As my time in the DR wound down, several people suggested to me that I make a list of things that I wanted to do in the DR before I moved. I jotted down several things and by the grace of God accomplished all of them (plus a couple bonus experiences that God had on my Bucket List 🙂 )
- Swim in the Caribbean Sea.
“I can’t be a missionary in the Caribbean for 3 years and never see the Caribbean Sea!” I thought. The Lord gave me the chance to go to a town called Bayahibe on the southern coast of the island with several other missionaries. It was a sweet time of fellowship, relaxation, and my first and only chance to swim in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
- Go to the capital.
I had heard lots of things about the capital from nationals and from other missionaries and I wanted to experience it for myself. People talked about how crazy the driving is, how high the crime is, how big the malls are, how beautiful the Colonial Zone is, how much you feel like you are in America, etc. That is all true but what impacted me most was going to church Sunday morning at a large church called La IBI. It was one of those experiences where I felt like each song and the sermon were chosen to be exactly what I needed to hear at that time. The Lord reminded me of His sovereignty and His faithfulness.
- Sleepover at Alberto and Lidia’s.
I knew that one of the hardest parts of moving back to America would be leaving my Dominican parents. I wanted to be sure to have some quality time with them before the move. I have been so blessed by their example of genuine faith, their words of wisdom, their love and support.
- Baking with co-workers.
In my American life (pre-DR) I baked on occasion but there wasn’t a huge need to because any grocery store has at least 20 different dessert options on any given day. Not the case in the DR. Thus, I baked pretty regularly- cookies for my students, brownies for a staff get together, etc. I wanted to invite my co-workers over to my apartment and teach them how to bake a chocolate chip cookie bar. We had a lot of fun in the kitchen, and some great conversations while it baked, and of course we enjoyed eating the final product.
- Paint nails in the village.
I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I love painting other people’s nails. When I was a little girl I had a dream that I would go to college to be a teacher, and while I was in college I would work at a nail salon. (Only part of the dream was realized 😉 ) In the weeks between when school ended and my move date, I went to the village several times and took with me some nailpolish. I had so much fun painting nails and creating designs (even though I’m not that artistic). What I cherished most was the conversation that flourished, the memories that were made, and the love that abounded.
- Eat Yaroa.
One day I was talking with some co-workers during lunch and they began telling me about a dish that they really like to eat for dinner called Yaroa. They went on and on about how delicious it is and that I really needed to try it. Well I tried on 3 different occasions to get Yaroa and each time the place in my town was closed because it was too early, because the power was out, or because it was the wrong day. All these failed attempts made me want to try it even more! On my last weekend in the DR, I went to a truck on the side of the road in Sosua with my friend Emily and was finally able to order Yaroa! I can’t say it was my most favorite thing I’ve eaten in the DR but it was tasty and I was glad to have the experience. 🙂
- Go to a Dominican salon.
Going to the salon is a weekly thing for many Dominican ladies. Right across the street from my apartment was a salon that was run by a family that attended my church and I had come to know pretty well. In my last couple weeks, I walked over one Friday afternoon and asked them to wash and dry my hair. Boy was I in for an experience. I was there for almost 2 hours. They washed my hair in a sink that did not have a slot to rest my neck so I had to bend my head back for about 30 mins straight. They put a plastic bib on backward so the water drained in the sink. I had to hold the strings up at an angle in front of my face. At one point, my arms got tired and without realizing it, I lowered the bib, which unfortunately let the water spill all over my shirt. The ladies exclaimed that I had gotten wet and one girl came over to the sink to hold the bib strings for me. (Rookie mistake) When the washing was done they led me to a chair where one of the ladies would blow dry my hair. Only one problem- there was no street power. We waited for about 20-30 minutes. Toward the end of the time the ladies started calling for guys on the street to come start the generator. Then we heard, “llegó la luz!” The power was back! She began blow drying my hair. There was a lot of sectioning, pinning, and pulling but she did a really nice job. At the end of it all, she did a tubi which is when they wrap the styled hair around your head and then place a hair net over it so that it stays. I paid my 300 pesos, thanked the ladies and walked back to my apartment. So worth it.
- Attend the 8th grade graduation.
This experience was not on my Bucket List but was on God’s Bucket List for me. A couple years ago I remember being at my favorite beach with my roommate Emily and in our conversation/processing/making sense of life, we starting talking about how we wished that we celebrated our 8th graders when they finished their time with us. We talked about how it is such an accomplishment for them and we wanted to encourage and honor them. I didn’t say anything to anyone in leadership but prayed that the Lord would put this in their hearts, too. Then, I honestly forgot about this prayer- but God didn’t. In early May I learned that they had scheduled an 8th grade graduation program for the first time ever. Isn’t God awesome? It was such a privilege for me to celebrate, honor and encourage these youth along with the rest of the staff. The kids received award certificates, a special lunch, heard kind words from their teacher, and motivating words from the director. Two of the female students told me that they were the first ones in their family to finish 8th grade. I pray these young people continue to grow and develop to be godly leaders in their families and their community.
- Go surfing.
Ok so this was something that I talked about with some of my missionary friends but sort of in a “yea I should try but I’m really afraid to try so I probably won’t” kinda way. Not actually written on my Bucket List because I was afraid to actually do it. Then one day when talking to my friends (who are experienced surfers) they really encouraged me to try it that weekend. I said I would think about it and the more I did, I decided that I would face my fear and try it. So Monday morning (it was a holiday and school was cancelled) I drove out to a big surfing beach called Playa Encuentro and tried surfing for the first time. I rented a board, surfing shoes and a surf shirt for a total of 500 pesos ($12 US) and my friends taught me how. Then I tried it on the water, and after falling a few times, I actually stood up on the board! I loved it! There is nothing like the feeling of riding a wave in! I’m grateful that I faced my fear and now can say that I’ve successfully surfed. 🙂
My feet are back on US soil but a piece of my heart will always be in the Dominican Republic. I thank the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness in this chapter and look forward to what He has in store next. Thank you for your continued love, support and prayers. Please join me in continuing to lift up the community of Caraballo in prayer. There is still much to be done and our sovereign God knows just how to do it and who He wants to use.