On Sunday, we had the opportunity to attend a nearby church service that is just down the street. Within 30 seconds, a Domincan woman had already turned around in her pew to hand us her hymnal and point at where they were at so that we were able to follow along. Although it was clearly in a different language, a lot of us talked about how it was so cool that we were able to follow the basic structure of what was going on. It was also great to see the community welcoming us with them to engross ourselves in faith. Later that day we took some time to visit the beautiful beach and catch some waves. Yes, we stuck out like sore thumbs, but we were also so overly welcomed by the people. One Dominican even recognized one of our Iowa State tshirts we were wearing and began telling us how his friend played for the Chicago Cubs.
Yesterday morning was spent taking time listening to Father Potter and Edmundo talk about how they would like to structure the workshops that we will be working in throughout our time in the Batey. They also shared with us several of the struggles that are happening right here under our noses in San Pedro de Macoris. Our group had a rough afternoon, but everything started looking up when we got to spend time with the kids of the Priest who runs the retreat center we are staying at. We played everything from Simon Says to soccer to baseball to cards. It was time that took our minds off of our frustrations and anxieties toward things that we have encountered, and it was time well spent.
Today was the first day of actually getting our hands dirty, however, it started off a little shaky. Every day we learn more and more about the culture here, and it is starting to become very evident that Dominicans live a much slower paced life. A lot of things are kind of "go with the flow" and "come what may and the rest will follow" oriented, so it has been essential that we regroup and realize that patience and flexibility will be a great friend throughout this whole trip.
We reached the Batey around noon today, and our first task was to break out the gloves and pull up some weeds. We are clearing an area that will eventually serve as a recreational area for the students at the school right across the street.
Now here is where the title to this post comes in..
Micah & Sara's perspective: we were about a couple hours in and were just completely enthralled in our conversation talking about TV shows and our work when the unimaginable happened. Micah had been pulling up the weeds and tucking them under her arm until she had a burning sensation that began around her elbow. She asked me if there was a rash, and then we discovered that it wasn't dirt on her arm but FIRE ANTS. Then we both came to the sudden realization that they were all over bothe of us. It was burning and we both never ran so fast while trying to take off shoes and socks that had ants all over them at the same time. It was burning, and then the burning turned to itching, and then everything was just spreading. We finally reached some random trash can filled with water and just soaked our arms in it until we found Benedryl which we then bathed in. Everything seemed to calm down but the heebee-jeebees feeling afterward was the absolute worst. Also, we both suddenly developed an irrational fear of all ants for the rest of the day.
Sabrina's perspective: I was taking a water break when all of a sudden I saw Micah and Sara running toward me. Honestly, I thought it was cute that they were racing to see who could get to their water bottle first. That perspective completely changed when I saw a look of pure terror on both of their faces, and I knew something else was up. Sara was frantically taking off her watch and before I knew it, Micah had both of her shoes off. I ran to the trash can where they were at and started throwing water at their now bare feet that were covered in bites. I was covering them both with Benedryl when Dr. Jones came over and suggested that overdosing on Benedryl is a real thing. Sara and Micah insisted that I keep putting it on them, but now I was worried I was going to kill 'em. Don't worry, they're still kickin'.
Erik's perspective: been there done that. Just a couple of bugs, they'll survive.
The rest of the day was spent at the workshop at the church with the people of the Batey. Throughout the group discussions, we learned that the people who live there are struggling to keep and create job opportunities in their own community. Future workshops will be spent listening to more of their needs and facilitating discussion that will hopefully lead us to helping provide support in the development of their action plan for the community of Jalonga.
Tonight, we had one of our best meals yet and spent a majority of our time in deep, unsettling, and yet inspiring group discussion.
Hope all is well at home!