After almost 2 months of Spanish-Spanish-Spanish I was beginning to feel homesick, not for my home, for my language. The immersion is an excellent opportunity but in learning a second language you loose part of your personality. I am a lot less sarcastic, witty or clever in Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very much so sarcastic with my body language but my words don’t match my facial expressions.
Anyways, I have been craving English like I crave nutella. I tried but I could not find normal expats here. I met a few expats walking to school in the past, but they are usually super weird and somehow slip buying illegal drugs into the conversation somehow. Can we just take a moment to analyze that. If you meet another English person and have a short conversation, why would you mention where to buy drugs? What part of that seems like a good idea? ESPECIALLY after I saw “I’m here doing mission work, I volunteer at a school and church.” That is pretty much the same as trying to sell a cat to a person that is allergic to them. Those super awkward expats on the street must have been high while I was talking to them to think that I was a good person to try to sell to or talk about drugs.
As a desperate person for communication in my language I sought advice from a friend from Canada on what to do. The solution was strange and not something I normally would do but I decided to post asking if other missionaries/normal expats lived in my area. And the result is nobody weird tried to talk to me, actually I ended up meeting a lot of really interesting like minded people. I need to admit that before I met up with a couple living here and two other girls in their 20’s living here I was a little afraid that I was going to be murdered.
Meeting people online, so not a thing that I would normally advise. To me it just does not seem natural and it’s terrifying. (I think I have watched way too much of the show Catfish.) While I was walking from my house to the spot I was suppose to meet them, a motorconcho driver I see everyday stopped to say hello. I told him I didn’t have much time to chat because I was running late and he offered to drive me to the meeting place for free. That was nice of him.
At the supermarket I see three people that look like the people I am hoping to meet. The one girl recognizes me and then the four of us walk over to their car to go to another spot for coffee. The whole time we are joking about how strange the situation is. That we are meeting a stranger online and meeting up with them, but not to worry the situation turned out fine. The people I met are a couple from Canada and Peru and are doing work in Puerto Plata and another other girl from Florida.
We went to this fantastic coffee place called Kaffe and there you can buy normal coffee and iced coffee! It is an old house that has been renovated; there is a beautiful patio in the back yard that is decorated in a vintage- hipster style. It puts trendy coffee houses in Canada to shame.
It was so great to spend time speaking in English and it was especially interesting for me to hear their individual stories of how we all go to this city. In my opinion, it takes a very independent person that is confident in who they are to live here and they need to be a little crazy as well.
None of us had plans on this particular Wednesday, so we eneded up spending the whole day together doing different errands and then going out for super with another expat from Canada.
Before dinner, the couple needed to pick up a package they had ordered. The mail is weird in Canada and if you want to receive or send something you need to do it through a private company. While we were there, the expat from Florida and I were talking about women’s rights in Dominican. (It is a huge issue here, many women see themselves as only sexual objects and do not have that same sense of empowerment or confidence in themselves that I am used to seeing in North America). In the middle of our very serious conversation about the rights women deserve here a man fell down and started having a violent seizure. He was throwing up in the bushes and people from everywhere crowed around to help or ask what was wrong.
Once he was okay the girl from Florida wanted to talk to the man about God but the other missionary couple tried but the man who had a seizure just asked for money and was not interested in religion. In the car this inspired a discussion about the ethics of helping. Because did the man have a real seizure or is he prone to having seizure and knows how to fake having one? The fact is he was watching me and the other white girl for a few minutes before he fell to the ground. He recovered extremely quickly and tried to get money from all of us after he was feeling better. No one can know for sure if he had a seizure that was real or not. But it was fascinating to be able to analyze the situation after the fact. Sometimes people will pretend to be hurt or sick to milk the situation as much as they can.
After this we started discussion the ethics of mission work, which is a very enlightening conversation to have with other missionaries. In Sosua there is an over population of missionaries, I have no idea why they concentrate in this one town but there are so many of them and it really has created a harmful system of dependency. There are many churches and it is a numbers game for them, trying to get more ‘sheep’ as they say in Spanish. Who has the most is doing the best and it is a constant jealous competition that doesn’t end. The churches don’t think of examining how they are doing things or try to improve instead they try to ‘steal back their flock of sheep’. Being in this area you need to be very careful not to do this. I didn’t even realize that this subculture of jealousy among missionaries existed… but it does.
At supper the 5 of us went to an Italian restaurant that had home made pasta and the owner is from Italy. It was so nice to be in an English environment and the restaurant was almost empty in our part because it was only 6 pm. Dominicans eat dinner much later. It was also a treat to eat meals at normal Canadian times.
I came back to the house feeling very full and happy because of my discovery of an English speaking community of normal people.