“There’s a good chance I could die right now.” I am sure this thought passed through the mind of every person in the bus today on the way to Banica. Getting into a bus, or on the road at all, in the D.R. is a bit like making a cocktail (Mr. Molitov’s type). It’s one part side show, two parts tragedy and , one part carnival- shaken over a screeching potholled death race at breakneck speeds. Needless to say, it was an adventure and that adventure had a soundtrack, 6 hours of non-stop Salsa & Bachata music blaring through the speakers to give each of us a sense of the flavor of the place. And flavorful it is.
The Dominican Republic is as active, glorious and rythmic as her music and her people exude the same life-filled beauty dancing through life. As we boarded the buses after a worry free flight down, we entered onto the dance floor of the Santo Domingo streets and, as my grandmother always loved to say (in Greek), “once you get on the dance floor you gotta dance.” The way they drive, run across streets and live around those streets says something about these wonderful people. Like John Paul II (who is being canonized as I write this post) they are Witnesses to Hope- running into life as though thrown into the hands of their guardian angels, hoping they’re going to be caught no matter what. Men sit at road side tables playing cards and laughing, women run about in groups enjoying life and the company of their friends and the young run and play like the young in every other place. Vendors selling the most absurd things “conveniently” walk up to the cars in the hopes that you’ll need a duster on a stick, flowers or childrens educational posters. Who knows, you just might need that in the middle of insane traffic conditions. These guileless hucksters turn on the charm and wit in the hopes of hocking their wears to willing customers and unknowing tourists, with at least 5 of them at every intersection.
In the hot, humid Caribbean sun, families walk to market to buy the most incredible fruits and vegetables and children sprint about buying lollipops the size of their heads (a treat they have undoubtably been saving for over the last few weeks). Concrete block city homes gave way to corrigated tin shacks on dirt roads as we left the hustle and bustle of the urban metropolis and entered the countryside. Communities sprinkled the rough highway as we travelled west toward Banica, the blue Caribbean occasionally showed her beautiful face like a siren enticing us to her as we willed to travel on towards the mission. As we passed the small roadside communities we saw families and friends, vendors and villans, all thrown together like the crammed plantain trees that surrounded them, fruitful and chaotic. It’s an incredible country. Pirating Buccaneers got their start here and it’s no wonder. As we travelled through the countryside on the way to the mission you could almost sense their presence in this wild and unruly country. And yet, in the midst of it, there’s a peace and restfulness they share. We’ve arrived. Tomorrow we celebrate Mass together and go to the open air market on the border of the D.R. and Haiti. Tomorrow we get mixed into the milieu of their lives and learn this “dance”.
*Note: Due to the internet connection (slow) I will not be able to post pictures of the trip until Saturday when we return. Please check back then for pictures I will add to these posts. Until then, I hope you enjoy the story. Please keep us and those we are serving in your prayers.