“In Transit”

Location: Santo Domingo through Western Dominican
Date: 11/2/2010
The ride to camp was easy enough. What started out a promise to fly over the great island in helicopter luxury, waking at 4:30 AM for the opportunity, ended as a 6 hour long bus ride to a town and a car drive through the roaring border. The night before, as always when traveling, I disregarded many suggestions to look into hotels, not locating sleeping quarters till I arrived. Any shoestring traveler recognizes the wisdom of this move. My bank account was drained, long since committed to providing basic needs while searching for a spiritually (though ultimately not financially) rewarding goal. Why
receive thanks for relief work? With firmly scheduled langaar, I will eat more regularly than I do at home, and I have been meaning to convert to a more demanding daily plan. Instead, I have given great thanks for this rare opportunity to cultivate my soul and prune my ego, all while food and shelter are relatively secured.
Of course, few financial resources also push you into paths you may not have considered. Certainly a sweaty autobus does not seem an appealing way to cross the Dominican Republic, but what if that bus introduced you to four refugees, a zealous Christian Missionary, and
seemingly random stops at shacks offerring mouth-watering creole dishes. And at night, what if financial strain and an inoperative American phone forced you to guess conservatively at the exchange rate, securing a taxi and hotel room for 600 pesos—approximately
$16? 600 pesos? like me, you might figure the withdrawal amount on the ATM was at least $40 or so. A delightful discovery in the morning, contrasting with the sad discovery of a missing laundry bag—forcing
me to stash a pair of dirty socks in the back of the bathroom cabinet for the next unfortunate resident. I didn’t claim sainthood. So glad, so glad I speak Spanish. Otherwise, both this deal and the creole dishes would no longer accent my day.
After a length of fruitless time at the airport, I took a taxi to the bus stop, speaking intermittently to a voice named “Francisco” who would guide the Dominican characters to a small town outside the border to Haiti. The crowded bus, thick with stale air, was an exciting blend of nationalities headed towards Port Au Prince and the western part of the Republic. For a glorious 6 hours of
incomprehensible Creole, French, Spanish, and Italian, my hiking backpack rested in a miniature trailer hitched to the back, and my laptop and camera case crowded my lap.
The woman to my left was Haitian, and came from Port au Prince; she was traveling back to her country for the first time since the quake. She spoke no English and even less Spanish, so I amused both of us by playing the “gesture and translate game.” For most people this game
only teaches a language if all other stimulation is removed. In such a case, it also works better than any method.
The man to my far right was preaching loudly to a confused Haitian, who spoke no English. I’m positive he got the idea as he said “Yes, Jesus good,” responding with nods. However, when the American man started asking: “Do you think Haitians brought this on themselves?” I
felt dreadfully alone. People on the bus were from poorer families and most lacked English to know the full weight of this religious bomb. He mumbled about the French, Christianity, and how murder and eviction cause earthquakes. His neighbor nodded sleepily, no attempt to
understand the difficult language anymore. I felt like throwing up, or stopping the bus, or throwing a hard object his way. Instead, I curled over my things and tried to nap.
This ride taught me all the Creole words for body parts, which I will remember until my dying day. I will also question the intents of any missionaries offering gifts.

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