I wake up in a puddle of my own sweat. I’m so itchy from the mosquito bites. It’s as if they know I’m not from here.
I look at the mirror. My hair is even bigger than usual. My curls do not fair well in this humidity.
My Dominican Mom calls out to us “Mis hijas el desayno esta listo”
And we gather around the table ready to eat.
We each have a seat and a plate full of fruit, lechosa, pina, banano.
With a side of Santo Domingo Cafe and I think to myself Que rico.
After breakfast I relax, read and chat with the kids that are always around.
And of course the boys from town, who sit on the porch trying to catch a glimpse of the new gringas in their short shorts.
Before long it’s time to shower. With no water or power it’s a difficult task. 2 buckets full of water to get it done. 2 buckets 5 people, it takes me a while to calculate how much water for each one. 2 buckets 5 people 1 big plastic cup, I’m dividing and adding it up and guess that I can use 6 plastic cups. 6 plastic cups for each one and before I begin I remember we also need this water to flush the toilet. So 2 buckets 5 people and toilet flushes, I divide 6 in half and get 3. 3 big plastic cups for me.
I hate choosing what to wear, it’s so hot here and I stand looking at my clothes for a while, I finally decide on a summer dress and hear my Dominican Mom call out “Mis Chiquitas el almuerzo esta listo”
Lunch here is a bigger deal. My Dominican Mom’s grown sons even stop in. All wanting some good food, from the five star chef herself. This time we have arroz, frijoles, carne en salsa, mangu, ensalda. I compliment my Dominican Mom and try to give her the most heartfelt denada and she responds “No es nada, pero me alegra que te gusta” But the truth is, no me gusta la comida, me encanta!
My Dominican Mom says she loves my dress but questions if I’ll be able to ride the motorcyles. And I tell her not to worry, Ive done it before.
Just then I here the rumble of the motoconchos outside the door, ready to take the 2 other girls to the places we teach and volunteer.
I akwardly get on the moto in my dress and flash a little underwear by accident, my Dominican Mom sees and puts her head in her hands says “dios mio” with a lot of distress.
When I am finally all situated she waves us all goodbye says “Dios les bendiga, cuidense mucho” and smiles like she always does, and you can just feel her love and worry as we speed off.
First we pass the little park, then the only 2 stores there are in town, and right as we are about to exit the town, we past the last house. The gray cinder block house, with the little boy that’s always in the window. When I pass he shouts “Hola Betania” and I shout back to him. It’s funny, the town is so small, everyone knows my name. Well my Dominican name Betania which is the same as Bethany in Spanish.
And just like that we are on stone mud trails. Passing endless fields of sugar cane mixed in with fields of donkeys and steer. The sky is blue and clear. It’s so beautiful.
The ride lasts about 30 minutes and suddenly a town appears. A town with gray cinder block houses and mud streets. It’s a town of only gray and brown. No electricity, no running water. Kids with no shoes, no shirts.
I stand out here. In my colorful summer dress, white skin, my pedicured toes. Everything about me shows privilege. It always makes me uncomfortable. But I try to focus on what I’m here to do. Teach.
I go in the classroom and suddenly I’m greeted with shouts of “Profe Profe!”
“Quiero mostrarte mi tarea!” And they all gather excitedly to show me their homework. No clothes, no light, no running water but a perfect homework grade, they would put other kids to shame.
Class begins, they are always energized and enthused and the differences seem to disappear. In the classroom it’s not white and black, it’s not rich and poor, just teacher and student. When class ends they always say “Gracias profe aprendimos mucho hoy” and I hope that it’s true, because it’s what I came here to do. To teach something new, that hopefully they can use in the future.
And I wonder to myself if this divide between rich and poor between light and dark, between opportunity and opportuneness will ever end.
But just like that I’m back on the moto. Back to the house, with the bucket showers and mosquitoes, and with the renewed sense that it isn’t that bad, that my problems are small, it isn’t that bad when you have it all.