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Adjustments & Non-Negotiables

June 15, 2012

The list of things that faze me is rapidly shrinking.

While visiting the mountains with my host family, we took a motorcycle tour of a national park. At one particularly bumpy and overgrown part of the road, our motorcycle kept bucking and jumping and threatening to fall over. Instead of freaking out and jumping off, I just bounced along, calmly keeping my right leg away from the hot muffler to avoid getting a “Dominican tattoo.” Koiki, my host brother, always righted the bike, and we continued on unburned and unshaken.

I walked past two dead dogs yesterday. Everyone I was with laughed at them. I just covered my mouth and nose to keep out the rotten stink and kept walking.

I am so much more patient with children. Back in America, as soon as I was confronted with an incoming toddler I would start to look for exit strategies. In my house here, there is never an exit strategy. So I play peek-a-boo, roll a ball back and forth on the ground, and make funny faces. And I can do this for hours.

Bathing is not a private affair. At night, cockroaches skitter along the walls of the latrine just out of reach of my flashlight beam. During the day, mosquitoes and the occasional lizard accompany me. And every morning, my Dominican nephew Pedro David follows me to the latrine asking “Are you going to bathe?” The questions continue while I’m in there, at least until someone yells at him to leave me alone. And when I exit, he’s right there waiting. “Did you bathe? Did you wash your head?”

The spider that crawled out of my jeans the other day was more annoying than terrifying.

Wearing jeans every day in this stifling heat seems normal.

I’m not exactly sure how much food I’m eating every day—all I know is that it’s a lot. Yesterday I ate two lunches because I made the mistake of visiting a family around noon; they wouldn’t let me leave until I had eaten. Being painfully full and risking diabetes and high blood pressure is worth it for the confianza I’m getting, right?

The bus from the capital to my site almost crashed about ten times.

I sustain an incredible number of awkward silences. But it doesn’t matter. People just enjoy being near one another—it doesn’t matter if you’re talking or not. And more often than not, the doña will disappear into the kitchen and reappear with a cup of coffee for me.

All that said, there are still a lot of things here that I can never envision myself accepting.

Trash collection rarely happens, if it happens at all. In my barrio, people toss their trash wherever they happen to be standing. And occasionally they burn it.

I saw a man walk up to a group of people playing cards and start smacking and punching a girl in the back. He screamed at her and picked her up from the chair—by her throat. Still screaming, he shoved her away from the game and she walked off. Nobody did or said anything.

Too many parents care too little about their children’s education. If they get bad grades or struggle, it’s because they’re “stupid” or just “don’t know.”

Kids are expected to do everything their parents ask them to do, right away, without error, “Hurry! Go!” If they do it well, they’re rewarded with silence. If they mess up, they catch hell. Positive reinforcement is rare.

It’s an odd feeling, adjusting and not adjusting all at once. The realizations that I’m getting used to a whole new culture sneak up on me. And the realizations that there are things about this culture that still shock me explode, without subtlety, in front of me. I imagine this process will keep happening, without end, for the next two years.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. TomF permalink
    June 15, 2012 12:35 PM

    Nice post. Peace=Serenity. Serenity prayer will get u through. Change what u can.
    Hope the weather cools now and then, Todobuenoaqui.
    Say hi to all for us.

  2. CindyF permalink
    June 15, 2012 8:06 PM

    You are good for the kids – stay with it. The reason youre there is to improve education and help any way can so just do your best.

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