Friday, October 23, 2009
I am now a student. I am not a Peace Corps volunteer any longer. I am a student in graduate school, and a TA that has lots of homework to grade, tutorials to prepare, and organization to do just to make sure I get enough sleep every night. It is Friday at 9 PM and I have a lot to do so I am still in school and I am grading homeworks. Who interrupts my work, making me take off my headphones injecting classical music and hopefully concentration into my brain? Chulo, the owner of the colmado from Agua Larga! I recognize his number immediately and answer by saying Chulo! He responds half laughing, half trying to be serious, "Oh, you know me?!" I can picture his face smiling and making it hard for him to talk, like a little kid with a lollipop. He has this slippery-slope of a face. When he is serious, most of the time, his face is just flat and when he talks his lips barely move. He is quiet, reserved, and respected. When he smiles he gets this smile that goes from ear to ear and his lips don't know how to cope so any attempt at speaking fails miserably. So anyway, the connection is bad and i have to ask him to repeat himself many times, and then the call drops. I figure thats it because i know how much international calls cost and how expensive this is for them. But he calls back! I answer and the call drops. I try calling him and get his voicemail about 4 times. Then he calls back again-same result-drops. He calls back a fourth time! And I pick up and it stays! He asks me how I am doing and how the states are treating me. I get a warm feeling. He tells me that the school that was promised to the community and was set to be built next to my family’s home is almost done-just missing the roof! I get emotional. He tells me my host dad has almost finished his new house right next to the community center we built together. I’m holding back tears. He says that the new Peace Corps volunteer in the community two hours past theirs, that I helped to identify as lacking water, has just arrived. I start crying. He says that he came through on a motorcycle on the way up to the community. When I was there the only way up was to ride a horse or walk for about 2.5 hours back my village! He says the mayor came through, has fixed the roads enough to get cars all the way into the next village! I am just stunned, jaw on the floor. He says they are getting a new school built as well and that it is almost done! I just can't believe it. So much good news and so quickly. Then we get into my question and answer session. I ask him about things, then he puts his wife on, Pelua, and we go back and forth for a little bit. She tells me that the (writing this right now my face just flipped out and my emotions make me stop typing for a minute) little kid next door, that i watched grow up from 2 to 4, who used to always yell my name, that he always asks where I am and when I am coming back. It’s just too much. These people have given me such unconditional love and I just can't take it. I love them. The absolute unfairness of the ease with which I left them back in their mountains and now take the bus to school, swipe a card to enter my office, and spend their monthly income in one night with friends is just too much. I feel unworthy. I didn't do anything special to deserve all this besides being born in Connecticut and not the Dominican Republic. I don't deserve all this. Pelua tells me that her spanish class that she gives every day in the community center has shrunk from 10 to 5 students, but that they are the ones who want to achieve something so she is happy working with them. She then says that she can't talk forever, but that even though we are now far apart from each other that I will always be close to them. She tells me that it is just like this one popular batchata song. "Uno quiere pa' que no quiera..." It’s a song that I actually never really could translate but its message is happy, based in finding the highs in the lows of life, and about finding meaning in things that deceive us. I just laugh and tell her “yea”, sinking right back into my Peace Corps tactics of just playing along sometimes. (On a side note I was just interrupted by loud booms and went outside the engineering building to watch one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen. Is it Chinese new years or something?) But anyway, these people have connected with me on a level I think I will understand more and more every time I talk to them, as the days and years go by. Who knows when I will go back, but I know that the second I see them, the tough Roberto they knew who led daily work brigades of mountain men will be bawling like a little girl. My life has been blessed by their presence.
Posted by "Ro-bay-tow"