It shouldn’t surprise me. One of our prayers for this trip was that we would develop unity among the members of our diverse group and with our Dominican hosts. We have seen those prayers beautifully answered. Last night Kasandra, the Dominican college student who had come to ask to hang out with my kids soon after we arrived, pulled me aside. “Profe, I need to tell you something,” she said. “Many groups of foreigners come here, but never, NEVER have we developed such closeness as with your group. I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to let their kids spend time with us, since we are a different social class. But you treat us like we’re equals.”
I responded, “But Kasandra, we ARE equals! We came to spend time with our family here.” It hurt me to know that Kasandra, and perhaps other kids here, have interpreted lack of connection with other groups as a social class divide. I am certain that most often it is the linguistic and cultural barriers that visitors face that keep them from getting close to the kids here.
After the church service last night, the older students came over to give Mike a surprise birthday party (April 1 is his day), complete with cake and a gift. Rancés, one of the older boys, had made each of us a little dolphin from something like a large flake of a pine cone and they had a little Dominican souvenir for each. As we visited, Kasandra again emphasized the difference she saw with out group: “You can all speak Spanish and you can understand us.” Obviously, my students don´t feel they always understand, especially with the Dominican accent and dialect differences from the Mexican Spanish I teach them. Andy and I made a game of matching Mexican and Dominican words—I gave a card to each and they had to find their partner and then make sentences using the words. It was funnier than it sounds, especially with Rancés really getting into his Dominican slang. We played a couple other games and finally, at 10:40, I reminded everyone that we needed to go to bed, and there were hugs, exchanges of Facebook or email and finally I got my kids settled. We were asleep when I heard music outside our window—the older students had returned to give us a traditional serenade to say a final farewell.
We have that bittersweet feeling about going back home to friends and family, yet knowing we are leaving behind friends and family that we may not see again until heaven. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!