The past three days since arriving in La Romana have been filled with a perfect combination of action and descanso so get ready for a long post. You'll start to notice as time goes on that I'll write in Spanglish because, if the first post wasn't sign enough, I write the way I speak.
Friday, I went to Kilometer 6 to drop off the books I'd put in my suitcases (which must have taken up 20 lbs... ), get my official work schedule, and figure out permanent transportation to get to and from school every day. If you think that I must've been stressed not to have had all this information before leaving the U.S, you'd be 100% correct. Luckily everything fell into place. From personal experience in the DR, one has to be able to just go with the flow and hope that it all works out. For example, the person who dropped me off at the school Friday didn't realize he had to come back to drive me back, but no worries because Pastor Elsa and Jessica were there to drive me home...well first to their beautiful house to have homemade guava and cherry juice and then home. What started as a stressful day ended up being oddly relaxing. What better way to the start the weekend?
Yesterday, I decided to go to the gym to see what it was like and because, exercise is a normal/important part of my my routine...especially considering the delicious food I get to eat every day. A friend of mine from the hospital agreed to drive me to the gym he goes to and to work out with me. Most gyms in the Dominican Republic are like a typical weight room you'd find in the U.S; there's not much cardio equipment, which is fine by me considering I'd planned to do a H.I.I.T workout where all I needed was a set of dumbbells. Now, I don't know about any other ladies out there, but I often feel intimidated walking into a weight room that is often full of men; I feel out of place. Well, luckily for me, I was the only woman. Many of my friends would now picture a flash of an awkward "omg I don't what to do" look before I pulled it together because, I was determined to workout despite being the only woman; we're all humans after all. What happened next was surprising. As I'm doing a series of burpees, jump squats, and knee ups, I notice that the owner of the gym is filming me while talking into his camera. Commence alarm bells going off in my head. Why is this happening? What's he going to do with this? You can imagine. But as I listened closely I noticed he was putting a message out to women, encouraging them to workout by themselves, telling them that there's more to fitness than just cardio classes. I like that message. If what my amigos tell me is true, women don't go to the gym because they're intimidated or don't know what to do. If this video gives some women the courage to break barriers and start working out in the gym alone, then I'm all for it. I've been thinking of somehow doing a walking/workout club with the people I work with...maybe this can be the start.
The gym was followed by a long day of exploration with the Joe Hartman School director Liliana. She took me to buy fabric for my school uniforms and later to the seamstress to get them sewn. She took me around La Romana, telling me about which tiendas to go to for food, where to do groceries, and various other things but I can't fully remember because I was too busy trying to take in everything around me. The streets are so busy with cars, motorcycles, people, music, and smells of food that it's hard to concentrate on any one specific thing. It's amazing the life there is and how many people Liliana knew just walking to the fabric store. She's a truly incredible woman who has overcome a lot of adversity and hardship. And rather than being sad or mad about all the hardships she's withstood, Liliana puts all her efforts into bettering the community; educating kids and adults alike in various schools. She is someone I aspire to be like.
I experienced so many things yesterday including: asking around and looking for the seamstress Evangelista, who we eventually found tucked away in a little house surrounded by all her sowing, taking a carrito (think Uberpool but much cheaper), and chipping a block of ice with the handle of knife about at big as a small machete. My head is still swirling with visuals from that day; all the music and liveliness. I can't wait to see what more this city teaches me. Soon to come: public bus transportation (mom and dad, if you're reading this, deep breaths).