home from work. We then went to dinner. At an incredible Italian restaurant. Of course, it wasn't my grandma's food but I had a phenomenal eggplant parmasian that melted in my mouth, tried a bite of the oldest daughters pesto pasta, and washed it all down with some red wine. What a change from where I just was and where I've been for the past two years. It was luxurious and I felt so uncomfortable. But her family and their love made me think of my own, and I was comforted. At 10:30pm, I made it to the hotel, 3am was woken up by a volunteer heading out of the country forever, and at 5am I arose to catch the earliest bus back home.
Returning was strange. But it quickly went back to normal; hugs, lovin, coffee, and my family. But I was anxious. And couldn't shake it. In and out of tears.  As my new job overlapped my current one, I learned that I wasn't going to have the entire month of May after all. There were three more times I was going to have to travel back to capital. And being so far away, travelling there and back is always two more days tacked on for travel. So, May 2, I was back in site, the new volunteer showed up for his first "visit" on the 6th, he left on the 10th, and I was gone again on the 13th. We showed the new volunteer the ropes and he's going to be perfect here. I know it even more now but I knew it back then. On the 13th I headed out early and was able to make it to the Swear-In ceremony with my babies. I was like a proud momma watching each one go up and accept their certificate of completion of training. I also finally got to meet my boss' newborn son. He is beautiful, weighed 9lbs 10oz at birth and slept in my arms the whole time. Afterwards, pictures were taken and we headed separate ways to get ready for the "Swear-In" party in the colonial zone that night. I drank 2 chocolate milks and was alllll done (lightweight? Cheap date?). The next morning was PCVL orientation. I was a hot mess all day. Haha but the new PCVL for business, region 3, and I worked our way through all sorts of new information about the work ahead of us (did I mention that I almost cried when we were told about all of the resources we will have available-copier, printer, scanner, etc. it has taken me three days before to simply print something...). That night I went to take a nap at 5pm with plans to get up at 7, get dinner and hang out. I didn't wake up until 2am. Oops. The next day, I was a much better person and we had the second day of orientation involving "coaching" and what it all means and how to do it right. Ending a little late, we had to rush home and get ready for a dinner that our training director threw for all those that were involved in training the new groups: business and education. So back to that beautiful apartment, delicious food, good company, incredibly talented kids playing the piano, and the night ended with us volunteers being the only ones left. 
Oh yea, so the other two trips to the capital? Thankfully turned into just one. I was expected to go back again the 20th-22nd after arriving back home on the 16th. And then at the end of the month? Leaving the 25th through the 30th. I decided to put my foot down. I felt as though I was being punished for accepting to stay for a third year. My time continuously got cut short and I was done. So, I argued my case, my one boss didn't like it, but I told her there was nothing she could do. I wasn't coming. So that week I spent my time playing softball, meeting with a community to hopefully someday get electricity installed, starting to pack (burning memories that will never truly be engulfed in the flames), running errands in DaJabon with a surprise beach trip, having my last community English class full of games and candy, and just...being there. And on Monday, the 25th, I was gone again.  To spend one night and my first night in my new apartment. Passed down by an old volunteer. He left a lot of random shit and I showered with running water. That's all I really know for now. Pictures will come when I move in officially. Then, a week long conference with the group of volunteers that have completed one year of service. It was wonderful to see them all again, hear their success stories, work through their challenges, break boards, play silly games, and oh the work. So much so that I had to write down everything that we want to accomplish this year. For them, for the education sector as a whole, and for this country. And as Brendan said his goodbye to his group, I said hello. The switch is fast approaching. I made it back late Friday night and since then I have been here, not been here, helped with a raffle for the library, planned the office cleaning day with the community, continued organizing and packing, realized that my internet was cut already because I won't be able to afford it in the capital and decided just not to pay this last month, been rained in and an emotional wreck.
Today is the1st of June. I leave for good on the 6th. Today I want to visit my far away family. Tomorrow I have to finish the grant for the library in DaJabon, Wednesday is the first cleaning day, Thursday is apparently my going-away party only God knows where, Friday I want to go out one last time, and Saturday, they're coming to pick me and all my shit up. And I will be off. I have imagined this day for a long time. Whenever you have an expiration date on something, it's inevitable...right? But it's funny. I've done this a lot now. And I don't think I've imaged it right once. Vamos a ver.