It is so much easier to talk about my experiences in the past tense, because I can write in an effective way that has a purpose and direction. Living is the same idea, in the moment we are always so lost but feel like we need to have it figured out. As long as I can remember, my life has been planning and preparing for the next step. In Canadian culture we are very purpose seeking individuals we all need to figure out what we can achieve and then work towards it. But I would like to question this type of thought processes, because it is a lot of pressure over a situation that is so often out of our control. For example you can apply for many different jobs but you can’t know which one you will get. I think it is unhealthy the amount of emphasis people have on finding their life purpose. What happened to enjoying the moment that we are in? Maybe it is okay if you don’t know everything. You don’t need to know everything; you just need to know enough for the season of your life you are living.
I found this when I talked to Canadians versus Dominicans about how I previously felt depressed about my purpose because both parties have extremely different views. Canadians are much more inclined to say that it is okay if Dominican doesn’t work out, I just need to find my next goal or modify my purpose. Dominicans would tell me that I haven’t had enough time in Dominican, usually it takes 2 years to become fully accepted in a new place or culture. They would remind me that it is okay to be confused and I don’t need to know my future, what would it really change?
In this situation I found the Dominican perspective to be a lot more helpful, because Canadian culture has this overwhelming pressure to be successful and do something fabulous with your life. But of course at 19 you should have a pretty good idea exactly what the plans for this successful life are. It is healthy to look at the future and think of different ideas, but honestly the cultural view of Canadian success is so messed up and our society is a lot more judgmental about what classifies as success, and sadly personal happiness usually isn’t high on the priority list.
On the 22nd I visited an English Church which was right beside the beach in Sosua, and I think this was a large part of why I stopped looking at plane tickets back to Canada. I remembered my culture, I remembered how cold and unwelcoming people are. It was a lovely church service and nothing was wrong with the people in particular, it just wasn’t my Dominican church no one asked me how I was and they didn’t really make an effort whatsoever to include me. The people I already knew, I was with and people were very politely friendly, but it is just so different from Dominican church. And I missed it so much. I missed speaking in Spanish, I missed being able to talk to strangers. Recently I discovered a little food stop close to the school that is run by the mother of two of my friends. I now go there a lot to buy coffee or water (mostly water because it is ridiculously hot here) and at that shop there are so many different people that pass by and I have conversations with all of them. Everyone here is so friendly when you first meet them. It is wonderful. In Canada that doesn’t exist. If I was in a café by myself, it would be culturally understood that I would be there alone by choice and that no one should talk to me. There are so many things about North American society that I dislike strongly. And I believe that you can only truly examine the strengths and weaknesses of your own society when you step out of it and watch how other people life.
That morning at church was very eye opening for me and was a good cross cultural examining experience. It also allowed me to talk with the other young expats that I have made friends with about their ideas about cultures. It also sparked a conversation about cultural things, such as art and music, which led me to share with my good friend about an idea I had been thinking about. Through my one week crisis, an old memory of going to an art school popped into my mind. I remembered that the owner told me to come and work for her. As I told my good friend about this memory, she asked me if it was “Escuela de arte misionares ’ I was surprised that she knew the name, and she continued to tell me she had volunteered playing the saxophone there last year and she gave me all of the contact information I needed to visit the school. She reassured me to visit the school and the following Monday I found myself infront of a tall blue building with a never ending staircase to the 3rd floor to look for someone I had briefly met one year ago to offer artistic services.
Little did I know that, my trek up those white stairs led to my ‘purpose’ in Dominican Republic. It was that answer I was looking for. The owner Delsa, recognized me and got me to start helping at her school on Tuesday. From Tuesday to Saturday, so much has changed and I been thrown into this world of art in Dominican Republic. It is like a dream, I have started painting again and it feels so good to be in a creative environment with people that understand the developmental and emotional value of creating art.
Everyday has been a change to learn new things about the world of art here and to meet new artists that have unusual styles of painting. Friday I went on a field trip with two people I had just met to visit an artist that lives in the country side. His house looked like something out of alice in wonderland, all of his furniture was made out of recycled materials, the ceiling had natural beams exposed and there were large whimsical door ways that led to this garden of imagination and cement trees that were overlapped by flowers and fruit trees. There were staircases that led no where and the entire house was a massive gallery for massive paintings. I loved every minute there. I was enchanted the creativity, another massive blessing is I will be able to learn from this crazy artist when I return. There is a community of painters here that thrive on imagination and new ideas and the artists that I have met are more than willing to help me and teach me.
The one morning I was by myself in the spacious art school working on a painting to sell at the school and the natural light was filling the room with a beautiful breeze. It was a moment where I had to stop and look at the beauty that surrounded me and be still, quite and enjoy the moment. My love of art, will become the thing that drives my purpose in Dominican, and will continue to do this in the future as well. If you don’t already paint, draw, dance, write, make music… then I would highly suggest it, people underestimate the power of creative outlets.