My first impression upon arrival was a bit of a culture shock. When we landed in the airport, which is much different than our state airports, it was very colorful filled with art and murals. The signs were all in Spanish, so I had to quickly try to remember my 4 years of Spanish from middle school and high school. I was so excited to get to our first host site and see a bit of the country on our way from the airport to the site.
Driving from the airport to the campsite we would stay at the first night, there was a lot to see. Throughout Santo Domingo, there is trash on all sides of the roads, small grocery markets set up on the side walk, everyone riding on motor cycles, only barbed-wire and stick-made fences, tin-topped houses and buildings, and colorful murals lining the concrete walls along the streets. It was a different site than what we have in America, but there was something about it that was so beautiful. When we arrived to our first site in Santo Domingo, we stayed at a camp-like place called YWAM for international missionary teams. It was filled with gravel roads and surrounded with lush greenery and trees. I loved the palm trees everywhere. What made this place so special was that the 10 employees who ran the whole camp gave all of their love and did everything they possibly could to make sure WE were happy. The people there immediately made it feel homey, though we were far from home and in many different living conditions. The place I am staying now is called Hotel El Libano in San Juan. This place is much different than the original Santo Domingo site. It has air conditioning, some warm water, a large bed, and we can flush the toilet paper down the drain. My two roommates and I feel spoiled! The people in this town and the hosting church members are amazing people who are already teaching me so much. I will mostly miss the people after leaving this place.
We are doing pop-up medical clinics today through Thursday. I got to work with two classmates and run a pharmacy today. We got to work with our amazing translators and provide medications, such as over the counter medicines and easily available antibiotics that we have in the United States, to people who do not have the luxury of going to a doctor as often due to financial situations or geographic location. Most of the people are so grateful to receive medicines and are so interested in hearing what you have to tell them about how to use the medicines and pertinent information about the medicines. We ran out of the large supply of medicines we had, but I could not be happier to have allowed so many people to feel just a little bit better than what they had been feeling for so long. Medical care in this country is so much different than in America, and it has already allowed me to be even more grateful for all that we have and the easy access we have to medical care.
The locals in the host country are incredible! There are churches and church members who have taken us under our wing. They mostly speak Spanish but they are also translating for us. IT was fun to try to teach one another new words and phrases. We have worked very closely with them and gotten to know them very well! It has been amazing to see how we are so different when it comes to culture, but in church service and talking to them about daily life, we are so similar! Most of the translators from the church were early to late 20s and were easy to talk to and relate to. They have grown up with much less but are much for giving and grateful than many people I know in the states. Their outlook on life and personalities all light up the room!
Of the five senses I would say vision and taste stand out the most. While being here for 3 days, I have seen more than half the country just from traveling from one city to the next. I have decided that it looks kind of like Jurassic Park- tall beautiful green mountains with luscious palm trees, and also tropical plants and grasses. With that, I also have seen what is normal, and needless to say it has made me even more appreciative than I have always been for my life. The other sense, taste- well I have had chicken and rice for lunch and dinner the past two days, and am expecting to have it for lunch and dinner the remainder of the week. When outside, I always hear lots of people, and I feel the moisture and sun in the air! It is beautiful.
Day 6, returning home tomorrow! We had amazing worship service and received a beautiful personalized coffee mug and Dominican coffee from the local Dominican church hosting us. They are so incredible. I wish I could put it into words, but there are not words. We just had amazing last worship service and goodbye ceremony with the Dominicans and the Venezuelans who were on the mission trip with us Americans. I could easily stay another couple of weeks to witness some of the amazing things I have gotten to see working in the medical clinics, and maybe a week relaxing on the beautiful blue beaches we got to see near the airport. I came into this trip very open-minded, and majority of the time we had to go with the flow, not have a plan, and make the most of what we had in the clinics, but I would not trade the life-changing experience for anything in the world!