Thursday, May 22, 2014

Momma's Blog

18 de mayo 2014
Julie asked us to write her next blog which I've been writing over and over in my head for days. I'm not sure that any words could adequately describe our experience in the Dominican Republic. It was amazing, inspiring, heart-warming, sad, beautiful, exciting and entirely too short!! We could have stayed for another week and probably still not felt we experienced everything and met everyone! Starting from the moment we saw Julie in the airport holding a welcome sign for us and running to hug us, we knew it would be a time we would never forget!
The beginning was rough because I picked up a stomach ailment at the luxurious Costa Rica resort which reared its ugly head the day we travelled to see Julie. I was glad Tim got to explore the capital, experience the transportation and taste Dominican food for the first time in those first few days. After delaying our departure from the capital by a day, we were off in our rental car headed for a short visit in Villa Altagracia and then on to DaJabon. Seeing the country and Julie's site without the filter of her descriptions and her camera lens was eye-opening. It was both worse and better all at the same time. It was so neat to physically see everything and connect it with all that we had learned from her blog and from talking to her. Meeting the people was by far the best part! In Villa, Tim & I met Dulce her Dona and held Julie's Godchild, Domingo Ismael, and met his mom Linda. I felt so bad that Julie didn't get to spend more time there and see everyone she wanted to see!!
At this point I need to tell you that Tim has earned his "I can drive anywhere" license!! He safely drove us the whole way and that is a big accomplishment! There are really no traffic rules enforced in the DR. Speed limits, stop signs or lights, driving in the right lane are all optional! Buffalo has nothing on pot holes either! Go Tim! By the time we reached DaJabon, it was late but there were still people to greet us and to scream Julie's name and come running to hug her! Her house is like an Allegany cabin which for the Pangborns hold special memories. It has Julie all over it as every wall is covered in kid's artwork, letters, cards etc. We got to experience our first bucket wash up, the latrine, the screaming dogs and crowing roosters and finally when the light of day came around the bustle of her campo waking up. I know you all want to know how I survived the cockroaches......Tim paved the way for me every time I had to go. He shined the flashlight and kicked things to scare them away. OK, then he also stayed with me to make sure they stayed away!! Be careful what you wish for really can not go for 4 days!!!
I could write so much about each experience we had while we were there. Every person we met shared with us their love for Julie and reassured us that they were taking good care of her and keeping her safe. No one wants her to leave.....ever... and one couple shed tears just talking about her leaving. It was such a gift for Tim & I to see how much she is loved, liked, respected by so many and adored by her kids!! The people in her Dominican family are beautiful inside and out. They were so generous and helpful and patient. The language barrier did not stop us from communicating. Tim spent a morning hunting with Pipe without either of them understanding the spoken word of the other. I was blessed to watch Julie give some children a retest and without understanding any of her words, I witnessed her passion and love of teaching and of children.
We ate so many wonderful things this week. Rice & beans, fried chicken, goat, beef,  yucca, platanos, name, mangoes, pineapple, and many more things I either can't spell or am not sure what they were called! We learned how to play dominoes, how yucca grows, how to barter, what a fogon is (a wood fire stove), how to change a flat tire with a bad jack that breaks and a spare that shakes the car, that it's bad luck to plug your fridge in the same day you buy it, that biting magis (sp) love me and the itching is unbearable, that you can survive without modern conveniences, that dishes don't have to be washed in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher, that life can be much simpler.
We got a glimpse of life the way it must have been lived long ago here in the US. Where God, family and community defined your life; where electronics didn't rule your life; where you didn't need to chase the almighty dollar; where you lived your neighbor's heartaches and triumphs; where you never had to worry about the safety of your children; where visiting and porch sitting were the way you ended your day.
Tim & I also learned that you could fall in love in one day. Our hearts were completely full of love for the community of Mariano and especially for Francesca and Tin Tin. They stole our hearts and we will be forever changed and blessed by this time with them. I can now really understand why Julie loves it so much here and why this is her life's passion. We knew from the day she was born that she was meant to do God's work. Tim & I were blessed to raise her and now we have to let her go. She has so much to give to the world and we have a front seat view of all she is and will be accomplishing. Thank you Julie for sharing your world with us. Thank you Mariano for taking such good care of her and thank you God for watching over her always.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

An Unspoken Letter

03 de mayo 2014. 

There are so many things I want to say to you.

But I can't.

Whether it's the language barrier and my lack of knowledge that still halts my abilities to say or be all that I want to. Or it's the cultural differences that create two completely different worlds where empathy is nearly impossible because we just can't understand why we accept some things and not others. Or it's the tears that choke back my voice and my fear of crying in front of you because I know all you'll do is laugh. 

But it's these very things that keep me up at night. That sometimes haunt the back of my eye lids when I close them to rest. It's these things that I want to say that run my emotions up, down, around, and sometimes off the tracks. They build, collapse, harden, and hurt my chest.

I have moments where I give up. Believe that there's nothing I can do for you. Check you off on my hopeless list. And turn my face away from yours to save my heart from looking into those deep brown eyes that are unknowingly begging me not to give up.

But those moments are fleeting. And few. I've learned that my body just as much as my mental state needs a break at times. So when I go into my house and close my door, when I lay in my bed and am too lazy to lower my mosquito net, and when I answer emotionless to your calls through my wooden walls, please know that it's not because I don't love you. I just reach a point of loving you so incredibly strongly and with everything that I am that I shut down and have no energy left to show it.

But it's still there. It always is. I see how you live. I see the dirt on your knees and under your fingernails and the empty water tanks that cough out in dryness. I hold you through an anesthetic needle and four stitches in your foot and carry you home against your mother's demand that you suck it up and walk. I watch the stick broken off from the tree and her voice rambling off 100mph as you run from the whip. I see him raise his belt, listing off all of the things you do wrong daily and then lower it onto your bare back over and over and hear you saying on repeat in my head what you told me last night, "He treats the dogs better than he treats me." I see you put the rice on the fogón at 10pm knowing that the last time you ate was at 9am. I listen to the teachers tell you directly that you're going to fail and that your hopeless. I watch you fight your best friend and break you away as you struggle against my embrace; fully believing that it's the only way you'll win in this world.

I watch you and hurt with you. I feel the needle as it enters your foot. My breath quickens with yours as you run. The whip arcs my back and tears the skin. My stomach aches of hunger. I feel shame and useless as the teachers talk. My fists shake with determination and struggle. And while I grow tired, I will never stop loving you and feeling with you. While I sleep sometimes, I promise to hug you extra when I awake. Because I know that underneath your tough exterior and emotionless facade, when I hug you and you don't pull back, when I tuck you into my chest on the couch jokingly and you don't rise back up on your own, when you turn away and smile or fight back the tears when I talk real about your behavior or lack of motivation in school, I know it's all just what you need. And that you know it too.

You put up a damn good fight. But I promise to be stronger. I want to change the world. But in just a few short months I've loved you more than I ever realized I knew how. 

So if I'm going to change the world... I'm going to start with you.