Spending the semester in the Dominican Republic has led me to do a lot of rather difficult questioning. These questions have all revolved around the experiences and relationships I have had here, and they often times revolve around why things the way they are, why we allow ourselves to continue living in a world with continual patterns of injustice, and what I can do to really change these systems. I’ll admit that this semester I have hit points of frustration and even desolation from feeling like there is not enough that I can do in order to fix what needs to be fixed in this world. But from these experiences and questions I have learned that there is so much still to be done, but also so much that I can, and already have been doing this semester. The biggest lesson I have learned away from my life in at Creighton and in the United States is the power that comes with the ability to love another person.
My intentions with this post are not to create the image of the DR as a horrible place—I would actually venture to say that this country holds a type of beautiful that’s almost too strong for words. There is the obvious beauty in the breathtaking beaches, and the lusciously green mountains. But I think there is so much more than that here. From living here I have realized the beauty that lies in the bustling streets of Santiago and Licey, even with the stray dogs and constant nagging of street vendors. And I have discovered the beauty that resides in the walls of an orphanage that provides a home for children with needs that most others don’t want to care for. And I’ve been absolutely captivated by the beauty of a home and a family that has welcomed me with open arms and hearts, and has accepted me as a daughter in their lives.
The portion of this semester that was spent living with my host family in our campo, Rancho de la Vaca, I spent my time with my family constantly trying to figure out how it was I could give back or repay them for constantly giving and giving to me. I think I even reached points of feeling like I didn’t deserve what I was constantly given—so much captivation, so much love. I felt I couldn’t give them enough—there was a time when I didn’t even know if my family was going to be able to receive water from the aqueduct system our group had built there. There were even times where I felt like I couldn’t emotionally take enough of what they were trying to give me. But I think what I have finally realized from this complicated relationship with my campo family, is what I have really given my family is the love of a daughter—exchanged with the opened hearts of my Dominican parents.
So, a day after my final goodbye with Ana and Danilo, I leave also having wept with this same family, not knowing when we will see each other again. I guess this moment with my host family really made me realize the impact we had made on each other’s lives even with our short time together. Though I have learned about problems in this country—discrimination, poverty, corruption—I begin to pack my bags with tears, smiles, and thankfulness for my time here, knowing I am completely in love with this country. The problems I have learned about have struck a passion in my soul, one I have never felt before, and I know that this is all due to the people I have encountered here.
For example, when I think of those with poor access to water, I think of the joy on my campo mom’s face when she can turn a valve and receive water in her kitchen sink, even if it’s only every other day. Just that one look of joy on her face, is enough for me to feel empowered enough to even consider taking on these types of (honestly) intimidating problems. I really believe that I have a new outlook on combatting these problems that others face in the world, mostly because now I have people that I am fighting for, and know the impacts change can have on others’ lives.
This country has given me so much, and though I have just finished a semester of service, I think that the biggest exchange that was done this last four months was one of love. I leave this beautiful country with friends and even family, restlessly waiting the day I can return. And I just really think is more than I could have ever asked for.