Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dominican Republic 2013: Part Six

This is supposed to be a quick-ish update. I know not if it will actually turn out to be quick, but, hey, I had good intentions...

As you might recall, Sunday offered us a tug-of-war between three churches, and we had yet to decide which church to attend. Well, we solved the problem by going to all three (doink). Daddy preached on Nehemiah in one church while the rest of the team members walked to Pastor Hector’s church (Iglesia Biblica del Nuevo Pacto, New Covenant Bible Church) where we enjoyed an amazing worship service through singing, preaching, and prayer. Pastor Hector is actually a highly-sought bassist and he believes that the Church’s music should reflect the object of our worship, God, as much as is possible. I know it is cliché, but I say it with all sincerity: we tasted a little bit of Heaven to our Father singing with our brothers in sisters in Christ. The sermon, by God’s grace, matched the singing, and we learned about faith lived out practically as defined in Hebrews and exemplified in Daniel. 

After the morning service, we returned to our apartment where they dropped me off to rest and eat and...do stuff. Everybody else went to a restaurant to celebrate Dominican Father’s Day, and I hear the food was lip-smacking good, involving steak, salmon, mashed potatoes, rice, beans, salad, and Spence O’Neill. 
For some reason they named the lobster Spence...

My food was good, too, just sayin’. And while they were away I worked on some un-disclosable projects, played music, and organised sets of books to give away to the church leaders who take Daddy’s classes. A perfect Sunday afternoon.

That evening, we hit the third church on our roster, Iglesia Biblica del Señor Jesucristo (Bible Church of the Lord Jesus Christ). I spent much of my time here when I lived in the DR, for it was our church home as well as Daddy’s office as well as Mumsie’s classroom as well as the school where all the children I knew attended. Apart from seeing all the familiar faces and listening to a good sermon, all of us girls on the team enjoyed seeing the impressive number of  deaf people sing along with us, in their own language, a silent but full worship.

When the service closed, Daddy and Ricardo took us out for some of that Dominican Gelato I was talking about. There were so many fun flavours from which to choose! Yep, Jenn loves going out for ice cream and seeing what people get. Of course, it had grown so late that the four girls either got quite loopy or quite quiet, depending on personality, but we stayed for a while so that Daddy could make plans with Ricardo. When we finally crawled into bed, our eyes were set on leaving the city the next day. Off to the country we would go!
*Country means no internet. So I will see you in a week!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dominican Republic 2013: Part Five

Our last post ended with Daddy arriving and announcing that we as a group were going to attend a friend’s church to talk about family issues. While that was quite true, the meeting slowly materialised into something decidedly different from what we had imagined. First of all, Daddy understood that the event would begin at 7pm, followed by a time of questioning beginning at 8pm. We logically thought that 9:30pm was a very reasonable estimated time of departure for going home to sleep. 

 When we got to the church where the study was to be held, at 6:45pm, we were informed that the meeting actually began at 8pm. Thus, we decided to take life as it came and deal with it well, so for that extra hour we went through our next session on Biblical Thinking. The couple who is helping host us (Ricardo and Evelyn) also took part in the study, for they are interested in learning how to disciple their family. We had a great time hearing Daddy teach and answer our responses to that teaching. Around the 8:10pm mark, people started filtering into the beautiful open-air meeting place. Palm trees planted amongst pebbles and stones and bright flowers sprouting from the greenery decorated the edges of the floor whilst the tin roof up above created a shelter that made music when the rain beat upon it. Instead of walls, we could see the city lights turn on and the stars begin to twinkle as the Caribbean sun set across a gray sky. 

Aka, it was purty. 

Oh, and this “room” was special not just for its physical appeal. It was special because it serves as the sanctuary of a completely deaf church. Yes, Ricardo’s church has a deaf service that is lead by a pastor whose son was born deaf, and that pastor knew it was his responsibility to preach the gospel to his boy, so he learned sign-language to do so and currently leads a church for many other families who have found themselves in that situation. The cool thing is that his son can now hear perfectly, but God used that to call this man to help deaf Christians. The church has grown so that this pastor’s signed sermons are now translated simultaneously into Spanish, so that the non-deaf members of these families can worship along with their deaf parents, siblings, and children. I love how God uses trials to call us to have a burden to serve Him in a way for which He equips us through the trial.

But back to the people filtering into the beautiful open-air meeting place. We discovered that this church gathering was in reality a weekly couple’s class. The seven of us from the States were the only unmarried people in the room! By 9pm the session finally commenced and Dad began to talk while Josh translated for half of our team as I translated for the other half. I think we all had a blast, and never once noticed the three hours which were flying by. 

Daddy presented three concepts to these couples. First, Pilate asked Truth incarnate, “What is truth?” and turned his back on the truth. To face what? The culture: “You have a custom.” The challenge for us was to think about whether we are raising our children based on Biblical truths or based on Dominican cultural expectations. Second, Daddy reminded the couples of the key phrase of Proverbs: “My son.” It is the parents’ responsibility to train and be involved in and guide the lives of their children, in things like choosing a marriage partner (Proverbs 5-7 and Proverbs 31) and other big to small decisions. Third, Daddy pressed home the points of Psalm 127 and Malachi 4:6. In the DR, machoism is pretty big and children are coddled rather than loved and are not considered blessings, as a generality. So Daddy encouraged both mother and father to want children, to want lots of children, and to want godly children. And thus they must incline their hearts to their children first ~ to talk to, listen to, and touch their children to win their hearts (2 Samuel 15:1-6). Finally, he left them with the idea that God calls us to be faithful parents; He does not call us to convert children. We give account to God for doing what He commands us to do; we do not rely on a formula to spin out estimable youth. Basically, be faithful to Him and trust His wise will regarding the results.

Praise God, the time spent with these couple was excellent and, I think, encouraging to both them and us. Joshua and I translated for the three hours of conversation. When we heard that the clock had struck midnight, I think all of us were rather shocked. 

For about two minutes. Then our bodies started registering and clamored, Yeah, you, it is late. Get to bed. So we did.

The next morning, this morning, found us rushing off to a church where Daddy was to teach in person the church leaders whom he normally trains via Skype every Monday night. Again, Josh and I translated this three-hour marathon on Christology, and we all learned bunches and came out refreshed by a deeper understanding of who our Beloved Prophet, Priest, and King is. 

After all the goodbyes were said, us kids trooped off on foot to our apartment, played elevator vs. stair games while we waited for Dad to come with the key, grabbed some cards and my food, and made our way to a very nice house belonging to very nice hosts who served us very good food. Sancocho is a Dominican stew traditionally made with seven meats and local root vegetables that is served with aguacate (avocado), rice, and concon (that toasted bit of rice sticking to the bottom of the cooking pan ~ yum!) It was quite the meal! Can you imagine opening your home to seven foreign strangers just because a friend of your son wants some sancocho? Adds a rather generous dimension to the idea of hospitality, does it not? Yet that is what our hosts, who are not believers, did gladly. How much more so for those of us who have been shown ultimate hospitality by Christ?

Now we are back at our apartment, about to begin another round-table study on the book of 1 Peter. I hear rumours of traipsing the city for some of the DR’s amazing ice-cream afterwards. Wish you were here now?

Tomorrow is offering us a tug-of-war between three churches. I will let you know which ones win and where we end up and how the ice-cream tasted (or how all of our plans changed again), so stay tuned. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dominican Republic 2013: Part Random

Today is a down day. I closed my last post with the tentative plan of going to a Haitian shanty town today, but in order to allow for proper recovery time to the sick amongst us, Daddy decided today would be a good to stay in the apartment, get to know each other better, discuss everything we have seen so far, sing together, open the floor for questions of all types, and focus on our studies on 1 Peter and Thinking. I have to say, I think we all agreed with him. 

Right now Daddy is breakfasting with a pastor of a local church to talk with him about some pretty important things, so the gang is seizing this chance to sleep, eat, talk, and write. There is a lot of writing going on at the moment, as well as some pretty serious multilingual chess games, plus guitar-playing to give us the right background music. 

In light of this setting, Jenn is going to blog random today. Just talk about what we have seen and some of what we have learned, so that you all get a chance to see the details and not just the broad brushstrokes of this trip.

Right now the detail on everybody’s mind is mosquitos. Stinging dragons. Little vipers. Whatever you want to call those critters, they are horrid and hopping. Some of them were born artists, displaying their creative bent in the patters they sting onto our skins. But that is a creativity that must and will be squelched, so between all the activities, there is a bunch dragon-slaying occurring. 

What brings the mosquitos? Well, aside from the open windows and the sweet American blood, we have our counter-space brimming with fruit that the villagers from Villa gave us. Mangoes, passion fruit, and bananas are sitting there, beckoning to be consumed with their saccharine sap seeping out of their cracked skins. Of course, we humans are not the only things answering that call. So are the dragons. Thus, our missions team is on a mission to eat fruit to save our skins. 

Honestly, the food here is always amazing. Avocados almost as big as my head pairs with mangoes of the same size that dwarf the miniature mangoes which I think originate in Asia. The limes (called lemons here) taste like key-limes but are twice the size of the ones back home, and they make for a really good lemonade or stomach tonic when mixed with sprite. There’s definitely a citrusy sweet scent in the air. 

Also in the air are strains of music. Often it is just a guitar being strummed and tuned and drop-based. Other times it is guitar lessons, with “You’ll Be in My Heart” being the teaching song of choice. When Daddy picks up his old pal, he either spins out some gorgeous classical Spanish piece from memory, or dreadfully corrupts ’60’s and ’70’s tunes. Pretty hilarious. But then there are the times that we gather to sing as a group, and that makes my heart glad. We sing all sorts of melodies and break out into harmony (and beat-boxing) whenever it is appropriate, which is pretty much always. I cannot wait until Heaven, where this constant worship will be life! It certainly breathes life into the heat of this Dominican day. 

Speaking of the heat of day, when we are at Villa, we were as close to a self-sustaining, resourceful, live-off-the-land sort of life that we will ever hope be. Clean water rushes under ground from the mountains, filtered merrily by the smooth stones beneath the red clay. The rich black soil gives rise to all sorts of edibles, from batata (Dominican sweet potatoe ~ it is white) to cacao, which latter the women pick and dry for a day or two before pounding it in their sizable mortars. The cacao becomes a paste which is further left to dry in the plant’s leaves, and then we shave it off whenever we want hot chocolate. The heat of day does have its benefits, then. Just ask the pigs! They are the trash bins of the community, and at Christmastime turn into the community’s delicious scrumptious succulent food (yeah, so Jenn has a thing for pork). They raise goats, too, while their entertainment is all home-invented, home-made, and home-played. It is pretty neat to see. 

It is likewise neat to see the “oddities” of this country. The close, crammed roads, jostling with over-loaded trucks carrying bananas, pigs, used tires, and mounds of people. It is neat to see the motorcyclists obey the law by wearing helmets, except wearing them like a gangster wears a baseball cap ~ twisted and inverted and off just enough to drive an OCDer nuts. Again, pretty hilarious. And time is by all means not of the essence here. At all. Which is why we are not even sure that Daddy will return from his breakfast meeting in time for our 2pm lunch. Jenn chuckles.

But you know what is the greatest thing we have seen so far? Truth. We have had so many round-table discussions and have enjoyed so many hours of studying the word. We are going through 1 Peter for these three weeks and have only reached verse seven of the first chapter. There is so much to talk about! About Christ and the way He made our salvation possible, about God and the way He caused us to be saved, about the Holy Spirit and the way He seals our salvation for Heaven. About the living hope we have been given through that triune God and about how those realities transform and direct our lives. About God being God and us not being God, and how He yet gives us everything we need to live a godly life for a spectacular eternity of being single-minded: Christ. About being refined for that one belief now, and the way that influences everything we do here, our relationships especially. It has been so powerful to observe our culture and habituated actions, whether right or wrong, in light of that Truth and in the context of a totally different country. We are playing the fish who is no longer wet, and the result is convicting, but, Lord willing, beautifying. And that is astonishingly humbling to see. 

Well, Daddy just walked in the door and when Jenn gets random she gets long, so I am signing off now. You might see another post up today because Daddy has informed me that, once again, our plans have changed a bit and we are going to a church tonight to talk about family discipleship and homeschooling and all that stuff. Rather intense stuff from the perspective of the Dominican Republic, and therefore stuff most likely worthy of a blog post. 

Thus ends RT: Blogger Edition. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dominican Republic Trip 2013: Part Four

The 2013 team, and the people featured in this post.

You know that verse about a man planning his way but the Lord directing his path? That pretty much describes this trip, but is especially describes this day. You see, we went to bed with the full intention of going in the morning to Villa to lay down the cement floor of the church’s school rooms, but we awoke to the sad reality that Jessie was really suffering from a migraine and Emily R. was truly not feeling well. Due to the way-less-than-amenable conditions at Villa, Daddy wisely deemed it foolhardy for the sick amongst us to go out in the dirty, remote, heat of day. Jessie and Emily were staying at the apartment, and I was staying with them to translate in case of an emergency and kind of keep things going. Daddy and the rest of the team were going to go to Villa as planned. 

This, although a disappointment to all of us, and to me because I very much wanted to have fun with cement, actually turned out to be yet another blessing in disguise. The apartment was physically showing the signs of housing one dad and seven highschool/college students, so it desperately needed a...miracle, particularly when you recall that we are not talking about the normal US dirt of a house with a yard and air-conditioning. DR houses need cleaning everyday because of the forever-open windows and the insane grime of city blowing through those windows from the close traffic below. And we had gone three days without any cleaning besides dish-washing. Yeah, you can imagine, the apartment begged to look and feel pretty again.

So while Jessie and Emily lay down, I turned up my music and cleaned and danced through the living areas. So. much. fun. So much like home. It was just what I needed to sort out thoughts and get back in the game, so to speak. But just as I was moving the last chair away from the table to sweep the dining room, I heard a knock that indubitably belonged to my brother. Believe me, once you hear him knock, you will know what I mean. Anyway, sure enough, there was Josh’s face at the door, and beside him was Zach, looking forebodingly alike to Emily’s queasy self. Apparently, half way through the drive to Villa, Zach fell to feeling ill himself, and Daddy decided to turn around so that Zach could join the gang of sick at home. So in marches Zach, weaving through the tumble of chairs I had cast about the room, and heads straight to the air-conditioned room where he proceeds to be a diligent Bible Bee participant by studying the contents of his workbook for the next four hours. 

Now I was left with three poor, bedridden friends, and Grooveshark. Around 1pm Jessie came out, and we talked, then Emily trooped out, and we chit-chatted, and finally Zach appeared, and we all conversed about life and godliness and tornadoes in Oklahoma. 

In the meantime...

Daddy, Joshua, Emily K., Chris, and Jose (a friend from the DR) followed our original plan of helping the people in Villa. From what I can get out of their sun-dazed selves, I know they completed their task of laying down the cement, and they also played with the village children. Emily passed out jump-ropes and bubbles, and was amazingly kind and full of faith when she handed the little ones her snazzy camera. I hear they had the time of their lives taking photos and seeing themselves on the screen. Reminded me of the great lengths that a little trust and generosity can do. Great work, Emily K.! After the cement was shining new and smooth on the floor, the guys played soccer with the village boys, so jobs were completed and fun was had.

Therefore, despite the bumps and turns, our work at Villa was done and the children had a great time. I say “despite,” but I should probably say “through,” for God worked through the events He orchestrated so that all that needed to be done would be done for His glory.

And, yes. The apartment is clean!

For the rest of the day we are going to take it easy and do our studies in peace, hopefully closing out the day with an early bed-time so we can catch up on rest. Tomorrow, we are planning on going to a Haitian work area where many of the immigrants tend the sugar cane fields for which the DR was once famous. But, after today, I am just going to wait and see what tomorrow holds!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dominican Republic Trip 2013: Part Three

{If you would like, catch up on parts one and two first.}

Today was our first full day at Villa, and it was positively breathtaking in more ways than one. The most obvious breathtaking aspect of the trip was the work they put us to do. We showed up to find a shortage of pick-axes and shovels, but a few pesos (Dominican currency) resolved that problem rather quickly. Soon, the gang of us were carving up the ground with big knives and scooping up the ground with big spoons for the purpose of simultaneously digging a hole for a bathroom and filling up the church floor with dirt. Tomorrow we will probably be laying cement over the stones and earth. The soil there is this wet but hard clay mixed with stone, plus a few patches of the reddest earth you will ever see. I got to use both pick-axe and shovel, and finally resorted to my hands to move the large lumps of clay across the floor. Needless to say, I was probably the dirtiest gal around, what with the dirt they were tossing on me and the dirt I was tossing myself. That will most certainly be a highlight of the trip.
 Of course, it was not all back-breaking work. I am, remember, a girl, and Dominicans, unlike some other people, like to treat girls like ladies. And there were a group of children who followed us four girls around wherever we went. Erica, Genesis, Emaire, Lisa-Maire, and Mercedes, some of the girls of the village who were all under twelve years old, got a kick out of braiding our hair. And they were very good at it, too! To top it off, they placed the traditional hibiscus behind our ears, and we all felt like dolls being prettied by other dolls. The children were so welcoming, bright, and mature, so you could tell they interacted with adults and mothered the younger kids. Then, we gathered everyone non-adult and taught them a variety of clapping games and enjoyed a few rounds of Ninja. By then it was time to go. The work and the beauty and the laughter ~ they were all breathtaking. 

Upon our return to the apartment, Tio honked his car horn to let us know that our food had arrived. Today Tia went American on us, but made it yummy by Dominicanising it. We had pork chops with olives and chicken scented with orange, mashed potatoes, a mashed mixture of corn, carrots, and Dominican squash, along with a cooked salad of broccoli and cauliflower and homemade dressing. Oh, and Daddy’s contact in Haiti came to join us over dinner and updated Daddy on the state of our micro-loan operation in that country. Praise God, things are going great and we are moving to the next stage of building the facilities for a natural egg farm. It is so neat to see the Haitians working for themselves rather than waiting around for the handouts that someone always ends up shoving into their open palms. Teaching these people a Biblical work ethic it another part of helping them think Biblically, and God has blessed this venture so far. Yay!


Once we were full and satisfied and the dishes had been done, Daddy made us our essential Dominican coffee, which is really strong like an espresso, and then we gathered around the table for our second study in 1 Peter. So we only got through verse three of chapter one, but, again, the discussion was great and worth it. After the study, we made ourselves cleaner than we had been and readied ourselves for the mid-week prayer meeting at Pastor Santana’s church, Iglesia Biblica del Nuevo Pacto (New Covenant Bible Church). Alright, so maybe the “readying” involved Daddy playing “Yesterday” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with his own lyrics commentating on the crazy moves of the chess players in the house, but, hey, that is what we do. 

We set off to church on foot, talked about Narnia, saw a few rats, cats, and dogs, and were blessed by a very warm, close, fervent meeting where God’s people came together to praise and glorify. I am seeing so many glimpses of the love of God that the truth of God inspires, and am very thankful for those glimpses. Hopefully it will not stay just a glimpse.

Now we are back at the apartment and have just finished eating a light supper of sandwiches, leftovers, and freshly squeezed juices. Which reminds. You cannot stop reading without knowing a sampling of the fruits we have here. In all truth and honesty, we have counters full of mangoes, chinola (passion fruit), aguacate (avocado), as well as zapote juice and freshfromthetree coconuts. For now I have no pictures just because we have not put them on our computers yet, but I will be adding photos as they arrive. 

Oh, and one last technical note, I am not editing these posts because of limited internet access. Sorry! Maybe, if I am feeling very good, I will go back and edit them, but do not count on it. I must leave for we are about to start our second class on Biblical Thinking. That might be one of my favourite times of study so far. More updates are on the way!

Dominican Republic 2013: Part Two

{If you would like part one of this mini-series, feel free to read it here.}
I woke up at 10am. Never done that one before, but it probably has something to do with going to bed at 2am. I understand late sleepers now. 

Anyway, this morning we had a late start of which I took the advantage to settle into the kitchen. My aunt, uncle, and our host pastor had done some preliminary shopping for us, so breakfast awaited the team, it was duly eaten, and then we dug into our first study 1 Peter. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching and discussion and insight gleaned from eight heads sitting around the Bible and thinking. Yeah, I have a lot to learn on this trip. And, if I blog about it, it will be getting its own set of posts. This is just narrative.

After the study came lunch, which is the main meal around here. My aunt cooked us real Dominican food ~ arroz con habichuelas, bistec encebelloado, pastelón, arepitas de yuca, batata frita, aguacate, y una ensalada verde (rice and beans, steak and onions, a plantain casserole, a special preparation of yuca, fried Dominican sweet potato, avocado, and a green salad). And I was able to eat the steak, which was a nice surprise. 

Then we headed out with our friends from the city to go to Villa Alta-Gracia, the village where we will be working for the rest of the week. What can I say? A rumble-tumble collection of shacks, children and dogs and cats running around, smiles, a few motorcycles, some gems of brightly painted living quarters, lots of tight braids, and an assortment of pigs, chickens, and goats popping up at random intervals. Fruit trees of all sorts, cocoa bean drying out in the sun, and red, red earth. Fathers, mothers, less husbands and wives, and lots of babies on the way. That’s what Villa kind of looks like. We greeted our friend, Santo, who has a few children and a gardening and pig business. He is a man whose business area is located directly across from the church. He smiles a lot, works hard, and you can tell he is happy. His daughter is sweet and walks around the village with us, sometimes holding one of our hands and sometimes climbing on her dad’s back. His son is smaller and a little cute munchkin, either being cradled in his mum’s arms or playing in the yard. We definitely got to see some pretty genius toys out there. Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say. And Santo was joyous, and giving, and content, and that was what struck me the most of this first visit. 

Just as we pulled out of the village in our air-conditioned vehicle, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman began to play on our driver’s iPod. We have so much and they have comparatively so little, but we all have 10,000 reasons for our heart to find. God has done so much for us and given so much for us, and that is something worth singing about. So we did. We sang at the top of our lungs all the way back, ending with Celtic Woman’s version of “Amazing Grace” (so, yes, our driver and I definitely share music tastes). It. was. perfect. I hope that for the rest of the week, we as Christians can give some of what He gave for us and share some of that grace which He poured on us, knowing full well that all Christians, even in poor places like Villa, have, through those gifts and that grace, the same amazing power to bless others in return. Yes, we do have 10,000 reasons. 

Dominican Republic 2013: Part One

At 4:44pm on Sunday, the 21st of August, Jenn Jenn finished college. But that is not what this post is about. 

Because, you see, at 10:25 the next morning, my family, a few friends, and I set out on a missions/discipleship trip to the Dominican Republic (DR). That’s what this post, and hopefully the next couple of posts, are going to be about. 

The Lord was gracious to us throughout the whole journey over here to the DR, and so I thought it would be good to begin by recounting some of His graciousness that I could see, knowing that there were many hidden kindnesses of which I will probably never know anything at all. 

As oftentimes happens, God’s blessings over the past few hours have been blessings in disguise. First off, we went through security. TSA surprisingly allowed us to enter a line where we did not have to pass through that horrid x-ray stuff, nor take off our belts, nor take out our laptops, nor do a pat-down. We all breathed a sigh of relief. But my food had still not gotten the supervisor’s approval, and without that cooler, I was not flying. It turns out that someone right in front of me was carrying something that was definitely not legal, which caused the over-excited supervisor to grow into a mini-rage, turn on me, and angrily convince me that airport yogurt was just as safe as homemade junk. It was pretty hilarious from a foodie’s perspective, his arguments for not thinking my cooler necessary, but I stood my ground and he finally let me through. I think his eventual “giving in” had a lot to do with the not legal thing that was worrying him elsewhere. Blessing in disguise number one.

Then I forgot my lunch. But that forced me to try some naturally-raised meat that I found at the airport, which ended up being God’s way of nudging me to eat something substantial before taking off. He, after all, knew all about the 24-hour fast that was coming my way, even if it looked rather impromptu from my perspective. Blessing in disguise number two.

The first leg of the trip went by beautifully. A half-hour delay in the departure time found us running like nuts to our connecting flight, but that was fun. Really fun. In fact, just enough fun to see us through the next leg of our trip, something about which we knew nothing but God, of course, knew everything. For a variety of reasons that I cannot or will not explain, we were stranded in that plane at JFK airport for four hours. People got antsy, people got tired, people got hungry, and since the people were mostly Dominican, they were not afraid to yell out their various trials for their bored audience’s entertainment. And, yeah, I was entertained. I was entertained watching a lady dole out an emergency bag of chocolate candies to the ravenous crowd and translating the suggestions of bribing the pilot with said chocolate. I was entertained following the flight attendants divvy up their short supply of water, blue potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies. Okay, so I was not so entertained when the airline finally took my cooler away to the belly of the plane, leaving my belly quite empty forever and ever until the next day, but you know what? That delay allowed technicians to realise there was a glitch in one of the plane’s computers, a glitch that could have caused problems midway through the flight. Yep, blessing in disguise number three.

We ended up leaving JFK at the time we were supposed to have landed in the DR, and ended up landing in the DR at the time we were supposed to be sleeping. But that meant that the weather was not sweltering when we arrived, nor was the traffic overbearing as it would have otherwise been. Blessing in disguise number four.

After a quick stop at some sammich place that has turned into a tradition for our team, consisting of roast pork sandwiches and passion fruit or zapote juices, we headed to the apartment where we will be staying for the first part of our trip. The apartment is beautiful and spacious and has a working fridge, hot water, and lovely pictures on the wall! I spotted a perfect table for our daily studies, so it looks like this first week shall go excellently, especially knowing we have this retreat to which to return and recoup. Blessing number five, no disguise.