lovelikeheloves

Love Always

Almost Home

I cannot believe that this is my second to last blog entry! That is so insane. May was a busy month filled with birthdays, goodbyes, a very important graduation, beach trips, and the start of final exams for the older kiddos. May also brought some homesickness because it was the first time I wasn’t with my family to celebrate my birthday. However, my Dominican family and favorite nuns helped make my 26th birthday a memorable one. (Yes, I know it’s crazy that I’m 26 and yet it’s like I haven’t aged a day. I feel the same way.)

So since I haven’t really put up many pictures, I figured I’d share the month of May with you all via pictures. So here it is:

Punta Cana

Punta Cana

So the first beach trip in May was to the oh so famous Punta Cana. I’m pretty sure it’s the most touristy place in the DR but I thought it was wayyyyy overrated. Don’t get me wrong, the water is nice and the sand is white, but I think there are way prettier places to travel to in the DR than Punta Cana. Nonetheless, Spency and I had a fun time there!

May was filled with birthdays! So, everyone knows I live with nuns right? I live with 4 nuns and Spency (until he left us!). Out of the 6 people in the house, 4 of us had May birthdays. (Just goes to show that May is an awesome month..but that’s just an aside) Anywayyy, so we always celebrate birthdays by going out to dinner or doing something fun. Fatima kick started the birthday celebrations since her birthday is May 2. Here we are celebrating Fatima’s birthday at a German restaurant. The food is yummy and the beer is good!

My lovely community celebrating Fatima's birthday!

My lovely community celebrating Fatima’s birthday!

When my sister told me she’d be graduating in May I was so sad because I wasn’t going to be there. But as always, God provides and I was able to fly home to see her walk the stage! I am beyond proud of her and can’t wait to see what God has in store for her!

Vernie graduated!! YAY!!

Vernie graduated!! YAY!!

Did you know that car washes turn into bars at night here in the DR? Well now you do. Yep, that’s right. You can go get your car cleaned during the day and then head back later on and dance the night away! It’s quite a Dominican experience. So when it was time for Spency’s despedida, we decided to take him there. It was a fun night with the teachers from the school!

Some of the teachers at the car wash!

Some of the teachers at the car wash!

My birthday is May 22 and Genevieve’s birthday is May 24 so we decided to celebrate together! Kathleen suggested we take a trip to the beach for our birthdays and we thought it was a wonderful idea! So that’s exactly what we did. I had a fun, relaxing weekend at the beach with these crazy nuns.

Birthday fun at the beach with these lovely ladies!

Birthday fun at the beach with these lovely ladies!

Mother’s Day is celebrated May 31st here. Since I’ve been working with the parents association of the school (which is really all moms except for one dad), I wanted to do something nice for them. So I surprised them and made cheesecakes and gave them some little gifts. They are a group of hardworking mothers that deserve to be spoiled so I tried my best to do just that if even only for a couple of hours.

They loved the cheesecake!

They loved the cheesecake!

And that pretty much sums up the month of May for me. I’m sad that school is coming to a close and that I soon won’t be able to see my kiddos everyday. They’ve been such a blessing to me this past year and I’ve really grown to love and care for all of them. As I mentally prepare myself for my last month with them, I ask for your prayers. I’m all sorts of emotional nowadays but I’m trying to keep it together! Haha, but really. These people have shown me who God is and what He can do in so many ways. I hope that during my time here they have been able to, even if in the tiniest of ways, to see God in me. There’s a song by the JJ Weeks band that I really like and I feel like it captures my mission to spread love here pretty well. It says:

Let them see You in me
Let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You
Just let them see You in me

Love always,

Gabby

P.S. I would like to wish my rock, my best friend, my mother a very happy birthday! I love you momma and I’m so grateful God gave me you as my mother. I hope you have the best birthday! I would also like to wish my Bubs a happy 8th birthday on Friday. I seriously cannot believe you are turning 8!! I love and miss you so much! I’ll see you soon sweet boy!

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Realization

So apparently the month of April is gone? That’s news to me! I have no idea where it went. That seems to be a reoccurring theme in my last couple of posts. Time seems to be flying by and I haven’t quite figured out how I feel about it. On one hand, I’m excited because that means I’ll be home with my family soon, but on the other hand it means that I’ll be leaving my newfound family soon. Talk about bittersweet.

The reality that I only have 2 months left really hit me this month. Before, I thought “oh I have plenty of time left” or “I have like 6 more months here,” but now it’s like “oh dang, I only have 2 months left.” Craaaa-zzzyy! So now, even more than before, I’m trying to absorb everything in and appreciate every day that I have with my kiddos, with the staff, and with my community. I’m also trying to travel as much as I can because I know once I go back to the “real world” going to the beach for a weekend won’t be as easy as it is here. So be prepared for some beach pictures!!

It’s so crazy to think how fast these past 10 months have gone by. And yet, I haven’t aged a day! Haha! It’s been such a beautiful experience getting to see my kiddos grow these past several months. The ones that I thought were so little are suddenly not so little anymore. The ones that didn’t know how to read in August are suddenly reading books to me. The ones that were once too timid to talk are suddenly the most talkative in the class. One thing has not changed though, and that is how incredibly loving they are. Oh! And they’re still pretty crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

As I continue with my mission here, I ask for your prayers. As much as I’ve loved it here, it has also been extremely tiring. Sometimes I feel all the exhaustion from the past several months is catching up with me (or it may just be that I’m getting older…but I refuse to believe that hah). I’m really needing some strength and energy right about now so if you could offer up a prayer for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.

The gospel reading from this past Sunday really spoke to me because it reminds me of why I came here. On the days that I’m extra tired or that I’m really missing home, I stop to remind myself of this wonderful opportunity I’ve been given. I am incredibly grateful to God that he has entrusted me to care and love His people. As I finish out my year of service, I remember the words that Jesus spoke and try to live them out as best as I can.

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

John 15: 12

Love always,
Gabby

P.S. I would like to wish my nephew Aaron a very happy first birthday! I know he won’t remember it but it breaks my heart that I won’t be there to celebrate his first birthday with him. I guess we’ll just have to Photoshop me in the pics Monty!! Haha. Tell my gordo bello that I love him and miss him so much!!

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Excitement

So I had been looking forward to March ever since my parents told me last semester that they booked their flight to the DR! I had a countdown going on and everything! (thanks to my handy countdown app) I would tell everyone at home and at school, “my parents will be here in 2 months!!!” or “ah! they’ll be here in 3 weeks!” I was wayyy excited. So when the day finally came, I could hardly contain myself. Waiting at the airport, I was actually kind of nervous. It all went away as soon as I saw my parents through the glass! And like the child I am, I ran to them lol. We had a moment. My mom may or may not have teared up, which may or may not have made me tear up. Haha. Here is their first picture in the Dominican Republic (yes, I know, my sign is just so creative)parents 2Aren’t they cute? So my parents had 8 days in the DR and I was determined to show them a wonderful time in the country I’ve been in the past 8 months. I was so excited to show them my house and have them meet my community but I was most excited for them to see the batey and meet my kids. The next day I gave them a tour of the school and of the batey with some of the best tour guides aroundDSCF2086DSCF2067DSCF2080It made me so happy to see them with my kids. I’ve talked about my kiddos to my parents so for them to finally be able to put a face to the name was so exciting! The kids were also excited to show them around and play with them. After spending the day at the batey, it was time to go home. But of course I wanted to give them a Dominican experience, so we went home on ‘motores’ aka motorcycles. I took a picture of them but on my dad’s phone so I don’t have it to share with y’all, but it was pretty funny…I mean cool. 🙂

So after spending a couple of days at my house, cooking dinner for my community, experiencing the power outages, and getting to know my ‘barrio’, it was time to show my parents the Dominican Republic that most people think of. Here are a few pics from the beaches we visited

Such tourists..haha

Such tourists..haha

Oh how I've missed being ridiculous with my mother

Oh how I missed being ridiculous with my mother

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Isla Saona is literally paradise

Isla Saona is literally paradise

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drinks

Because of course you have to have a piña colada and a Presidente when you’re in the DR

my dad liked playa Dominicus

my dad liked playa Dominicus

After spending a couple days at the beach, we made it back to the city at the start of the Triduum. We went to mass at the cathedral (which also happens to be the first cathedral in the Americas), so that was pretty cool. There was a night when we were on the terrace of our hotel, chatting under the stars, and though I was listening, I was also thanking God for my parents. As I sat there with them, I felt so grateful for having them with me and being able to share this experience with them. However, before I knew it, it was time for them to leave. There were no tears this time, though, only hugs and smiles. I’m so happy that my parents were able to come visit me and see how and where I’ve been living these past several months.  So instead of being sad, I shall remember the Dr. Seuss quote that says:

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Love always,

Gabby

P.S. I would like to wish my seester Vernie a very happy birthday! I cant believe you’ll be ## on Tuesday! haha. I miss and love you Ronald! I hope you have an awesome day, you deserve it!

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Encouragement

This blog post, like the month of February, shall be short and sweet. So even though February was a short month, I feel like it was long. Ha, ya know what I mean? Those 4 weeks sure did seem to take their sweet time. Well, at least that’s how it felt for me. I was trying to figure out why February seemed to drag on and I think I’ve figured it out….to be quite honest, I was feeling a bit discouraged. Let me explain…

So if you’ve been following my blog, you know that I was serving in the classrooms last semester as an assistant teacher. This semester however, I’m working as a social worker in the morning and assisting in the classroom only in the afternoon. While I was excited to try my hand as a social worker in this context, I was also incredibly nervous for various reasons (there’s really no need to get into all of them). When I got back from Christmas break, I was given a list of kids that I was asked to work with. I was excited!  But for one reason or another, my ‘social worker duties’ kept getting pushed back. What I mean is, things kept coming up to where I was doing more administrative work rather than social work. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I came here to serve in whatever capacity I can, so wherever they place me, I’ll gladly serve there. My dilemma was that I felt like I was letting the school, and more so the kids, down. Thoughts popped in my mind like “is what I’m doing actually benefiting anyone?” or “did they make a mistake when they asked me to be the school’s social worker?” Nonetheless, I went on with the administrative work I was doing and found ways to squeeze in work with the kiddos on my caseload.

I was feeling a little discouraged about my work with the individual students until one of my sessions with one of my girls. Let me tell you a little bit about this sweet child. She is in 2nd grade and has lived through some terrible things that no one, definitely no one at her age, should have to go through. Yet, she comes to school with a smile on her face ready to give hugs as if nothing had ever happened. During a session with her, she told me about her home life and how unhappy she is there. My heart sank as I listened to her tell me about what she endures at home. I was looking at her face thinking “oh my goodness, how can she be so happy all the time after all of that?!” At that moment, she looked up at me with those sweet, innocent, brown eyes of hers, and smiled. That’s all it took. A smile from her at that very moment was all I needed to rid me of the doubt that had been clogging my mind. It no longer mattered if I was working in the office or working as the social worker, in that moment, I was someone she could talk to and feel safe with.

I’m still working with her and every day that I see her I get a daily dose of encouragement. She teaches me, like many of our kids in the batey, what it truly means to be courageous. For this, I am grateful.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

-Matthew 19:14

Love always,

Gabby

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Simplicity

Happy New Year! Excuse the tardiness with this post, I was way too excited to be home for Christmas that I forgot to write a post for December. I know, I know, you missed my funny and charming post for a month, but look at you, you survived!

So as I contemplated this month’s entry, I realized that though I have written about what I am doing here, I haven’t written much about where I am doing it. In this month’s entry, I will attempt to give you insight into the lives of the beautiful people I am blessed to work with and the place they call home.

So everyone knows I am currently living in the Dominican Republic. Yes, it is an incredibly beautiful country. Yes, I’ve been blessed enough to see some of the most lovely parts of this country during my time here. However, by no means is that part of my daily life. Living in this developing country has changed the way I see the world. I mean, how could it not?

I work in a batey (pronounced bah-tey). Bateys were created in the 1930s when sugar was a profitable industry in the Dominican Republic. Cane cutters were needed to harvest the sugar crop and company towns sprang up to house seasonal workers who arrived from Haiti to work the sugar harvest. Over time, some workers remained and put down roots in the bateys. However, the Dominican government has denied them and their families citizenship since they are Haitian immigrants. Therefore, many of our kids are undocumented, though they were born in the Dominican Republic. Since the cane industry has dried up, residents of the batey look for work wherever they can find it. These bateys are now some of the poorest areas in the Dominican Republic.DSCF1630

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These are some pictures of the Batey I work in. Most houses have one bedroom (maybe two), no running water, and inconsistent electricity. Most homes also house several generations of family members. And yet, I was walking around the Batey the other day and the kids were so proud to show me their home. One of my girls took me by the hand and said “profe, esa es mi casa” as she pointed to a one bedroom shack. Like I’ve said before, it is incredibly humbling working here. I’ve gotten used to hearing the kids say “ho hay luz” or “no hay agua” (“there’s no light” or “there’s no water) which is something that might sound crazy to some people. What I find crazy is how we take these things for granted when they are readily available to us. We go to turn on the light switch and assume the light will come on or turn the faucet and assume water will come out, but what if it didn’t? I saw a little girl the other day (she was maybe 3) fill up a water jug, carry it over and dump it into a plastic bin. I’m assuming she was going to take a shower but I had to leave before I saw what she was filling it up for. Nonetheless, that image stuck with me. Like I said earlier, how could living here not change the way I see the world?

The people here live quite simply and are some of the most joy-filled people I’ve met. They are fighters. They are persistent. They do not give up. They have taught me how to be stronger and continue to inspire me to be a better person. As I embark on my last 6 months here, I continue to ask for your prayers. Not for myself, but for these people, my people, who show me every day that Jesus is alive and works in us.

No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:12

Love always,

Gabby

P.S. Happy birthday to my seester Monty who turns the big ## on the 7th of Feb. You should love me even more now that I didn’t blast your age on here. Haha love you! Hope you have an amazing day!

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Memories

Man alive! This month flew by! I can’t believe December 1 is tomorrow!! Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone! Hope y’all had a lovely time with your loved ones 🙂 Mine was good, thanks for asking. Haha. But really, it was fun. It was 2 Americans, a Chilean, 2 Nigerians, 3 Germans, a Dominican, and a Brit celebrating Thanksgiving. All in all, a lovely time.

This month has been filled with new experiences and fun adventures! I went on 2 different retreats, traveled to different parts of the country, went snorkeling for the first time, and met some new people. It’s been my busiest month here so far for sure, but I enjoyed it!

So when I was thinking about this month’s blog, I realized I haven’t shared many pictures with y’all…my bad. Sooooo that’s what I shall do! Below are some pictures I’ve taken over the last several months. I didn’t want to bombard y’all with too many pics but it’s was also tough choosing some because there are so many! So here ya go, some photos from my crazy life in the Dominican Republic:

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Dany and me before Festival Presidente

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Saw Prince Royce, Daddy Yankee, and Bruno Mars in concert at Festival Presidente

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Isla Saona-aka paradise

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Love never fails

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A weekend with these crazy nuns...don't worry they say we're crazy too 🙂

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A memorable night with beautiful people

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God's creations are beautiful

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Community 🙂

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She gets me

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Beautiful people

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Two of my little ones 🙂

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Always a fun time with these goofballs

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An international Thanksgiving dinner

Like I said before, I have wayyyy too many photos but I figured I’d share these with y’all.

This first semester has gone by so quickly which is slightly surprising. Sometimes I feel like I just got here but then I realize it’s been 4 months! Ill be here another 3 weeks and then I get to go visit my family for 2 weeks!! I’m beyond excited to see them!! We’re all counting down the days! It’s funny because I have journal entries from when I first got here saying how long it would take for December to get here and now that it’s pretty much here I can’t believe it.

The Sisters tell me the second semester goes by super fast so we’ll see how that goes. I’ve learned so much from the people here that I can’t even put into words. They’ve changed me. This experience thus far has changed me in ways that I didn’t expect it to. I know I’ll be forever grateful for this experience and for the opportunity to work with these people.  I pray that I continue to learn from them throughout the rest of my time here and that I may continue to serve them the best I can.

As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Love always,
Gabby

Ps. Yay for the first Sunday of Advent!! I pray that we may all use this time to prepare our hearts for our Saviour’s birth.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful

Isaiah 9:5-6

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Typical Day

I’ve been here 3 months and I finally have a routine going. Better late then never eh? If you read my previous entries, then you know that the first month or so was difficult, but it’s been easier since then. Well, easier isn’t the word, more like I’ve grown accustomed to living here. When I was still home, people often asked what I would be doing once I got here. I usually replied with “um, teaching…not sure what I’ll be teaching though ::insert Kanye shrug::.” I didn’t really know what exactly I would be doing or what to expect, I just knew it would be something new. Well, ain’t that the truth!

So now that I have a routine, let’s pretend you’re asking me “so Gabby, what exactly is it that you’re doing? What’s your typical day?” Well I’m glad you asked! Here it is:

I wake up at 6:15, say my morning prayers, get dressed, make some good ol Dominican coffee, eat breakfast, pack my lunch, and at around 7:15 I hear incessant honking outside which means the guagua (aka our ride) is here. (There’s a picture of it in my second post I think if you care to look.) Anyhow, about 23 of us pack in there and set off for school. We get to school around 7:35 and kids are already there waiting to greet the profes.

I go into the classroom and straighten up a bit to get ready for the day. I’m outside with the kiddos at 7:55. For the next four hours I’m with 26 four to five year olds trying to not lose it. Jk..well, kinda. They are an active bunch to say the least, the very least at that. These kids come to school hungry and sometimes with little sleep. Now everybody knows that being both tired and hungry do not make a great combination, especially in kids. Needless to say they teach me patience every morning. But I mean really, how could you not love these faces??

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So from 12:15-1:30 is our lunch aka my naptime. Yes, I really nap. No, don’t judge me. At 2pm my little ones come. These are the 3 year olds and they’re adorbs. They can get cray from time to time as well but there’s not as many of them so it’s a bit easier. They like to dance. Scratch that, they LOVE to dance. It’s so cute!

School let’s out at 4:30 and we usually leave on the same guagua by 5. By this time I’m exhausted, but the day isn’t over quite yet.

We (the nuns and the other volunteer I live with) have dinner together Mon-Thu. We each take turns cooking. On Mondays, the German volunteers that are apart of another program that also works with the school come over for dinner. Tuesday is my night to cook which means I start cooking as soon as I get home so we can eat at a decent hour. Let me just say Pinterest has definitely come in handy! Wednesday and Thursday we have community prayer after dinner and we take turns leading it. It’s a time to reflect on the week and talk about where we’ve seen God in the week. Now the weekends are time to partayyyy!! Just kidding. I do a lot of sleeping on the weekend. We’re each assigned an area to clean so I do that and I also do my laundry. I know, I know, it’s exciting stuff. The other and volunteer and I will sometimes go out dancing or go the concert that the city puts on every Sunday. I’ve been practicing my bachata and merengue but I still don’t have the salsa down. I’m determined to be at least an okay salsa dancer by the time I leave though! 

So there ya have it! My week in a nutshell. There are some other things that are pretty “typical” here, such as ants, lizards, cockroaches, mosquitos, flies, and sweat. Haha, but really, it’s still freaking hot. So enjoy your Fall because I don’t get one this year.

I didn’t know what to expect before coming here, and even though some days are incredibly challenging for many reasons, I know I’m right where I need to be. I didn’t know what God had planned for me once I got here, but every day I try to let him lead me with His spirit of love and he never fails to show up. God shows himself to me in so many ways and always at the perfect time. So even though my typical day 6 months ago is nothing like my typical day now, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. God’s called me here to love His people and that’s what I intend to do. I won’t lie, there’s times when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I try to spread some LOVE nonetheless.

There’s a song by Hillsong United called Oceans that I love (even though it’s kinda old) because it reminds me that God will guide me even when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. So if you ever feel that way too, know that you’re not alone and that God will always guide your way if you let Him.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now…

… Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

Love always,
Gabby

PS. Happy Halloween!! Also, I would like to wish my crazy nephew Jacob Anthony, who turns 4 on Wednesday, a very happy birthday. Moni, tell him I love and miss him very much. And tell him I especially miss his silly faces and funny singing! I would also like to wish a feliz cumpleaños to mi padre who turns the big 55 on November 28! Te extraño mucho dad! Que Dios te bendiga con muchos años mas! Espero que tu día especial esté lleno de amor y felicidad y todo lo que disfrutas (Bebe una margaritas para mí..haha) Love you!

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Humility

So one morning I was washing the kid’s cups, thinking about some stuff, when I looked out the window and saw a little girl using the bathroom. Except there was no room, instead she was outside, and there was no toilet, instead it was a bucket. It took me a minute to process what I had just seen. One second I was trying to sort through my personal issues in my head and the next I’m seeing a little girl openly defacating behind her house. I had seen this little girl before since she lives right next to the school and is in the other 4-5 year old classroom. Though she is not one of my students, she’s quick to run up to me and give me a hug. She’s always smiling and playing with her friends in front of the school. The fact that her and her family live in a small house with no bathroom does not stop her from smiling. I thought to myself, if she’s that happy considering her circumstances, then I should be too!

On another occasion, I had to visit a Montessori school with a couple other teachers and that was the first time I saw the rich side of the city. The school was fancy, the houses were schnazzy, and the streets were clean! As we were driving back to our school, it was interesting to see how quickly the neighborhoods changed from affluent to poverty stricken. I felt like I was in two different worlds that morning. When I entered my classroom, I was greeted with lots of hugs and smiles. They shouted “profe Gabby!! Donde estabas?? Te extrañabamos!” (For my non-Spanish speakers that translates to “where were you? We missed you!) I felt so much love upon entering that classroom. I even got hugs from the kids I always have to discipline! And they weren’t like the sorta side hugs you give someone you don’t really like. They were the super tight ‘okay, my pants are kinda falling’ type of hugs. Amidst all the hugs and shouts, I thought “well that school was nice and the kids were well behaved, but I’ll take these crazy kiddos any day!” They test my patience every single day but they also show me God’s love in different ways.

Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
Lk 6:20

Yes, these kids are poor. Some live in houses that look like I could probably push over if I really tried. We had to make home visits one day and that was the first time I saw how they live. It was a humbling experience to say the least. The fact that they live the way they do and come to school with a huge smile on their face is incredibly admirable. Some don’t know where their next meal is coming from or if it’s coming at all. However, this doesn’t stop them from sharing their happiness with you. Though these kids are poor, they are rich in love. They are quick to talk to you, to give you a hug, to give you a kiss, and to give you a smile.

All of these experiences really put things into perspective for me because it helped me realize that my “problems” pale in comparison to the problems some of these families face on a daily basis. To be quite honest, I came here during a period of spiritual desolation. But God, knowing my heart, knew that I need to come here to be strengthened by Him through His people. These kids, these people, have helped me draw closer to Jesus’ heart, and for that I am grateful. I came here to serve them, but little did I know that they would help me heal. I can only imagine what the next nine months have in store for me but being here has reinforced one thing:

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

Love always,
Gabby

PS I would like to wish my Lilly girl, aka my niece, a very happy 8th birthday on Sunday! I love you my sweet girl and miss you and your dances so so much!! (Vernie show her this so she can read it)

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New Experiences

So I’ve officially been here one month. Well actually, it’s been like a month and 3 days but who’s counting. It’s been a month of new experiences and challenges. A month of learning about Dominican culture and of living the “simple life” as the Sisters like to call it. Some things I’ve gotten used to and others not so much. For example, I’m used to the fact that the electricity goes out from time to time (which makes it much easier to live the “simple life”).  There are also some days when I feel like I’m getting accustomed to the heat and then there are days when I think “oh my goodness! Why can’t I stop sweating!” All in all, I’ve had an interesting, fun, challenging, overwhelming, humbling month. Here are a several experiences that I’ve enjoyed over the past month!

1. The beach!! Duh!

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I went on my first beach trip last weekend. Even though it rained most of the weekend, it was still absolutely lovely! I love the beach so when the Sisters extended the invitation, I was super excited!! It was a relaxing weekend. We stayed at a small all inclusive resort that the nuns have been going to for years. We didn’t have to worry about cooking or doing the dishes. Instead, I sat by the pool drinking a piña colada with one of the Sisters. It was lovely. (And they had air conditioning!! That was awesome!) I even got a sweet tan…well actually I burned but it’s now turned into a sweet tan. Overall it was a good weekend and I can’t wait for the next beach trip.

2. Hitchhiking
I’ve now hitchhiked twice. (No mother, not by myself) Apparently everyone here hitchhikes and no one thinks twice about it. Here, if you’re too lazy to walk to your destination you can “pedir una bola”, aka hitchhike, and get there much quicker. I’ve never hitchhiked before and I loved it for two reasons: 1. It saved us from walking for an hour. 2. It saved me from sweating for an hour on the walk home. Like I said, I didn’t do it by myself. There were 4 of us the first time and 3 of us the second time. Oh, and we in the back of the truck both times. See mom, I told you I’d be safe..haha.

3. The mountains
Whenever I walk home, I get the pleasure of having a nice view for part of it. These are the mountains I walk past on my way home.

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Every time I get to the point on our walk where I can see them, I use it as my time to chat with God about my day at  the school. It’s my time to pray and admire God’s beautiful creation. I’ve gotten excited to get to that part of the walk because I feel like that’s our meeting spot. It’s where I let go of the stressful school day and gain some peace before entering the busyness of the next barrio.

4. Modes of Transportation
I’m fairly convinced that the DR has no traffic laws…haha, but really. The traffic here is crazy. This makes for 2 types of reactions when getting into a vehicle. You can either be 1. Terrified for your life or 2. Enjoy the thrill that is driving around the DR. I identify with option numero dos. I will admit, at first I was slightly terrified for my life but I now enjoy the thrill…for the most part.

What is supposed to be a two way street is usually a 3 way street with two lanes going one way and the cars going the other way weaving in and out of the other two lanes. There are typically 7-9 people in a car that is supposed to fit 5. The truck that picks us up in the morning will often have 12-14 people in only the bed of the truck. Here is a picture of what that truck bed looks like

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Some of teachers after a long day at the school

There are about 6 teachers missing from the pic because some stayed at the school. Another fun thing I’ve experienced since being here is that in addition to cars and trucks, motorcycles are a common mode of transportation. I’ve been on more motorcycles the past month here than I’ve been on in my whole life. Now don’t go thinking they’re schnazzy motorcycles because they’re not. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people fuel them up with beer, but nonetheless they’re fun to ride on.

5. New little friends
School started two weeks ago which has been an interesting experience. The first day of school was overwhelming but also fun. I finally got to meet the kids I would be spending the year with. They are crazy but super cute. They wear uniforms to school and look absolutely adorable. They test my patience everyday but I love them all. I will admit I already have some favorites. I know teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites but I don’t consider myself a teacher so I’ve rationalized it’s okay. Here is a picture of the first little friend I made.

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My beautiful little Yuli

Her name is Yuli and she is the daughter of one of the custodians at the school. She is 5, loves to dance, and has a sassy little attitude to go with that beautiful little face.

There are some other things that I’ve enjoyed since being here but they’re kind of random so I didn’t know where to put them lol. For example, it’s apparently avocado season which means Dominicans put avocado on EVERYTHING! It’s amazing. I love avocado so having them everywhere has been awesome. We even have our own avocado tree. It’s also mango season and that has been delicious! When we were at the beach I’m pretty sure I had like 3 mangos a day. I even made a friend with a staff member and he brought me a bag full of mangos the next day. Another thing I like, most of the time, is that it’s like a constant block party here. There is always music playing and there are always people in the street. The only time I’m not a fan of this is when it’s midnight and I’m trying to catch some Zzz’s but I’m trying to  get used to it.

While this month has been filled with fun new experiences it has also been incredibly challenging for many different reasons. I continue to ask for your prayers, thoughts, or good vibes. If you also need prayers, let me know and I’ll be more than happy to add you to my daily prayers.

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7

Love always,
Gabby

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Resistance

I never wanted to be a teacher. I come from a family of teachers but that profession never appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I think teachers are amazing. I went on a field trip with my nephew’s kindergarten class and I remember thinking, “man, I don’t know how she [his teacher] does it. There’s just so many of them. God bless her.” I love kids, I just don’t think I could teach them. Well, you know what they say, ‘never say never,’ especially to God. (I know that last part isn’t part of the saying but I have found it to be true).

I knew I would be teaching when I applied to be a volunteer but I thought “eh, I’ll learn” or “God will give me the graces I need to do His work.” I came down here with what I thought was an open mind and open heart ready to learn. I was not ready for the resistance I felt once I got to the school. For the past two weeks we’ve been having workshops and setting up the classrooms to prepare for the upcoming school year. While it may not sound like hard work, I had a really difficult time with it. This came as a surprise to me because I was so excited to come here and spread some l-o-v-e. I found myself with negative thoughts, with a lot of doubt, and a lot of worries.

My thoughts had turned from “God will give me the graces I need” to “I don’t know that I want be here a whole year.” Insecurities flooded my thoughts and I felt as if I could do nothing about it. I struggled to understand what was going on in my heart. Why was I all of a sudden such a negative Nancy?? Why would I come and try help teach when I’m not even a teacher?? Where did my desire to serve go?? I was praying about these feelings but I felt as if nothing was happening. I was still having these feelings and was getting frustrated. I knew that these thoughts I was having were lies from the evil one and I was entertaining his lies. He knows how to get into our heads to try and distance us from God. But of course, God is just amazing and wouldn’t just leave me to fend for myself! He showed himself to me in different ways during this time. Whether it was through the smile of one the kids, a line in the book I was reading, or in the mountains we walk past on our way home, I knew He was there. He had never left my side.

I started to feel a little less resistance each day. Sure, sometimes the enemy still tries to tell me lies but I respond with “nu-uh, not me Satan, I am a daughter of the living God” or simply with “Jesus I need you.” So if you’re like me and struggle with the voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough or tells you anything other than how deeply loved you are, know that it is a lie from the devil. Say a quick prayer or even just the name of Jesus and know that you are deeply loved by someone who died to know you.

In my almost 3 weeks here I’ve repeated this quote quite often:

The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you

I trust that God has my back and that He wouldn’t lead me here and then leave me hanging. He loves me too much. 🙂

Soooo, school starts on tomorrow and I’m excited to start working with the kiddos! I’ll be a teaching assistant in the 4-5 year old classroom in the morning and with the 3 year olds in the afternoon. Even though I miss my niece and nephews so much, I’m excited to be working with little ones that’ll remind me of them and all their craziness. I’m eager to get to know them and love on them (in a totally non creepy way haha). A lot of them haven’t been given a lot of affection or love so if I totally screw up the teaching thing, I at least want them to know that there are people in this world who do love them and that there is a God who loves them unfailingly. As the song Here I am Lord says:

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord.
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Love always,
Gabby

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