In an attempt to more consistently be in contact with our donors from the States, Felix and I recently decided to purchase Internet. Given this development, I will now be able to update our blog in a more habitual manner. The Dominican Republic continues to amaze me; I thank God so much for bringing me here. The following event occurred last Sunday and I am more or less copying what I wrote in my journal.
Yesterday morning, Felix and I walked roughly 45 minuets to a small Chapel located down by the river to celebrate mass at 10:00 a.m. Until visiting this particular suburb, I was under the erroneous impression that we were living in the ‘poor’ part of Santa Domingo…¡Yo conozco tan poco! Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Although the heat, humidity, and terrible odor made the environment exceedingly uncomfortable inside the Chapel, the service was beautiful and the people present were even more so. Oh how I long for such faith. I feel so ashamed asking God for anything when I see so many beautiful people, who materially have nothing, celebrating and giving thanks to the Lord. Although I presupposed this prior to my arrival, I now have no doubt that the people here will give me so much more than I am able to give them. They long for food, fresh water, and clothing, which hopefully I can provide them. But alas, such things are ultimately fleeting. Conversely, I hunger for the bread of eternal life, which they, through Christ who dwells in the chasms of their hearts, are giving me. I am poor in spirit compared to these wonderful people, God bless them all!
After mass, Felix and I returned to the Colonial Zone (he had given me an unofficial tour of this historic site the afternoon before) to see an outdoor concert. The entire experience was an absolute delight. It was nearly 10 p.m. when we decided to leave and on our way home a very peculiar event unfolded. However, in order for the reader to better understand the significance of this most interesting experience, a brief description of our chosen mode of transportation is required.
To arrive at the Colonial Zone from “Los tres brazos” (the suburb where Felix and I reside) one must walk 30 minuets to the newly constructed Subway Station, which runs from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m. For 25 pesos one is able to purchase a ticket and travel to various parts of Santa Domingo. The stop called “la educación” is the closest to the Colonial Zone. However, from this stop one must still walk close to an hour to arrive at the CZ (mind you, the majority of this excursion is uphill). Seeing how the Subway was closed by the time we left the concert, Felix informed me that we would be taking the ‘guagua’ to return to ‘Los Tres Brazos’. Now the guagua is a private bus company that charges 25 pesos per passenger. However, as I noted to Felix, the guaguas are not buses, but rather super old and super sketchy vans. I wish I were kidding; imagine the creepy vans parents warn their kids to never enter…those are the guaguas. In this particular van, all the doors on the right side had been removed and on the windshield, which was cracked in more than one place, there was an enormous New York Yankee sticker impeding well over half of the drivers view. These vans were originally designed to safely transport 10 passengers. But los Dominicanos, in an effort to economize their business no doubt, were able to cram 15 travelers inside them. In fact, the driver will not leave until the guagua is filled to maximum capacity! Felix and I were the first passengers to enter. Thus, I found myself in the far back left corner of the van, sandwiched between a broken window and 5 other sweaty travelers. It should also be noted that the transit system in the DR is quite different than that of the US. Similar to Costa Rica, there are no traffic laws in the DR, rather, there exist traffic suggestions, which, so long as it is convenient, the driver may or may not follow. Still worse, or better I suppose if you are an adrenaline junkie, there are no lanes on any of the city streets in the DR. Instead there is simply a slab of asphalt littered with cracks and potholes and lined on either side with parked cars. Given all of these less than reassuring observations, I decided to say a quick prayer before we embarked…and it was then that the peculiar event transpired.
In an attempt to cool myself, as well as alleviate the claustrophobia I was beginning to feel, I began to try to stick my head out of the window as the guagua began to move. As I undertook this action, I noticed a hand holding on to the broken window from the outside. Startled, I said to Felix, “Felie (his nickname), mira!” But before he had time to respond, I realized that the hang belonged to a young boy, no more than 16 years old. The boy had on rollerblades, a yellow tank top, jeans, and no helmet. Apparently, this muchacho was using the guagua to hitch a ride (think ‘Back to the Future’, but way more intense)! As the van began to pick up speed, well over 45 mph on several of the straightaways, I said to the boy, “cuídate amigo (be careful friend).” He did not respond, but instead looked into my eyes and shot me a smile. I wish I could explain this better, but in that moment a sense of calmness overcame me. I do not think the boy was an angel or anything like that, but God was definitely with him (I saw it in his smile) and it was almost as if the Lord was saying, “Fear not my child, it’s going to be okay because I am, and always will be, with you.” Miraculously the boy road all the way to our stop, jumping over potholes, dodging oncoming traffic, and evading pedestrians along the way.
As Felix told me on our walk back home, “bienvenidos a la Republica Dominicana!” I look forward, cautiously, to the numerous other adventures the Lord has in store for us!