We left almost two weeks ago and went to a rural village, or “campo”, lived with a host family there, and just experienced a different kind of Dominican life. And I must say, it may be my favorite kind of Dominican life.
The campo was a tiny village that consisted of about 20 houses, mostly of people who were all related, and a couple tiny “colmado’s”, or corner stores. It was only a few minutes from the coast, so it was really hot and humid. I don’t think there was a moment where we actually felt clean, even right after the shower.
The living conditions were rough, so it was definitely an adventure for me. There was only power for about an hour a day, but fortunately our house was one of the few that had an “inversor”, which is basically a generator. Water was almost just as scarce, even for us, so we took bucket showers, which actually weren’t bad because the water wasn’t as cold.
There also is very little to no privacy in the campo. The first day we were there, I was going to the bathroom in our house, and my sister came in, despite my attempts to try to tell her I was in there, so she could show me how to flush the toilet. I learned quickly that privacy doesn’t exist. Along with that, none of the walls in the house went all the way to the ceiling, they were only about a foot higher than Justin’s head.
But the people. Oh the people. I have never met people so loving, friendly, and hospitable in my life. They will legitimately give you the shirt off their backs without a second thought. That’s why there is no privacy and no sense of personal possessions, because it just doesn’t make sense to them. If they are blessed with something, it only makes sense for them to share. To cite an example: We thought we were being really thoughtful by bringing our host family a pound of coffee as a gift and the next day this poverty stricken family brings out a dress that they had purchased for me a week ago. They knew Justin was coming back to stay with him and was bringing his new wife, and they wanted to welcome me into the family and show me how happy they were to have me. I was almost in tears because of how loved I felt by these people who barely knew me.
We lived with the host family that Justin stayed with last summer, and they were beyond excited to see him again and to see his new wife he brought. They loved on us so much, called us their “hijos hermosos” (beautiful kids), and made us truly feel like their house and their family was ours too. They told us multiple times that everything they have is ours too, even our host dad’s horse that he let us ride a few times. We spent most of our time with them, just sitting on their porch talking, drinking coffee with way too much sugar, and visiting with all the neighbors who seemed to drop by every five minutes to say hi, drink coffee, or get fed by our mom.
To paint a picture of our family, our host mom’s name was "Mama Dulce" (dulce means sweet), and she was this really large black lady who had this super loud and intense voice, spoke extremely fast, and definitely ran the house. Yet she was the most loving and generous person I’ve ever met. Papa Felo, her husband, was this skinny older man who wore the same clothes everyday (his shirt was a Burger King shirt...ha), worked on a farm down the street, and carried a huge machete around with him all the time. The oldest of their three kids, Yomari, lives with them. She is 33 years old and incredibly sweet; although she is a little off mentally. Also living there is a 9-year-old granddaughter, Maritrini. She is the middle child of Dulce and Felo’s youngest daughter. We had a lot of fun with this loving, respectful, and feisty little girl.
Almost as beautiful as the people we were around were the incredible beaches that we were near. The one guy in town who owned a truck carried all 15 of us a little ways down the hill to the most incredible beach that I have ever seen in my life. We got some good pictures but they just don’t do it justice. It’s called “La Boca” (the mouth) because of the freshwater stream that dumps out into the ocean there. We played in the giant waves, cleaned off in the river, read on the beach, and ate tostoni’s fresh off the skillet. It was a day to remember.
You can probably tell by how much I’ve written that this Campo trip is one of our most cherished experiences yet. We will literally remember these people and the way that they treated us for the rest of our lives. We were shown that we could fall in love with all of our nice things without ever knowing it because they had never been taken away from us. We were shown that a family whose yearly income is literally one-tenth of ours (which isn’t much itself) for some reason is more generous and less protective of their possessions than we are. They gave us a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven that we had not yet seen.