Public service announcement: When your mom suggests that you cut your hair before you leave the country for five weeks, listen to her and just do it. I am going to rip all of my hair out so that I don’t have to deal with it anymore because it is DRIVING ME CRAZY. Plus, little girls here love playing with hair, and I’ve never been fond of people playing with my hair. So.
Since I still haven’t shared precisely what I’m doing in the DR right now (since I’m only just figuring it out myself), I figured it was probably about time to fill everyone in. Pasitos de Jesús (“little footsteps of Jesus”) is an orphanage run by a woman named Dalma. She had a neighbor with a daughter, Charina, who has Downs Syndrome, and because a lot of times children with special needs are viewed extremely negatively here, the mom kept this girl in a separate room from the house with the dogs. After the girl’s mom died, there was no one else who would take care of Charina, so Dalma took her in. From there, the orphanage expanded and she started taking in other girls in the area. Some don’t have have parents, while some have suffered from different types of abuse from their parents. There are now 32 girls at Pasitos (although I still don’t think I’ve seen them all at one time), and I am here with them for the next three weeks. Some of them can’t remember my name and call me “the American,” which cracks me up whenever I think about if the roles were reversed and I was walking around calling someone “the Dominican.”
My brain is getting a lot of exercise while I’m here, for sure, since I’m really out of practice with my Spanish currently—as in, until a week ago, I hadn’t spoken Spanish in six months. The frustrating part is that I understand a lot of Spanish, but when it comes down to replying to someone’s question, I have no words. I can do things like talk about my family and order food, but formulating complex sentences—let’s just say you’ll be experiencing about a 30 second pause while I think. Everyone here though is really understanding and helpful (well, except the girls under 6 years old, who walk around talking to me as if I’m understanding every little thing they mumble to me). I’m hoping with all the studying I’m doing, it’ll get better over the next month here, but one thing that probably won’t change: after about 7 o’clock every day, my brain shuts off. Trying to have a conversation with me in Spanish is like trying to talk to a wall for all I can comprehend.
If I’m missing anything about the United States, it’s my bathroom and shower (I never feel clean here), being able to brush my hair in less than 20 minutes, and driving my car. Commuting to school a couple years ago really ruined me because I love driving way too much now.
I love it at Pasitos, but I’m also counting down the days until the last Hebron group gets here July 20th—in part because my best friend will finally be here, but also because I miss that fellowship with other native English speakers. It’s one thing I’m really missing being in the orphanage by myself. Sure, groups from SCORE come through here constantly, but surface-level conversations get really tiring really fast. Earlier today, three of my favorite people from last week’s trip FaceTimed me while they were having lunch together, and it made me so happy. Joining up with Hebron again will be a great day—but returning to the United States a week later, that’s gonna be a hard bridge to cross when I get there.